by Christine Egbert
Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. Today many Christians have replaced a comprehensive—Genesis to Revelation—study of Scripture with a-page-a-day reading in only the New Testament. And sadly, many don’t read that much on a regular basis, starving themselves instead on a diet of manmade, denominational church doctrine.
Scripture, however, tells us (2 Tim 3:16) that if we are to be approved by God and not ashamed, we must be able to rightly divide the Word of Truth. And never forget that when Paul wrote to Timothy that “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” Paul was referring only to that portion of Scripture referred to today as the Old Testament, for the so-called “New Testament” (the gospels and letters to various congregations) had not yet been codified.
Cafeteria Christianity is a term I coined to describe those who treat God’s word as if it were a cafeteria line, cruising past verses like Matthew 5:19, 1st John 2:4, and Hebrews 10:26-27 (just to name a few) to fill their plates with what Peter calls “hard to understand” passages penned by Paul that the “unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction” (2nd Peter 3:16). These passages are wrested to promote the false idea that God’s law has been done away with (what Peter called “the error of the lawless”). This heresy, although epidemic today, is by no means new. It’s birth can be traced to the the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, when Gentiles with little to no knowledge of the first two-thirds of the Holy Scriptures, and with centuries of deeply ingrained hatred for everything Jewish, except for the Jewish Messiah, whom they reinvented as a Torah breaking Gentile–began flooding into the faith that was once delivered to the Saints. Long ago, theologians named the most virulent of these heresies Antinomianism.
This Anglicized term combines the Greek word nomianism, defined as “belief in the law” with the prefix anti, which means averse to or against.
But God has always had a faithful remnant, and Paul NEVER taught that the LAW was done away with! In fact, after concluding that justification is by faith, Paul went on to ask, “Do we then make void the law through faith?” “Certainly not!” he answered. “On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
In Titus 2: 14, Paul wrote that Yeshua “gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every LAWLESS deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for GOOD WORKS.”
Paul taught against the lie that maintained: unless one was physically circumcised he could not be saved. Paul knew God’s order of doing things. He knew that circumcision of the heart, not the flesh, was the only “prerequisite” to salvation by faith. For without a circumcised heart one could not love God. This was the sequence the LORD set up from the beginning. And since the LORD is the one who circumcises hearts, from the beginning salvation was by God’s grace.
(Deu 30:6) And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul that you may live.
Remember that Abraham did not circumcise his flesh until he was 99 years old, 24 years after in obedience to God, he departed Haran. In three places (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23) Scripture says Abraham’s “faith” was accounted to him as righteousness.
I have said all this to make it clear that we in the Hebrew roots movement DO NOT preach salvation by works. We are saved by faith. We obey God’s law as an “act of obedience” because we love Yeshua. But this antinomian controversy is by no means new! In fact, there was a famous trial back in 1636 that dealt with this ANTINOMIAN CONTROVERSY.
In the fall of 1636, a woman named Anne Hutchinson caused great turmoil by reinterpreting the clerical doctrine of the covenant of grace, which held that the elect entered a covenant with God through faith in Christ, after which they were to devote themselves to good works as “evidence” of their salvation. It’s hard to understand how anyone could have a problem with that biblically based interpretation, but Anne Hutchinson did. Here is the account of what happened from the article “Antinomian Controversy“ from the Dictionary of American History (2003).
“Hutchinson declared that stating the matter in this way put too much emphasis upon works and denied the fundamental Protestant tenet of salvation by faith alone. Consequently she preached that the believer received into his soul the very substance of the Holy Ghost and that no value whatsoever adhered to one’s conduct as a sign of justification.” (Anne obviously gave no credence to “knowing believers by their fruit”, but let’s continue reading.) “This conclusion, feared the New England clergy, would hasten the decline of morality that Protestant theologians had everywhere endeavored to resist, and it could clearly lead to disastrous social consequences. She was excommunicated (good) from the First Church in March 1638, John Cotton pronouncing sentence upon her, and banished from the colony by the court, whereupon she fled to Rhode Island.”
The Clergy of that day clearly had a better understanding of sanctification than most of the clergy today. Today, Anne Hutchinson’s heretical antinomianism has gone mainstream! Those of us in what has been dubbed the Hebrew Roots Movement know that Salvation is by grace through faith, but we also know that God’s LAW was never done away with. Yeshua himself said that not one jot or tittle of the law–things like His 7th day Sabbath, His Feast Days, or His dietary laws–would NOT pass away until Heaven and earth passed away. Well, Heaven and earth are still here. So gorging on scavengers is still verboten! In-covenant believers are still expected to keep HIS Commandments. Every Law and Commandment is Yeshua’s. For as James said in 4:12, “…there is One Lawgiver who is able to save….”
