It invariably happens as you study the text . . .
You start running across things that conflict with theological suppositions you may believe or subscribe to – Things that you have been taught in the past and have accepted, made a check mark by, and filed away as “truth.”
Why do I say invariably? Isn’t that kind of an arrogant statement to make? It can be unless you consider what a theological supposition is. It is a reference point – a reference point in the rational and systematic study of religion. Dogma is another name for theological supposition. In fact, dogma and theological supposition are synonyms for theological theory because theory has many synonyms along this line: argument, concept, conjecture, dogma, ideology, philosophy, rationale, system or systematization, supposition . . .
You see, you could call theological supposition something else just as easily. Insert one of the above words and you will come up with with a number of synonymous terms such as: theological conjecture, theological theory, theological rationale and theological systematization just to offer a few examples.
Would you like an example? How about “Sola fide (faith alone)?” Some of you right now are saying. “Wait a minute . . .!” You are bristling up – getting defensive – quit bristling. I am not going to go delve into this topic either for or against. I am just going to show you some of the theological suppositions around one the main divides between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.
Alone – yes, this is a supposition. Many in Protestantism subscribe to this. Many consider this THE biblical foundation of their faith. It is based on a theological supposition around a specific verse in the text:
Romans 3:28 (KJV)
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith
without the deeds of the law.
We are not to the supposition part yet – the text is NEVER supposition! The supposition parts are the result of conjecture, ideology, rationale and other synonyms that are APPLIED to the text. I am going to let that sink in for just a minute because some of you may not be following me here.
As I said before, “alone” is a supposition. It is not in the text here. I want to make it clear that I am not arguing that suppositions are necessarily wrong because I am not. Just because something is a rationale or a theory doesn’t make it incorrect. That being said, many times suppositions lead to error either at the onset of the supposition or much later on as the theology develops because it assumes by its very nature that it is correct – It becomes a foundational structure even though it may or may not be in error. Let’s add the supposition part to to the text so that you can see it what I am presenting more clearly:
Romans 3:28 (KJV: “Alone” added)
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith ALONE
without the deeds of the law.
In this supposition, “ALONE” is added to the text as a foundational understanding of this verse. Okay, maybe you are asking yourself, how is this a theological supposition?
- Alone is not in the text here, it is added to the text.
- It supposes or assumes that nothing in the text contradicts it. It assumes by its addition or inclusion that this can be the only understanding of the text here. It is a theory that becomes accepted as biblical fact.
- Maybe the hardest part to reconcile in this supposition (or others for that matter) is that it also supposes that God, in his divine inspiration to man to write the text, needs some extra help in that inspiration – tie up loose ends for God, the biblical writer, or both as it were.
You see, we have another part of the text that seems to contradict this supposition. Without a doubt, Martin Luther believed that it did, and as a result, he considered the following verse, and the entire book of the bible that this verse comes from for that matter, to be a “right strawy epistle.” In other words, fit only to be burned. This is important to understand because Solo fide was one of, and maybe the main rally call, by Luther and the protestant reformation. The verse (and therefore book) of the bible that caused Luther so much discomfort is from Ya’akov (James):
James 2:24 (KJV)
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Luther could not reconcile his supposition of alone with this verse where alone is NOT supposition but actually in the text (only means alone). As a result, another error happened: To support his other supposition, he had to make a new supposition: The book of Ya’akov (James) should not be included in the canon. This is verifiable history here folks, I am not making this up. There is a lot more to this story. I am trying to keep it simple because it is a huge subject and a huge divide between many that would call themselves believers. I do encourage you to research it on your own.
Why do I bring all of this up and then not go into it in detail or take sides?
It is not the topic of this paper. It is however necessary to the foundation of this paper – to understanding how suppositions can color what we read in the text. Think of theological supposition as a pair of glasses that filter out a certain light spectrums. You can also come at it from the exact opposite as a pair of glasses that only see one light spectrum. In other words, glasses that prevent you from seeing the text more than one way or that allow you to see the text only certain ways. History tells us that these glasses are not something new. They have been around since before the time of Yeshua (Jesus). For example, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees didn’t.
So for the sake of argument, I encourage you to take off any theological glasses you may have on at this moment, set them on your computer desk, and let’s carefully explore and study the text together without supposition as much as that is possible for any of us to do.
In Acts 14, Sha’ul (Paul) and Bar-nabba (Barnabas) are traveling together announcing the Good News which is Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Christ). They end up in Antioch where they report all that God had done through them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. However, after staying there for some time with the talmidim (disciples), they run into a tough problem with some men from Y’hudah (Judea) who come down to Antioch and begin teaching the brothers the following:
Acts 15:1 (CJB)
1 But some men came down from Y’hudah to Antioch and began teaching the brothers,
“You can’t be saved
unless you undergo b’rit-milah (circumcision)
in the manner prescribed by Moshe (Moses).”
