by Christine Egbert
Biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. Too many of today’s Christians have replaced a comprehensive—Genesis to Revelation—in-depth study of the Scriptures with a page-a-day reading of the New Testament. But Scripture says, if we are to be approved by God and not ashamed, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). And bear in mind that when Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, that “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,” he was referring to the Old Testament. The New had not yet been written.
Cafeteria Christianity is the term I recently coined to describe believers who treat God’s Word as if it were a cafeteria. They cruise the verse-line of Scripture and select—out of context—passages written by Paul that seem to promote a heretical doctrine that claims that God’s Law has been done away with. This heresy, though epidemic today, is by no means new. Theologians long ago named it 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.
Meriam Webster Dictionary defines antinomian this way: “One who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation.”
At its heart, this schism sets up a false dichotomy between faith and law. And although historically there were Jews during the first century who taught that salvation came by keeping the Law, that is not what Scripture teaches. Salvation comes through faith. Still, it was against this particular works-based doctrine that Paul railed. But 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?” He answered his own question with, “Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). In Titus 2:14, Paul wrote that Jesus (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. But 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 (Yahweh) set up from the beginning. And since the LORD (Yahweh) is the one who circumcises hearts, from the beginning it was by grace.
Deuteronomy 30:6 – And the LORD (Yahweh) your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the LORD (Yahweh) 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 this obedience was accounted to him as faith.
I have said all this to make it clear that we who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah) do not preach salvation by works. We are saved by faith. We obey God’s Law as an act of obedience because we love Jesus (Yeshua). But this antinomian controversy is by no means new. In fact, there was a famous trial back in 1636 that dealt with this explicitly.
In the fall of 1636, a woman named Anne Hutchinson caused great turmoil 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.
Here is the account from “Antinomian Controversy” on encyclopedia.com:
“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 conduct as a sign of justification.
“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. They identified in Hutchinson’s teachings a form of “Antinomianism,” that is, a discarding of the moral law. She made matters worse by accusing all the clergy except Cotton of preaching a covenant of works, so that, in the words of John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, it began to be as common in Massachusetts to distinguish the party of works and the party of grace “as in other countries between Protestants and papists.” Thus she threatened to split the colony into factions, particularly when she was supported by her brother-in-law, the Reverend John Wheelwright, and the new young governor, Henry Vane.
“The other clergy and magistrates believed that the existence of the whole colony was at stake; led by Winthrop, and employing consummately clever tactics, they regained control of the government in May 1637, then proceeded to disarm Hutchinson’s partisans and suppress the movement. Hutchinson was examined by a synod of the ministers, which found her guilty of eighty erroneous opinions. John Cotton publicly repudiated her and Wheelwright was banished to New Hampshire. Hutchinson was arraigned before the general court, where she boasted of having received explicit revelations from the Holy Ghost, a possibility that no orthodox Protestant community could for a moment admit. She was excommunicated 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.”
Sadly, today, Anne Hutchinson’s heretical antinomian doctrine has gone mainstream. Those of us in what has been dubbed the “Hebrew Roots Movement” know that Salvation is by faith through grace. But we also know that God’s Law was never done away with. Jesus (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 pass away until Heaven and earth passed away. Well, Heaven and earth are still here. So gorging on scavengers is still verboten. And in-covenant believers are still expected to keep His Commandments. Every Law and Commandment comes from Jesus (Yeshua). As James states in James 4:12, “…there is One Lawgiver who is able to save….”
When Jesus (Yeshua) said all the Law hangs on loving God and loving man, He was simply naming the two categories into which all of his Commandments fall. But the way in which we are to demonstrate our love for God has never been subject to individual interpretation. Jesus (Yeshua) said if we love Him to keep His Commandments.
Make no mistake, the Hebrew Roots Movement is part of the move of God that was prophesied in Acts 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” (G1994 – ἐπιστρέφω). It’s 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 reverting, 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. Paul warned in Acts 20:29 that after his departure he knew that 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 Rabbinic Judaism and Constantinian-Christianity have done. Rabbinical Judaism, through its oral law and traditions, in effect added to God’s Written Word. Whereas, starting in 324 CE, Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church removed vital parts from God’s Word when they changed the Sabbath, outlawed the LORD’s (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. Jesus (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 ben 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 CE veered the Church from the old path, where Scripture (Jeremiah 6:16) says the good way is, careening them 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 that did not serve the Church’s purpose got suppressed, and access to the Scriptures, except for clergy, was forbidden. This is in 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, Jesus Christ (Yeshua 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 that does not turn the grace of our God into licentiousness by declaring that His 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 God’s Holy Day, the Sabbath. We now call His Sabbath a delight, the Holy Day of the LORD (Yahweh) honorable. (Isaiah 58:12-13).
We know that God renewed the Covenant by writing His Law on our hearts so that we can finally obey Him and be blessed. God is eternal. He does not change. His Torah has not changed. Biblical faith is not some cafeteria line. You cannot pick and choose—tithing in, eating clean out—which of His Laws to obey.
Falling into sin, which is the transgression of the law, is not the same as deliberately choosing to sin. God knows the difference. When one sins unintentionally, he quickly repents, and God forgives. But how can one who flouts God’s law, claiming it’s been done away with, repent when he doesn’t 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!” Repent and revert! Come back to the old path, where the good way is, and walk in it!