Hebrew Roots: A Different Gospel
By Geri Ungurean
Most people who know me know that I am a Jewish Christian. When I think of myself, I am Christian – I am a follower of Christ. The fact that I was born a Jew remains until my final breath; I did not cross over some line to become a Christian while leaving my Jewishness behind. It’s quite impossible to do that. I am a Christian who also happens to be an ethnic Jew.
I met another Christian Jewish woman years ago. She attended a Messianic congregation and was shocked and appalled that I did not. I told her that I’ve never felt the Lord urging me to do that. I find it clannish. I don’t want to only worship with other Messianic Jews. I want to worship with the Body of Christ. This woman was not happy with my reasoning, but I felt a conviction about my decision. I did not feel the need to hold onto Jewish customs. I felt free. Free to worship my Savior Jesus Christ!
One of the most ironic things that happened to me on Facebook was being repeatedly thrown out of Messianic groups. I thought that the group members would be like me – Jewish Christians. I was sadly mistaken. They spoke of Torah observance, the Jewish feasts, the keeping of the Law etc., etc. There was an occasional mention of Yeshua, but no emphasis on salvation through Christ alone. And most of the time I was the only Jew in the group!
Question: “What is the Hebrew Roots movement?”
Answer: The premise of the Hebrew Roots movement is the belief that the Church has veered far from the true teachings and Hebrew concepts of the Bible. The movement maintains that Christianity has been indoctrinated with the culture and beliefs of Greek and Roman philosophy and that ultimately biblical Christianity, taught in churches today, has been corrupted with a pagan imitation of the New Testament gospels.
Those of the Hebrew Roots belief hold to the teaching that Christ’s death on the cross did not end the Mosaic Covenant, but instead renewed it, expanded its message, and wrote it on the hearts of His true followers. They teach that the understanding of the New Testament can only come from a Hebrew perspective and that the teachings of the Apostle Paul are not understood clearly or taught correctly by Christian pastors today. Many affirm the existence of an original Hebrew-language New Testament and, in some cases, denigrate the existing New Testament text written in Greek. This becomes a subtle attack on the reliability of the text of our Bible. If the Greek text is unreliable and has been corrupted, as is charged by some, the Church no longer has a standard of truth.
Although there are many different and diverse Hebrew Roots assemblies with variations in their teachings, they all adhere to a common emphasis on recovering the “original” Jewishness of Christianity. Their assumption is that the Church has lost its Jewish roots and is unaware that Jesus and His disciples were Jews living in obedience to the Torah. For the most part, those involved advocate the need for every believer to walk a Torah-observant life. This means that the ordinances of the Mosaic Covenant must be a central focus in the lifestyle of believers today as it was with the Old Testament Jews of Israel. Keeping the Torah includes keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week (Saturday), celebrating the Jewish feasts and festivals, keeping the dietary laws, avoiding the “paganism” of Christianity (Christmas, Easter, etc.), and learning to understand the Scriptures from a Hebrew mindset. They teach that Gentile Christians have been grafted into Israel, and this is one reason every born-again believer in Jesus the Messiah is to participate in these observances. It is expressed that doing this is not required out of legalistic bondage, but out of a heart of love and obedience. However, they teach that to live a life that pleases God, this Torah-observant walk must be part of that life.
The Hebrew Roots assemblies are often made up of a majority of Gentiles, including Gentile rabbis. Usually they prefer to be identified as “Messianic Christians.” Many have come to the conclusion that God has “called” them to be Jewish and have accepted the theological position that the Torah (Old Testament law) is equally binding on Gentiles and Jews alike. They often wear articles of traditional Jewish clothing, practice Davidic dancing, and incorporate Hebrew names and phrases into their writing and conversations. Most reject the use of the name “Jesus” in favor of Yeshua or YHWH, claiming that these are the “true” names that God desires for Himself. In most cases, they elevate the Torah as the foundational teaching for the Church, which brings about the demotion of the New Testament, causing it to become secondary in importance and only to be understood in light of the Old Testament. The idea that the New Testament is faulty and relevant only in light of the Old Testament has also brought the doctrine of the Trinity under attack by many advocates of the Hebrew Roots beliefs.
As opposed to what the Hebrew Roots movement claims, the New Testament teachings of the Apostle Paul are perfectly clear and self-explanatory. Colossians 2:16,17 says, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” Romans 14:5 states, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Scripture clearly indicates that these issues are a matter of personal choice. These verses and many others give clear evidence that the Mosaic Covenant laws and ordinances have ended. Continuing to teach that the Old Covenant is still in effect in spite of what the New Testament teaches, or twisting the New Testament to agree with the Hebrew Roots beliefs, is false teaching.
