Certainly one of the biggest controversies in New Testament Christianity centered around the necessity of Gentiles being circumcised for salvation. Along with that unholy concept went the belief that the Jewish holy daysand Sabbaths as well as the dietary laws were to be observed, as in Moses’ day. This not only became the subject of the Jerusalem church council (Acts 15), but different sections of the New Testament itself were also later written to correct this major problem and false, deadly teaching.
In our modern day, these same kinds of lethal teachings that caused such havoc in the early church have once again become popular and Christians are getting deceived and troubled by them all over again.
Perhaps for some, the draw to such Jewish “Christian” groups has resulted because true Christians are recognizing how sadly lacking the typical churches are and desire to change. Hence, their sincerity is being exploited because of their lack of Scriptural understanding and the misleading arguments used by such teachers.
Also, at least some of these same groups in our day that magnify the Mosaic law seem to correctly reject the false doctrine of eternal security. Hence, people that are correctly leaving the Baptist and Calvinistic congregations to look for one that rejects eternal security sometimes fall prey to this different type of deception.
In our day such false groups might refer to themselves as Messianic Restoration, Sacred Name, Hebraic Root or some other similar description exalting Old Testament Jewish worship, holy days, customs, etc. They also seem to magnify the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and even sometimes ludicrously claim the New Testament was written in Hebrew.
One of their actual deceptive web sites that stresses the importance of the Torah for us today declared the following:
Since the Bible was written by Hebrews, it is critical to understand their ancient culture and to learn about the many unique Hebrew words, expressions, and idioms found in Scripture.
That is their distinctive which they present to set themselves apart and above others. They teach such Hebrew information is critical. If that is so, one must wonderwhy weren’t the new Gentile Christians taught such by the Lord’s disciples after they came to salvation in the New Testament?
The Messianic Jews, Hebraic Root, Sacred Name, Yeshua people also seem to undervalue the New Testament Scriptures, especially from Acts 10 on. They also commonly refer to the Messiah as Yeshua (or Y’shua) and sometimes, for some of these groups, openly admit their ludicrous belief that the holy name of Jesus is pagan or blasphemy. Here is an email we received along these lines:
I had a discussion with a Messianic Jew that claimed that Jesus’ name was/is a derivative of Zeus. They didn’t give their source of where they got that information though. They did say you could ask anyone that knew Greek. I know Greek, and Jesus doesn’t=Zeus. No matter how they construe it.
[Please know the Greek New Testament name for the Messiah, when transliterated into English is Jesus and, therefore, is not pagan. Also, some of those Yeshua, Sacred Name people fallaciously claim Jesus means son of Zeus.]
Moreover, they are similar to the Seventh Day Adventists regarding the Saturday being their Sabbath and attack Sunday as being a counterfeit replacement which began in the 4th century. (Please see the link at the very bottom about the Saturday Sabbath.) They teach one is to observe the Saturday Sabbath, but they themselves are not observing this command as given to Israel (just like the Seventh Day Adventists are not)!
Here is another email we received regarding this Jewish emphasis and a person getting deceived by them:
I have a friend and co-worker who has fallen in with the “sacred names” movement and now only refers to our saviour by the name of Yeshua. He and his family have begun observing Jewish holy days, dietary laws and other matters of the Law. I am glad that when I called on the name of ***JESUS*** I was saved.
These groups like to stress the fact that Jesus’ disciples observed Sabbath rules and regulations such as stated in Luke 23:56, but will never declare the rest of the truth that Christianity was in a period of transition and change, which slowly started to reveal itself more and more especially from Acts 10 with Jewish Peter receiving a three-time message from heaven of correction about his fallacious view of the Gentiles:
He [Peter] became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven (Acts 10:10-16).
Peter accurately understood his vision to mean the following:
He [Peter] said to them: You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean (Acts 10:28).
Peter learned something through those visions that he was not aware of beforewhich led to people getting saved. The wonderful conversion of the Gentile, Cornelius, and his household caused criticism for Peter from those observing the law of Moses:
The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles
It took Peter’s explanation and experience to bring those Hebrew people around to the truth that God has allowed the uncircumcised Gentiles to find salvation through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.
The ignorance/prejudice of the early Jewish Christians at this point towards all non-Jews [Gentiles], was starting to change:
Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts(Acts 11:19-23).
Then we read of the explosive events leading up to the important council at Jerusalem:
Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the [Gentile Christian] brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question (Acts 15:1, 2).
Their dangerous false message about circumcision for salvation was taught to those already saved. They wanted the Gentile Christians to be circumcised,signifying obedience to the law of Moses, so they could be saved.
At the Jerusalem council, the false teachers were present and expressed their poisonous doctrine with these words:
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question (Acts 15:5,6).
Please note: The ones teaching the dangerous doctrines about the law of Moses were believers, that is, they accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial and resurrection,but had a dangerous and unscriptural emphasis on the law of Moses just like some people in our day.
Messianic Jews Note Peter’s RebuttalPeter repeated at that council what happened to Cornelius and openly gave his conclusions about their false and dangerous message:
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (Acts 15:7-11).
