The issue of how to treat the gentile believers is not a new question in our day, the Apostles themselves dealt with this issue on more than one occasion
In 1995, I purchased a Star of David which I have worn ever since, because I believe that the the follower of Jesus Christ has their roots smack dab in the middle of Israel and the Jewish people. You will do well to note that when Jesus started His Church, there were no gentile believers or converts. Every single one of them was a Jew.
“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29 (KJV)
As a result, I have a deep and abiding love for the Jewish people, and for the only piece of ground on this earth that God has ever called holy, and that is the literal, physical nation of Israel. This should be the mindset of every true follower of Jesus.
I shall build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it
Jesus came to this earth as the promised Messiah to the Jews. and in accordance with the Hebrew prophets, He was rejected and put to death. Speaking of the coming Messiah, the prophet Isaiah said this:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5 (KJV)
So when He was rejected, and in accordance with Bible prophecy, He turned to the gentiles…and the gentiles received His word with gladness. Thus was born the Church, made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers, following not the Law of Moses, but rather the teaching of Jesus. Because of their rejection, God hit the “pause button” on the Jews, and did not allow the final week of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks to continue. Paul talks about this mystery in the book of Romans where he says this:
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” Romans 11:11 (KJV)
Paul further goes on to say that the day would come when God would once again turn His full attention back to Israel, and redeem them:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:” Romans 11:25,26 (KJV)
These are the true roots of Christianity and the Christian’s relationship to the Jew. But there are those who seek to pervert that relationship, and add layers of law and works to it where none exists in the Scriptures. This new movement is called Hebrew Roots, and while it uses words and phrases from the bible and Jewish culture, there is nothing either Jewish or Christian about this group as you will see.
Why haven’t I heard about the Hebrew Roots movement?
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.
Some of the warning signs:
- All Christians must adhere to a kosher diet
- The Sabbath can only be observed on Saturdays
- The Jewish festivals and holidays must still be observed today
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 descendants, 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.
The proof is in the Scripture
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5 (KJV)
The issue of how to treat the gentile believers is not a new question in our day, the Apostles themselves dealt with this issue on more than one occasion. Acts 15 shines ample light on not only the question, but the answer as well. As we read in Acts 15, we see the bible “heavyweights” like Paul and Barnabas called on the carpet along with the rest of the apostles to figure this out. And as with most issues in the church, the whole problem started with a small handful of troublemakers:
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1 (KJV)
A few bad apples…
Now, we are not told who these troublemakers are, but it was sufficient to throw a monkeywrench into the whole deal:
“When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” Acts 15:2 (KJV)
And deal with it they did…“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:7-9 (KJV)
They acknowledged that while a gentile does not become a Jew when believing on the Messiah, the line of division between them no longer exists. From God’s perspective then, there is no difference between a Jewish and Gentile believer in Christ. But they didn’t stop there, they continued on to answer this question in a most resolute and final way.
The Apostles settle this question once and for all
“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” Acts 15:10-12 (KJV)
Peter is so bold that he stuns them all into silence, and uses this time to allow Paul and Barnabas to recount all the awesome ‘miracles and wonders that God had wrought among the Gentiles by them’. Just when you think it can’t get any more intense that it already is, James steps in begins to wrap it up:
“And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” Acts 15:13-18 (KJV)
Then, the knockout blow:
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” Acts 15:19-21 (KJV)
In an amazing display, James through the Holy Spirit, tells us once and for all what God expects from Gentile believers…and it is not to be placed under the Law of Moses. There exists no evidence in the New Testament that mandates that any Gentile believer observe Jewish holidays, eat kosher foods or worship only on the Sabbath day. What was the reaction from the entire assembled group of elders? They said this:
“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” Acts 15:24-29 (KJV)
Did you catch that line? Go back and reread the Apostles themselves saying that they never gave any such commandment for Gentiles to be placed under the Law of Moses. Never. Ever. Do you believe the Bible? Don’t take my word for it, look it up and read it for yourself…
The believer in Christ is not called to law, but to freedom in Jesus. And for those who still need further proof, Paul provides it in Galatians 2:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:11-16 (KJV)
The roots of Christianity grow deep in Jewish culture, and it is highly recommended that all Christians learn about the Jewish feast days, holy days and other customs. They will only deepen our appreciation and understanding of our common ancestry that we have, Gentiles together with Jews. But to suggest that any Gentile believer who follows Jesus must be placed under Old Testament law is nothing but bondage, and it’s a bondage that the Bible speaks against not only in the verses quoted here, but in many other places as well. Regarding the freedom we have in Christ, let me leave you with this verse from the Master himself:
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36 (KJV)