As we grow nearer to our Blessed Hope, it's becoming increasingly necessary to step up and speak out, guarding the flock while there is still a few meager moments left. It's time to be straightforward. There is one particular heretical movement that is surging right now while the dragon tries his last minute wiles to prevent the male child's ascension. We've dealt with different forms of apostasy, some on the left and some on the right. All apostasy has one thing in common: it presents a false gospel in which the Atonement is presented as either unnecessary (liberal theology), or not enough (legalism).
The Hebrew Roots Movement is one such apostate movement (though not all of it, as I'll explain in a moment). But it is definitely not new or innovative. It is simply a resurgence of 1st century apostasy cloaked in a pretentious mask of "holiness", which in reality is nothing of the sort. Self-righteousness and fear are what hide underneath.
If you are teaching that commandment-keeping is good, right, and a blessing—and a right response of gratefulness for what God has done for us through Christ—then I stand with you in faith. If, instead, you are teaching that keeping the Mosaic Law is necessary for salvation then I stand apart from you. You stand condemned already: not only by your rejection of the blood of Christ, but by the immense hypocrisy of your message.
"Necessary" is the key word. It's the message of law-keeping necessity that supplants the gospel and severs one from Christ.
Disclaimer: [Before I continue, I want to be clear that I'm not singling out anyone in particular. My tone would be completely different if that were the case and I would want to confront them directly in love. But I'm confronting an entire movement and so I'm going to be straight and to the point. I pray you will all receive this with the understanding that my heart is broken for those caught up in this demonic trap. I desperately want them to be free from it, so that they can be saved (if not already), and stand firm in the grace and power of our LORD Jesus Christ. I long for the scales to fall from their eyes, so that they can step into the light of the truth of the gospel. I'm trying to snatch them from the fire, so that they can, in turn, snatch others.]
I'm witnessing many in this movement pay lip service to Christ, but fight tooth and nail against any mention of the gospel message. There is a genuine repulsion to the biblical concept of atonement (which is in fact the Bible's central theme). At its core, the Hebrew Roots Movement is a man-centered, man-focused, man-glorifying attempt to live by God's standards, which can never be successful. Salvation is entirely of the LORD.
As I mentioned earlier, I don't want to lump in Messianic Judaism and everything Hebrew Roots-related into this rebuttal, because there are genuine Christians in the movement who understand and believe the gospel yet live out their faith by exploring the Hebrew underpinnings of the Christian faith. There is beauty in that. Celebrating Sukkot, having your family rest on Saturday, or referring to Jesus in Aramaic are fine and good. But as soon as those things become necessities, then your faith has become vain and useless, and, like James said, who wrote to the scattered tribes of Israel which had largely rejected Christ (Jas. 1:1)—that faith is dead. And that dead faith has also become a stumbling block to others (Rm. 14:1–23; Mt. 23:4; Lk. 11:46). If you truly believe that Christ has entirely, once-and-for-all, atoned for your sins and risen again, your works will normatively show that. And those normative works are most clearly evidenced by the Holy Spirit's fruit in your life. Love chief among them.
The fruits of the apostate elements of the Hebrew Roots Movement appear to be anger, self-righteousness, hypocritical judgment, obsession with rule-keeping rather than God Himself, and, most tellingly, an aversion to any mention of the gospel, security of salvation, the finality of atonement, justification before God, or the sovereignty of God in salvation.
There is also a strong aversion when Christians state the obvious fact that our flesh will necessarily remain imperfect until glorification. Believers should hate sin and strive toward perfection, but 100% of believers who have ever lived have sinned in the flesh even after coming to a saving knowledge of the truth. Peter, Paul, James, and John all had "bod[ies] of sin and death" even after receiving the Holy Spirit. You and I are no different.
