In Part I of this article, we looked at what the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) is and its basic beliefs. In this second installment, we will look at the numbers. How many are followers of the HRM? How many Messianic congregations are there? We will also examine how the teachings of the HRM contradict the clear teaching of the New Testament.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
As of 2010, there were about 700,000 followers in the Hebrew Roots Movement. This includes all the subgroups in the HRM, such Messianic Judaism and the Sacred Name Movement. There are approximately 650 Messianic/Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism congregations in the US. Just 20 years ago (1994), there were about 300 HR congregations with about 150,000 followers. There are also many home churches that follow the HRM doctrine. Needless to say, this movement has been growing rapidly.
In Canada, as of 2013, there are 24 Messianic congregations and about 20,000 followers. This number includes those meeting in private homes as well. This teaching is also growing in Europe, South Africa, and in Asia as well. There are many HRM assemblies being built in these areas also. The HRM also has a growing presence on Facebook and the internet. When Facebook started in January 2004, there were only 10 Hebrew Roots Movement Facebook pages/groups. There are currently over 200 today. It is through Facebook or websites that most new adherents are being drawn into this false teaching.
MESSIAH’S DEATH AT CALVARY BRINGS A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE
There was a fundamental change after Acts 15 with the ruling of the Jerusalem Council. This ruling permitted fellowship among believing Jews and Gentiles without the Gentiles being expected to follow the Torah. This was a revelation from God to the Apostles as to whether the Gentile believers were to put themselves under the Mosaic Law:
“It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” Acts 15:25-29
With the death and resurrection of Messiah, there is a fundamental change of relationship between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Since the New Testament teaches specifically on the relationship of Jew and Gentile in the new reality of the body of Christ, we cannot simply transfer the practices of pre-Christ times into the New Testament period.
In fact, this is backed up by Ephesians 2:14, where this change of relationship between Jew and Gentile is made very clear.
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both (Jew & Gentile) one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation”
And to be clear, many of the laws are impossible to keep today – such as laws for owning slaves or making sacrifices, laws for the Levites and priests, laws for making war, and ones that only apply to a Theocratic state, etc. Israel today is a secular democratic nation, not a theocracy. Because of these facts, one would be deceiving himself if he thinks he is truly being “Torah observant” according to the standards of YHWH. This is still true even if he is not doing it to earn salvation. Indeed, the whole point of the Torah was to show how unworthy we are, how short we fall of God’s perfect standards. Ultimately, the purpose is to bring us to faith in Messiah.
“Therefore the law (Torah) was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” Galatians 3:24-25
Once we start compelling believers to follow the Torah as God’s perfect plan, we head off into serious error.
THE FIVE MOST GRIEVOUS ERRORS OF THE HEBREW ROOTS MOVEMENT
1. We rebuild the middle wall of separation that Jesus Christ tore down by His sacrificial death at Calvary (Eph. 2:14-15), and it creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality that fractures the body of Christ.
2. It erroneously teaches that all believers “become Jewish”, and therefore are obligated to live like Jews, which is contrary to the clear teachings of Paul. It is also a form of replacement theology, and it gives Gentiles an identity that does not belong to them by telling them they are now Jews. Many in the HRM say this helps our outreach to non-believing Jews. This actually has the opposite effect! It damages our witnessing for the gospel among real Jewish folk, as they see the HRM as imposters trying to pretend to be something they are not.
“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Galatians 2:14,”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3:28.
3. It implies that Christianity teaches that is ok to live any way we want once we are saved. While Christendom may teach this, this is not something that true Christianity teaches as stated in Romans 6:1-2.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”
4. It places the power of the Torah above that of the Holy Spirit.
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” Galatians 5:18
5. It teaches spiritual polygamy by saying you are married to the law and Messiah, in direct contradiction to Romans 7:4-6
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”