Titus 1:10-11, 13-14 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach…For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.
What an insidious and devious Enemy we have! The ability to take devout men and women of God who are zealous for good works and twist their desires so as to put them back into bondage to the Law illustrates the truly evil nature of Satan.
I had the recent misfortune of encountering a cult which is growing in influence within Christianity. It is not to be confused with Messianic Judaism or simply seeking to explore the Jewish culture within which most of the Bible was written. Although there are many organizations which are promoting this general view and their specific doctrines often vary, it is generally known as the Hebrew Roots Movement.
Why Haven’t I Heard About This?
As a rule, this spreading wave of false doctrine is not being addressed by the church. This is due to several reasons:
- There is a fear of appearing anti-Semitic
- The depth of the movement’s doctrinal heresies is not generally known
- There is within the church in general a reluctance to address false doctrine
- The movement usually hides their beliefs and presents itself as simply seeking to educate Christians concerning their Jewish heritage. As they become acclimated to the Jewish orientation the more aberrant doctrines are slowly introduced.
The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and our seminaries. The longer we refuse to address it directly and publicly the greater the damage will be to our brothers and sisters and to the core doctrines of our faith. If it is not the responsibility of the clergy to correct issues of doctrine, then whose responsibility is it?
A Few Symptoms
Allow me to delineate some of their more common symptomatic doctrinal heresies:
- All Christians should adhere to a kosher diet
- The Sabbath can only be observed on Saturdays
- The Jewish festivals and holidays should still be observed today
I addressed in a previous article why these are not sound doctrinal stances so I will not reiterate them here.
The root of their symptomatic heresies is hermeneutic (having to do with the methodology used to interpret scripture) in nature. The Protestant Reformers used a grammatical-literal hermeneutic when interpreting scripture. In other words, it means what it says unless there is a significant reason to believe otherwise. This movement uses a grammatical-historical hermeneutic with a twist. Their underlying assumptions when approaching any scripture are:
- Whatever God has ever commanded of those who seek Him (i.e., the Jews, their ancestors, their descendents, and Christians) is still in effect today (including the Levitical law)
- Gentile followers of Christ were “grafted into” the Jews which they interpret to mean that Gentiles must assume Jewish customs if they really want to mature and please God
Based on those unquestionable assumptions, they then decide how they can best interpret a given scripture to support those beliefs.
The farther down this rabbit hole they go, the more bizarre their doctrines become. Many see the New Testament as inferior to the Old (or a conspiracy by the Catholic church). More still say that Paul’s teachings are contrary to Christ (since they have trouble with his obvious statements against their beliefs) and, therefore, reject his epistles as scripture. Some say that the only reason we aren’t still sacrificing animals and stoning people for their sins is because there is no Temple and no Sanhedrin. But when they are restored then these will resume. Others go so far as to eventually reject Jesus as the Messiah and simply say that He was just a Rabbi. The inevitable outcome of following this train of thought is to put people back into bondage to the Law.
These heresies are so fundamentally and obviously wrong that I hesitate to even address them. However, it is apparently not obvious to the adherents of this cult so I will briefly spell out a few.
We (as Gentile believers) were not grafted into the Law and Judaism but into the faith of Abraham which preceded the Law and Jewish customs (Romans 4, Romans 11:17-24, Galatians 3:15-18). The law was given because of transgressions and to be our tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:19,24,25). Jesus fulfilled all of the requirements of the law (Matthew 5:17-20) for all time (John 19:30, Romans 5:12-21). We were “made to die to the Law through the body of Christ” so that we might be joined to Him (Romans 7:1-6, Galatians 2:19,21) because Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). You mature in Christ and please Him by the same means by which you were saved…by faith…not by following the Law.
Galatians 3:1-4 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain?
No where in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs. In fact, just the opposite (see my previous article). However, we do find several examples where Jewish Christians are reprimanded for trying to convince Gentile Christians to follow the Law (Acts 15, Galatians, Romans 14, Titus 1).
Those in the Hebrew Roots cult have stumbled over the Great Stumbling Block (1 Corinthians 1:23,24, Galatians 5:11). This heresy goes all the way back to the first century but like a bad penny it keeps turning up every few centuries. Beware of those who come to you professing to educate you about your Hebrew roots in order to “make you a better Christian” or to “restore your Biblical Hebrew heritage.” Question them closely concerning these heresies to prevent them from being introduced into your churches and families (as they have been introduced into mine).
Below are some websites with more information concerning the Hebrew Roots Movement as well as relevant scriptures for you to consider. Test the spirits, my brothers and sisters and refute unsound doctrine (Titus 1:9).
Jews for Jesus warn of the dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement
Galatians 3:28,29 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Romans 2:17-21 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
1 Timothy 1:3, 6-10 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines…For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching
2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.