This causes a lot of problems: Problems for Sha’ul (Paul) and Bar-nabba (Barnabas). Problems for the congregation at Antioch. The gospel message Sha’ul (Paul) and Bar-nabba (Barnabas) were sent to proclaim and are recounting necessarily gets lost in what the text calls “dissension and debate” concerning the teaching by the men that came down from Y’hudah (Judea) that began teaching that“You can’t be saved unless . . .”
The congregation at Antioch decides to send Sha’ul (Paul), Bar-nabba (Barnabas), and some of their own congregation to address this issue with the elders up in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). After telling about all the good things God had done through them, they run into same problem again – (kind of):
Acts 15:5 (CJB)
5 But some of those who had come to trust
were from the party of the P’rushim (Pharisees);
and they stood up and said,
“It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them
to observe the Torah of Moshe.”
Why do I say kind of? The men from Judea said “can’t be saved.” The text tells us here that the Pharisees are believers in Yeshua (those who had come to trust ) and that they are saying “It is necessary.” You may think that I am trying to split hairs here, but I refuse to read something into the text here that isn’t here regarding theological suppositions some may have regarding Pharisees (eisegesis). In other words, I am going to give these “believers” the benefit of the doubt. Why, you might ask? I will show you why with the text:
Acts 15:12 (CJB)
12 Then the whole assembly kept still as they listened
to Bar-Nabba and Sha’ul tell what signs and miracles
God had done through them among the Gentiles.
“Whole assembly” includes the believers that were from the party of the P’rushim (Pharisees) which spoke up earlier but listened and kept still while Sha’ul (Paul), Bar-nabba (Barnabas) told about the signs and miracles God had done through them among the Gentiles.
They listened to what Kefa (Peter) had to say. They listened to what Ya’akov (James) had to say. That is one of the reasons why. Here is another:
Acts 15:22 (CJB)
22 Then the emissaries and the elders,
together with the whole Messianic community (the whole church),
decided to select men from among themselves
to send to Antioch . . .
The dissension and debate that was raging in Antioch is absent here. This is unity. Good thing we took off those glasses earlier or “believing Pharisees” that are in unity with the body might be a hard thing to see here. In the very letter itself that they decide to compose and send, we see this unity confirmed again:
Acts 15:25 (CJB)
25 So we have decided unanimously . . .
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s go back and address the problem in Antioch concerning
“You can’t be saved unless . . .”
The problem with these rogue teachers that brought division (dissension and debate) to the body of believers in Antioch is that their teaching of“You can’t be saved unless . . .” is actually contradicting the very message of the Gospel. It fact, it is not only contradicting the Gospel message, it is hostile to it! It is literally saying that the curse that Yeshua (Jesus) endured for us, on the execution stake, is not enough. More succinctly, it is saying God’s grace is not enough to save us. It breaks my heart and makes me sad just writing it.
You know what else is really sad? It has been around 2000 years since this happened and we don’t seem to have learned a thing from all of this. We have modern day churches and religions that still teach this same“You can’t be saved unless . . .” doctrine that was unanimously rejected by the elders and entire assembly in Jerusalem known as the Jerusalem Council. We have modern day denominations and churches teaching that God’s grace is not enough to save us! I will give you a few very real examples:
“You can’t be saved unless . . .” you are baptized in water
“You can’t be saved unless . . .” you can and do speak in tongues
“You can’t be saved unless . . .” worship on Saturday
“You can’t be saved unless . . .” unless you eat pork to prove you are no longer under the law
Do we really insist on putting God’s grace on trial here? Do we really want to insist on repeating history in this way? Do we want to insist on perverting the gospel message with man-made stipulations? Brothers and sisters, it is one of my most burdening and heartfelt prayers that you have ears to hears this and eyes to see this for what it is.
Because some of you may not understand, I offer a simple example for you to consider in contrast to the above “You can’t be saved unless . . .” statements. It is from the Harmony of the Gospels:
One of the criminals hanging there reviled him, saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other, rebuking him, said, “Don’t you even fear God—you who are receiving the same punishment? And we rightly so, for we are receiving a proper reward for what we did; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“I tell you truly,” said Jesus, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., Harmony of the Gospels: Concerning the Greatest Life Ever Lived, (Springfield, IL: World Library Press, Inc., 1986), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 329.
How was this simple thief saved?
