“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Matthew 23:13 (NASB95)
A picture showed up in my Google+ feed this morning that caught my eye.
Not sure why this pic showed up on my feed today; maybe God’s providence, maybe the devil’s distraction. Fairly quickly I recognized this photo as part of the heresy that is promoted by the Hebrew Roots movement which teaches many inaccurate and fallacious ideas, one of which is that true believers have been saved not necessarily for the glory of God or for freedom’s sake, but so that as redeemed, Spirit-filled people we can now fully and accurately observe the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament given to Israel through Moses. Their thinking is that while it was impossible for humans to previously keep the commandments of the Law, now that we have received new hearts in the new covenant, the fruit that true believers are to bear is the keeping of the jot and tittle of the Law. This they believe is an achievable reality. Along with this, it is their understanding that in the immediate future, the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem so that when Messiah comes, He will reestablish the Levitical priesthood including the animal sacrifices prescribed in the Law, which will enable true worship to take place once again. It is their belief that we will be forever locked into this sacrificial system, eternally engaged in the slaughter of animals for the glory of God.
What they fail to recognize is the sufficiency of the final sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who provided our propitiation once and for all. Through Him, we are enabled to be worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth, not in animal blood and burnings. Obviously, there is an egregious misunderstanding of the purpose of the Torah in the first place. A basic understanding of scripture is all it takes to recognize the deep error of their teaching concerning the Law and Christ. While those who argue for a return to the Law, the bible speaks to us differently. For instance:
“For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:5-6 (NASB95)
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:23-26 (NASB95)
While the false teachings of the Hebrew Roots are so numerous and so complicated, like a mess of tangled roots, it would be difficult and incredibly time consuming to address all of it here (here is another article for more information, Unity, Liberty, and Charity), there are a few distinguishing marks that set those involved in this cult apart. After many discussions with those in the Hebrew Roots movement over the years (ad infinitum ad nauseam), it seems they basically get it wrong on these fundamental principles:
- The Lordship of Jesus Christ, including His sin atoning sacrifice along with the new covenant in His blood; believing that:
- Jesus merely provided us an example of how to observe the Law
- Christmas and Easter celebrations should be rejected because they have pagan roots
- The doctrine of the trinity is false, including the Sonship of Christ (though not all adhere to this)
- The place of the Law in the scope of God’s plan of redemption; believing that:
- Strict observance of the Torah including dietary laws is mandatory and achievable; although upon closer examination many of the aspects of the Law seem to be neglected
- An emphasis on observing the Sabbath, Old Testament feasts, and Jewish holidays is imperative to pleasing God
- The identity and purpose of national Israel; believing that:
- True followers of Torah achieve identify with national Israel; this is practiced to the point of idolatry
- Hebrew is the chosen language of God therefore He is honored only when His name is pronounced in Hebrew
- The bible is not God’s revelation to mankind about Himself but instead is a revelation of Israel
- There was a conspiracy to corrupt the Jews by Hellenizing (converting to Greek) the Hebrew culture 2000 years ago; this contributes to their rejection of the Greek New Testament
While these are deep and troubling distortions of doctrine, it only scratches the surface of how deeply twisted their teachings go. A person can grow weary of the endless heresy, empty doctrine, and false teaching of this increasing movement.
Furthermore, their assumption is that the modern church has been so corrupted beyond redemption that it will be judged as the great harlot city, Babylon. Therefore, since many of them hold to the understanding that they alone have the pure teaching of scripture and observe the pure practice of it, they believe it is their prerogative to draw people out of the modern church and into their warped form of Judaism before the judgment of God comes.
Surprisingly, this is a growing faction. Often their agenda is successful on two counts. First, I have noticed they tend to prey on those with a frail understanding of scripture, especially the Old Testament, along with those who are weak in their faith (see Romans 14:1-2). Secondly, it seems as though they are especially successful with those who have experienced hurt or disappointments by the church. Similar to the wolves mentioned in scripture that stalk the sheep looking for an easy meal, these false teachers are looking for an easy target. Pastors must protect their flock from these treacherous imposters.
In dealing with advocates of the Hebrew Roots movement, I have adopted these verses from Titus as my mantra in dealing with this dangerous cult that blatantly denies the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, arrogantly distorts the Law, and unashamedly idolizes Israel.
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning being self condemned.” Titus 3:4-11 (NASB95)
- God saved us through His kindness and His love which has been manifested in Jesus Christ, not on the basis of our deeds (including using the Hebrew names of God and observing feasts) but because of His mercy, period. End of discussion.
- Those who have accepted this salvation are obtaining this salvation through the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, not through our works done in righteousness and certainly not through our attempts at washings of the Law.
- God’s entire creation has the opportunity to become His heirs (not merely those who are national Israel or those who falsely claim to be) and once again, this justification is by grace pointing to the hope of eternal life, not the hope of observing the Torah.
- These are trustworthy statements for those who believe and are good deeds to be engaged in.
- For those who reject these trustworthy statements and choose not to engage in these good deeds but would rather argue about foolish controversies (such as the conspiracy theories concerning Christmas or the Hellenization of Israel), genealogies, strife and disputes about the Law, it is good to contend with them for a first and second warning after which they are to be rejected because that person is factious, perverted, sinning, and has self-condemned himself. Only the Holy Spirit through His word can renew that person by opening the eyes of the blind, melting the hearts of the rebellious, and converting the unregenerate who falsely claim righteousness through the Law.
And that’s about all I have to say about that.