A Polite Response to Andrew Strom's ArticleWritten by Jacob Prasch
by J. Jacob Prasch
My family are Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews who believe in Jesus and retain Jewish culture. Our ministry Moriel has published three articles warning about the extreme axis of the Messianic Movement that lifts up Jewishness instead of Jesus-ness and seeks to place non-Jews under Torah and Sabbatarian observance. It is an issue also addressed in my last book.
I am not alone. Moishe Rosen (the founder of Jews For Jesus) and Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum (the leading Messianic Jewish scholars in the USA) likewise warn against this lunatic fringe, as does Professor Michael Rydelnik (Chairman of Studies at Moody Bible Institute, the largest Jewish studies department in Evangelical higher theological education). However, in addressing this problem at least two pivitol points must be kept in mind.
First of all, only a minority of believing Jews subscribe to this lunacy and other strains of the Messianic Movement are not caught up in this form of neo-Galatianism. In fact, most of those involved in this error are not even Jewish nor are they married to Jews. It is, moreover, a diasporic phenomena; there is relatively little of this nonsense among most Israeli believers.
On top if this, proponents of this extremism are stereotypically ignorant of talmudic Judaism (which is a mainly false religion) and of Jewish history (as well as of Scripture) and most cannot even speak Hebrew. I am disappointed that Andrew's article overlooked this, seemingly implying such ignorant people are representative of the Messianic Movement broadly or of believing Jews.
Secondly, Andrew Strom's article ignores that such unbiblical extremism is a triggered reaction to another co-equally unbiblical doctrinal error - Supercessionism, or Replacement Theology. It is indeed a misguided reaction that seeks to correct error with error instead of truth. But if this problematic issue is to be addressed it is best that it be addressed comprehensively and accurately by those who deal with it firsthand.
While the fundamental substance of what Andrew Strom writes echoes our own convictions, his analysis of the problem is fundamentally defective.
Andrew's article follows.
RETURN OF THE JUDAIZERS??
-by Andrew Strom.
I have friends who call Jesus "Yeshua". I don't mind it at all. I have other friends who keep the Saturday Sabbath. It doesn't bother me too much, unless there is a kind-of "aggressive attitude" about it. But in recent years I have witnessed a worrying trend - that in my opinion is growing worse - and we need to address it.
Today when a Christian tells me that they are "Torah-observant" then all kinds of alarms go off. It may be that they are just into 'Hebrew roots' - but usually it is a lot more than that. We all know that in the early church, the biggest problem they had was with the "Judaizers" who went around trying to convince the Gentile Christians that they must obey the letter of the Old Testament Law. This shipwrecked the faith of many. It was the biggest problem they had. The book of Galatians is all about it - and many other sections of the New Testament. It was a battle between the old Law - with its subtle bondages - and the new walk of the Spirit and of grace.
A few months back, we published the testimony of a Christian woman who got involved with a Messianic group that slowly under- mined her faith in Jesus - and basically converted her gradually into a practicing Jew - even though they all thought of themselves as "Messianic Christians"! She realized later that in almost every way she had slowly had her faith in Jesus and the New Testament replaced with the keeping of the Torah. She had been "Judaized"! And I fear this is happening to a great many Christians today - in all kinds of subtle ways.
This is exactly what the Bible warns against - losing the "simplicity" of the faith. And that is why Paul was so strong against the Juda- izers. He saw that Christians were being tempted - not to place their faith in Christ alone - but rather in Christ PLUS the keeping of the Law. It was no longer a simple trust in JESUS to be their righteousness. They now started to feel they had to keep the letter of the Old Law too - in order to be truly "holy". And so they became "Judaized". This is the worst trap possible. And so subtle!
Let us look at a few vital Scriptures. Please open your Bible to Acts 15:1-29. This whole passage is about a great meeting of the apostles to decide whether - with the new Gentile Christians - it was "necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses" (v 5). So what did the apostles conclude about this? As Peter declared during the debate about it, "Why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (v 10).
At the end of the great meeting, the apostles put out a letter to the Gentile Christians that declared: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well." (v. 28-29). And as far as the Old Law went, that was it!
In other words, no "Torah observance", no Sabbath, no circumcision, no Old Law apart from these few things. This brief list only. That was the pronouncement of the apostles. If they wanted to tell the Gentiles, "You must keep the Jewish Sabbath," then this was the place to do it. But it is definitely not included. And neither are a thousand-and-one other things from the Old Testament.
Of course, this should be no surprise to us. In Colossians 2, Paul tells us very clearly that Christ has "wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us" by nailing it to the cross (v. 14). He then goes on to say: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." (v. 16-17).
So all these Old Testament practices are only a "shadow" of the New. In fact, as Hebrews makes clear, the entire Old Covenant was only a 'type' or shadow of that which was to come. It was not the real thing! It does not make us more "holy"! The substance is found in Christ - and Him alone. The Old Torah "requirements" were nailed to the cross with Jesus. We don't need them any more. If anybody ever tells you that the New Testament is simply a "continuation" of the Old, run a mile from that person. They simply do not know what they are talking about. In fact, what they are spouting is dangerous heresy.
Thus, as Paul tells us in Romans, observing the Sabbath is only necessary if our conscience is weak in this area - and we feel we have to:- "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it" (Rom 14:1-6).
So we do not "have" to observe the Sabbath. It does not make us more 'holy' or righteous to do so. It is simply a matter of conscience. This runs against a lot of the teaching that is doing the rounds right now. There is a lot of dangerous "Back to the Torah"-type emphasis that is bringing a lot of harm to a lot of people. Many of them don't even realize what is happening to them.
Paul clearly tells us in Galatians that you can lose your salvation by beginning to rely on the Law in your Christian walk: "You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (Gal 4:10-11). He then goes on to say, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Gal 5:4). Alarming statements, are they not?
You see, it is a direct insult to the work of Christ and to God for us to go back to the "works of the Law" to try and make us more 'righteous' in His sight. It is placing our trust in something other than just Jesus. We are "adding works" for our salvation. And it will not do.
I believe that just like the Galatians, a lot of people today need to repent of trying to add the Old Law to their salvation - sometimes in subtle ways - sometimes major. This is not the kind of thing to toy around with. It can be utterly deadly. If you are someone who is adding "Torah observance" to your faith, I urge you to repent.
The testimony of the woman who slowly lost her faith in Jesus through Messianic Torah-observance can be found at the top of our website. Here is the link-
God bless you all.
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32 Coleridge Cres,
Swansea, SA2 7DJ,
Andrew Strom Replies:
I very much appreciate the politeness of your response, my friend!
Naturally, my article is mostly aimed at the Gentiles who have got caught up with this - rather than the Hebrew Messianics whom I am not quarreling with.
Sorry for any offense.
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