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Against the Modern Judaizers

- GAB NEWS - Shane Schaetzel - DEC 21, 2021 -

Is the celebration of Christmas pagan? What about the celebration of Easter, is it pagan too? Certainly, the celebration of Halloween must be pagan, right? How about worshiping God on Sundays? Surely that is pagan, no? Is it all some big conspiracy? Are the historical churches of Christendom secretly trying to simulate ancient Pagan worship, while fooling us all into believing this honors Jesus Christ? These are the sorts of questions that permeate our modern culture, and what they amount to, collectively, is an outright and direct assault on Christianity.

The objective behind these attacks is to undermine our Christian culture, fracture it, balkanize it, and then replace it with something more distinctively “Jewish” in appearance. While I could go into the errors behind every specific attack on each individual subject, as I have in the past, I think there is a much bigger or, overarching, problem in play here. What all of these individual attacks really amount to is Judaizing. I submit to you that the modern Church, much like the early Church, has a significant problem with Judaizing. And we are seeing it play out here with each and every attack that is made against traditional Christianity and traditional Christian culture.

The Biblical definition of a “Judaizer” is a Christian who attempts to bind other Christians to the Old Testament Mosaic Law. It is probably the oldest Christian heresy. We first learn about the Judaizers in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15, which records how certain Jewish Christians (meaning Jews who had converted to Christianity) were telling non-Jewish, or Gentile, Christians that they needed to be circumcised in order to remain as Christians.

Circumcision is the initiation ritual into the Old Covenant Law of Moses. A man cannot be a practitioner of ancient Jewish religion, or modern Judaism unless he is first circumcised, and it is the first of many steps along this path. It doesn’t end with circumcision. It never does. Circumcision is just the first step. What follows is keeping kosher, worshiping on the Sabbath day (Saturday), and observing the Mosaic feasts (Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths) as well as the Maccabean feast of Hanukkah. In other words, circumcision is an initiation ceremony into a whole way of life, a Jewish way of life.

As one can imagine, this caused quite a stir in the early Church, which led to the Church’s first ecumenical council, known as the Council of Jerusalem, again recorded in Acts 15. I encourage you to read the account for yourself, in whatever Bible translation you prefer. I’ll just outline the highlights here.

In the fifteenth chapter of Acts, verses 1 through 5, we learn about this dispute in the early Church. The Judaizers made their case that Gentile Christians could not be saved unless they first became practitioners of the old Mosaic Law. This would be initiated by circumcision. When Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem, to discuss this with the elders of the early Church, they were immediately confronted by the Judaizers among the Christians in Jerusalem, who said very boldly, “unless the Gentile-converts to Christianity are circumcised, they cannot be saved.” Acts 15:5 specifically says that these Christians were ethnic Jews who still belonged to the Party of the Pharisees.

Acts 15:6-21 recounts the proceedings of the Council of Jerusalem in detail. The Apostle Peter specifically recalled that he had preached to the Gentiles himself, and placed no such burden on them. Those familiar with the Acts of the Apostles will recount Peter’s dealings with the Gentiles in chapter 10, wherein he received a vision of many unclean animals, and God’s voice telling him to “rise up, kill and eat.” Peter himself gives his interpretation of this vision in his following actions. The unclean animals represent the Gentiles, and “eating” is not a command for Peter to break his Kosher dietary habits, but rather to begin associating with Gentiles bringing them into the Church as fellow Christians, without putting the requirements of the Mosaic Law upon them.

Acts 15:22-35 recounts the Council’s final decision to allow Gentiles to come into the Church, as Gentiles, without requiring that they keep the Law of Moses. A letter was sent to Gentile Christians with the following instructions: (1) the Judaizers do not have any authority from the Church in Jerusalem, you may ignore them, (2) listen to Paul and Barnabas instead, (3) abstain from participating in idolatry, (4) don’t drink animal blood, (5) don’t eat bloody (strangulated) meat, and (6) don’t engage in sexual immorality. That was it. The Council of Jerusalem put no further obligations on the non-Jewish (Gentile) Christians. We see Paul deal with the Judaizing heresy again, multiple times, throughout his epistles in the New Testament.


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