Who are Judaizers today?
Here we are in 21st Century America and there are a growing number of us who are returning to the faith practiced and taught by Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. We are sometimes referred to as Judaizers! Those of us with this new understanding are not advocating a conversion to Judaism. Nor are we willing to remain in the Constantinian religious system of Christianity. We are being persecuted for having the testimony of Yeshua and keeping his Torah. He told us to expect it! There is nothing new under the sun.
What is a Judaizer? Do we find it in the Bible? It is inferred from the New Testament but only translated as ‘Judaizer’ in Young’s Literal Translation version. It is found in the second chapter of Galatians under the phrase “live as do the Jews.” It is used to call someone a ‘legalist’ for following the Torah, or a God-hater because Torah observance is construed to be a rejection of the Messiah. Many use this disparaging term to dismiss those of us who are Torah-observant believers in Yeshua the Messiah. Today, believers in the Messiah want to take an either/or approach to the Torah and Grace, but is that accurate?
Is Torah Incompatible with Grace?
Galatians seems to be the go-to book for all that wish to abolish the Torah. Is Torah incompatible with Grace? Or are they two sides of the same coin? The Law (Torah) was never designed to be our salvation. Remember, the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh by His mighty hand before He gave them the written law! Salvation is ONLY of Messiah. He is our salvation. He grants it, He provides it, He shows us a Way to find it, He demonstrates how a ‘saved’ person walks. As he said, “No one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) It is all about Him, our judge.
That being the case, what is Paul saying in the second chapter of Galatians? First we need to understand the context. Two of the apostles (Peter and Barnabas) were modifying their behavior when other Jews from Jerusalem showed up. They stopped associating with the Gentile converts and began to worry about what other ‘men’ would say about them! They became hypocrites! They were worried about the opinion of other Jews, and the Takanot (laws added to the Torah by man). They were allowing themselves to fall back into old habits and traditions.
Where was their faith? Were they being brought back into thinking there was a rubric they needed to follow for men to be brought into the faith? This is the spirit of legalism; allowing the law and traditions to come between the believers and Faith in Messiah! Peter and Barnabas were being influenced by the ones who placed the cart (Torah) before the horse (faith in Yeshua)!
Paul was trying to get them back on track. He was telling them that we no longer had to rely on the promise of a coming Messiah, but had the proof that those promises were coming to fruition in Yeshua the Messiah! He had released them from the curse of the law (the death penalty owed for transgressions/sin) and had, at the same time, removed the bill of divorcement that prevented the Gentiles (Lost Sheep of Israel) from reconciling with the Father!
Obviously, this was a huge paradigm shift for the Jews in the first century. All they had ever known was how to walk according to Torah. Adherence to Torah, and the sacrificial system conducted by the priests to atone for transgressing the law, was their understanding of the path to salvation. In essence, they looked to the religious leaders (Pharisees, priests and scribes) to tell them how to be ‘legal.’ It required a change of heart to recognize Yeshua as the long-awaited Messiah. He had taken their punishment for transgressing the law (sin), opened the way for the Gentiles to be brought into the fold, and given them all freedom from the fear of death!
Free from the Curse of Sin (Death)
Let that sink in a little. No more fear of death for transgressing the law of YHVH. How are we to understand this?
Is it saying that he abolished the Law, or abolished the fear of transgressing the law? If the Law is abolished we no longer have a way to recognize sin. Do we still have sin in the world? How do we know what sin is?
According to 1Jn 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
This is where the heart of the matter is found! Yeshua said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) So, if it is love to keep His commandments, why does Paul sound like keeping the law will frustrate the grace of God?
Paul was trying to say that the man-made doctrines (traditions/oral law) and the condemnation meted out by those who looked first to these doctrines, was frustrating to God. He wants us not to let anything (especially the commandments of men) get between Him and His people. Yeshua made men free from other men, not free from the Law of Love.
Psa 119:142 Your righteousness is righteousness forever, And Your Torah is truth.
