Answering Hebrew Roots Book 1: Laying Out the Biblical Christian Ethic

This entry is part 1 of 10 in the series Answering Hebrew Roots

Answering Hebrew Roots Book 1: The Christian Ethic – Part 1: Laying Out the Christian Ethic

What does God expect of us? What does it mean to obey God or keep His Commandments? Believers in Jesus fall into multiple camps on this question. Many Christians say things like, “We should keep the ten commandments, but the rest of the law was done away with by Jesus.” Others say the entire law is obsolete because of Christ. Still others say that only that which is ceremonial is finished, but that nations should order themselves by the judicial laws. Those in the Hebrew Roots movement say we are still to keep all the law of Moses, so far as we are able.

In this first article, I’ll just lay out there what it is I believe the Scripture teaches on this issue. I will be spending the first book of this series establishing and defending these things from Scripture.

  • Right and wrong are defined by two things: Primarily God’s nature and attributes, and secondarily God’s commands.
  • God’s commands may reflect either His nature or His choice related to His plan.
  • There is a law on the hearts of all men in the form of conscience that initially reflected His nature, and since the fall of Adam, still reflects that nature, though imperfectly.
  • From creation, God’s Law has been in effect as it pertains behavior that reflects His nature
  • At certain times, God gives new Laws or new permissions for various reasons.
  • The Law of Moses was given as a comprehensive set of Laws specific to the physical nation of Israel. It outlines morality,which was in effect prior to Moses, regulations for worship in Israel, and policies for authorities to enforce justice in the land.
  • The laws that are specific to enduring morality were in effect before Moses in Genesis.
  • The laws that are specific to worship of God are described as having the purpose of making Israel unique among its neighbors.
  • The laws that are specific to the enforcement of law by authority were in effect for Israel.
  • Because of these different functions of law, the distinctions referred to as moral, ceremonial, and civil laws are indeed biblical and real, though not given these titles specifically.
  • In Israel before Christ, breaking any law was punishable, regardless of type of law.
  • All of the laws, to varying degrees, are worth meditating on today, because they contain wisdom beyond the requirement to follow them. Some reflect enduring morality, and thus sin for breaking them.Others prove to be good for us, even if it is no longer a sin to act contrary to them. Still others reflect justice, and a nation is more just the more it conforms to the Law of Moses.
  • Since sin is breaking of a Law that predates the law of Moses, the mere existence of a law in the law of Moses does make breaking it a sin.
  • Jesus, by His obedience to the law and sacrifice for sin, brought about the intended completion, in their original sense, of those laws related to Israel that either related to worship or to set the nation of Israel apart.
  • However, the laws that are complete in their original sense are complete because they were physical representations of spiritual realities that continue on. For one example, the weekly, physical rest of the Sabbath was a physical representation of the final, perfect spiritual rest found by faith in Jesus.
  • The final reason why the Law of Moses is no longer in effect is that the Old Covenant, made by God with Moses at Mt. Sinai,has been replaced by the New Covenant. The New Covenant has its own moral,ceremonial, and civil laws by which to live, but a different basis for membership and a different basis for obedience.
  • Under the New Covenant, membership is by faith and obedience is due to regeneration and indwelling of the Spirit. Under the Old Covenant, membership was by birth or conversion/circumcision, and obedience was on pain of physical punishments, including death.
  • The Law of Christ, the actual moral imperatives binding on Christians today is found in the New Testament. However, the New Testament doesn’t stand in a vacuum. Its commands are sometimes detailed, but when not, it is because we can find more detailed descriptions of that command in the Old Testament. All the details need not be repeated. Only the category needs reaffirmed, and the relevant commands in the Old Testament are revealed to still be binding.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes “Book 1”. I’ve done series before, even rather large ones, but this is going to be something more. The first “Book” will be a series in itself, a biblical case for everything you see above. It will touch on Hebrew Roots arguments about specific passages, but the main thrust will be a positive case for the Christian ethic, what Scripture, all considered, commands us to do today. This list of statements will also serve, roughly speaking as an outline of how we well come to the Scriptures to find how these things are taught.

When this is finished, Book 2 will be focused on answering Hebrew Roots arguments. With the first book as a foundation, it will take much less background argumentation to show the errors in thinking inherent in the idea that all the laws of the Torah are binding on all people in perpetuity.

Some Necessary Disclaimers

Having laid out what I am saying and will demonstrate to be true, allow me to point out some things that people may think I’m saying, that I’m not. First, I am not saying that a person “should not” keep the Torah as much as they desire to. In discussion of morality, it is a common misunderstanding, sometimes innocent and sometimes purposeful, to try to categorize all statements in either the “do” or “don’t” category. All ethical systems, including Scripture’s system, allow for a third category of a-moral or non-moral deeds. It is important to understand that when someone says something is not wrong, that they aren’t thereby saying that it is required. Likewise, if someone denies that something is required, he is not necessarily saying that it is wicked. Sadly, for many spiritually wicked people, pretending this third category doesn’t exist helps them to keep people under their control. So let’snot do that. Scripture often speaks of things that are “lawful”, but not required. I don’t believe that doing something that is found in a part of the Law I consider to be finished is wrong. I just don’t think it’s required.

This goes for Jews and Gentiles alike. God didn’t just give the New Covenant for Gentiles. This is the covenant that is intended for all God’s people everywhere.

Despite how it may feel to some, I’m not on the attack. I’m on the defense. The Hebrew Roots movement is one that has found its way into many churches causing divisions and factions and people to become hard, cold, legalists. It has caused people who once confessed faith in Christ to reject Him and embrace modern Judaism. Search out this subject in any arena, whether online on blogs, social media, videos, podcasts, or even print media by looking at books that have been written. The disparity of available material specifically on this subject is easily 10-1 in favor of the Hebrew Roots movement. They may be smaller in number than the church at large, but when it comes to the questions about whether we should keep the Law of Moses, they are much, much more vocal than those representing the Christian ethic. This series of articles is a defense, after having been attacked. It is not an attack.

That being said, I hope to be as clear as possible about the sheer wrongness of the Hebrew Roots movement, so that, God willing, God’s people can begin to concern themselves with the spread of the Gospel of Christ,not preaching that people should “come to Torah.”

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