"Not Subject to the Law of God?"
Part 8. Clarifying the Believer's Relationship to Torah
A probable Christian response to all the above is ... Are you telling me that I'm supposed to follow all the Law including sacrificing animals, not mixing fabrics and stoning people for adultery?
Are you living in a theocracy, in the land of Israel?
Then those laws don't apply.
The Torah has commandments in it that apply only to those living in the land of Israel. It also has rules that apply only to the priests, and others solely for the High Priest. There are instructions for men and others for women -- some to the married versus not married. As mentioned, it also leaves flexibility for amendment based on God's perfect plan. Paul taught in the same way. He also instructed Timothy to "rightly divide" the word of God -- meaning there is a correct way to "sort these things out" -- according to Torah!
Doesn't Paul Teach that We Don't Need to Follow the "Law?"
The first issue to address is that Paul's letters were dealing with specific situations. There were in fact TWO prominent heresies that crept into the early Messianic community in Paul's time. One was the idea that gentiles had to become Jews first, taking on all the Torah before they could be saved. This was the first problem to arise, coming from the "Jewish camp," as they had received the message of Yeshua first. They were still holding on to traditional ideas concerning Gentile salvation. Most Christians are aware of this situation as it is thoroughly taught throughout Christianity, the proponents of which are usually called "Judaizers," although this term is also used in a prejudiced fashion for anyone wanting to bring anything Jewish into their faith.
What is generally not taught in Christianity is the false teaching that later arose from the "Gentile side of the aisle." This was the view that gentiles had no relationship to Torah after they were saved. The background to this problem was completely different than the other one as it had to do with the pagan culture most of the new Gentile converts (outside of Israel) were coming out of. The majority of Christians today have not studied first century history and are unaware that Gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua, (those not already involved with Synagogue/Temple Judaism), were coming directly out of an extremely anti-Semitic Roman society. This is critical to a proper understanding to the Scriptures (especially Paul's letters). Two books that address this subject well are, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World, by Louis H. Feldman, and The Mystery of Romans, by Mark Nanos. (56)
Paul was facing two very different types of problems, and it is important to know which he is addressing in his letters. For example, his early letter of Galatians dealt with the former (Jewish) heresy, whereas Romans, dealt primarily with the latter (Gentile) one. (57)
Three important rules of Bible interpretation are:
The latter two of these are usually ignored in most Bible studies as you have to go outside of the Bible to get the information, something frowned upon in Christian study groups, under the well-meaning but ignorant assumption that you ONLY need Scripture to interpret Scripture.
This raises another important issue regarding interpreting the Scriptures. Christianity generally views Paul's letters as "overarching" lessons for everyone throughout history to interpret according to their own situation. Although much of what Scripture teaches can be applied to "current events," unless you first understand the specific situation the writer was addressing in the proper context, you cannot begin to apply it in any other way with any validity.
God did give us the intellectual ability to search for true meaning and correctly interpret His Word (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15). To say that one need "only rely on the Holy Spirit," for understanding of the text, is both ignorant and unscriptural, as it implies that the Spirit could contradict God's intended meaning as conveyed by the author writing within His Hebrew culture.
We are to search and study with God's Spirit - not casually read and wait for some personal enlightenment. This is how false teachings come about, how cults are formed and how people fall into grave sin without realizing it.
Returning to Paul's "opponents" in Galatians. These were recent Jewish converts who had an incorrect or incomplete view of faith/salvation. This is shown in several places including; 2:3-5; 3:1-4; 5:2-11 and 6:12-15. These people were telling new Galatian converts that you had to do certain things for salvation, other than trust in God through Yeshua. They were of the same faction mentioned in Acts chapter 15.
Note however, that these men also had an incorrect idea on what Paul was in fact teaching, accusing him of teaching against the Torah. (58) If ever Paul had the opportunity to show that we no longer had to follow the Torah, this was it -- However, Paul denied the charge that he taught against Torah in the strongest way possible, by taking a Nazarite vow. (Acts 21:21-26) This involved him performing sacrifices and offerings (Numbers 6:1-21)
Paul's message to the Galatians is to remind them of the correct equation:
Torah-based faith + Nothing Else = Salvation.
This is the same message Moses gave his people in his day.
