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Judaizers in the Church - The Yoke of Torah!

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  • Judaizers in the Church - The Yoke of Torah!

    Nathan Leal - February 09,2010

    Over the past few years, I have been witnessing a growing trend in today's Body of Christ. This trend involves Christians following and practicing many of the laws found in the Old Testament. And not only practicing them, but insisting to other Christians, that a return to Old Testament law is crucial for salvation.

    Before I get started, I must qualify who I am talking about and who I am not talking about.

    First, I am not talking about Christians who have chosen to be “Observers” of the Torah; I am not talking about “Observers” who understand the grace of God and their liberty in Christ. I have no problem with those who participate on the Sabbath as an elective choice and not as a burden.

    Over the years, I myself have "Observed" the Sabbath in home fellowship meetings. I have observed the blowing of the Shofar. I have partaken of Passover, so I am not against these things.

    However, I am talking about those who are “Torah Followers”, not just “Torah Observers.”

    A good yardstick question to separate these two groups, would be, “Do you believe that as a Christian, we MUST all participate in the Sabbath and keep the Sabbath because failure to keep the Sabbath leaves a person morally inadequate in the eyes of God?"

    If the answer to this question is, “Yes,” then this is who I am talking about. I am talking about Torah Followers who insist that all Christians today must practice Old Testament law in one form or another. I am talking about those that would say, “Not practicing Old Testament law will incur the wrath of an angry God.”

    A Host of Names

    Those that are participating in this trend go by a variety of titles;
    • Sabbath Keepers
    • Messianics
    • Hebraic Roots
    • Sacred Name Movement
    • the Hebrew Roots Movement or HRM
    • Torah followers
    • Neo-Ebionites, etc.

    A host of names, but in summary, it is a return to Judaism and in my opinion; it is a return to bondage.

    Now in fairness, I need to qualify, that there are different levels of emersion for those that are partaking of this movement.

    But one thing is clear, a large portion of those that are associated with this activity, really believe that if a Christian is not participating in the Mosaic laws of the "Old Testament" or the “Torah”, then they are missing out on a "deeper" part of God and that possibly their salvation may be in jeopardy.

    In summary, today's Christian Church is being infiltrated with Judaizers and it is being over run with the antiquated way of the Pharisees!

    Harmless? Paul did not think so!

    Now, I know that this topic is not an easy one to visit. But it needs to be addressed, and in doing so, I have to ask,
    • Is there any way to sugarcoat it?
    • Is it possible to tread lightly on this topic so that it does not offend?
    • Is this return to Old Testament law just a benign elective choice that some people are making with their Christianity?
    • Is it harmless?

    It would be nice to say that, "It is harmless,” but unfortunately, this movement is responsible for derailing the faith of many people and placing them in legalistic enslavement! By the way, this movement is not new.

    The Apostle Paul also dealt with this type of persuasion in his day. When he wrote about it, he did not mince words. He told the Galatians that he "marveled" or in other words, he was "amazed," that they were shrinking back to Old Testament Law after they had become Christians.
    In Galatians 1:6, Paul says:
    "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:"
    In other words, Paul was surprised that after the Galatian Christians had met Jesus, they were allowing themselves to be removed from the grace of God. Paul even talked about what was causing them to shrink back:

    “…but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
    Galatians 1:7
    What Paul is saying here, is that those who were influencing the Galatian Christians to shrink back to the old law were a trouble to them. And these troublesome people were actually perverting the gospel! The Greek word for perverting actually means to "turn it around" or to "turn one thing into another."

    So this means that even today, those that influence a Christian to shrink back to the old law are committing heresy with the gospel by turning it around and perverting / changing it into something that the gospel was never meant to be!

    So how serious is this offense? Is it “no big deal?” According to Galatians 1:9, it is a huge deal!
    “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
    Let him be accursed! Not my words, my friends! These are the words from inspired Scripture. And it sounds like a very heavy penalty!

    Another Gospel?

    So here's another question, is the Torah Following movement another gospel? I believe that it is and in this message, I intend to prove it with the Scriptures. I also intend to prove that we are no longer under any burden of that old law.

    My friends, your relationship with Jesus should be intimate and contain peace and comfort. It should not be contaminated with the ceremonial yoke to the old law.

    Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, My burden is light." Translation: Following Old Testament law is a scourge and a yoke that no one can bear, but following Jesus is a delight and not a burden!

    Why is the law such a burden? Because it cannot be fulfilled by any human being without a flaw! The law tears your clothes and not your heart. The law is an outward show that leaves the inner heart unscathed. The Law cannot give life.

