400 years, a history of misconceptions of the Torah
the Torah is not a part of Salvation, other than showing the person that they
have sinned. Keeping the Torah is
not required to maintain Salvation.
value of Torah is showing what G-d defines as sin, and directions on how to
“be Holy as I am Holy”, living a righteous life, after salvation, by the
power of the Ruach Ha’Kodesh (The Holy Breath or Spirit).
attempt to say Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) teachings superceeded Yeshua’s (Jesus’s),
but can the servant superceed the Master, G-d Himself in the flesh?
To borrow from Sha’ul, G-d Forbid!
will see historically how some attempted to discourage believers from following
the Torah in two different ways:
looking at Church history, we can learn much about what motivated some of the
ancient Church leaders to discourage believers from following the Torah. Then,
after having established the necessary historical foundation, we will examine
some selected passages from the Brit Hadasha which are often used to teach
against Torah observance.
Bitter History Lesson
back 1,800 years of history is difficult, but if we are to develop and teach a
biblically accurate theology of the Torah, that is precisely what we must do.
misunderstanding of the Torah is a complex issue. It stems from a gross
misinterpretation of several biblical passages, mostly in the writings of Sha'ul
of Tarsus (Paul). But this contemporary misinterpretation is bolstered by
approximately 1,800 years of anti-Jewish rhetoric from some of the Church's
so-called finest exegetes-the Church fathers.
were we not taught about the Jewish believers? Why was so little mentioned about
the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people? Why do these
textbooks present such a rosy picture of the Church fathers, when some of them
were among the most anti-Jewish people who have ever lived?"
do not know the full answer to these questions. Perhaps, because there were so
few Jewish believers, there was simply little or no interest in these subjects.
But whatever the reason, the fact remains that seminary curricula not only
omitted some of the most significant events in the lives of the early
believers-the majority of whom were Jewish-but actually covered up the real
stories behind many of the theological decisions of the Church fathers and
councils. I am not saying there was a conscious effort to do so; I do not know
if there was or not. But the fact remains that it was done.
a result, many passages in the Brit Hadasha have been grossly misinterpreted,
with an anti-Torah bias, throughout the centuries. Let us look at some of the
history of the early Church in order to see how this occurred.
21: The Key
survey of ancient Church history must begin with a brief look at Acts 21. There
are two important aspects of this passage, which are crucial for our purposes
here. The first is the chronology. The second is the hermeneutical principle,
which the passage inadvertently establishes.
evangelical Bible teachers assert that we can obtain very little theology from
the Book of Acts because, they say, it is a transitional book. And in many ways
it is. Consider Luke's description of the outreach of Yeshua's followers as it
shifted from a Jewish audience to one that was predominantly Gentile. One reason
Acts was written was to show how the Church first acquired so many believers
from a Gentile background.
described in these or similar terms, we can accept the labeling of Acts as a
transitional book. But many scholars go beyond the scope of history and assert a
theological transition. In explaining why the focus of attention in Acts is on
Sha'ul of Tarsus, evangelical mainstay Merrill C. Tenney says this:
Paul was the leader of the Gentile mission, he deserved primary attention, and
the explanation of the transition from Jew to Gentile, from law to
grace, and from Palestine to the empire did not call for a comprehensive
survey of all that took place in the missionary growth of the Christian church.
For Luke's purpose the presentation of this one phase was sufficient.33
source for this quotation is the revised edition of Tenney's New Testament
Survey, one of the standard textbooks in many Bible colleges for New
Testament introduction or survey courses.
how Tenney describes the transition in Acts. For him, and many others like him,
it was not merely a transition from a predominantly Jewish body of Messiah to a
predominantly Gentile one. Rather, it was also a transition "from law to
grace." Acts 21 makes such a conclusion untenable. If there was such a
theological transition intended by God, then we would expect to see fewer and
fewer believers following the Torah. Instead, Acts 21 tells us that some thirty
years after Yeshua sent His students around the world to tell others of His
grace, there grew such a strong Jewish congregation in
several details about this verse. First, the number of people involved. Most
English translations read "thousands." However, the Greek text
(myriads) should be translated "tens of thousands." It is
extremely difficult to be precise on how large the city of
addition, this large number of Jewish believers were "all zealous for the
Torah." If it's true that God actually designed a theological transition
from "law to grace," then someone should have told these hordes of
Messianic zealots! After all, thirty years is thirty years, a long enough time
to show signs of such a transition. On the other hand, could it be they
understood that the Torah was a written expression of God's grace, realized
through acceptance of the Messiah Yeshua's sacrificial atonement?
much for the chronological importance of this passage. What can it tell us about
the time the events recorded in Acts 21 took place, Sha'ul's epistles to the
Galatians and Romans were history, according to Tenney. It is precisely these
two epistles which have been used by many a Bible scholar to "prove"
that the Torah has been declared obsolete.