Before you jump in with the wolves, who regurgitate Roman Catholic and sectarian talking points about passages like James 2 and Hebrews 10, I implore you to first explore the possibility that these passages do not alter the gospel, but rather bolster it. If you find yourself believing that James 2 and Hebrews 10 somehow paint a picture where works are necessary for salvation rather than, or in addition to, the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf, I implore you with all of my heart and soul to read these two studies:
James 2: Law and Grace
Hebrews 10: The Final Sacrifice
- - -
A Common Enemy
Why are Islam and the secular Left in bed together? The most totalitarian and legalistic religion on the planet and the lawless forces of leftism, are conjoined for convenience, because the enemy of both is the truth of God and the Church.
I've spoken at great length in numerous articles about the importance of discerning how the gospel of salvation is distorted by both legalists (often on the right of the political spectrum) and lawless (often on the left). Legalists and lawless are typified in the New Testament by the competing camps of Pharisees (the legalistic, self-righteous) and the Sadducees (the lawless, God-rejecting). Mankind hasn't changed much in 2,000 years. The same demons of the past are with us today. The apostles diligently warned us about the deception from both camps that are, unknowingly, Satan-inspired to steer people away from the simple truth of the gospel. Both sides attack the truth and twist words, regularly employing straw-man arguments against those who hold fast to the Cross. Both sides are all about self and self-aggrandizement, whereas the gospel of Christ and Him crucified is about God and His glory.
Whereas I've spelled out a number of ways to detect the lie(s) of both sides, let me share with you the simplest way to detect their untruth:
They both lack clarity.
We don't know as much as we think we do, but what God has chosen to reveal to us through His word is crystal clear. If your belief system lacks clarity about salvation and the truth of God, you can be assured it's from hell. Run from it. Satan is the author of confusion, not our all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect Heavenly Father.
The Hebrew Roots Movement is a perfect example of this. You'll never get a clear or consistent answer about any of these things:
1. Salvation: accomplished by Christ through His death and resurrection... or accomplished by us, either in whole or in part?
2. Maintaining salvation: Christ or us?
3. Which works/commands are necessary for salvation?
4. How many works/commands must be performed to "prove" one's salvation?
5. How many sins/acts of disobedience are necessary to disprove one's salvation or to be considered a habitual sinner?
6. Confession of individual sins: necessary for salvation? If so, what about forgotten sins? What about sins you're not aware of? And how does the Atonement factor in? Was the penalty of sin paid for on the Cross or when one confesses individual sins?
7. The Name of God: Yahweh? Yehowah? Yehoweh? Yehowih? Yehovah? Jehovah? Yahuah? What if you use the wrong name? Must Gentiles become like Jews?
8. Keeping the Torah: which of the 613 commands? All of them? Some of them? How do you decide which to neglect and which to keep? What about the principle that Christ fulfilled the Torah Himself on our behalf? Are we free or still bound by the Law? If bound by the Law, what is the penalty for breaking the Law? If the penalty is loss of salvation, then what did Christ come for? Why did He die?
Just like the Christ-rejecters circa 33 AD whose testimonies did not agree—so too the Christians-in-name-only Cross-rejecters in 2019.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put Him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against Him, but their statements did not agree.
- Mark 14:55–56
- - -
Christ Did Not Come To Abolish The Law
- YET -
We Are Not Under It
Christ said He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Paul says we are no longer under the Law and that the Law is passing away. Which is it? The Hebrew Roots Movement will have you either mix these truths and muddy the waters, or keep what Christ said and ignore what Paul said.
To the contrary, both are true and both are clear. Christ came to fulfill the Law Himself. Which He did. Perfectly. And He did it because no one could ever fulfill it except Him. He fulfilled it for us, on our behalf. Now we are free. Now we are no longer under Law, but under grace.
We are now under a new law. A better law, which is variously called the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), the Law of Liberty (Jas. 1:25; 2:12), and "a new commandment" (Jn. 13:34–35). We are not under the Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). We now only have one necessary "work" to perform:
The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent. (Jn. 6:28–29)
And one set of rules to follow:
Love God and love one another
(especially those of the household of faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ).
(especially those of the household of faith, our brothers and sisters in Christ).