    I have heard some Torah Followers say, that following Torah reveals truth like nothing else. But according to Galatians 3:2
    “…Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
    What does this mean? It means that the law cannot give us the spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is given to us by faith. And to believe otherwise, makes us foolish! Also, as we start out as a Christian, only the Holy Spirit can sanctify and perfect us. Truth does not come to us by following Old Testament law!

    The law can only give us a shadow of truth.

    A Growing Trend - Many Laws

    Nevertheless, this Torah Following movement is growing. And unfortunately, I believe that this popular trend is symptomatic of the condition of today’s lukewarm church. Why? Because many people are looking for life, and since they are not finding it in most evangelical churches today, they are looking elsewhere. And for this, I blame the pastors of America, but that is another sermon!

    Not many pastors have addressed this movement, and this is why I must talk about it!

    So what do you think folks?
    • Do you believe that following Old Testament law has merit?
    • Is following these Torah laws, the missing part of your sanctification?
    • Do we need to follow some of them, or all of them?
    • Do the Scriptures tell us that in order to have a relationship with Jesus and to experience Him in His fullness, then we also need to participate in the laws found in the Old Testament?

    Some of you may be asking, "What kind of laws are you talking about?" Well, some Torah followers would say that you need to follow all 613 laws that are in the Old Testament. And other Torah followers might argue that you just need to follow the main ones, like keeping the Sabbath.

    Some of them actually believe that if a Christian does not follow Old Testament Torah law, then they are not truly saved; by the way, regarding the word “Torah," this word is undefined in many of these groups. Some say that “Torah” means the books of Moses. Some say it means "the teaching or the instruction,” Some say that Torah means the entire Old Testament. And some of them really won't say what it means!

    The bottom line: according to many of these individuals, your Christianity is not complete unless the laws of the Old Testament are followed.

    For the record, I believe that the blood of Christ alone is sufficient for redemption. According to what I read in Scripture, I do not find that keeping the Old Testament Law or Torah is necessary for salvation, or sanctification!

    And using the Scriptures, I am going to show that a relationship with Jesus is all you need.

    Before I get started, I know that some of you already disagree with me. Perhaps based on what I have already said, you are angry with me. If that is the case, I am sorry that you are angry. If you happen to be a Christian that follows Old Testament law, I mean no animosity towards you with what I'm sharing right now. My whole purpose is to be honest with the truth of Scripture. I am also hoping that what I share in this message will set some of you free from the yoke of Judaism bondage and legalistic enslavement!

    Today, there are many people who want answers. There are many Christians who are confused about whether following Old Testament law is still required by God.

    I know that there are many Christians out there who are being told by their Torah following friends that they must follow the old law if they want their salvation in heaven to be secure. I also know that some Christians are being told that if they do not worship God on the Sabbath, then they are in disobedience and need to repent!

    Perhaps this is you! Perhaps you are a Christian who has always trusted in the grace of God but now you are being pressured by a friend to add this lifestyle to your Christianity, and you do not know what to say.

    Perhaps you are been pressured by people on the Internet, maybe on Christian forums, and you are confused.

    I invite you to really study this message, to take notes and to look at the verses in the Scriptures that are shared. I believe that the information in this message will help to answer many questions for you!

    Let's begin!

    In order to begin, we need to look at the background of some Old Testament patriarchs and examine where Old Testament law began. Those of you that already know this information; please bear with me because I am laying this information down as a foundation.

    We must start with Abram, Abram had an encounter with God. God made a covenant with him and changed his name to Abraham. And He promised Abraham that He would build a great nation through Abraham's descendents:
    "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." Genesis 17:1- 4
    God made covenant promises with Abraham. Eventuall, Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob.

    Jacob (Israel) was the father of twelve sons. His twelve sons each become a different tribe that would make up the nation of Israel. Jacob and his twelve sons would eventually relocate to Egypt during a famine. And it was in Egypt that these twelve tribes populated into a mighty nation over the course several hundred years. Unfortunately, they became slaves to Pharaoh.

    So God raised up Moses as a deliverer, and Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness. And it was in this wilderness that God gave The Law or The Torah to Moses.

    The Levites

    Moses was in the desert with the twelve tribes of Israel. One of those tribes was called the Tribe of Levi. And members of the Tribe of Levi are called Levites.

    By the way, side note: Moses was from the tribe of Levi. You can find this in the book of Exodus 2:1, 2 where it says:
    “And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the women conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.”
    That passage goes on to tell the story about how Moses was hidden and grew up in Pharaoh's house.

