Judaizing the Gospel: The Positive
And Negative Aspects of the
Jewish Roots Movement
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
Identifying the Error of Judaizing
The Gospel of Christ
In the book of Galatians, Paul exposes a covert attack against the truth of the Gospel of Christ. The threat comes from a group of Jewish evangelists that preach a counterfeit gospel of Christ. Paul referred to their doctrine as a “perverted gospel” in Galatians 1:6-8. It’s a mainstream theology that’s often referred to as “Biblical Christianity” by its adherents. That means they teach this counterfeit gospel from the pages of the Bible. But, their doctrine is false, because it’s established on out-of-context Scripture that few can detect. Whenever Scripture is lifted from its divinely inspired context, its meaning is often changed into something that God never intended. Yet, inexperienced believers fail to discern this problem. All of the ministers, preachers and evangelists involved in this agenda have good intentions. We’ve never seen a situation where they try to deliberately deceive anyone into believing a lie. They believe, with all their heart, that they’re preaching truth. Their sincerity is a powerful persuasive force, which is what makes this subject so important to understand. In some situations, a person’s salvation could literally be at risk.
Some Bible scholars refer to these false evangelists as “Judaizers” and claim that their only goal was to convert Christian believers into Jews. Yet, this common description is terribly misleading. Their practices are described in this way to hide a dangerous, yet popular agenda that operates inside the institutional Christian Church, which is far more sinister.
The Bait and the Hook
Anyone who enjoys the sport of fishing understands this simple principle. If you want to catch a fish, you offer them something to eat. You choose something (the bait) that you know the fish wants to eat. This can be real food or an artificial lure. The idea is to trick the fish into taking the bait. Why? A hook is hidden inside the bait that the fish cannot see. If your efforts are successful, you’ve caught yourself a fish.
To further illustrate our fishing example, we occasionally quote counter-cult expert Jan Groenveld. Jan has since passed on and is now with the Lord. Her ministry involves warning believers about religious cults that operate in the institutional church under a Christian name, which directly applies to the subject of this commentary.
"The most dangerous lie is that which
most closely resembles the truth."
Sadly, a vast majority of believers ignore her warning.
In order to discover and expose Christian counterfeits, you must understand the simple fishing principle of the bait and hook. A “counterfeit”, is something that’s a forgery or imitation, which masquerades as the real thing. IT FOOLS SPIRITUALLY INEXPERIENCED PEOPLE BECAUSE IT LOOKS AND SOUNDS AUTHENTIC. Counterfeit money is one example. A well-made counterfeit 100 dollar bill can’t be identified by the average person. It takes someone with experience in handling money. Christian counterfeits operate in a similar way, which means some common misconceptions must be identified.
FIRST: The most dangerous Christian counterfeits are not necessarily some small and unimportant fringe group or movement - or the easily identifiable ones that occasionally show up at our doorstep looking for converts.
SECOND: On the surface, Christian counterfeits are nearly impossible to recognize because they claim to be “Bible-believing” and insist that the Holy Scriptures are their sole authority for all faith and practice.
THIRD: Christian counterfeits can exist as major denominations, popular churches or mainstream Christian movements. They can have a large congregation (often called “mega-churches”) with an inspirational worship team that exalts Christ, a regular television or satellite program and an international outreach to other countries.
FOURTH: All Christian counterfeits claim to preach the true doctrine and intentions of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father found in the Bible. Some claim that, unlike other churches or ministers, that they preach “the whole Word of God”.
FIFTH: Christian counterfeits can entice inexperienced Christians by flaunting certain religious/educational credentials designed to impress (or intimidate) their congregations. These “qualifications” suggest that their experience and training is a guarantee that you can trust what they say.
SIXTH: We live in a love-deficient culture. Many Christian counterfeits will exploit this deficiency by saying something like, “you’ll be loved if you become a part of our church family”. In counter-cult ministry this is sometimes known as “love bombing”, where a group uses overwhelming love to win a person’s allegiance. Some refer to this as “love manipulation”.
SEVENTH: Often, the evangelist, pastor or leader (or leadership team) is sincere, loving and claims to only be interested in your spiritual maturity and helping you establish a "Biblically correct" relationship with God.
