This week on Facebook, I fell into a den of radical Messianic Judaizers. OK. Let me first say who I am not talking about. I'm not talking about Jewish people who discover Jesus and exhibit the joy of being what some have called "completed Jews." Those people normally are a blessing to encounter. That's not who I ran into.
It would take too much space to tell you all about my encounter. But suffice it to say that these people were the most divisive, legalistic "believers" in Jesus that I have ever encountered. Now, I know there are some bad examples of Christianity out there (think Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas protesting at funerals, but I digress . . .)
These so called believers in Yeshua rant and rave about the church being pagan, and Pentecostals being demonic, and Christians not keeping Sabbath and following the Torah. The don't want to be called Christians, they don't believe in our Jesus (Their words, not mine). One of the women responded and said, "I am not a Christian and I don't follow your Jesus, I follow my Yeshua . . .)" Is this the unity Jesus prayed about in John 17?
Alright, I understand the drive of Jews who find Jesus to hang onto Jewish practices to some degree. But guess what: most of the people I encountered this week,if not all of them, were Gentiles.
Now, I have known people over the years that pursued Jewish traditions as a way of practicing what I can only assume they felt was a more authentic approach to Christianity. Obviously there is a lot to be gained by understanding Jesus through the eyes of messianic Judaism. The Sedar, the feasts, etc. all can be a blessing. But going back into the Law is not what Jesus intended.
The Apostle Paul was a "Hebrew among Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5). In other words, he was more authenticly Jewish than any of the people I met this week. In the book of Galatians, we see that Paul was concerned about a group of people who were attempting to pull the Galatian Christians back into legalism and the Law. These people were Judaizers. In Galatians 1:6-10, Paul said:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
It's amazing to me how that these modern day Judaizers feel qualified to question the New testament and act superior to the Apostle Paul! In one place Paul says, "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice (Philippians 4)." That's good enough for me.
Bottom line: this thing is about grace, not going back under the Law. If Paul came out from under the Law, who do we think we are to go back under it? Paul said to the Galatians:
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort (Galatians 3:1-3)?
Beware of those people who think you have to go back under the Law to find a deeper place in Christ. Let's not replace the Presence of God with ritual and ceremony. It's not what He wants.
LAST WORD: Nowhere in the New Testament does anyone say, "Want to be a better Christian? Become a Jew. Observe Old Testament laws." Not Paul (Hebrew of Hebrews), not the Apostles in Acts 15, not the Apostles to Paul in Galatians 2. And what about the vision Peter had just before Cornelius visited (Acts 10)?