Please understand this: God’s commands, laws, precepts, Torah are all VERY important! Yeshua tells us that the 2 most important commands in the text are:
- Love the Lord your God with everything you have
- Love your neighbor as yourself
These are commands! These are laws! These are precepts! These are Torah!
Do you “know” Yeshua? Do you know “Salvation?” Are you sure? Would you like to know a way to be sure that you “know” Him?
1 John 2:3 (CJB)
3 The way we can be sure we know him is if we are obeying his commands.
What about if we are not obeying his commands? The text has an answer for that too:
1 John 2:4 (CJB)
4 Anyone who says, “I know him,”
but isn’t obeying his commands
is a liar — the truth is not in him.
After reading this verse, you may indeed want to read “You can’t be saved unless . . .” into this verse. If you do, you miss the whole point!
It is God’s grace, not the act of circumcision, that offers us salvation. You see, those men in Antioch were telling the brothers there that they couldn’t be saved unless they were circumcised. They were making theological suppositions. In making this particular supposition (“You can’t be saved unless . . .”), they were saying God’s grace wasn’t enough – that God’s grace needed an additional act to go with it. They were saying the gospel wasn’t enough.
These men were what the text calls Judaizers. They were teaching those brothers that they had to become Jewish, through circumcision, before they could be saved. They were teaching that they had to become Jewish, through circumcision, before God’s grace would apply to them.
What does the world define Judaizing as?
Judaizing is a tough concept. Is this because it is exasperated by some forces external to the text? For example, what if we Google “Judaizer” and “definition” together? We get the following:
- The Free Dictionary: To adopt Jewish customs and beliefs
- Webster’s Online: those Jews who accepted Christianity but still adhered to he law of Moses and worshiped in the temple at Jerusalem.
- Dictionary.com:to conform to the spirit, character, principles, or practices of Judaism.
- Oxford: make Jewish; convert to Judaism.follow Jewish customs or religious rites
- Baker’s Evangelical: Those who adopted Jewish religious practices or sought to influence others to do so . . .
- Catholic Encyclopedia: A party of Jewish Christians in the Early Church, who either held that circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were necessary for salvation and in consequence wished to impose them on the Gentile converts, or who at least considered them as still obligatory on the Jewish Christians . . .
A couple (the last 2) of the above are very long so I only took a small part. A definition shouldn’t have to be a page long to explain but I include them because it is my experience that people get their theological views and suppositions more by what they are taught and read about than by what they learn by studying the text on their own individually. Imagine how big dictionaries would be if they all did that and on every single definition in them! Simply put, dictionaries define and commentaries discuss.
Based on what we have just read and been discussing in the text, do any of these definitions above accurately portray what Judaizing is? Let’s see . . .
In the first definition, we are told that Judaizing is “To adopt Jewish customs and beliefs.” Seems simple enough. If you have followed this blog for any time now, you know I am going to throw a wrench or two into the mix here concerning this definition. I like to ask “Simple Questions” that force us to examine what the root of our beliefs actually are – what our theological suppositions are. Sometimes I make posters to do this which you can find here:
There are a ton of things I could and can ask here. However, one “simple question” will be sufficient for the purposes of our discussion. The Messiah (Christ) is a Jewish belief.
Is adopting the Jewish belief surrounding and concerning
“the Christ (Messiah),” Judaizing?
Let’s look at another. In the Oxford dictionary online, we are told that Judaizing is to “follow Jewish customs or religious rites.” The text tells us that both Yeshua (Jesus) and Sha’ul (Paul) attended synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath) “as was their custom.” Again, one simple question is sufficient for this discussion as well:
Were Yeshua (Jesus) and Sha’ul (Paul) Judaizers as a result
of their Jewish custom of attending synagogue on Shabbat (Sabbath)?
We could have went into this subject a whole lot deeper. We could bring up other verses which I had originally intended to do. We could have explored how the church has viewed this subject throughout history which is also something I had originally intended to do in this piece. However, I am not going to. I am not going to because a very much loved brother in the Lord felt very strongly that I shouldn’t follow those paths after I relayed to him what I was writing about. I seek accountability from my brothers in Messiah. I pray for God to lead me in my writings. This accountability and this prayer tell me what I have written here is enough regardless of where I wanted to go or thought I should go. As a matter of fact, my writings rarely, if ever, go where I see them going in the beginning as a result of the prayers I give and the accountability I seek. The Jewish Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) said:
1 Corinthians 11:1 (CJB)
1 try to imitate me, even as I myself try to imitate the Messiah.
So I will stop here by asking a final “Simple Question” based on this verse:
Is trying to imitate the Jewish Rabbi Sha’ul as he tries to imitate Messiah Judaizing
is Judaizing trying to force someone to covert to Judaism before they can be saved?
Blessings to you all,