Paul does discuss "lifestyle" at the end of this letter. In Galatians 5:16-22, Paul makes a comparison between "walking in the spirit" and "walking in the flesh." He defines those who walk in flesh in verses 19-21 (adulterers, fornicators, sorcerers, etc.) What do those all have in common? They are all transgressions of the Torah. They are violators of the "negative commandments" of the Torah.
Because Christianity's interpretation of Scripture is founded on a Greek/western approach and not a Hebrew one, verse after verse in the "New Testament" are stripped from the original context in which the Torah-observant authors wrote them. In place of this, an anti-Semitic, pagan "spin" has been placed on the Word of the God of Israel.
Making the Hebrew Connection: Torah and the "Gospel"
The book of Hebrews says what the generation in the wilderness received was the Gospel (Beh-so-rah') and it was to be followed in faith. (Isn't it interesting that they received the Gospel BEFORE the Messiah died and was resurrected?) The "Old Testament" shows us that what they received was the Torah, that they needed to follow in faith. Thus a connection is made between the Gospel and the Torah.
The Torah = the Gospel = the Word = "memra" (59) = Yeshua = the walking Torah who "tabernacled" among us. (John 1:1-14)
The Word of God is amazingly consistent and interwoven when you interpret it correctly.
The term "tabernacle" (booth) relates to Succot, which is the seventh and "most Messianicly-related" of God's feasts/appointed times (moedim). Recall when Peter saw Yeshua appear with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-13). What did he think and what did he do? He viewed what was happening before his eyes in terms of the Messianic fulfillment of Succot, the "feast of Tabernacles," and immediately wanted to build booths ("succah").
You can begin to see the "big picture" when you put the "New Testament" back in its Hebrew context!
Making the Hebrew Connection: Torah and Messiah
Take another look at what Deuteronomy 30:11:14 says about the Torah/Law:
"For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it.' But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it."
Now read the comparison Paul makes between the Torah and Yeshua in Romans:
"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the goal of the Torah. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them. And the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, 'Do not say in your heart 'Who will ascend into heaven?'' (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, 'Who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.' (that is the word of faith which we preach) ..." (Romans 10:1-8)
The above rendition corrects two terrible mistranslations of the text that appear in almost all Christian Bibles. First, in verse 4, Yeshua (Christ) is NOT the "end" of the Law, (as in "abolishment of the Law.") He is the goal at which the Torah aims (Gk: "telos" = "goal" in this context, not "end"). (60)
Also, the word "But," at the beginning of verse 6, has been replaced with the word "And," (Greek = "de" = "and" in this context, not "but") as this is correct. Paul, instead of showing some type of contrast between Moses/Torah and Yeshua/Grace, reveals a similarity and continuation, as God has not changed. If Paul wanted to draw a contrast he would have used the word "alla" which can only mean "but" which he in fact uses at the beginning of verse 8. (61)
Unfortunately, Christianity is guilty of bias in its translation(s) of the Bible. (62) This is especially true of the "New Testament" -- a term placed in quotation marks throughout this document, as it has no basis in Scripture and promotes the false idea that there was an "old" way (Judaism) before Yeshua, and a "new" way (Christianity) after Him. The "New Testament" writers did not view some new "church" as replacing the faith of Israel.
Not only is the idea of a new entity and faith ("the Church" and Christianity) replacing that of Israel's (Torah-observant Messianic Judaism), contrary to the unchanging Word of God, the word "church" itself is not in the Bible. The Greek word so translated, ekklesia, means "called out ones," not "church." Ecclesia was the same word used by the 70 Jewish rabbis who created the Greek Tenakh -- the "Septuagint," well before Yeshua lived. (The Septuagint is also called the LXX in literary references referring to these 70 rabbis.) (63)
Luke, in the book of Acts, makes it clear that those of Israel who accepted the Messiah of Israel AND followed the Torah, were the "ecclesia." (64)
The translation of "ecclesia" into "church" is completely wrong and is yet another mistranslation used to support a concept alien to what the Scriptures say.
