So what if Christians want to keep the Law? What’s wrong with keeping the Sabbath and observing the Feasts? Are those things wrong? The dietary laws, purification rituals . . . after all, we are talking about the Law . . . God’s standard for righteousness here, not some weird pagan ritualistic stuff, right?
I’ve been thinking about this the past few days as I’ve been compiling an HRM glossary (coming soon) and going through (again) the Hebrew Roots Movement doctrine I’ve become familiar with in the past several months, and the question does periodically come to mind, “So what?”
Some of you may be thinking the same thing. What is the big deal about those who want to keep the Law? Simply celebrating the Sabbath and feasts, in my opinion, are fine. There is much to be learned by doing such things. It’s important to know, however, that that’s where the HRM gets its foot in the door of a lot of people’s hearts, because if you’re already doing part of the Law, shouldn’t you be doing it ALL? In and of themselves, celebrating the Sabbath and the Feasts are not a bad thing. But it is important to understand that they are not a required thing. Understanding the completed work of Jesus at the Cross and what the New Covenant is – it’s so important to understand the freedom that was purchased there at so great a cost.
There is this impression put forth in the HRM that the Hebraic model of worship and relationship with God is the be-all and end-all to religious expression. And that it’s not just an expression, but that it is required expression – required of all believers. That Judaism is the root of our Christian faith. That Judaism was never intended by God to be done away with. Folks, relationship between God and man PREDATES Judaism. Jesus – and God’s promises that would be fulfilled through Him – PREDATE the Law!
I found a post regarding the HRM over at “Labarum”, a blog from a decidedly more liturgical point of view. I’m not knocking that, by the way . . . the more I learn about the shenanigans the HRM “leaders” are pulling, the more I’m learning to appreciate liturgy and its original purpose in defining and defending the foundations of biblical truth and doctrine while holding fast to my evangelical moorings. Here’s an excerpt from the Labarum post entitled, “Root of the Problem”:
The movement [Hebrew Roots Movement] overall also suffers from a complete misunderstanding of both God’s motivation in choosing Abraham and his sovereignty in choosing the time when the Eternal Word would become incarnate. The choosing of the Jews had far less to do with God’s preference for Hebrew as it did with His rewarding the faith of Abraham.
It also never occurs to these folks that God in His sovereign will chose a time when the Mediterranean world was under the rule of one state (the Roman Empire) whose engineering feats had made quick travel over long distances possible through its vast network of roads, the highly expressive Greek language was the common tongue for learning, and Hellenistic culture had greatly influenced much of the known world since Alexander the Great.
The Greek language is highly suited for philosophical endeavors whereas Biblical Hebrew was relatively simple by comparison. I do not believe it was a coincidence that God chose a time when the infrastructure, language, and culture of an empire allowed an easy expansion of the faith, the widespread use of a language that allowed its forceful defense, and a rich culture that allowed it to be placed in the context of the fulfillment of all that is good within mankind.
Restricting the faith to some alleged “Hebrew Roots” that define a faith other than what ever existed removes two of the great strengths of Christianity – its universality and its historicity. However sincere its proponents may be, they are assuming Christ has never been able to fully realize His purpose for the Church until they came along. And, to borrow a term from the Jews, that’s chutzpah! [Bolding mine.]
As Christians, we need to understand that those who claim to keep the Law perpetuate practices that Jesus ended when He completed His work at the Cross. For example, Jesus took over and performed with finality the duties of Priest and sacrifice, not just the covering of sins, (as did animal sacrifices) but the erasing of our sins, putting us in a position of justification before God.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are “the holy ones.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Those in the HRM will argue that we need to keep the whole Law (barring sacrifices, though some think that should be brought back as well), because if we love God and want to honor Him we will keep His commandments. Even as redeemed, Holy Spirit filled Christians we cannot keep the Law. Most use Hebrews 10:26-27 as a “you can lose your salvation if you keep on sinning” passage. Law Keepers use it as a “See, if you put yourselves under the Law and obey its edicts, you will not be in danger of losing your salvation.” What about verses 28 and 29, though? Let’s look at it again:
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Could this be speaking to the believer who goes back to the Law? Could this passage be intended for the Torah observant Christian? Is the Law keeping believer treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him and are they insulting the Spirit of Grace?
