When Judaizers Become Worship Leaders

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  • As the Apostle Paul spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, there was a group of religious zealots (scholars call them “Judaizers”) who followed him around “correcting” his teachings. These Judaizers contended that true salvation required both faith in Jesus Christ and adherence to the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, particularly circumcision. Over and over again, Paul had to proclaim and defend the fact that God saves sinners by grace through faith in Christ, plus or minus nothing. I sometimes wonder if these men were sincere guys who just had some of the facts wrong. But one thing is for sure. Paul did not view them as harmless believers who just simply needed a little better understanding of the truth. In Philippians 3:2-3, Paul writes, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (ESV). Paul used harsh terms to describe those who used to the Old Testament to bind legalistic rules to those those who were seeking God through faith in Christ.

    I believe that we need to be just as firm when this error raises its ugly head in our day. And one of the places I think we need to pay careful attention to is our praise and worship. Lately, I have been hearing a lot of “inner court” and “behind the veil” kind of talk, using pictures from the Old Testament tabernacle/temple worship to exhort Christians to praise God. Now, there is anything wrong with using Old Testament terminology in worship. In fact, we regularly read an entire psalm in our corporate worship services on Sundays at Mt. Sinai. Truly, the Old Testament has a lot to teach us about how to worship God. But we must not embrace ideas of worship that ignore, neglect, or downgrade the total sufficiency of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Maybe we need to read the book of Hebrews again and more carefully. What we have in Christ is far more superior to what the Old Testament saints had, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. So we do not worship “on the mountain” or “in the temple.” We worship in spirit and in truth. We offer acceptable worship to God through the access that we have as those who have been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. We worship God through Christ who is a high priest, temple, sacrifice, and altar. Simply put, we worship Jesus Christ – our all-sufficient Prophet, Priest, and King!


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.