"Not Subject to the Law of God?"
Part 3. What does the "New Testament" Teach About the Torah and Salvation?
Is the Law "a curse" that Yeshua came to do away with? Two frequently cited verses Christianity uses to support the idea that "the Law is a curse," are:
Galatians 3:10 -- For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them."
Galatians 3:13 -- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree"
Clearly, there is something called the curse of the Law. But is the Law itself a curse?
On the surface there seems to be quite a contradiction. How can something God gave, which is holy, righteous and good, that Yeshua practiced and upheld (Matt 5:17-20), that "James" (Ya'acov/Jacob is his real name!) said was to be our standard (James 1:22-25), that Paul himself delighted in and also followed, be called a "curse" by Paul?
Part of the problem is a failure to understand and teach the dual nature of the Torah. God Himself alluded to this duality when He gave the Torah:
Deuteronomy 30:15-17a -- "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgements, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your hearts turn away so that you do not hear, you shall surely perish ..."
Notice in those verses that "faith" comes before, and is tied directly to, obedience. First, God says He commands His people to "love the Lord" (trust/faith), and then walk in His ways (obey Torah). Next, He says if their hearts turn away (lack of faith) they will perish. God's view of faith is not void of action on our part. It is not a matter of "just believing" in certain facts.
The most famous verse in Judaism is the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4:
Shema Israel Adonai Elohenu Adonai echad.
"Hear oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
"Shema," the first word of the verse, is usually translated "hear," but is a complex word that implies to, "'accept,' implying faith, commitment, and obedience." (10)
Hebrews 3:7-4:2, says Moses and the children of Israel were preached the Gospel in the Wilderness, but they perished. Were they condemned for "failing to follow every point of the Law?" No, It was due to lack of faith. The book of Hebrews says they did not "mix" what they knew to do (the Torah) with faith. Faith in God and following Torah are inseparable.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, writes about the purpose of the Torah. He compares it to a tutor to us before faith (11). Yet, he also talks about "the curse" of the Law. One seems "good" and the other "bad." How can this be?
The answer lies with the duality of the Torah and its multiplicity of purpose. One function of the Torah is to show man how sinful he is and that he stands condemned before a righteous God. This is not all the Torah does however! Only by trusting in God for salvation, AND agreeing to walk in His ways, can man escape judgment (1 John 2:4).
What is important to know here is that the Torah itself is not a curse, rather, the curse is but one part of the Torah.
The "curse of the law" AND its function of being "a tutor" (actually, a "guide" or "guardian," literally one who escorts you), apply to those who have not yet placed their faith in God. Christianity incorrectly teaches that when Paul spoke of the Law serving as a guardian before Yeshua, he was saying that it held the Jews, under the Law of Moses, in bondage until Yeshua came and died. (12) This is a biased misreading of the text, as God does not change. What Paul is saying is that in the life of every living person (yesterday and today), the Torah functions as such before they come to Messiah.
After anyone comes to trust in Yeshua, those two particular aspects of the Torah cease. (It being a "guardian" and a curse.) However, Torah's role as God's revelation of how we are to live for Him continues.
The Torah is a way of living for God, so all will be well with you, is the other side of the duality of the Law -- a blessing and guide for us to live, and a revelation of God to us, so that we can draw closer to Him.
The Torah lists 613 direct commandments. According to the Judaism of Yeshua (and today) 365 of these are considered "negative" commandments. You can call these the "thou shall not's." The purpose of these negative commandments is to; a) point out (even to arouse) sin, b) show man he is condemned by his sin, and, c) point him to God for salvation.
There are 248 "positive" commandments. The purpose of the positive commandments, is to show us the things God wants us to do AFTER coming to faith.
As believers, we are indeed "no longer under the Thou shall not's," BUT ONLY in that they no longer condemn us, as we now trust God for salvation. By "not under the Law," it does not mean we can murder, steal, or break any of God's Torah. It is assumed we no longer do those things as we now trust in God and live for Him. Rather, it means we are no longer under the curse of those negative commandments.
Put succinctly, this is what Paul is teaching throughout his letters:
Attempting to gain salvation by following the Torah on your own without faith, and inevitably failing at some point, is the "curse of the Law" -- not the Torah itself.
Reading the "New Testament" with this Hebrew understanding of where Paul was coming from, eliminates the conflicts caused by the (false) idea that he made contradictory statements about "the Law." Everywhere he went, Paul preached against the "popular" teaching that you could earn your salvation through legalistic observance of Torah. However, he never taught against Torah being a part of the life of any believer.
CONTINUE TO PART 4
Part 1 - The Christian View of "the Law"
Part 2 - The Hebrew View of the Law/Torah and Salvation
Part 3 - What does the "New Testament" Teach About the Torah and Salvation?
Part 4 - Christianity's Difficulty with "the Law"
Part 5 - The Confusing Christian view of the Believer's Relationship to Torah
Part 6 - How Did the Christian View of the Torah Originate?
Part 7 - Historical Reality Concerning What Yeshua and His Followers Believed
Part 8 - Clarifying the Believer's Relationship to Torah
Part 9 - Is This All Really That Big a Deal?
Part 10 - Concluding Thoughts & Footnotes
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