Am I a Pharisaical Legalist?

shadow of a PhariseeThe other day I responded to a post someone placed on Facebook. It claimed that the Hebrew Roots Movement was legalism and modern day Pharisees. Now I have a lot of disagreements with the Hebrew Roots Movement, but following Torah is not one of them.

After my response, I was told, “You are not Jewish by birth you are a gentile. Converting into keeping rules or torah laws is legalism at his finest. Read Galatians. There are only two commandments to keep. Love thy Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strengthen! And love your neighbor!” He then went on to say that I should do the research, and pointed me to Wikipedia and other websites. Yikes! Do I really want to get my knowledge of God from the internet?

But I didn’t say that to him, because I was hoping he would hear my heart. Here’s my response. I would love to know what you think.

My Response

I agree that there are dangers within the Hebrew Roots Movement. I have joined Messianic Judaism. The two commandments are the summary of the whole Torah.

Yes I am a Gentile, and I have done the research. And I’d like you to consider some of what I found, most of it in the Word of God.

1. In learning about Torah from a Hebraic perspective, I discovered that the Torah was not given as a means of salvation. When we look at the story of the Exodus, we see this is true. First God saved the Israelites by His grace and then He gave them the Torah.

A better translation of the Hebrew word Torah is ‘teaching’ rather than ‘law’, though it does include a legal system. In the Torah, God teaches us about His character and shows an abundance of love and mercy. He then expects His children to do the same. The Torah spells out exactly what that looks like.

2. As we know, Jesus is the living Word. He is the Word made flesh. So when we look at Jesus, we see the Torah lived out in perfection.

Passages that don’t make sense

As a child, I read the bible. Several passages bothered me because they didn’t seem to make sense.

A. The first was Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Several questions come to mind:
a. Jesus said that He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but fulfill it, and yet by fulfilling it He destroyed it?
b. Jesus said that until Heaven and earth pass away, nothing will change in the Law. But we, as His followers don’t have to follow it?
c. Jesus did qualify that statement with, “till all is fulfilled”. There are several prophecies about Messiah that have not yet been fulfilled. So how do we qualify that ‘all is fulfilled’? Is this the utopia we are expecting?
d. Jesus said that whoever breaks the least, and teaches others to do so, will be called the least in heaven. Where do we get the idea that we should not follow the Law?

When we say that Jesus came and did away with the Torah, we are agreeing with His enemies who looked for a reason to say He was not the Messiah. They posed many questions and situations before Him, and He passed the test every time. He never broke the Torah, nor taught anyone else to do that, which is proof He is Messiah.

B. The next passage is from Deut 30:11-14 where God tells us that His commandments are not too hard for us to do. “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”

There are other passages, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

Read Galatians

In regards to your encouragement to read Galatians, I have read it many times. I would ask you to read it with two things in mind:

1. Paul declares in Acts 25 that he did nothing against the Torah or the temple. In Acts 28 he says he did nothing against the people or the customs of the fathers. Paul was Torah observant all his life.
2. Peter says in his letter that Paul’s words are hard to understand.

With all that in mind, I understand Paul to be saying that legalistic observance of the Torah does not earn anyone salvation.

What God’s Word says about Gentiles

And finally, I am a Gentile. The Word tells me:
1. that I am grafted into the family of Abraham (Romans 11)
2. in the latter days the Gentiles will go to the mountain of God, to learn to walk in His ways (Isaiah 2)
3. there is one Torah for both Jew and the foreigner sojourning with the Jews (Numbers 15)
4. God will write His Torah on my heart (Jeremiah 31)

So that was my response to this person’s post. What do you think?

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9 Responses to Am I a Pharisaical Legalist?

  1. Vivian Barnes May 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    Rosemarie:

    Your response was totally a Godly response and grounded in the Word of God. I pray that God will pierce his heart with the Truth. Thank you for being used of God to teach us gentiles our Hebrew roots!

    • Ro Pinto May 7, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

      Thank you, Vivian. I join in your prayer for this gentleman.

  2. ditto meaning October 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

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    • Ro Pinto October 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

      Hi Ditto,
      Can you expand upon your thoughts? I’m not sure I understand.

  3. francesca smith October 21, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Thanks for finally writing about >Am I a Pharisaical Legalist?

    | Journey to Messiah <Liked it!

    • Ro Pinto October 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      You’re welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. daniel November 7, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    “When we say that Jesus came and did away with the Torah, we are agreeing with His enemies who looked for a reason to say He was not the Messiah. ”

    Ro, that’s a powerful and insightful statement which should cause many to question “who exactly is the modern day Pharisee: those gentiles who honor, love and embrace their Jewish roots (even though they understand that doing so does not “add to the gospel” or insure salvation), or their hyper grace accusers of the messianic revelation who infer that ‘old’ covenant equates to something bad (from the God of wrath); and ‘new’ covenant is, in contrast, good (from a loving God who somehow morphed into a good buddy)?
    do they not acknowledge that ‘doing away with the law’ leaves one in a state of ‘lawlessness’?
    grace is certainly unmerited, but if not received with a sense of reverence and responsibility, it is no more than an idol which pardons all licentiousness but does not require transformation.

    • Ro Pinto November 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      I agree, Daniel. However, we must remember that they have a veil over their eyes, as the Jews once did. Until the Lord lifts the veil for them, as he did for us, they will walk in ignorance.

    • Ro Pinto December 22, 2016 at 8:44 am #

      Thank you for stopping by, Daniel. I was in Israel at the time of this comment, so didn’t see it until now.

      When talking with those who would separate the ‘old’ from the ‘new’, it’s sometimes challenging for them to accept that their thinking is actually the Marcion heresy that says Jesus saved us from the wicked god of the Old Testament.

      I recently returned to a bible study at a church I attended a number of years ago. Their study topic is knowing the will of God. They talked about how good God is, but then one lady asked about how He describes himself as a jealous God.

      For me it’s simple – He is love, mercy, and compassion. Yet He is also just, which makes Him very dependable with no shadow of turning. A bit difficult for some to grasp.

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