If we could keep the Law, (which we can’t) scripture tells us how God sees the situation of our attempts at Law keeping in Romans chapters 3 and 4. From Romans 3:21-31:
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
Now before any Law Keepers say, “See! We aren’t supposed to nullify the law! We’re supposed to uphold it!”, let’s look at Romans 4:13-25:
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, and that Sara’s womb was also dead. God asked Abraham to believe the impossible. It was crystal clear to Abraham that in his present state, there was nothing that he could do. He was inherently unable to carry out what God had mandated. God said, “I have made [past tense] you a father of many nations”. Abraham believed that God would do what He said He would do – that God had the power to do what He said He would do, and it was that faith that was credited to him as righteousness. It wasn’t anything that Abraham did, it was what God did. Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised“.
God asks us to believe something just as unlikely as Abraham was asked to believe as we look at our old, dead selves. We are asked to believe that God has the power to do what he has promised – that we believe that it is what He does that puts us in a position of fellowship with Him, not anything of ourselves. God mandates that to be acceptable before Him we must be holy. The Law is that standard against which we must be measured – it is not nullified – it is upheld! The fact remains, however, that we are inherently unable to keep the Law, that standard of holiness.
Jesus met that standard on our behalf! Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification in the midst of our old, dead inability to meet that standard. When God looks at the repentant believer, He sees holiness because of the justification that HE brought forth for us through the work of Jesus. Though the Law is the standard by which all the measuring is done, it is not the means by which justification comes. Justification comes through the amazing grace and mercy and work of God to meet the standard of the Law on our behalf.
So what about keeping the Law as believers? Is it not really a question of sanctification for the Law keeping believer? Isn’t that the essence of the question I posed above? I won’t pretend to have this all ironed out and nailed down perfectly. And I honestly can see both sides of the issue when it comes to simple Law keeping, barring the heretical doctrines prevalent in the Hebrew Roots Movement today.
But I always have to come back to the Cross.
The priesthood, sacrifices . . . death . . . all were done away with at the Cross. Yes, Jesus kept the Law. Before the Cross. The Cross was the great dividing line in history . . . there was a clear path from death to life, from the sinful state to righteousness, from condemnation to justification. And not once did Jesus or anyone else in the Bible ever say that salvation was attained or maintained by observance of any part of the Law. You can cry “point/counterpoint” all day long when it comes to Paul’s writings . . . but the end result will always consistently be: By faith, not by works we are saved. By the Holy Spirit working on us from the inside out, we are sanctified, not by how well we “keep” the Law.
Works are a natural result of redemption in the believer’s heart. I’ll say it again – it is not by the outward performance of Law keeping that we become sanctified, it is by the completed work of Christ in our hearts that changes us intrinsically – belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing – according to the Merriam-Webster definition of intrinsically.
What does that mean? It means that the Holy Spirit changes our nature – we belong to Him – we were purchased with a price – and that the Law keeping that takes place in the life of a believer is a natural fruit-bearing process as we grow in Christ, not of keeping this festival and that law. The fruits that we see in the Church were not designed to be the keeping of the Law . . . those fruits are designed to be seen as God remakes us from the inside out through the working of His Holy Spirit! (Romans 15:14-19, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
I think about the High Priest, the only one who was permitted to go to meet God on behalf of the people in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle/Temple. He had to go through much purification before entering that Holiest place. And even then, there was no guarantee that he would survive the encounter. That’s the Law, folks. Through Christ, however, and His work at the Cross, the Most Holy Place was made available to all, and all have the right to enter who are cleansed (not merely covered) by the Blood of the Lamb.