At this point, it could be said that some of the characteristics listed above are ones practiced by good churches. But - remember that spiritual counterfeits use bait, which are generally good things that convince the spiritually inexperienced that they originate with God.
The Hidden Hook is the Counterfeit Gospel
Occasionally, our Heavenly Father will give His children something called “a wakeup call”. These experiences are almost never pleasant. Years ago, I was talking to a pastor on the phone about a book I just released entitled, “The Mystery of the Faith” (available as a free download on our website). This individual was one of several pastors in a large well-known church in the Midwest, which has thousands of members. The 30 minute conversation was pleasant and encouraging - until the end. Based on the New Testament teaching of Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23, Romans 3:24-26 and Titus 3:5-7 - I felt safe and was ending the call by saying, “Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus gave us His salvation as a free gift?” The response I received completely caught me off guard. The pastor said, “Oh no, that’s not true!” Contrary to the plain teaching in these scriptures, she went on for another 5 minutes or so, explaining to me why our salvation was obtained through merit and good works. The tone in her voice indicated that she was obviously upset with my statement. After the call ended, I was shocked and astonished. This pastor was part of the leadership team of an influential church. She wouldn’t be on this team if the rest of the members didn't agree with her beliefs. I have since discovered that my suspicions were correct. I always believed this church preached a correct evangelistic message. That day I learned a painful lesson that opened my eyes. They did preach a gospel that they claimed was “the authentic Gospel of Christ”. But, according to the New Testament Scriptures - it wasn't. The pastor’s comments revealed that my assumption was incorrect. Yet, millions of well-meaning Christians make the same mistake. I got a glimpse of a hook, inside the bait, that is hidden from most church-going people. As a result, I was given a valuable insight that radically changed the way I view the world-wide institutional church.
Many church organizations, denominations and movements are similar to an onion. They are designed a specific way for marketing purposes and public relations. All the positive, good-looking layers surround the core, which is their true salvation doctrine, whether it’s right or wrong. This doctrine is almost always referred to as, “The Gospel of Christ”. As a result, they all insist that they preach an authentic Biblical gospel. Some refer to this doctrine as “Historic or Biblical Christianity”. But, this can be misleading. The Bible is commonly interpreted out-of-context for various reasons. This is why those who call themselves Bible believers often (but not always) “believe the Bible wrong”. This is true for individuals, entire congregations and major denominations. To see the core, you have to peel back the different layers. Sometimes the church is good, because the core is in agreement with the principles of Christ’s New Covenant. However, many times the salvation doctrine is based on what Saint Paul calls “a different gospel” (a counterfeit), but the organization continues to look like it represents Christ and the Bible because of the many “good” layers that surround and obstruct our view of the core.
This problem represents a covert and spiritually lethal internal war that’s been going on since the first century. Due to its importance, we provide numerous commentaries about this subject.
The Positive and Negative Aspects
Of The Jewish Roots Movement and
All modern-day believers should study the Jewish roots of their faith. Jesus Christ is not only the Messiah of Israel, but He is also the Lord (head) of the New Covenant Church that began after the cross - and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Jesus was born a Jew and will retain this racial identity at His Second Coming. This also means that the Savior of the Christian Church is Jewish - Israel is His native country - and Jerusalem is Israel’s capital city. This is why Bible Prophecy instructs us that - at His Second Coming, CHRIST RETURNS TO JERUSALEM. The teachings of the New Testament and Bible prophecy concerning end-time events are couched in Jewish culture and terminology. Understanding this “frame of reference” is necessary for an accurate interpretation of certain Biblical sayings, teachings and future prophetic events. Christians should study the seven primary Jewish feasts, which are also correctly called, “the feasts of God”. Some Bible prophecy teachers claim (and we agree) that they carry important insight, especially about the nature of our salvation and the events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ. Here are some examples:
- Passover was the time of year when the blood of an unblemished lamb was splashed over the door-post of the house and caused the angel of death to “pass over” the Israelites living in Egypt (Read Exodus chapter 12). The blood of this lamb allowed God to exempt the Israelites from the judgment that fell on Egypt (a type of the world). Centuries later, Jesus who is also called the “Passover Lamb” of the Church was crucified at the same time of year, on the Jewish Feast of Passover.
- During the Feast of Unleavened Bread Jesus was buried.