Psa 119:160 The sum of Your word is truth, And all Your righteous right-rulings are forever.
Can YHVH change His mind?
There seems to be a fundamental factor that is misunderstood when we discuss Paul and Galatia. Can the Law of YHVH ever be in error? Can He change his mind?
I read one man’s opinion on this topic, and he equates it to playing a game of chess. This is how he puts it:
“First things first, people who have adopted the Judaizing theology will always jump on the verses that say “God doesn’t change”, and I agree, God does not change, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, that says nothing about His particular rules not changing. If I were playing you in chess, and you were losing at it terribly, so I decided to change the rules a little and allow you to move twice per turn, I have not changed, you’re still sitting across from the same man with the same personality, only the way the game is played has changed, I’m the same.” [Judaizers]
Let’s stipulate that the ‘rules’ are Torah.
My questions are these: If we agreed to the rules of the game from the beginning, and then our ‘opponent’ decided to change the rules so we could have an advantage, how many of us would be happy with that? Who is to say that the ‘rule changer’ couldn’t a little later decide to make it more difficult for you to play? If the rules are a moving target, then you are totally at the whim of the ‘rule changer’ and you have no reason to invest in the game at all. After all, he has shown himself to be capricious and a rule-breaker. The outcome is totally in his hands and, furthermore, you would have no reason to trust him. Perhaps he is the ‘same man, and same personality’ as when you began the game of chess, but now his judgment and consistency are in question. Now it raises the question of who is this guy? Is he being generous? Condescending? Calculating? Is he luring you into a false sense of security just to impose a different set of rules later? Is he fair? Is he constant? If he wants me to win anyhow, why are we playing this game?
Torah is Covenant
What the author of the chess allusion fails to recognize is that the Torah is a covenant. Just as I would be unhappy with someone changing the rules in the middle of a game (even if it was out of pity at my inability to perform it perfectly) I certainly would not be happy with a covenant partner that changed the legal document we both agreed to observe! If he can change the terms of the contract (which are a matter of life and death!) then he no longer has any credibility or obligation to follow through with his promises! We should all just eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. That promise of eternal life has no assurance if the rules are not absolute!
The Law is Eternal
If the Law spoken to Moses by the mouth of the Almighty is eternal, as He is eternal, then what is the big deal in Galatia? Who is causing the issue? It is the same problem Paul contends with all the time. Those who thought salvation was only for the Jews who followed the Torah (and all the man-made doctrines associated with it) were at odds with the apostles who recognized that Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah, His blood covers intentional sin, and now Gentiles could have access to His Word too! These are fulfillments of promises made, not a removal of the conditions (Torah/Prophets/Writings) that made those promises possible!
All of the promises made in the Old Testament, all of the prophesies regarding the Messiah, and all of the appointed times established from the beginning of the world have been or will be achieved by Yeshua, either at his first or at his second coming. By the scriptures, every point was foretold and explained. Who were all these promises made to? Abraham? The Israelites? Hebrews? Jews?
Most Christians ignore the identity of who received the promises and begin with the New Testament. But, when did the Jews that walked with Yeshua become ‘Christians?’ Those who wanted to disparage the folks that knew and walked with Yeshua of Nazareth would have called them Christians or Judaizers! But, according to Wikipedia the original apostles were called Nazarenes.
What’s a Nazarene?
“In the 4th century, Jerome also refers to Nazarenes as those “…who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law.” In his Epistle 79, to Augustine
By the time we get to Constantine’s adoption of ‘Christianity’ as a state religion, all of the original tenants (observation of Sabbath and Torah) were subject to persecution. All of the original tenants of the faith of the Nazarenes were outlawed and made punishable by death. Presumably, Yeshua would have been subject to these punishable offenses as well!
There were still believers in Yeshua who followed the pattern he himself established! They observed the Torah. They kept the Feasts and Sabbaths and dietary laws. They were described as ‘Jews who have converted to Christianity.’ Wikipedia goes on to document how these Nazarenes were persecuted.
