The Error of Judaizing Exposed Part 1
We’re going to do a study here on the topic of Judaizing. That is, a study on whether proper Christianity involves practicing Judaism. This seems to be getting more relevant to study since the Judaizing of Christians seems to be getting more and more common. It seems to be becoming more common for Christians to be attempting to keep the Jewish Feasts, the Jewish Sabbath, and other Jewish holy days as well as to emulate Jews in other ways like keeping Jewish dietary laws and taking Jewish names and other things. We’re going to look at here why this is not proper and why this is about as serious a deception as anything can be. But we should do this in a way so that we don’t, like many do, just say “The Jewish law isn’t for Christians. Christ abolished that.” People who just assume that tend to not understand the whole counsel of Scripture and they don’t apply the Jewish principles to Christianity which God intended to be foundational to Christianity. So like in most everything, there are two ditches to fall into related to this matter and we need to steer clear of both of them in order to go down the right road faithfully.
We know that God is eternal and that His character is unchanging. Whether a moral principle is pure or corrupt, it is such because it is either consistent with God’s character or because it is inconsistent with God’s character. The moral Law of God is unchanging and binding upon every moral agent because God is unchanging and human beings are created in His image, with an inherent obligation to walk in the ways of their Creator. It is always wrong to steal, it is always wrong to commit idolatry by giving the honor due to the true God to a created thing, it is always wrong to covet that which is your neighbor’s, it is always wrong to act unjustly as a respecter of persons, etc. To act righteously and benevolently would mean acting so as to shun these evil things in doing the good and right that such evil things are contrary to.
So we know that God chose a just man who feared Him named Abraham, to establish His worship among his seed in the midst of a crooked and idolatrous world which had by and large departed from Him and refused to walk in His right ways. This was ultimately with the goal of establishing an entire nation to establish His worship among, and to demonstrate the excellence of His ways among, and to overall demonstrate among what it means to be His people- with the even greater goal of bringing forth His Messiah or Christ through that people who, in His plan of redemption would be identified with the worship and right ways of that people.
And obviously then, God would command to that people righteous laws which reflected His eternal moral character. That people would be given detailed, specific instruction of what it means to walk in His ways. The commandments given to that people would be perfect and reflect pure righteousness whereas the laws of the other nations would have remnants of this moral law corrupted with heathen bias, idolatry, and the overall dark vision of people separated from God by wicked works and especially idolatry.
We know that this nation of Abraham’s seed that God chose to work through was the nation of Israel. And we know that though they by and large also failed as a people to demonstrate God’s ways to the world, they nevertheless upheld righteousness in a better, more pure way than the other nations and God’s worship was established there enough that God’s goals regarding the righteousness and worship which the Messiah would be identified with were still met. And that is because as the corrupts as the Israelites became, who by the Messiah’s time were basically equated with Jews (Jew= tribe of Judah; Judah became foremost tribe among Israel in dominance and in population), the righteous principles of morality and worship were still proclaimed and upheld in word among them, even though the people, and especially their leadership, did not even strive to live up to the principles which the Scriptures they claimed to believe and spoke highly of prescribed (remember Jesus quoting Isaiah on how this people draws near to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me- they watered down God’s principles when it came to the real life application of them so that they were instead following the commandments of men, even though they would quote and profess to believe the commandments of God- you just have to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 to 7 to see how this was so illustrated- look at what Jesus taught the commandments of God implied in contrast to the shallow applications of them taught by Israel’s leadership).