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them toabstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath (Acts 15:19-21).
Please note: The only message the Gentile Christians needed to be concerned about was to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
In other words, the Hebrew Christians that were present and wrote the vast majority of the New Testament’s 27 books (Peter, Paul and James) never said a single word about the necessity of the Gentile converts observing the Jewish feast days, the Saturday Sabbath, dietary laws, circumcision, etc. In fact, they actually opposed that concept by only issuing the aforementioned requirements. This is irrefutable evidence that the Holy Spirit leading and directing them is not the same guiding force behind the Jewish Messianic Restoration Movement (Hebraic Roots or Sacred Name) groups of our dark hour. The message of Acts 15 is critically and vitally different. In fact, it is a death blow to their theology.
Though the people of the Jewish Restoration Movement believe Jesus is the Savior, their adamant adherence to the false teachings that were discarded, especially in Acts 15 and the book of Galatians, isvery dangerous. They must be steadfastly opposed in our day just as they were by the Lord’s apostles in first-century Christianity.
I have read from one of those teachers in effect that salvation is a free gift and we are saved by grace, but after we get saved be must obey; and part of our obedience is observing the Jewish feast days, Saturday Sabbath, dietary laws, etc. If one doesn’t obey these he will lose his salvation or show his faith is dead and not a saving faith at all.
While it is certainly true that a real Christian can lose his salvation, one will never find in the New Testament that it can occur because of failure to observe the Saturday Sabbath, Jewish feast days, dietary law, etc. Moreover, never in any of the New Testament lists of sins that will send one to hell are such cited. See Rev. 21:8; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5-7; Mk. 7:20-23; etc. Please remember that vital truth.
No Gospel At AllThe shocking truth to all of this is some of the very ones that believed on Jesus in the past and were born again in Galatia were observing the law of Moses and trying to be justified in this manner. They had, therefore, fallen from grace and Christ was of no benefit at all to them:
Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace (Gal. 5:2-4).
That is Paul’s warning to the various Christian churches in the region of Galatia (Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, Iconium) that he personally introduced to salvation. Earlier Paul taught:
We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Gal. 2:15,16).
He also openly taught their message was a different gospel:
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—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6,7).
The direct context of those stirring words was aimed at people back then who stressed observing special [Jewish] days and months and seasons and years(Gal. 4:10), Jewish customs (Gal. 2:14), the law (Gal. 2:16; 3:2-5; 3:10-12) and circumcision (Gal. 5:2-4). This is exactly like some of the Messianic Restoration, Messianic Jew, Hebraic Root, Yeshua people of our day. The same deceiving demons back then that caused all that trouble are still aroundtoday.
The dangerous false teachers declaring these things were the same type that Paul and Barnabas tangled with that resulted in the Council of Jerusalem. Those false teachers were Jews themselves and knew the truth about Hebrew customs, holy days, etc. and this is what was opposed by the Lord’s followers.
In a different book, Paul wrote:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day (Col. 2:16).
The Mosaic Dietary Law
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods ‘clean.’) (Mark 7:14-19).
Also read 1 Corinthians 10 and Romans 14 to see that the early Christians were not under any Mosaic dietary law as some today want to place us back under. We aren’t talking health-wise here, in our day of toxins in food, but religiously. According to Scripture, a Christian can now eat pork, lobster, shrimp, etc. This is indisputable fact, unlike it was in Moses day and recorded in the Torah. Such food now doesn’t automatically defile or cause one to be unclean anymore.
Believing Jews Are No Betterrepent and place their faith in Jesus were no better than the Gentiles that did the same:
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:6).
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:14).
As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:11-13).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:28, 29).
Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Col. 3:11).
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Cor. 12:13).
Hence, the Jew’s natural birth now means nothing to God regarding who are his children and heirs according to the promise. Jews will still go to hell unless they receive heart circumcision by turning to Jesus, the Lord and Savior.
Furthermore, all Christ-rejecters are God-rejecters. In other words, the Christ-rejecting Jews do not have God even though they were special and God’s chosen people in the Old Testament:
No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:23).
Furthermore, all who hate Jesus also hate the heavenly father. (The Jews hated Jesus so much they wanted him dead and successfully plotted this very thing):
He who hates me hates my Father as well (John 15:23).
While it is a fact that Christ-rejecting Jews do not have God, and even hate God, it is also fact that God’s truth declares the Jews (just like all others) who reject Jesus’ Lordship in their personal lives are on the road tohell and are children of the devil. In fact, Jesus bluntly told some Jewish people this very thing:
They [the Christ-rejecting Jews] answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire (John 8:33-44).
The religious Jews by natural birth had the devil as their spiritual father, even though they thought God was their spiritual father. Their being of the natural ancestry from Abraham didn’t make them special, honored or privileged, as far as being God’s children. Regardless of one’s ancestry, a person can only become God’s child by repenting and extending a trusting-submitting and obeying faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus directed those straightforward words at the Jews. Again, the Lord Jesus never taught the Jews were children of God and special, as they were in the Old Testament, because they were natural descendants of Abraham (or were circumcised) and neither should we.