This has been a topic that I have wrestled with for the past couple weeks. God wants me to write this. Yet, the devil has poked me with trivial doubts. God has poured the words into my head. The devil has plagued me with fears and insecurities akin to social paranoia. When I look at this objectively with my love for scripture, I realize that this does indeed need to be written. And it needs to be a blog post.
Readers who have stayed with this blog for several months know that I practice the Old Testament feasts. The Old Testament feasts prophecy Jesus, and they are free from the commercialization that plagues the once-genuinely Christian holidays. Before I became a Christian, what confused me most about Jesus was His heritage alongside the religion founded by Him.
Jesus is King of the Jews (Mathew 27:35), so His people should be Jewish. Yet, His people were not Jewish (His people Christians) and were something else entirely. So, having the King of the Jews at the heart of a non-Jewish religion (or a religion opposed to the Jews) appeared to be an obvious contradiction in and of itself.
The Hebraic Roots movement helped me to understand Jesus and helped me to realize that there is no contradiction whatsoever. Jesus was born and raised a Jew, part of God's chosen people. Judaism existed to bring forth the Messiah who would become savior of the world. The Old Testament prophesies Jesus extensively. Jesus preached predominately to the Jews during His earthly ministry. Afterward, He began to unite Jew and Gentile into one faith (Acts 10:1-43). There was a time when God did not have a chosen people because all were His people (Genesis 5:1-24).
Paul of Tarsus described the uniting of Gentiles with the Jews as grafting wild olive branches onto a cultivated olive tree. Christianity is not a new religion. Christianity is a continuation of Judaism and Jewish fulfillment.
"And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree." (Romans 11:17)
Thus, there ceases to be any distinction between Jew and Gentile because they become part of the same olive tree. The same Grace applies to all. And the Law applies either to all or to none.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek... for you all are one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:28-29)
There are valuable insights and knowledge within the Hebraic roots movement. This learning has bridged the gap between Judaism and Christianity, and has resulted in leading me closer to Christ. Having listened to other pastors, I have learned that a person does not need to embrace all the mini-denominational doctrines of the Hebraic movement to appreciate how the Old and New Testaments connect. Watching Korean girls dance in Davidic style and listening to a Singapore man - one opposed to the Law - sing in Hebrew have also taught me that a person needs merely to be a Christian and devout follower of Jesus in order to appreciate and understand His heritage and His scriptures.
One of the more contentious parts of the Hebraic roots movement is this quotation of Jesus, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Mathew 5:17) The next three verses provide additional statements over the matter.
There are two points of view regarding the Law. The Hebraic believers state that we need to continue following the original Torah while the non-Hebraic or anti-Hebraic believe that the Torah has been abolished except perhaps for the Ten Commandments.
In my study and through what was revealed to me, there exists two main types of law - laws in which God proclaimed His authority, and laws in which the proclamation was absent.
The Hebraic believers insist on following the Torah, which contains 613 Laws. However, they keep only a bare minimum - the dietary laws and the Sabbath - so few as to be considered none at all. If they keep the entire Law, then they need to stone adulterers and homosexuals to death; they need to shun and isolate women who give birth to girls for sixty-six days (Leviticus 12:5) and to boys for thirty-three days (Leviticus 12:4) because that woman is now unclean and devoid of purity.
The non-Hebraic Christians think the Law has been completely abolished, so this abolishment means it is now okay to trip blind men (Leviticus 19:14), and it is okay to cheat or fraud your impoverished brethren (Leviticus 25:35-38) worse than denying them charity.
Neither side has interpreted the Law correctly.
Jesus reinforced the laws that had the proclamation of authority, and He ignored or overturned the laws without the proclamation. Jesus removed the ultimate source of blind men's stumbling (Mathew 20: 30-34, cf Leviticus 35:35-38), and He preached charity and compassion for the poor (Mathew 19:21, Luke 11:42 cf Leviticus 23:22, 35:35-38). Jesus has reinforced laws that had God's proclamation behind it.
For the laws that He overturned or ignored...
Jesus changed and overturned the law on divorce (Mathew 19:3-9, cf Deuteronomy 24:1) Of course, the Pharisees were quick to point this change and inquire, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce?" Jesus also ignored the law on stoning adulterers (John 8:4-11 cf Leviticus 20:10) This laws which He changed and ignored were laws that lacked God's proclamation of authority.