So along with the eternal moral law which God sought to incorporate into Israel, He incorporated ceremonies into His worship and prescribed certain forms of outward behavior which were not moral issues. They were only righteous and holy things because God had appointed them as such for the time being. Some things in the Law which God gave by Moses obviously fit into this category, a few are maybe not so obvious. We will see how the Jewish Sabbath is indeed in this category, though many claim otherwise. A moral law is inherently right and holy; a ceremonial law is only right and holy by appointment. It’s not inherently right and holy to keep a certain day or a feast; but when the Living God, the ultimate authority, tells you to do it, then you’d better do it! He obviously has a reason, even if you don’t know it or can’t even guess what that reason might be. In Israel’s case, He obviously wanted to teach them spiritual lessons, especially about man’s need of redemption, the Messiah’s mission of redemption, and the principles by which that mission must be actualized in our lives. One example of such a spiritual lesson would be how God designed the Temple. The entrance was on the east, so as you approached the place of worship you’d enter with your back to the sun which was a subtle rebuke to how man in his idolatry would often worship the sun. God was disassociating how He was to be drawn near from the idolatrous worship of the nations. So right up until, and including the time of the Messiah, being a faithful Jew meant faithfully keeping both the moral and ceremonial laws of God. Nevertheless many, really most Jews were Jews only outwardly. They kept the ceremonial laws to some degree of faithfulness, but they were not submitted to God in their hearts. So they kept an outward form of God’s worship while they were alienated from Him in their hearts. This might have been reflected at times through their failure to keep His ceremonial laws, but this was especially reflected by their refusal to walk in the right ways of his moral law without self-imposed conditions and limitations. They were in most cases content to look faithful outwardly while still pursuing the lusts of the world in secret and in ways that they were able to while still getting respect and esteem from their society as being faithful Jews- something that obviously would have become easier and easier the more the society as a whole declined from walking in God’s ways. One example would be how that by Jesus’ time it was common and normal for a man to put away his wife and marry another (usually younger, more outwardly attractive wife) for reasons that were far from the standard of moral uncleanness which was the only acceptable reason which God’s Law gave for initiating a divorce.
One ceremonial law was in a sense the basis for all of them. This was circumcision. It started in Genesis 17 as a command which God gave to Abraham to keep, not only for himself but also for all the males in his household. There were obviously several key spiritual principles involved in circumcision, but obviously Abraham did not understand all of those at the time God commanded him to perform it. Abraham did it for himself and all the males of his household immediately because God told him to. This reflected the righteous faith and unconditional surrender which Abraham already had towards the true God. Circumcision itself obviously must be an illustration of this faith. Circumcision was later incorporated into the Law of Moses and it served to set the Jews apart as a people. But as the Apostle Paul pointed out later in the New Testament, circumcision means nothing to the man who does not worship God and keep His law from the heart; and to the uncircumcised gentile who does this (like Abraham did well before he was circumcised), his uncircumcision doesn’t prevent him from being circumcised in God’s eyes.
Remember as we continue how circumcision is in many aspects the chief ceremonial law. The Jews as a people and the Apostles (who were also Jews by the way) came to use the term circumcision in one context to describe all of the ceremonies of the Law of Moses, the entire package of them. Here is one example:
1 Cor 7:18-19: “Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.”
And in another context, the terms Jew and circumcision came to both be words used for an overall faithful worshipper of God.
I’ll show you an example of that here from Romans ch 2 where two different contexts of Jew and circumcision are brought together to make a critical point which is also very relevant to our topic. Usually, and definitely in the Bible, context can determine the definition of a word.
Romans 2:17-29: “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; 19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. 21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? 22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? 23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? 24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. 25 For circumcision (ceremonial law) verily profiteth, if thou keep the (moral) law: but if thou be a breaker of the (moral) law, thy circumcision (ceremonial law keeping) is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision (one without ceremonial law) keep the righteousness of the (moral) law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision (ceremonial law adherence) dost transgress the law (no faithful moral law adherence- just remember the context and read the proceeding verses like we did))? 28 For he is not a Jew (a faithful worshipper before God who is in His grace), which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh (it is not a sure mark of faithful worship of God): 29 But he is a Jew (faithful worshipper of God), which is one inwardly; and (true, ultimate) circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Another thing to point out in relation to these things is the priority of moral law over ceremonial law. Adherence to ceremonial law is useless, and potentially much worse than useless, when one refuses to walk in the moral law of God. Nevertheless carnal man often prioritizes ceremonial law over moral law, often giving greater weight to ceremonial law because of how doing this can make him feel spiritual even though he has not really reckoned himself dead to sin through Christ and crucified his fleshly lusts.