accurate interpretation of Acts 21 should put an end to such thinking. To be
sure, because Sha'ul had written Galatians and Romans by that time, his views
regarding the Torah began to be misunderstood-so much so, that the leaders of
was a golden theological opportunity for Sha'ul of
Sha'ul-or any other teacher-is to be trusted and his teaching followed, then it
goes without saying that the conduct of his life must live up to the moral and
ethical standards of his teaching. Sha'ul would not say one thing while doing
the opposite. He would not write in Galatians and Romans, or any other of
his letters, instructions to abandon or disregard the Torah if he himself used
it as the basis for his lifestyle-that would be unthinkable!
see, therefore, that Acts 21 must become part of our hermeneutics. On the
surface, Sha'ul's writings may seem to indicate that the Torah should be done
away with or disregarded by believers; however, Acts 21 requires us to dismiss
that interpretation as invalid. The principles of biblical hermeneutics dictate
that we use our knowledge of Sha'ul's conduct in Acts 21 to help us interpret
Mess that Followed
events related in Acts 21 took place sometime in the early to mid-60's CE. From
that time until after the Bar Kochba war-the Second Jewish Revolt, ending in 135
CE-many complicated events happened in both Church and Jewish history. Quite
often, what happened to one affected the other. This was especially the case
after the Second Jewish Revolt.
the year 135 CE, the Church's population was predominantly Gentile, although a
large and strong Jewish believing community still existed. By this time,
however, there was a significant separation between the Church and the
Synagogue. One principal reason for this was the unwillingness of many
non-Jewish believers to suffer the wrath of imperial
believers had been fully willing to participate in the Bar Kochba rebellion
(132-135 AD\CE) until Rabbi Akiva declared him to be the Messiah. At that point
they could no longer fight alongside their Jewish countrymen. Yet to
Hugh Schonfield states the issue clearly:
political crisis in Jewish affairs engendered among the Churches of the Empire a
coldness and aloofness towards the Jewish Christians, which, after the Second
Jewish Revolt in the reign of Hadrian, led to almost complete separation. The
Roman Christians could not be expected to sympathize with the national
aspirations of the Nazarenes. For them the destruction of
the Jewish Side
there were other factors contributing to the separation between the Jewish and
non-Jewish elements, both inside and outside of the Church. Rabbinic Judaism, in
an attempt to define itself after the fall of the
good example of how the non-Jewish element of the Church received such rabbinic
practices is found in the writings of Justin Martyr, a Church leader who lived
about 100-165 AD\CE . In his famous Dialogue with Trypho (a Jewish man),
Dialogues 16 and 96, he writes:
the utmost of your power you dishonor and curse in your synagogues all those who
believe in Christ....In your synagogues you curse too those who through them
have become Christians, and the Gentiles put into effect your curse by killing
all those who merely admit that they are Christians."
Church's desire to convince
the core of this preaching was a severe attack against the Torah and its
teachings. In this example from the Epistle of Barnabas, dating from
between 130-138 AD\CE , we see that there apparently were many believers who
were sympathetic to Jewish people, perhaps even living Torah-centered lifestyles
themselves. Against such, Barnabas (not to be confused with the Barnabas found in Acts,
though the epistle would have us believe them to be one and the same) writes:
heed to yourselves and be not like some, piling up your sins and saying that the
covenant is theirs as well as ours. It is ours, but they lost it completely just
after Moses received it.... (Epistle 4:6-7)
shortly after this epistle, Justin Martyr (quoted above) declares not only that
the covenant no longer belongs to the Jewish people, but also that the signs of
both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants-circumcision and Shabbat
respectively-have no further validity.
too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a
word all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were
imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and your hardness of heart.
(Dialogue 18, 2)
concludes from such statements that the adoption of Sunday as the Christian day
of worship went hand in hand with the anti-Jewish and anti-Torah teaching which
had begun to proliferate: "What
better way to evidence the Christians' distinction from the Jews than by
adopting a different day of worship?" Moreover, by rejecting the Torah and
replacing it with pagan ideas, such as venerating the day of the Sun, people
like Martyr may also have been attempting to "make the Emperor aware that
Christians were not Jewish rebels but obedient citizens...the Romans already at
that time venerated the day of the Sun...and repeated reference to such a day
could well represent a calculated effort to draw the Christians closer to the
Roman customs than to those of the Jews."37
the anti-Torah attitudes of the early Church began as an effort both to make the
Good News palatable to the pagans and to convince the imperial government of
good example is John Chrysostom. Church
history teaches that this fiery fourth-century preacher was a gifted
rhetorician-known, in fact, as "golden mouthed."
quotations are taken from Christianity Through the Centuries, a
well-known textbook which has been standard issue in evangelical colleges for
many years. Look, now, at a different side of Chrysostom, the side that most
evangelicals either do not know or choose not to discuss. Edward Flannery
provides several documented quotations of Chrysostom's attitudes toward the
Jewish people in his highly respected work on Christian anti-Semitism, The
Anguish of the Jews. Mixing his own transitions with Chrysostom's words,
can Christians dare "have the slightest converse" with the Jews,
"most miserable of all men...men who are rapacious, greedy, perfidious
bandits...ravenous murderers, destroyers, men possessed by the devil...."
