The message of Messiah Gate seems confusing to some readers. They wonder if our background is Jewish or Christian; if we celebrate feast days and honor the Shabbat, or Sabbath.
[We do celebrate the Jewish roots of our faith within the context of their fulfillment in Messiah.]
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that there is no distinction for those who believe in Jesus Christ; and to the Galatians he wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul wrote that a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly according to the circumcision of the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirit.
Jehovah said to the men of Judah, Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart (Je 4:4).
So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer (Dt 10:16).
Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live (Dt 30:6).
Physical circumcision, as commanded unto Abraham, was a sign of obedience that is the outward cleansing of the flesh, but it was only a shadow pointing to the circumcision of our heart which is the inward cleansing of our soul.
Are you under the Law, or led by the Spirit?
Paul wrote that if you are under the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Here’s the context: There were Jewish believers in Galatia teaching Gentile converts they had to obey the Law to be saved so the Galatians began circumcising themselves, and Paul rebuked them:
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [Gal 3:1-3]
[There are messianics today who profess Jesus Christ, but live by the Law; and we must be discerning with whom we fellowship.]
Paul admonished the Galatians for abandoning grace, and receiving a distorted gospel:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! [Gal 1:8]
The essence of Paul’s teaching is that we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works; and that we are dead to the Law, but alive in Christ Jesus.
Within the messianic community you will find teachers that call believers to celebrate the feast days, keep the Sabbath, adhere to dietary restrictions, obey ordinances and statutes and conform to the Law of Moses.
Paul was accused in his day of blasphemy for teaching Gentiles that these observances were unnecessary. The sect of the Pharisees who believed in the LORD, called Paul to testify before the Jerusalem Council to answer their charge that it was necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised, and to observe ceremonial law.
After much debate, Peter stood up and questioned the reasoning for placing this burden upon the Gentiles, while recognizing that it was a yoke that not even Jews were able to bear; and he affirmed Paul’s teaching that we—both Jew and Greek—are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
James—the half-brother of Jesus, and head of the Jerusalem assembly—had the final say:
Therefore it is my judgement that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from every generation has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Ac 15:19-21).
The apostles and elders at Jerusalem then sent Paul, Barnabas, Barsabbas and Silas to deliver the Council’s decree to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. It read in part:
Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls…we lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials that if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well (Ac 15:23-29).
The distorted gospel is still being preached today by a segment of the messianic assembly which includes both Christian and Jewish converts. They adhere strictly to the Law and Torah, but it might be useful to read what Moses told the children of Israel:
Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today (Dt 5:1-3).
Moses was speaking of the law which was not given unto the patriarchs; that is, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but to the children of Israel who were brought up out of Egypt.
It is well to consider that the LORD didn’t make this covenant with you nor did He make it with me.
We have been told by the LORD that the people broke His covenant with Moses; and we have confirmation by Peter that the Law was a curse that neither they nor their fathers could bear.
Paul warned the Galatians if they abide in the Law they are cursed; that no one is justified by the Law which is not of faith; and that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming our sin bearer. This begs the question which Paul asked the Galatians (rhetorically), Why the Law then? [Gal 3:19]
A careful study of Paul’s writings will reveal the paradox of his thinking that the Law was both a blessing and a curse. Put simply, the Law was given to reveal our sinful nature, but it could not save us. The Law is not the problem then, we are.
Paul explains that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death.
To our brethren—both Jew and Gentile—who strictly adhere to the Law and Torah, please heed this warning from Rabbi Saul (Apostle Paul) who wrote that you are then under obligation to keep the whole Law (all 613 statutes and ordinances). Remember that James wrote if you stumble in one point you are guilty of all (James 2:10).
That is a heavy burden to bear.
When Christ kneeled before the woman’s accusers (Jn 8:1-11), and wrote in the dirt, causing them to walk away, it’s at least probable He was writing down their sins: envy, lust, immorality, strife, jealousy, impurity, drunkenness, carousing, idolatry, sensuality, anger, disputes, dissensions…
It is very dangerous seeking redemption by works as Paul writes:
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:4).
Friends, the law cannot save you for it was given to condemn, but faithfully seek the grace of God and His righteousness.
Next: When Paul Rebuked Peter