Persecution of Nazarenes
“This behavior (not ceasing to follow the Law of Moses) was particularly persecuted between 1300 and 1800 under the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, using as a basis the many references in the Pauline epistles regarding the “Law as a curse” and the futility of relying on the Law for attaining salvation, known as legalism. Thus, in spite of Paul’s agreement at the Council of Jerusalem, Gentile Christianity came to understand that any Torah Laws (with the exception of the Ten Commandments and Natural Law) were anathema, not only to Gentile Christians but even to Christians of Jewish extraction. Under the Inquisition, the penalty to a converted Jew for “Judaizing” was usually death by burning.” Wikipedia
So, those who practiced the faith first given to the apostles were subjected to death by burning, inquisitions, torture and/or forced conversions to Christianity. These ‘Judaizers’ were merely walking in the Way that Yeshua walked and taught. They were standing for the Word of YHVH and the testimony of Yeshua. These ‘Judaizers’ rejected the syncretism of Constantine’s Christianity, and paid a martyrs death for it.
Were the Nazarenes warned?
Yeshua (Jesus) spoke to the Nazarenes, his companions.
Mat 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Mat 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
After Yeshua (Jesus) expounds on what things will happen in the end days, he concludes:
Mat 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
Mat 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
Mat 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
Mat 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Mat 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Was he warning them of the events in the fourth century (and others), or are all persecutions a foreshadow of things to come? This scenario is repeated in the prophetic book of Revelation.
Rev 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
What are the characteristics of this woman with which the dragon was wroth? Are they the same as those martyred by Constantine, the Inquisition etc.?
She is a remnant that keeps the commandments and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Not two women. Just one: the bride. The true ‘church’ that holds the same faith as that once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Who is the One New Man?
How are we to become ‘one new man’ as described in Ephesians, or have the two sticks become one as described in Ezekiel 37, if those who practice the faith once delivered to the saints are persecuted and called ‘Judaizers?’
Yeshua had something to say to the church of Laodicea. He said:
Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
Rev 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Now look at the legacy from the assembly at Laodicea. According to the Council of Laodicea, Canon 29, AD 360, “Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day…But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”
By the 4th Century, all those who wished to be Nazarenes and keep the commandments of Moses and the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah were being forced to change to the ‘Christianity’ codified by Constantine. The Sabbath that Yeshua and all of the first century believers observed was used as a cudgel to remove the heart (Torah) of the faith once delivered to the Saints. Is it just a coincidence that the 4th commandment was declared illegal in the 4th Century?
Who Killed Yeshua (Jesus)?
It has to be said that the term ‘Judaizer’ is tied up with anti-Semitism as well. Torah-observance was declared punishable by death in 4th Century Constantinople, and used as an excuse to persecute and kill Jews under the Inquisition and Nazi Germany. Jews (the most visible remnant of the faith practiced by the Messiah) are blamed for killing the Messiah. There is even a new book that seeks to say that he was killed for taxes! But did the Jews kill him?
Matt 20:19 Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day.”
Matt 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
So, did the Gentiles kill him, or was it the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law who were responsible?
Isn’t it elevating man to hold ourselves ‘responsible’ for the crucifixion? Can we affix blame on any particular group of people? In truth, we are all equally guilty for his death, and all equally forgiven for our actions. Who took the life of Yeshua?
John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
There are other verses that make it clear that this was no ‘accidental’ crucifixion. The bottom line is that He gave His life of His own accord. It was given to fulfill prophesy and to accomplish the perfect will of the Father.
But, even if you wish to jump on the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ bandwagon, the guilt has been declared moot by the shed blood of the Messiah who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
To continue to place blame on any set of people for the death of Yeshua is absurd. It was a willing sacrifice foretold since the foundation of the world. No man could cause it, and no man could stop it. How dare anyone construe that the Jews have been abandoned by the Father and replaced by a different body of believers by calling anyone who is returning to Torah a ‘Judaizer?’
Want more information? If so, I recommend reading this article.