It is obvious that God DID do away with some very specific, pivotal points in the Law immediately at the sacrifice of Himself at the Cross. More of the Law passed away as time went on. Why was the temple not rebuilt after AD 70? If the early Church felt it so important to the worship of God to maintain the Hebrew point of view, why didn’t they rebuild it? Where are the stories of Christians being thrown to the lions because they were intent on rebuilding the Temple?
Could it be that the early Church recognized that the new Temple was the Church, the Body of Christ, not built with blocks of stone, but with living stones, those being the redeemed people of God, with their Cornerstone being Jesus Christ Himself? Indeed, is this not what Paul was telling the Church in Ephesians 2:11-22?
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
If we are not obligated to keep the Law, yet some in the Church are convinced that we are, what a cunningly deceptive way for the Enemy to enslave and immobilize portions of the Church. The idea that the Holy Spirit enables us to keep Torah seems good and right, but the goals of Christ for the Church are so much loftier than for Her to keep Torah! Christianity goes beyond the scope of Law keeping (which focuses on what we do to please God) and makes us dependent on the Holy Spirit for the renewing of our minds and hearts and actions (which focuses on what He does in/through us – Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 1:9, Philippians 3:1-11)! While obedience is required in either scenario, which one do you think results in the writing of the Law on the heart versus the Law which has already been written on stone? Who gets the glory in each scenario?
Have you ever had someone (an unbeliever) come up to you (a believer) and say, “What is it with you, anyway?! Why are you so peaceful all the time?” I have, and it wasn’t because I was wearing tzit tzit or a head covering or turning down unclean foods or preparing for Shabbat. It was because the Holy Spirit is ALIVE in me, and He shows! It is nothing of myself, but the Holy Spirit that is within me. He gets the glory.
What do I do? I submit to Him, I stay in His Word, I pray as the Spirit leads. I love God and I love others as I love myself. And when someone does come up to me and asks me “what’s so different about me?” — out comes the Gospel. How God made a way from death to life, how He loved us so much He sent His Son Jesus, God incarnate, to take the penalty of our inability to keep the Law, and how if we make Him Lord of our lives HE CHANGES US!
The “Go out into all the world and make disciples” command becomes a natural outpouring in the life of the believer. For some believers, that will mean that they will be called to a literal foreign mission field, ministering to people groups in the far corners of the globe. For others, they will have Divine appointments with those they come in contact with in their daily lives. And the Temple of the Lord under the New Covenant is built – living stone by living stone.
So what? What is the big deal about Law keeping? If keeping the Sabbath is something you feel God has asked you to do out of obedience to Him, do it. To make it Law for everyone, however, is not supported by the New Covenant Scriptures. We have a Sabbath rest in Jesus. If you want to celebrate Feasts to gain a deeper understanding of the pictures they paint of God’s plan of redemption and restoration, I think that’s fine. To do so feeling commanded by Scripture, however, is not supported by New Covenant Scriptures. The Law and it’s Feasts and Holy days were a shadow of things to come. We live in the reality that is Christ! (Colossians 2:17)
If you find yourself leaving the reality that is Christ and what He completed at the Cross, then look out. Look out for those who will say Torah observance is mandatory for every Christian. Look out for those who will lead you through scriptural mazes to bring you to “hidden truth” or “lost doctrine”. Beware of false teachers and prophets that will have your head so wrapped up in “new knowledge” derived from questionable sources and practices that it will be hard to ever see true Grace and Mercy again!
For me the “So what?” boils down to how God views Law keeping through the Blood sacrifice that He personally provided for us. The Grace extended, the suffering endured, the Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension . . . those things were accomplished to give us NEW life. The Law was given as instructions to lawless people – people bound by sin. To behave and practice as if we were still bound by our sin when He has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west – well, are we then trampling the Son of God underfoot? Are we treating as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified us? Are we insulting the Spirit of grace?
For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.
Other articles of interest:
If you or someone you know is in the HRM or a related Law-keeping sect and are questioning what you believe, a clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE. For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page. General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE. Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE. Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable. May God guide and bless you as you seek His Truth.
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