- During the Feast of Firstfruits, God raised (resurrected)
Jesus from the grave.
- During the Feast of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit
to indwell believers, which started the Church.
The feasts listed above represent the first four. Each of the seven feasts provides important insight into the Jewish roots of the Church.
All Jews were required to attend the following three feasts in Jerusalem each year; Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. The seven feasts occur during the year as follows; three in the spring (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-fruits), one in the spring/summer (Pentecost - middle of the year) and three in the fall (Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles). These feasts are also called “Moediem”, which is the Hebrew word that means “God’s appointed times”. An honest study of the Scriptures will show that God is known to do important things on or around these “appointed times”. Due to their importance and relevance to end-time events, they should never be omitted from the Bible instruction of the New Testament Church.
The Skillfully Concealed
Recently, various “Jewish roots” ministries started to gain popularity in the Church. Several well-known pastors and evangelists are involved in this effort. For legal reasons we omit names from this commentary. Much of their teaching (but not all) agrees with the doctrine of the popular Messianic Jewish movement, which correctly identifies Jesus (they use His correct Hebrew name “Yeshua HaMashiach”) as Israel’s Messiah. God is using these ministries to help Jewish people rediscover their faith. He is also using them to educate the Church about their historic roots, which is valuable information.
However, a serious problem exists. Many (but not all) of the leadership of these groups are reintroducing a works-oriented Jewish gospel of Christ that the apostle Paul rejected by calling it “a different gospel”. Paul warned THAT GOD DOES NOT HONOR THIS TEACHING, WHICH PERVERTS THE AUTHENTIC GOSPEL (GALATIANS 1:6-8). According to Paul, It’s an illegal mixture of Old Testament Jewish Law and the New Testament (or New Covenant) Grace of Christ. Paul warned that these two spiritual administrations established on radically different principles must be kept separate and never mixed together (Romans 11:6 and 2 Timothy 2:15). Yet, while educating the Church about its historic roots, these leaders covertly slip in a salvation doctrine that the apostle Paul said would lead the Church astray in its faith.
Important Note: We should remember that before believing in Christ on the Damascus road, the apostle Paul (formerly called Saul) was trained as a Jewish Pharisee under Gamaliel, who was one of the most highly respected teachers of the Law in Israel (Read Acts 5:34 and Acts 22:3). Later, as the Divinely ordained apostle of the Church, Paul rejected this deceptive Jewish Law-based salvation doctrine, which he describes as “a different gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-8 and 2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Some of the leaders of the Jewish roots movement have joined others in the church - and refer to their Law-based salvation as “Biblical Christianity or Biblical theology”. It's generally the same teachings that nearly destroyed the faith of the Galatian Church and motivated Saint Paul to write his "Epistle to the Galatians" in order to correct the error.
Under the Old Testament administration of the Law (also called Judaism), observing the feasts was a requirement for the Jewish people - especially the three mandatory feasts of Passover (in the spring), Pentecost (spring/summer) and Tabernacles (in the fall). Keeping these feasts was an essential part of obeying the Law and was necessary if a Jewish person wanted to be righteous under Judaism. However, keeping these feasts is not a requirement for righteousness or salvation under the New Covenant that began AFTER THE CROSS. Yet, those that embrace the different gospel of the Judaizers often extends the keeping of these feasts as a requirement to obtain Christian righteousness.
When speaking to the Galatian congregation, which had wrongly embraced a “Judaized gospel”, Paul hints at this danger by saying;
“You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” (Galatians 4:10-11)
The Pauline revelation and the epistles of Saint Paul give specific details ABOUT HOW TO OBTAIN SALVATION AFTER THE CROSS - WHICH CHANGED ALL THE PREVIOUS RULES. The book of Hebrews refers to these changes as, “the new and living way of Christ” in Hebrews 10:19-23. If God calls something “new”, then it’s understood to be different (and better) than what existed before it. If something is new, it’s not a continuation or extension of the old - rather it replaces the old as stated in the book of Hebrews.
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if that FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7 NKJV)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13 NKJV)
"The new and living way" is also called the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Read: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24).