When Yeshua said all the law hangs on loving God and loving man, He was simply naming the two categories under which all of the commandments fall. The way in which we are to demonstrate our love for God is NOT subject to individual interpretation. Yeshua said if we love him to KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.
Make no mistake, this Hebrew Roots movement (move of God) was prophesied in Act 3:21 as “the time of restoration of all things.” But let me first quote from verse 19, which says, “Therefore, repent and convert…” Now the word translated as convert is “epistrephō”. It is defined by Strong’s dictionary as “to revert.” Thayer’s dictionary makes the meaning even clearer. It says: “to cause to return, to bring back to the love and obedience of God.”
At its heart, Hebrew Roots is about repenting and returning to that which God established from the beginning, His TORAH. But most translators choose to write “convert” which implies turning to something new, something different.
In the first century, what we today call Christianity was a sect within Judaism. But over the next few centuries what had once been “one people of God” with many sects became two separate and very antagonistic religions. This reactionary trajectory not only separated Christians from Jews, but it separated both faiths–what became Rabbinic Judaism and Roman Catholic Christianity–from its original 1st Century form.
Paul warned in Acts 20:29 that after his departure grievous wolves would come in and not spare the flock. And that is exactly what happened.
God warned his people not to add to or take away from his word. Yet that is precisely what both Rabbinic Judaism and Constantinian-Christianity have done. Rabbinical Judaism, through their oral law and traditions, in effect added to God’s Written WORD. Whereas, starting in 324 C.E., Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church removed vital parts from God’s word when they changed the Sabbath, outlawed Yahweh’s Feast Days, and marginalized Scripture’s bedrock by pejoratively dubbing it the Old Testament.
And although Rabbinic Judaism did not officially exist prior to the destruction of the second temple, its groundwork was laid long before. Yeshua railed against Pharisees who rejected God’s commandments to observe their (oral) traditions. (Mark 7:9). Later, these same oral traditions were codified in the Talmud and Mishnah.
Rabbi Moses Maimonides
Rabbi Moses Maimonides, known as the Rambam, taught that rabbinic traditions were to be followed even when they “contradict the plain, grammatical sense of the Torah.” Were a prophet of God to confirm that the plain, grammatical sense of the Torah was correct, it would still be considered less authoritative. According to the Rambam, even a voice from Heaven could not overrule the rabbis’ majority opinion.
The disastrous decisions enacted by the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the Council of Laodicea in 363 C.E, veered the Church from the old path, where scripture (Jer 6:16) says the good way is, careening it into the dark ages.
Drunk with power, the Roman Catholic Church had an empire to build. They began with seizing control over education. Backed by an imperial Roman Court, they restricted instruction to potential priests. Knowledge which did not serve the Church’s purpose got suppressed, and access to the scriptures, except for clergy, was forbidden. In a stark contrast to Hebraic thought, which encourages literacy so all can study Scripture, within just a few generations the Church’s pagan iconography replaced language. By then, even most priests could not read, and the world, for over a thousand years, plunged into the dark ages.
The Reformation, while returning the Scriptures to the church, did not restore God’s Sabbath, Feast Days or TORAH for the majority. But the RESTORATION of all things will! “Therefore, repent and revert, for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing may come from the face of the Lord, that He may send forth the One before proclaimed to you, Yeshua the Messiah, whom Heaven truly needs to receive until the times of restoration of all things, of which God spoke through the mouth of all His holy prophets from the age past.” (Acts 3:19-21)
Through the Hebrew Roots movement God is in the process of restoration. Those of us who have returned to the old paths where the good way is, like the author of Jude, we exhort the Church to contend earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. The faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is an ancient faith which does not turn the grace of our God into licentiousness by declaring Yah’s TORAH has been done away with. We are rebuilding the old waste places and raising the foundations of many generations. We are the repairers of the breach, restorers of paths to dwell in. We have turned from doing our own pleasure on Yah’s Holy Day, the Sabbath. We now call His Sabbaths a delight, the Holy Days of YHVH honorable. (Isaiah 58:12-13).
We know that God renewed the Covenant and wrote HIS LAW on our hearts. Why? So that we can finally obey HIM and be blessed. God is eternal. He does not change! His TORAH is His Word and it has not changed. We are not to treat His WORD as if it were a cafeteria line. We can’t pick and choose which of His LAWS to obey!
Falling into sin, which is transgression of the law, is not the same as deliberately choosing to sin. God knows the difference. When one sins, he can repent and God will forgive. But how can one who flouts God’s law, claiming it’s been done away with, repent? He doesn’t even realize he is sinning!
For nearly 1,700 years, Satan, the Lawless One, has been whispering to Christians, “Hath God really said you should keep His Commandments?” Well, it is time for the Church to answer with a resounding, “Yes!”
Come back to the old paths, where the good way is. Walk in them, and you WILL find rest for your soul.