Ask Donnell: Must All Christians Uphold Jewish Traditions?

Ask Donnell: Must All Christians Uphold Jewish Traditions?

We received the following question;

"What can I say to my Christian friends who still follow The Sabbath with every phase of the moon, follow the law and perform all the Jewish feasts and traditions? They also call Jesus by His Hebrew name, "Yeshua". They suggest that I am the one who is not following God's Will for how we are to live and we all need to call him by his "real" name."

Thanks for this question. It's one that needs to be addressed because of its relevance to what's currently going on in The Body of Christ. Christians who have nothing to do with the Nations of Israel or Judah other than their Christian beliefs are using Jewish greetings. They are praying under Jewish "prayer tents" like they did in The Wilderness. They are blowing the shofar. Some even wear Jewish robes and Kipas on their heads. Some rock back and forth while they pray like the Jews do. They utter Jewish prayers. They celebrate bar and bat mitzvahs. Some call themselves Israelites. They have adopted Jewish names. They worship in synagogues. I can go on and on. They do everything they can to connect with Jewish traditions but one minor thing is missing; they are not Jewish.

In fact, this is not a new issue. It's been a hot topic since the foundation of The Church. That's actually good news because if it was a major issue back then, it is clearly addressed in The Bible somewhere. Apostle Paul's God-given assignment was to clear up many of these confusing and distracting issues in the early church. The most challenging issues to deal with in The Church today are ones that are relatively new because we won't find them verbatim in The Bible. Without a clear precedent in scripture we need supernatural wisdom and guidance from The Holy Spirit to present solutions that are completely objective and accurate.

Otherwise, the door remains open for tireless debate and that's not what we want. Nonetheless, this is an "open and shut" case so let's get to the bottom of it right now. First, observing The Sabbath is a non-issue that I addressed several years ago in the blog, "Ask Donnell: Does The Church Need To Keep The Sabbath?" Read it for a thorough understanding of how we should approach the law in general and The Sabbath in particular based on the words of Jesus. Let's move on now from that discussion.

Acts 1:8(KJV) - But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Once The Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples and everyone else in The Upper Room, The Church of Jesus Christ was launched. Instantly, they took the gospel to Jerusalem which was familiar territory. Hence, when The Church first started, it consisted mainly of Jewish people so it was easy. They all followed the same traditions and all came from the same culture so they were able to keep many of their traditions even though they chose to follow Christ. However, The Church began to grow and grow as the gospel went next to Judea, then to Samaria, then to the uttermost parts of the earth. Whether that's the exact historical sequence of the spread of the gospel or not, the point is that the gospel spread from the local Jewish community to everywhere. That's when things started to get confusing. Let's pick up the story from there.

Acts 21:18-25(NLT) - The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. 19 After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, "You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. 21 But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They've heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. 22 What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 "Here's what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. 24 Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws. 25 "As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality."

While many of the disciples initially clung to their own Jewish people, The Apostle Paul accepted his call by God to minister to the Gentiles. As a result, his approach was quite different. To that end, he developed a reputation of being a bit of a radical in some aspects of the theology he presented especially when it related to Jewish traditions. When news of his teaching got back to the "First Church" in Jerusalem, James and the entire eldership of The Church confronted him when he returned there to report on his ministry.

They heard that he encouraged Jewish Christians to move on from their traditions and customs including circumcision. Paul didn't defend himself. They knew that if Paul was telling Jews to leave their traditions, the Jerusalem Church would be totally against him. So, to keep peace, the elders reserved the Jewish traditions for the Jews and asked Paul to participate in the purification ceremony as a sign that he agreed. However, they settled on only three requirements for the Gentiles; don't eat food offered to idols, don't consume blood or meat of strangled animals and stay away from sexual immorality.

If any of that was a lie, Apostle Paul would have defended himself and he did not because it was all true. For instance, he said in 1 Corinthians 7:18-19(NKJV); "Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters." Ouch! In other words, let the Jews keep their traditions and let the Gentiles not worry about them because obeying God is what matters and not following traditions.

That's just a sample of what he said concerning circumcision. He also addressed it in detail in Romans 2, 3 and 4, Galatians 2, 5 and 6, Ephesians 2, Philippians 3 and Colossians 2. By the time he was done there was no more confusion as to whether or not Gentile Christians needed to be physically circumcised. He put that to bed and dropped the mic. Now, on to the issue of Jewish feasts which is a major highlight of your question. Apostle Paul also addressed that directly so we don't need to beat around the bush with it. Let's hit it head on with the truth of the scriptures.

Colossians 2:16-17(NLT) - So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.

Shadows.. that's what they are.. shadows of Jesus Christ. He is the light and every tradition is a shadow. There's nothing wrong with calling Jesus, "Yeshua" which is His Hebrew name. If translated to English it would be Joshua. We get Jesus from the Greek translation which is the main language of The New Testament. If you prefer to talk in Hebrew, go for it. If you prefer Greek, go for it. If you prefer English, go for it. Yeshua knows we're talking to Him and we know we're talking to Him when we say Jesus.

There's nothing wrong with celebrating the Jewish holidays, talking Hebrew instead of English, using a prayer shawl or blowing a Jewish shofar. There's nothing wrong with celebrating Hanukkah or lighting a jewish menorah in your house. What's wrong is when we think these things have any power in them when they do not. They don't save! They don't heal! They don't deliver!

They are traditions from the Jewish people that were precursors of Jesus. They prepared the way for Jesus for thousands of years. When Jesus came we didn't need them anymore. We're done with them the same way we're done with animal sacrifices. The shadow is no longer needed when the light has come. Apostle Paul had no problem helping people to realize that it was time to let that stuff go and grab on to Jesus. So, here's the bottom line.

Romans 14:5-11(NLT) - In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don't live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. 10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

Christians who feel like it's important to keep the Jewish traditions are free to do so. Personally, I consider them important from the perspective of better understanding The Bible and how God related to the Jewish people. They all meant something and I would love to know more about God through those traditions. However, they are not a law unto themselves and they are not to be forced upon people. They are good to know about but that's about it.

Hence, Christians who believe these are wholly unnecessary and choose not to keep them are free to do so. They can't condemn us and we can't condemn them. Don't let your friends put any pressure on you to be like them and don't return the favor if they choose to do so. They have to answer to God just like you do. What matters is that we all choose to honor The Lord from the depth of our hearts.

We don't have to agree on how we do it but we have to agree to do it. Honor The Lord with your life the way He wants you to honor Him. Love Him with all of your heart, soul and strength while at the same time, love your neighbor like Christ loves you and you love yourself. On these two commandments hang all of the law and traditions. Start with those and you will satisfy God's requirements as outlined by Jesus. That's the end of the story.

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