119 Ministries is a Hebrew Roots organization that has gained attention primarily through its website, social media platforms, and extensive library of online teachings. The group’s name is derived from Psalm 119, which speaks in depth about following God’s Law. Offering a wide range of resources, such as smartphone apps, DVDs, books, and videos, 119 Ministries seeks to promote their theology, which is associated with the Hebrew Roots movement. This movement claims that Jesus did not do away with many of the Old Testament restrictions on diet, ceremonial purity, and so forth—a view long rejected by the majority of Christian theologians. This blog post aims to provide a detailed explanation of 119 Ministries, discuss their beliefs, and compare them with those of Evangelical Christians.
Though 119 Ministries shares some core beliefs with Evangelical Christianity, such as the importance of salvation, sin, Christ, and the Bible, there are significant differences in their interpretation of Scripture. This post will discuss these differences, explore the problems that arise from their unique approach to biblical interpretation, and evaluate the implications of their teachings.
Theology and Beliefs of 119 Ministries
119 Ministries is known for their catchphrase “test everything,” which underscores their apologetics-flavored approach to promoting their beliefs. They often reject the doctrine of the Trinity and argue that supposedly clear statements in books like Galatians have been misinterpreted by mainstream Christianity. However, their conclusion often results from assuming what they are trying to prove. The general, clear sense of Scripture from an Evangelical perspective is that Christ’s “fulfillment” of the Law meant the end of those minute legalisms (Matthew 5:17).
Legalistic Focus on Minutiae
One major issue with 119 Ministries, as with many Hebrew Roots organizations, is their tendency to focus on minute details, such as the exact day or lunar cycle of a particular festival, or speculations about blood moons, or whether a calendar day should start at sunrise or sunset. Titus 3:9 warns against such legalistic gnat-straining, which takes away from the freedom Christ granted believers from such bureaucracy. Evangelicals emphasize a moment-to-moment, perpetual sense of obeying God’s will in their lives, rather than obeying a list of legalistic rules.
Selective Interpretation of Old Testament Laws
Despite their claim to uphold the entire Old Testament Law as binding on believers today, most Hebrew Roots interpretations allow for behaviors that Old Testament Jews would have considered blatantly in error. For example, 119 Ministries dismisses explicit Torah commands not to cut one’s hair (Leviticus 19:27) as merely references to pagan practices. Conversely, they insist that foods like pork and shellfish are still “unclean,” despite overt statements such as Mark 7:19. This selective interpretation is a significant departure from the Evangelical understanding of the Bible, which sees the Old Testament Law as fulfilled and no longer binding on believers (Romans 10:4).
Hebrew Roots Movement and Its Influence
The Hebrew Roots movement, with which 119 Ministries is associated, has gained traction in recent years. While this movement is not monolithic, and individual groups or teachers may have varying beliefs, it is generally characterized by its insistence on returning to the practices and beliefs of the early Jewish followers of Jesus. Many in the Hebrew Roots movement believe that mainstream Christianity has strayed from the original teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and that by returning to these roots, believers can experience a more authentic and spiritually fulfilling relationship with God.
However, this approach often leads to a focus on the external aspects of religious practice, such as observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher dietary laws, and celebrating Jewish feasts, rather than emphasizing the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ. The Hebrew Roots movement’s teachings often diverge from traditional Evangelical beliefs, which prioritize the grace of God and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ over adherence to specific religious practices.
Concerns with 119 Ministries’ Approach to Scripture
The approach 119 Ministries takes to Scripture has raised concerns among Evangelical Christians, who see their interpretation as problematic and inconsistent. They often employ a literalist interpretation of Old Testament laws, while selectively applying those laws to modern believers. This approach often leads to cherry-picking specific rules to follow, while ignoring other, more challenging commandments.
Additionally, 119 Ministries has been criticized for their strained approach to the New Testament, which sometimes requires them to reinterpret clear passages in order to maintain their position that Old Testament laws are still binding on believers. This type of eisegesis, or reading one’s own beliefs into the text, is generally discouraged by Evangelical scholars, who strive to understand the Bible in its original context and apply its principles to modern believers.
While 119 Ministries and the Hebrew Roots movement share some common ground with Evangelical Christianity, their approach to Scripture is extremely prejudiced and cannot be sustained without a pre-determined bias towards their conclusions. Evangelical Christians believe that Christ fulfilled the Law and that the New Testament teachings liberate believers from the need to observe Old Testament restrictions on diet, ceremonial purity, and other legalistic matters.
It is essential to approach Scripture with an open mind and a willingness to consider various interpretations. However, the teachings of 119 Ministries often fall short of this ideal, focusing on selective interpretations of the Old Testament Law and ignoring the broader context of the New Testament. Consequently, their beliefs diverge significantly from those of Evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ and the freedom from legalism that He provides.
In conclusion, 119 Ministries and the Hebrew Roots movement offer an alternative perspective on Christianity, but their teachings often conflict with traditional Evangelical beliefs. While it is important to engage with various viewpoints and interpretations, it is also crucial to remain grounded in the foundational principles of the Christian faith, which prioritize the grace of God and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. By focusing on these essential truths, believers can navigate the complexities of Scripture and grow in their understanding of God’s will for their lives.