Making the Hebrew Connection: Torah and the "Liberty" of the Believer
First we have to address the issue of "fluff" -- vague concepts that Christianity teaches such as "Christian liberty," and "the law of love." These terms don't have a precise definition -- they only define themselves in terms of being "not the Law." For instance, commenting on 1 John 2:3, J. Vernon McGee's Christian Bible study series says:
"First of all, let me point out that this verse has nothing to do with the security of the believer. John is talking about assurance. As God's children, we are in a family. But how can we have assurance that we are in God's family? He is telling us that assurance comes by keeping His commandments. "If we keep His commandments" does not refer to the Ten Commandments. John is not dealing with any legal aspects; he is dealing with family matters." (65)
The same commentary says the following about James 2:12:
"The 'law of liberty' is the law of Christ. The Lord Jesus said, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' (John 14:15). What is His commandment? 'This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.' (John 15:12) (66)
"Assurance," but not "security?" Not God's "commandments," but "family matters?" The same author writes that the Old Testament commandments of the Father are replaced by new ones from "Jesus," such as; "bear ye one another's burdens," rejoice evermore," "pray without ceasing," and "quench not the Spirit."
It is true that following the commandments IS THE BELIEVER'S ASSURANCE that they have God's Spirit in them -- however those commandments are His Torah -- God has not changed. If Yeshua's commandments are not God's commandments, then Yeshua is not God, or we have a divided God. Christianity supplants the Torah with these vague concepts and teaches that the believer is to know what they mean for himself by "following the guidance of the Holy Spirit," thus allowing for multiple interpretations, many of which contradict God's Torah.
If this teaching isn't the doctrine for itching ears that turns from God's Word, then what is? (2 Timothy 4:3)
The teaching that "we are free from the Torah," is a product of hundreds of years of anti-Semitic theology and is in opposition to Scripture. The "New Testament," when put back into its Hebrew context, says this about the Torah and believers in Yeshua:
These "New Testament" references to "Torah" might at first confuse people as they aren't used to thinking in these terms. However, when the Jewish New Testament authors, and Yeshua, spoke of law/commandments in a religious context, it must be interpreted as "Torah," unless there is a clear reason to do otherwise, as this was what it meant to them in their culture.
This Torah, including the rest of the Tenakh ("Old Testament"), are the Scriptures Paul wrote about to Timothy;
"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:17)
There are several important teachings in these three verses:
Christianity preaches "Jesus" almost exclusively from the New Testament. Did Paul and the other disciples preach Yeshua using the New Testament? Of course not -- all they had was the Tenakh. This is not diminishing the books of the New Testament which are indeed Scripture. The point is that the Torah, which is the Word of God, came first, and nothing can contradict it or it is to be rejected.
Torah is the foundation for properly interpreting the teachings of the "New Testament" -- NOT the other way around.
Every book of the "New Testament" was written by a writer with a Messianic Hebrew mindset with the assumption that it would be read and/or taught by someone with the same Messianic Hebrew mindset. Thanks to 1900 years of anti-Torah theology, this is no longer the case. The result is the false teachings about Torah and the "New Testament" that define Christianity.
Making the Hebrew Connection: The Role of the Torah in the Future
The verses in the Tenakh (Old Testament) that point to the return of the Messiah and the "millennium," all show Torah observance.
In Isaiah 61:3 (the portion Yeshua read part of in Luke 4:16-21) it speaks of the Messiah, in the Millennium, calling His people "trees of righteousness." This term is a Jewish euphemism for being Torah observant. Revelation chapter 22 reflects the same idea, where "tree of life" also represents Torah. As mentioned earlier, Revelation places a stipulation on those hoping to enter New Jerusalem -- they are the ones who kept his Torah:
Revelation 22:14a -- "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
Outside the city are those who violate Torah (Rev. 22:14b).
Christianity has had its way for a long time, reinterpreting the verses of the both the "Old" and "New" Testaments in an anti-Torah, "Greek" mindset, to mean something other than what they say.
We are saved by faith alone -- but this faith, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, (both "Old" and "New" Hebrew Testaments) is inseparable from following God's word on how we are to live -- His Torah. Yeshua Himself is inseparable from the Torah, as He is its goal and fulfillment -- the "walking Torah."
This teaching is consistent through the "New Testament" when interpreted correctly. Paul himself says if you are a Gentile who has chosen to follow the Messiah -- welcome to the Torah of Israel! (Ephesians 2:10-12)
CONTINUE TO PART 9
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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