Amos 5:21-24: “21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
Isaiah 1:1-23: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. 5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. 7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9 Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 21 How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22 Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 23 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.”
While few or none will come right out and say it, many prove by their actions that they hope to actually use ceremonial law adherence as a substitute or a replacement for actually loving God and walking faithfully in His moral law, especially in the weightiest areas of it which matter most and which are most threatening to his natural interests. Keep this in mind as we talk about Judaizing and when you think about the general course of false religion and the sense in which the Bible condemns salvation by works- because this is all related. The Jews abused the ceremonial law which was actually from God this way when they were in fact able and expected to nevertheless keep it. Why would a person then be drawn to Judaism when they were not under it or drawn to anything ceremonial which God did not even command them to keep? Things might appear holy and reverent and the appearance of this might draw people, but something is wrong when and if they should be given better information about what proper worship is before God- and something is obviously and especially wrong when they are not zealous to understand and walk in the light of God’s moral law and anything that is obviously instructed to them from God’s Word. Since the Jews so often abused and used out of place the ceremonial law which God actually gave to them to follow, how much more is ceremony a danger when the ceremony isn’t derived from the Bible and might even be Pagan in its origin? And wouldn’t reverting to Jewish ceremonies when they weren’t binding upon you also be a tremendous spiritual danger? And wouldn’t even Christian ceremonies (since there is basically a ceremonial law of ordinances in Christianity, though much simpler and less detailed than the Jewish ceremonies) be possible to abuse by resting in them while not having the heart to walk in Christian principles (which are basically the eternal principles of God’s moral law and the plan of redemption which the Jewish ceremonies foreshadowed)? Most definitely!
Do not people come to sing and pray at church on Sunday who are taking pleasure in wickedness on television during the week? And do not people do the same who are totally honest in all their dealings and really follow money, pleasure, happiness, etc as idols in practicality? Of course. They don’t have a heart to do everything which God commands and yet like Cain, they are drawn to some form of outward worship and sacrifice. And yet as we’ve seen, God values and prioritizes moral law over ceremonial law.
Proverbs 21:3: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”Proverbs 21:7: “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.”
1 Samuel 15:22-23: “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
Luke 10:25-37: The Priest and the Levite may very well have excused themselves from not helping the wounded man due to their ceremonial law adherence- and they may have even been going to perform ceremonial law related duties as they passed him by. But obviously they should have foregone such duties to help the wounded man because their moral duty in this case was greater. And by the way, Jesus’ definition of keeping the Sabbath which got Him into trouble with the Jewish leaders was contrary to theirs because He valued the moral law of God over the ceremonial law of Sabbath keeping. Jesus knew that it was lawful to do well on the Sabbath Day. This was a fact that they did not recognize since their hearts were far from God.
Micah 6:6-8: “Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
And it is certain that walking humbly with God does include obeying His ceremonial requirements. Sometimes man’s pride and self-will can be manifested by refusing to do these. We shouldn’t fall into the ditch of neglecting to do what we are commanded in this area. This also includes though accepting His verdict when there is a change in His ceremonial requirements (and such a change is logical and possible since you remember it was talked about earlier how ceremonial laws are not eternal moral principles but rather things that are only right and holy by God’s appointment). We will, Lord willing, see in part 2 of this study how God did indeed change the Jewish ceremonies after Christ came; and how the ceremonies binding upon Christians now are possible to fulfill; whereas the Jewish ceremonies are not possible to fulfill anymore, which in many ways actually makes any attempt to perform them irreverent and something closer to the strange fire which Nadab and Abihu offered than to acceptable worship before Him. We will also, Lord willing, look at the careful way which God went about to make this transition. It is important to understand how this happened lest we be swept up into other errors even as we rightly reject Judaizing. And hopefully somewhere in there will be an analysis of the Jewish Sabath proving that this was a matter of ceremonial, not moral law, as this is one of the most hotly contested issues related to the Judaizers.
For any questions or clarification on this study, contact bro Aaron at [email protected]