There are aspects of the Hebrew Roots teachings that certainly can be beneficial. Seeking to explore the Jewish culture and perspective, within which most of the Bible was written, opens and enriches our understanding of the Scriptures, adding insight and depth to many of the passages, parables and idioms. There is nothing wrong with Gentiles and Jews joining together in celebrating the feasts and enjoying a Messianic style of worship. Taking part in these events and learning the way in which the Jews understood the teachings of our Lord can be a tool, giving us greater effectiveness in reaching the unbelieving Jew with the gospel. It is good for Gentiles, in the body of the Messiah, to identify in our fellowship with Israel. However, to identify with Israel is different from identifying “as” Israel.
Gentile believers are not grafted into the Judaism of the Mosaic Covenant; they are grafted into the seed and faith of Abraham, which preceded the Law and Jewish customs. They are fellow citizens with the saints (Ephesians 2:19), but they are not Jews. Paul explains this clearly when he tells those who were circumcised (the Jews) “not to seek to be uncircumcised” and those who were uncircumcised (the Gentiles) “not to become circumcised” (1 Corinthians 7:18). There is no need for either group to feel they must become what they are not. Instead, God has made Jews and Gentiles into “one new man” in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:15). This “new man” is referring to the Church, the body of Christ, which is made up of neither Jew nor Gentile (Galatians 3:27-29). It’s important for Jews and Gentiles to remain authentic in their own identity. In this way a clear picture of the unity of the body of Christ can be seen as Jews and Gentiles are united by one Lord, one faith, one baptism. If Gentiles are grafted into Israel, becoming Jews, the purpose and picture of both Jew and Gentile, coming together as one new man, is lost. God never intended Gentiles to become one in Israel, but one in Christ.
The influence of this movement is working its way into our churches and seminaries. It’s dangerous in its implication that keeping the Old Covenant law is walking a “higher path” and is the only way to please God and receive His blessings. Nowhere in the Bible do we find Gentile believers being instructed to follow Levitical laws or Jewish customs; in fact, the opposite is taught. Romans 7:6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Christ, in keeping perfectly every ordinance of the Mosaic Law, completely fulfilled it. Just as making the final payment on a home fulfills that contract and ends one’s obligation to it, so also Christ has made the final payment and has fulfilled the law, bringing it to an end for us all. – source
In the groups on Facebook I would site this Scripture: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
The leaders of the “Messianic groups” would wholeheartedly agree with me, and use that Scripture to support and defend their doctrine. I used it to show them the legalism and hypocrisy they were preaching.
The prophets of God in the Old Testament cried out in the lands to which God sent them, “REPENT and turn from your wicked ways.” Invariably they were stoned or thrown out of that land. People knew that they were guilty as charged, but loved the darkness more than the light.
Do we actually believe that God thought that we are able to keep all of His Commandments? His Commandments were given to Moses to:
Show that God is holy.
His standards are perfection.
Man is not able to keep all of His Commandments.
Jesus brought the Commandments to a whole new level. He said in Matthew 5:27-28:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Clearly, our sin begins in our hearts. God sees this sin in us. For God to reconcile us to Himself, He had to deal with this sin, which separated us from Him. He sent His own Son—the Word made flesh—Jesus.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The PERFECT SINLESS SACRIFICE was the Son of God, Jesus. His death was the ONE Atonement for all sin. It was His blood spilled for us that brought us forgiveness. God sent His Son so that whosoever believes in Him would be reconciled to the Father and have eternal life. GLORIOUS!
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
So my question to the leaders of the groups was why would you want to go back under the Law that brought death, when you have been given the better Covenant of Grace by which the Spirit gives life? That was usually when my expulsion took place. One leader wrote to me privately, saying that I must have a demon and he would pray for me!
When we were under the law, the consequences of being judged by the law was death. If we broke one law, we broke them all. We who are saved are under Grace – a better Covenant! Jesus fulfilled the law, and He gave us His righteousness if we would repent and place our trust in Him! We cannot save ourselves.
Here is another excellent article on HRM from thebereancall.org:
“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Are members of the Hebrew Roots Movement modern day Judaizers? I would say that is accurate, except for the fact that most are not Jews. Are they dangerous? Most assuredly so. The teachings of these groups diminish the finished work of Christ on the Cross; making Him a liar. They are in essence saying “Christ lived and died as an example to us, but we must keep the law to be saved.” HERESY!! We are not able to keep the whole Law of God!
We are all precious to the Lord. It does not matter from where we came; what matters is will we repent and trust Yeshua for the forgiveness of our sins? I was a born a Jew—so what? God’s plan from the beginning was that salvation would be offered to the whole world. And read about the partial hardening of the Jews (Romans 11) to make way for the Gentiles to come into the Kingdom. We are all blessed!
Are you in the Hebrew Roots Cult? Come out from there and experience freedom in Christ!
You will want to keep His Law. Our good works after we are born again in Him come naturally out of our grateful hearts to the Lord.
Our good works before we are born-again are as follows:
“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
JESUS IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.