Nowhere in Paul’s outline of the New Covenant is it written that keeping the Jewish feasts OR ANY OTHER PRINCIPLE OF OLD TESTAMENT LAW is a requirement to obtain (and keep) righteousness, justification or salvation - which the Bible says are now God’s freely given gifts. Concerning this controversial subject, Paul gives the following warning;
"FOR AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW ARE UNDER THE CURSE; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” BUT THAT NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW IN THE SIGHT OF GOD IS EVIDENT, for “the just shall live by faith.” YET THE LAW IS NOT OF FAITH..." (Galatians 3:10-12 - Emphasis Added)
"Therefore BY THE DEEDS OF THE LAW NO FLESH WILL BE JUSTIFIED IN HIS SIGHT". (Romans 3:20 - Emphasis Added)
"You have become estranged (separated/cutoff/alienated) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; YOU HAVE FALLEN FROM GRACE." (Galatians 5:4 - Emphasis Added)
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: FOR IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COME BY THE LAW, THEN CHRIST IS DEAD IN VAIN (THE WORD "VAIN" MEANS THAT CHRIST'S DEATH BECOMES MEANINGLESS)." (Galatians 2:19-21 NKJV Emphasis Added)
Those that preach the popular “Judaized gospel of Christ”, which also exists under countless other names - all commit the same error. They fail to recognize that the believer is under an entirely new and different divine program (Hebrews calls it “a better covenant established on better promises”) that imputes certain character attributes of Christ, such as God’s righteousness (Romans 4:4-8, Romans 5:18-21 and 2 Corinthians 5:21), directly to the believer APART FROM WORKS, MERIT OR BEHAVIOR. It didn’t start until after the cross and replaces the previous merit-based program of the Law - and therefore changes all the rules that govern salvation. Additional supplemental information is available at the following links:
The Believer's Position In Christ
Imputation: The New Covenant Method God
Uses To Transfer His Spiritual Benefits To Us
A Warning About Violating Biblical Context
The Great Imposter
Some readers could get the idea that we oppose the Jewish people. If this is your perception, it is not correct. Unfortunately, many church leaders and their followers are fooled into taking this position by embracing a popular type of historic theology that does not come from God. Additional information is available at the following links.
The Battle for God's Grace
Israel and the Church
Avoiding the Error of Replacement Theology
The Need to be Watchful
For reasons previously stated, all Christians must be vigilant. We should learn the information offered by these groups concerning the Hebrew heritage of the Church. However, we must also educate ourselves and firmly reject the counterfeit gospel of Christ that many of them teach. Never let anyone tell you that the “Judaized gospel” is just a different opinion or an essential part of the Church’s “Jewish roots” that all modern-day believers should learn to obey. Why? The Judaized gospel of Christ is a salvation doctrine THAT GOD SAYS HE DOES NOT HONOR AFTER THE CROSS.
The Judaized gospel of counterfeit Christianity can be generally identified in the following three ways.
FIRST: The evangelist or Bible teacher will subtly suggest (but may never directly say) that God treats sin and the sinner under the New Testament (or New Covenant) THE SAME WAY AS HE TREATED SIN AND THE SINNER UNDER THE PROGRAM OF THE OLD TESTAMENT (OR OLD COVENANT). This essentially means that very little changed between Old Testament Law and the New Covenant of Christ. According to Hebrews 8:6-13 Galatians 4:21-31, Hebrews 10:19-23 and many other Scriptures, this is a false teaching.
SECOND: A slightly different twist is when an evangelist or Bible teacher claims that nothing really changed concerning our obedience to the Old Testament commandments of the Law - except, under the New Covenant, the Law is to be obeyed and practiced through love. This is nothing more than claiming that the New Covenant is just a modified extension of the old program. Yet, the apostle Paul said the believer living under the New Covenant was delivered from Old Testament Law (the old program) AND THAT IT WAS OBSOLETE, ABOLISHED AND NAILED TO THE CROSS (Hebrews 8:6-13, Romans 7:1-6, Colossians 2:13-14 and Ephesians 2:11-22). This clearly represents a replacement - and not an extension or modification.
