A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Remind of the Dangers of the 'Hebrew Roots Movement'?

... Can you do an article addressing specifically this movement [Hebrew Roots]. A lot of those people, not all, compromise the Trinity. Another group of them deny the validity of Paul's epistles. And there are many that say that you have to use the original Hebrew name of Jesus and God in order to be truly saved.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Yes, I am aware of the dreadful legalism of large areas of the 'Hebrew Roots movement.' As my questioner quite correctly states, some of these people deny the validity of the epistles of Paul, a lot deny the Trinity and many of them want to re-instate old covenant practices which Jesus, and the New Covenant, clearly overturned. In short, it is salvation by works, it teaches that we must do certain things, only then God will save us. It is very close to the errors of the older Armstrongism but in many cases goes even further.

The New Testament itself gives us an example of a very similar thing - the error of 'Galatianism' (as it is now often called). Paul, of course, had established the congregation at Galatia but the moment his back was turned (he obviously could not be there all the time), false teachers went in, not sparing the flock. We can know quite a lot about what these people were teaching by carefully reading Galatians and noting Paul's reaction to them. In short, these people (who might well have been extremists originating from the Jerusalem congregation), insisted that new Gentile Christians should be taught to keep the whole law before they could approach Christ; they wanted circumcision to be upheld and they unquestionably wanted other old covenant practices to be upheld. Almost certainly they would have been keen on strict seventh-day Sabbath observance and much else too. Paul told them in no uncertain terms that they were wrong, even more, he told them that they had effectively declared themselves anathema from Christ; this was a mighty serious matter. In making these comments He effectively disfellowshiped them! The legalists had no understanding of the full magnitude and significance of Christ's work upon the cross, they thought it was just something to merely add to other observances. They just did not 'get' how huge the New Covenant was. In responding to these legalists, we see Paul the Apostle at his most angry!

What does Paul say to them?

6. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - 7. which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! 9. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God's curse! (Galatians 1:6-9).

Strong words indeed! Let's see what else Paul tells the people at Galatia,

15. "We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16. know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17."But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18. If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. 19. "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Galatians 2:15-21).

Then, in Galatians 3 we have the following:

10. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11. Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith." 12. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, "The person who does these things will live by them." 13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole." 14. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 15. Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. 17. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

We continue,

19. Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Please read verse 25 again and ensure that it is understood! There it is, all carefully laid out and explained by Paul the Apostle! Now Christ has come, we are no longer under the "guardian" of the law - could it be much plainer? Rather than looking back to the old covenant, Christians should now look back much further - to the promises made with Abraham; our inheritance is according to the promises made to Abraham! Paul completes this chapter with this:

29. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Back in Genesis we see the promises made to Abraham, then to his descendants, get bigger and bigger eventually expanding to all Heaven and earth; this is the promise of Eternal Life through the 'true seed,' Christ. We really do inherit "all things " - it is not just a play on words!

Okay, I have quoted a bit of Galatians, I strongly urge all those with questions in this area to read the entire epistle, much more useful information on this topic is added in Chapter 4 of that epistle, for example.

Elswhere, of course, Paul also offers the analogy of a woman's first husband dying; in similar manner, Christians should now see themselves as no longer under their 'first husband' of the law since it/he died - Christ's death and sacrifice brought that about. Let's look:

1. Do you not know, brothers and sisters - for I am speaking to those who know the law - that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2. For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. 4. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6).

Speaking of those under the old covenant, Paul writes this:

14. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:14-18).

See also: The Promises of Abraham


All of this shows that Christians must resolutely reject the legalism which is found abundantly within the Jewish Roots movement. I do know that many people are drawn into it innocently and gradually, thinking it interesting and fascinating, but it is ultimately dangerous because it takes our eyes off Christ, making us feel we need to revive ancient Hebrew practices and customs in order to worship better - we don't - don't get ensnared!

Robin A. Brace. March 12th, 2016.