The first is necessary for salvation. The second naturally flows out of a person who has genuinely trusted in Christ and received the Holy Spirit. There's no room for error on the "work". Christ is the only way. But on the rules, there is room for error, because none of us are perfect while in the flesh. Yet a truly blood-bought believer will exhibit this ultimate fulfillment of all of the laws at some point, in some fashion, as proof of faith. And salvation rests entirely, and without exception, on the work of God, through Him who is our righteousness, Jesus Christ.
Those who deny this are either not in the household of faith, or are severely deceived, whose faith has become useless and unproductive—even counter-productive—as is the Hebrew Roots Movement, which is leading tens of thousands away from Christ.
- - -
Jumping To The Moon
I leave you with this analogy: these mixed-gospel, works-righteousness systems like the Hebrew Roots Movement and Roman Catholicism are like a couple of kids trying to jump to the moon. They are both fully convinced they can do it. And they are both fully unaware of how far away the moon really is. It looks close from their perspective—like you could almost reach up and grab it. Yet looks can be deceiving. In reality, it's a quarter of a million miles away. Nothing but a rocket ship will get them there.
One jumps first. "Look, I'm closer than you are!" he says as he reaches a hand toward the sky. The other jumps second, ascending just a few inches higher than the first. With an extra burst of competitive enthusiasm, the first bends his knees as much as he can, leaping even higher than his companion. The competition only builds from there, but an accurate grasp of reality would show that neither were any closer than when they first began. Their achievements were minuscule and useless toward getting to the moon.
Salvation is like that, but even more so. Much more so, in fact. We're not just trying to get to a physical object in viewing distance, but to a whole different realm in another dimension where a perfectly holy God dwells in unapproachable light. Sinners traveling to Heaven are like mosquitoes flying toward a bug zapper.
What these children need to understand is that no feat of jumping, regardless of how much effort and dedication they put into it, will get them to the moon. The only way for them to get to the moon is for someone to take them there. They need that rocket ship and a pilot with the skills to fly it.
Our rocket ship is the Cross and our pilot is the LORD Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach. He will most assuredly get us where we're going, but we have to trust Him enough to get in the ship of salvation, just as Noah had to trust God enough to build the ark and get into it before the rains came. There are many "Christians" who talk incessantly about how great the pilot is, but never board the ship—they're still trying as hard as they can to jump to the moon.
The biblical standard of righteousness is perfection. That means perfect thoughts, perfect intentions, and perfect actions. And not just for a day or a week or a month, but forever. That standard is such that it qualifies exactly zero people in history to fly to the moon, spare One—Jesus Christ. The Bible couldn't be any clearer about how universally disqualified we are (Eccl. 7:20; Rm. 3:10). We're dead men walking (Eph. 2:1, 5). The best things we've ever done and our greatest achievements are like dirty tampons (Isa. 64:6). Yuck.
This is why any belief system other than faith alone in Christ alone, is a blasphemous denigration of God's standard and Law. Those in the Hebrew Roots Movement who reject sola fide aren't closer to fulfilling the Law, they're further away—much further away—because the Law is perfectly fulfilled in Christ. And those who believe that Christ's perfect Law-keeping record can be applied to them by faith, have become perfect Law-keepers in the eyes of Almighty God. They've boarded the rocket ship and are headed for something much, much grander than the moon.
We might need to compare the record of a 1st Century Pharisee or teacher of the Law with that of a Hebrew Roots proponent. The Pharisees were a band of meticulous [external] Law-keepers. In fact, they added myriads of extra rules around each mitzvah to ensure the commandment would be kept. By appearances they were near-perfect. Yet Jesus revealed that exceeding their Law-keeping prowess was the only way into the Kingdom of God (Mt. 5:20). That is, of course, barring a substitute.
For the sake of your souls and all those who take their spiritual cues from you, I implore you to trust in Christ alone for your salvation and not in yourself. It's easy to say Christ is the only way in the context of non-Christian religions, but there are many who acknowledge that premise, yet remain unaware that "no other name under Heaven" (Acts 4:12) necessarily includes their own.