THIRD: Concerning Paul’s New Testament teaching that the believer is dead to (or delivered from) the Law (Galatians 2:19-21); the evangelist or Bible teacher may comment that the “moral code” of the Law and the spiritual consequences of breaking it (such as losing salvation) REMAINS INTACT AND VALID - but the part that deals with animal sacrifices to atone for sin was fulfilled by Christ and no longer applies. They claim that when Paul said the believer was delivered from the Law - he was only talking about the part involving temple rituals and animal sacrifices. In other words, they retain that part of the Law they want to keep, but claim that the other part (which doesn’t impact their doctrine) no longer applies. This "moral code exemption" should raise some serious red flags. The apostle James (the half-brother of our Lord) rejected this popular belief. Contrary to the cafeteria-style theology some Bible teachers practice, James warned that the whole body of the Law cannot be divided (you have to accept all of it - or none of it) - and warned that this practice was spiritually illegal. A vast majority of Christians and their leaders who embrace the “Judaized gospel” choose certain commandments (such as the Ten Commandments), which they attempt to obey. Yet, they conveniently forget about the other 603 commandments and ordinances of the Law that are nearly impossible to keep. Why is it impossible? Many commandments of the Law require an operational Jewish temple that no longer exists. James gives the following warning:
"For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10)
When the teachers of the Judaized gospel and those in the Jewish roots movement attempt to divide the Law to defend their counterfeit salvation doctrine, they are teaching error that carries eternal consequences. GOD CONSIDERS IT TO BE INDIVISIBLE.
The authority the Law possessed to cancel a believer’s salvation when it is broken (also called the curse of the Law) is abolished by the cross of Christ (the New Covenant). After the crucifixion of Christ - justification, eternal life and righteousness take on their new roles as God’s unmerited gifts (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23, Romans 3:24-26, Romans 4:4-8, Romans 5:18-21 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). Yet, the written part of the Law - specifically the moral code - REMAINS ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF EDUCATING BELIEVERS ABOUT THE THINGS THAT GOD CONSIDERS SIN - SO THEY CAN AVOID IT. To recognize the danger of the Judaized gospel, we must understand these truths recorded in the following Scriptures:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14)
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, HAVING WIPED OUT THE HANDWRITING OF THE REQUIREMENTS THAT WAS AGAINST US (THE LAW), WHICH WAS CONTRARY TO US. AND HE HAS TAKEN IT OUT OF THE WAY, HAVING NAILED IT TO THE CROSS." (Colossians 2:13-14 - Emphasis Added)
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, BEING ALIENS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF ISRAEL AND STRANGERS FROM THE COVENANTS OF PROMISE, HAVING NO HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, HAVING ABOLISHED IN HIS FLESH THE ENMITY, THAT IS, THE LAW OF COMMANDMENTS CONTAINED IN ORDINANCES, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. NOW, THEREFORE, YOU ARE NO LONGER STRANGERS AND FOREIGNERS, BUT FELLOW CITIZENS WITH THE SAINTS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:11-22)
"Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. THEREFORE, MY BRETHREN, YOU ALSO HAVE BECOME DEAD TO THE LAW THROUGH THE BODY OF CHRIST, THAT YOU MIGHT BE MARRIED TO ANOTHER - TO HIM WHO WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. BUT NOW WE HAVE BEEN DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit AND NOT IN THE OLDNESS OF THE LETTER (OR OLD COVENANT LAW)." (Romans 7:1-6 - Emphasis Added)
"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: FOR IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COME BY THE LAW, THEN CHRIST IS DEAD IN VAIN (THE WORD "VAIN" MEANS THAT CHRIST'S DEATH BECOMES MEANINGLESS)." (Galatians 2:19-21 - Emphasis Added)
"FOR THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS HAS MADE ME FREE FROM THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH. FOR WHAT THE LAW COULD NOT DO IN THAT IT WAS WEAK THROUGH THE FLESH, GOD DID BY SENDING HIS OWN SON in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, THAT THE RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US (OR IMPUTED TO US) who do not walk according to the flesh (or trying to qualify for salvation through works or religious performance) but according to the Spirit (or our faith in the finished work of Christ that does not require our works)." (Romans 8:2-4 – Emphasis and Comments Added)
The Jewish roots movement is not the only place the Judaized gospel is found. It is also taught in Reformed theology, Calvinism, Holiness theology (especially Pentecostal Holiness), Church of God theology, Catholicism and various expressions of Christian fundamentalism. This list is not exhaustive.
We hope you find this material beneficial
in your walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
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