The Judaizers Are Not-so-Ancient History

by Ted Kyle

Yes, they were ancient history. But they are also part of our present-day religious scene. And just like their spiritual forebears, today's Judaizers prey upon the Christian community.

In the days of the early church-initially 100 percent Jewish-the Judaizers were quiescent. They fervently believed and taught that anyone coming to Jesus, the Messiah, must first come under the Law of Moses-which all did, at that point.

Remaining under the Law would become a sore point, but it was not until Peter and then Paul-the apostle to the Gentiles-spread the word that Gentiles who were not under the Law were equally acceptable to the Lord that battle lines hardened.

And as Paul's virtually single-handed defense of Christian liberty continued, it reached a climax in Galatians 5: To Jews as well as Gentiles he wrote: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect [no benefit] unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law; ye are fallen from grace" (vv. 1-4). This was dynamite stuff which threatened to tear the infant church apart, until the memorable meeting in Jerusalem in which Peter-or rather, the Holy Spirit speaking through Peter-prevailed. The arguments and the divisions continued, but the principle battle was won.

That was then. What about now? Today, the church is almost entirely Gentile-based, but the issue of grace versus law-of works versus faith-is still very much a live issue.

I hold in my hand an article in a slick-paper publication which interprets Matthew 5:17: "I came not to destroy the Torah, but to fulfill it" as meaning "I came to fill, to obey, to follow the Law." The article goes on to indicate that Christians today-ALL Christians-should obey the Law: "Christians sayHe broke the Law, so we're free from the Law!' But this isa serious lie. When I talk to Christians, I say no, no, no-read your New Testament and see what He says about the Torah/Law. Does He allow you to break the Law? Never. He never did."* The truth, of course, is that though Jesus followed the Law (though He was never bound by the encumbrances built into later Jewish interpretations of the Law) while He lived, the Law's reign ended when He said, "It is finished"! Here the writer goes astray is in his assumption that "fulfill" means "obey." Paul said "not so"-so the Judaizers condemn our translations of Paul's writings: "If one of the later Epistles says to break the Law, it cannot be a correct translation, as no one has the authority to contradict Yeshua or the Torah."

The church threshed all this out many, many centuries ago, and concluded that when Jesus said He was fulfilling the Law, He meant He was finishing it, winding it up. The Law, for Christians, is a "ministration of death and condemnation" (2 Cor. 3:7); it obligates those under it to keep every jot and title of the Law (Gal. 5:3)-but this is impossible because even our thoughts condemn us (Matt. 5:28, cf. John 7:19); the "first" [the Law] is taken away "that he may establish the second (the law of grace, the law of love] (Heb. 10:9); "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Rom. 10:4); the Law was a schoolmaster meant to bring men to Christ (Gal. 3:24), but "after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster" (Gal. 3:25); etc., etc. It seems that all of the ancient attacks on true Christian doctrines are reviving as we approach the Last Days. Here is another for which you need to have a ready answer.

*From "Did Yeshua Break the Torah" in Jewish Voice Today, Nov./Dec. 2006, p. 20

Ted Kyle is managing editor of Pulpit Helps.

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