    But back to the wilderness, when God gave His law to Moses, God explained that He wanted the Tribe of Levi to be the ministers and the dedicated priests who would have charge over the tabernacle. This was to be their duty and their lineage. This is called the Levitical Priesthood.

    The Levitical Priesthood

    Now, right now in this lesson, it is very important to keep this in mind. Because the truth of what I am going to share is related to knowing about the Levitical Priesthood. So please remember that; the Levitical Priesthood.

    The Levitical Priesthood was responsible for 613 laws of Torah, in the law of Moses!

    We can read where God establishes the priesthood of Levi in the Scriptures; you can find it in Numbers Chapter 1 as well as other sections of Numbers and Leviticus.

    "But thou shalt appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all the vessels thereof, and over all things that belong to it: they shall bear the tabernacle, and all the vessels thereof; and they shall minister unto it, and shall encamp round about the tabernacle." Numbers 1:50
    Now let's talk about their ministry job, the Levites had the ministerial task of learning all of the 613 laws that God gave to Moses. Their job was to teach these laws to all of the children of Israel. The tribe of Levi also appointed a High Priest through the family of Aaron. Now this was not maintained, but this is how it started.

    The high priest, was the chief priest. And one of the jobs of the high priest was to offer the sacrifice for all of Israel on the Day of Atonement, which we will talk about in a moment.

    The Levitical Priesthood lasted approximately 1400 years; from the time of Moses till the time of Messiah. As time went on in the Old Testament, it became very apparent that the nation of Israel could not follow these laws. The main reason was because their sinful nature and rebellious hearts. And it got so bad, that outwardly, while the people followed the laws, inwardly their hearts were full of sin, idolatry, coveting and other abominations.

    The Law was too Hard - A New Covenant

    In fact, God told them through Isaiah:
    "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:" Isaiah 29:13
    Since God is omniscient and eternal, this did not surprise Him. He knew that this was going to happen. But He had to let it happen to show people that their hearts were dark and rebellious by nature. God in His infinite wisdom and omniscience already had a "Plan B." He would send a new sin offering to Israel and to the world; The Messiah.

    And in the Old Testament we see many of the prophets prophesying about the future Messiah who would use a "New Covenant" to save the world from sin:
    "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."
    Isaiah 42:1

    "Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them." Isaiah 42:9
    The majority of you know all about this. But I need to mention it, to lay a foundation of what I'm about to talk about.

    Eventually Messiah did come. His name is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Jesus lived for 30 years and then He started His ministry. He ministered for three and a half years and then He was crucified, He shed His blood for the sins of the world, and He died. He was then buried in a tomb and three days later, He was resurrected.

    And from that moment on, Christianity was born in this world. It spread first to the Jews of Israel. And then, it spread to all of the Gentiles of the world.

    And here we are, 2,000 years later. And even though time has far removed us from the temple that was destroyed in the first century, there are still Christians today who believe that following the laws of the Levitical Priesthood are necessary for salvation.

    A Timeline of the Law

    So now let's talk about that. And in doing so, I want to share an illustration. A timeline if you will.

    Abraham lived approximately 1600 to 1700 years BC, the exact number of years is not relevant for this illustration.

    From Abraham, we get Isaac, From Isaac, we got Jacob.

    Jacob had his name changed to Israel, and was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.

    The names of these tribes are:

    1. Asher
    2. Benjamin
    3. Dan
    4. Gad
    5. Issachar
    6. Joseph
    7. Judah
    8. Levi
    9. Naphtali
    10. Reuben
    11. Simeon
    12. Zebulun

    As time progressed, after several hundred years, we get Moses. Moses was used to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. And Moses took these 12 tribes of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness.

    In the wilderness, Moses had an encounter with God. And it was in the wilderness that God gave Moses the law. As I mentioned earlier, this law stated that the tribe of Levi were be the priests of Israel.

    So from the time of Moses until the end of the Old Testament, Israel followed the commandments of the Levitical Priesthood. They follow this priesthood for approx. 1,400 years!

    And then Messiah Jesus was born.

    Summary: In the Old Testament before Messiah, the Law of Moses was through the office of the Levitical Priesthood, through the lineage of Levi.

    The law came through Moses and the Levitical Priesthood ministered the law.

    The Messiah

    So let's talk about Jesus, the Messiah. At the end of His ministry at the Last Supper, Jesus said that He was making a new covenant with us.

    The Scriptures also tell us that Jesus is our High Priest who is seated at the right hand of God.

    “…We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;”
    Hebrews 8:1
    And this is what I want to concentrate on for the remainder of this message, because I have something to show you that is very important and enlightening.

    Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur

    As mentioned, it was among the Levites that a high priest was always chosen through the Order of Aaron. One of the most reverent ceremonies for the high priest was to officiate the ceremony for the Day of Atonement.

    The Day of Atonement is also known today as Yom Kippur. It happened once a year on the 10th day of the seventh month. This was the most solemn day in all of Israel. On this day, no work was to be done by any person. And it was on this day that the high priest went into the most holy place behind the veil to make a sin offering for all of the people of Israel.

    Now it is very important to keep in mind that all of the offerings and sacrifices that the priests conducted in Old Testament Israel were symbolic of what Messiah was going to do as the Lamb of God. The sacrifices pointed forward to Jesus who was the true sacrifice for Israel and, the entire world!

    All of the ceremonies, offerings, and sacrifices were shadows about Jesus and His death on the cross. They painted the picture of salvation which comes through faith.

    On the Day of Atonement, no work was to take place by anyone in Israel, except for the sacrifice of the high priest, now please keep this in mind.

    On any other given day, all of the Levitical priests took part and helped to minister during the daily sacrifices at the temple. Because after all, there are many different duties that need to take place to keep the temple functioning. It took a lot of manpower and many Levitical priests to deal with the hundreds of sacrifices a day that came through the temple.

    Only the High Priest

    But on the Day of Atonement, it was very different. It was a day like no other day. And on this day, only one priest was to be involved. It was the high priest!

    He had to do everything by himself. None of the other Levite priests were allowed to help him. And for the High Priest, the Day of Atonement was a very arduous task. It was a very reverent task. The high priest had to make sure that he was cleansed of sin, before he was allowed to give a sin offering for Israel. So he had to bathe thoroughly, in fact, five times! He had to offer a sacrifice for his family and himself.

    Again, when he offered the sacrifice for all of Israel, he had to be a high priest that was totally clean and free of sin.

    Also, on this day, none, absolutely none of the Israelites were allowed to work! The only person working on the Day of Atonement was the high priest, period!

    Jesus did ALL of the work!

    And looking forward to Messiah, this ceremonial event was a beautiful shadow of what Jesus actually did for the world. Jesus was the High Priest who is without sin. And Jesus did all of the work by Himself. None of us can do any of the work for atonement. None of us can add to the work of atonement!

    This is why the children of Israel where not allowed to work on that day. It was symbolic of us not working our way to salvation. Jesus did all the work on the cross. This is why He cried out,”It is finished,” as He died!

    The Day of Atonement was a type and a shadow, and it pointed to Jesus our Messiah. Over time, the Levites added another symbolic duty to the high priest for the Day of Atonement.

    More Shadows - Awake all Night!!

    On the eve of the Day of Atonement, the high priest would stay awake all night to prepare for his ministerial duties. He was not allowed to sleep. So he would read the Psalms and pray to get ready for the sin offering that he would present the next day.

    I find it incredible, that the Levites of Israel were actually prophesying about Messiah when the high priest stayed up all night.

    I find it even more incredible, just how accurate it this prophetic shadow was. The Levitical high priest prophesied two things about the high priesthood:

    1. The corruption of the office of the Levitical Priesthood.

    2. The beauty of the sacrifice of Messiah. A New High Priest

    The Priesthood Started with Corruption

    Allow me to explain: The Levitical priesthood began through Aaron. He was the very first high priest.

    Aaron began his office in a corrupt form!! How many can remember that the first sacrifice that Aaron officiated for Israel was the golden calf!

    And to think, that Aaron was the first high priest!

    And looking forward to Messiah, it was also a corrupt high priest Caiaphas, who stayed up all night in the scandal of the ages. And it was Caiaphas the high priest who stayed up all night not to recite the Psalms, or to pray, but indeed to prepare the sin offering for the world.

    So for hundreds of years, the high priests of Israel, prophesied through their work on the Day of Atonement, the sacrifice of Messiah. And they had no clue!!

    Another thing that the high priest prophesied, by staying up all night, they were a type and shadow of Jesus the Messiah staying up all night. But when Jesus stayed up all night, He was mistreated, tortured, and betrayed.

    The Priesthood Ended in Corruption!

    In conclusion: the Levitical priesthood began corrupt, and it ended corrupt!

    But thanks be to God, Jesus our High Priest, overcame corruption and was the fulfillment of the shadow of the Levites.

    “…seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, …” Hebrews 8:4,5
    In summary, the Levitical priesthood pointed to Jesus and it prophesied the need for a better priesthood.

    Nathan Leal
    Feb.09, 2010