Thus, we know which laws to keep and which to ignore. The laws in which God declares, "I am the Lord" are the absolute moral laws in charge of our conduct and behavior. The strange thing is that non-Hebraic or anti-Hebraic Christians insist the entire law has been abolished, yet they obey the law without realizing it. These Christians obey the law because the righteousness of Christ has replaced their sin nature.
The Law was given "because of transgressions," (Galatians 3:19) because people were sinning and because they needed rules against sinning. However, when the Spirit of Christ fills the heart of a follower, the righteousness of Christ replaces the sin nature. The righteous know how to behave righteously because they are righteous. No law needs to tell them what they already know. Because they can no longer sin, they intuitively adhere to the law meant to prevent people from sinning.
A part of the problem with the Hebraic belief over "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Mathew 5:17) is that it lends itself to a legalism that is difficult to pull out of.
A pastor in Amarillo, Texas recently gave a sermon about being the Bride of Christ. The quotes are taken from an August 26 sermon titled "The Bride." Two-thirds of the way through his sermon, he said:
"If you are going to be the Bride [of Christ] you have to have had made yourself ready. It is not just those who are chosen and say 'yes,' it is the process of being made ready, preparing yourself to be the Bride. And to her, it was that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. Clean linen is the righteousness of saints. Okay. ... if you've been chosen ...
"Process begins of making the wedding garment, fine white linen. In making that, we are told that represents the righteousness or the right acts what we do according to scripture, following God. That's the way we build and make our wedding garment."
Accepting the proposal begins process of salvation, but makes followers the Bride-to-Be, not the Bride. Not a wife. The wedding is not completed. Followers become the Bride by "keeping ourselves pure, not worshipping false idols making our white linen robe the robe of righteousness, by being obedient to His commandments,"
"Brides need to be conditioning themselves to let loose of [the world] and think of things much greater, the spiritual things of life. As we try to relate to the bride, there are so many parables."
Then, the pastor cited a parable from Mathew 22 in which a man comes to wedding without right wedding garments and is cast out into outer darkness because he did not have the correct wedding garment. Near the end, the pastor cautions his audience who might be "not building their wedding robes with works of righteousness, not being obedient and faithful to the commandments."
"Are we diligently preparing our robes of righteousness? Could it be that some of us get there and because we are not dressed with robes of righteousness will be cast into outer darkness?"
That sermon is full of legalism - that our robe of righteousness comes from us, not from God and that our works will save us from the outer darkness and ensure our ultimate salvation. This legalism is dangerous, particularly for Christians in modern society. If we are supposed to obey all 613 commandments to build our robe of righteousness and ensure our salvation, then he has doomed his entire congregation into the fiery pit because people can only follow a tiny amount.
And yet Paul wrote:
"a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law." (Galatians 2:16)
Even though the pastor from Amarillo, Texas cited John 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments," there are other verses about this quote. "And this is the commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:21) and also "owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law." (Romans 13:8)
It sounds like that Beatles song, "All you need is love."
Now, it sounds like this pastor is searching his way beyond the legalism because he said near the end, "I don't have all of this together. I pray that you spend some time thinking and searching and praying that the Holy Spirit deliver you."
I have hope that he will discover his way out of legalism and rediscover the spiritual knowledge of God. It is the Spirit of Christ within us that leads us to fulfill the law, not because we have to work and pay attention to the law but because it becames innate through Christ living within us.
"it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Galatians 2:20-21)
"Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes all knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19)
This does not necessarily mean that the Law has been done away with. The Law remains in place. And yet, love fulfills the Law (Romans 13:8). The Law was created for sinners due to their sinful nature (Galatians 3:19). When the grace of God cleanses our sin nature with His Holy Spirit, "sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." (Romans 6:14) When we are filled with the love of Christ, we automatically know how to behave righteously. Thus, we no longer need to use the 613 laws as a checklist. People filled with Christ in their hearts actually keep the Hebraic laws, even though they claim to be against those laws. The checklist law is for sinners to behave as though they were righteous. People who have redemption from sin simply are righteous because they have Christ dwelling within their hearts.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the Hebraic Roots movement, either. The Hebraic Roots movement has plenty of knowledge to offer Christianity. All a person needs to be is Christian in order to appreciate how the Old Testament prophesies the New Testament and to understand the Jewish heritage of Jesus. For Christians all over the world are searching for the original heritage and founding of Christianity, and they are embracing and understanding Jesus as He truly was, is, and will be forever. The Lord and Savior of all humanity.