The Synagogue? It is the "domicile of the devil, as is also the soul of the
Jews." Their religion is "a disease."
of all this and more, Chrysostom, the expert on ethics and morals, tells
who can never love Christ enough will never have done fighting against them [the
Jews] who hate Him. Flee, then, their assemblies, flee their houses, and far
from venerating the synagogue because of the books it contains hold it in hatred
and aversion for the same reason. I hate the synagogue precisely because it has
the law and the Prophets....I hate the Jews because they outrage the law.42
the core of this hatred, according to Flannery, are the accusations that the
Jews are Christ killers whose law should have no part in the life of the
Christian. Indeed, there are many other documented examples of the hatred of the
early Church toward the Jewish people, and toward the writings of Moshe as a way
of life. It is true that the Torah was
used to illustrate many truths about the Messiah. But after centuries of
anti-Jewish, anti-Torah, and even anti-Semitic teaching from the most
influential leaders of the Church, no one would dare attempt to follow one of
its precepts or teach others to do the same.
the years, the decades, and the centuries. Changing a time-honored tradition can
be extremely difficult, especially when people we love and respect see little
need for such a change. This is especially true as regards the interpretation of
the passages in the Brit Hadasha which discuss the Torah. Unfortunately, we
stand on centuries of anti-Torah tradition in the Church. One way to begin
breaking that tradition is to examine how it became a tradition in the first
place; thus the brief historical sketch above. You yourself can also begin to
break destructive traditions and to establish new, honest and accurate
interpretive traditions by dealing fairly and justly with God's Word.
Better Traditions-The Tradition of "Law"
is another way to break a tradition of lies: we must begin to tell the truth.
For our purposes, we will need to reexamine a few of the many passages in the
Brit Hadasha which have been used to speak against the Torah. Rav Sha'ul of
addition to the historical precedent as outlined above, at the core of the
problems of the anti-Torah interpretation of the Brit Hadasha is the
misunderstanding of the Greek word nomos. This word is quite often
translated "law." However, "In the Septuagint nomos occurs
about 430 times...the commonest equivalent is torah....It is important to
note that torah does not mean 'law' in the modern sense of the
this we learn that even though the writers of the Brit Hadasha translated the
Hebrew word torah with a Greek word, nomos, which could
mean "law," the intended meaning behind that word was most often
"torah," or in English, "teaching." But when
prevailing theological tradition holds that the Torah is no longer valid as a
way of life for the believer in Yeshua, the natural way of translating nomos
is with its secular equivalent of "law." Thus, we have the linguistic
concept of "law" born in the Brit Hadasha. However, "law" is not merely an erroneous way of translating
the Hebrew concept of torah; it constitutes an erroneous theological idea
all in itself. This idea could be termed "justification by works"-a
system which requires us to do, or not do, certain things in order to be
justified in His sight.
man has always had a tendency to take God's teachings and make laws out of them.
He does this because, in his depraved state, he thinks that the only way to
receive or retain God's acceptance is to earn it by meeting some standard of
behavior. (Incidentally, this legalistic tendency is not restricted to God's
Torah; it can be applied to any teaching on the subject of righteousness.) Thus,
man has taken God's written expression of His heart and mind and perverted it
into a list of rules which, obeyed to the letter, promise to win him the
approval of the Almighty. Furthermore, he has added to this system of acceptable
behavior a second list of rules which he himself has devised.
system of performance-based acceptance is embraced by man as his
"religion." Man-made religion seeks to reduce God's Word to a set of
laws and regulations which require us to perform. It also attempts to rate our
worth before God according to how well we perform. However, the Torah of
God gives us the freedom to be the new creations He has made us to be-those who
walk by faith, in an intimate relationship with our Father and with our
many in the Body have unwittingly fallen into the "law" tradition as
well. Although aware of the grace of God, these believers nevertheless feel that
God might not continue to love them, or save them, unless they obey some list of
rules. This also is called law. Thus, the same fate has befallen these believers
as the unbelievers: they have confused God's Torah with man-made,
one reason for this confusion is the mistranslation of the word nomos in
the Brit Hadasha. Instead of accurately rendering it as torah, the
translators persisted in their centuries-old belief that the Torah of Moshe has
little place, if any, in the life of Yeshua's followers. Hence, they have chosen
the word "law" where torah would have been the accurate
Phrases-the Book of Galatians
factor contributing to the misinterpretation of Rav Sha'ul is the language he
uses, especially in Romans and Galatians, in discussing the believer's
relationship to the Torah. We have two specific phrases in mind: upo nomen
("under the law") and erga nomou ("works of the
law"). When Sha'ul uses these terms, it is generally in a rather negative
for example, at Romans 6:14, which reads, "For you are not under law
but under grace [italics ours]." Here Sha'ul is stressing that the believer
in Yeshua is dependent on Messiah for his salvation, which he can only receive
through the grace of God. An example of the
second phrase, "works of the law," is found in Galatians 2:16,
"knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, but by the faith of
Yeshua the Messiah." Whatever "works of law" means, it is clearly
being used in a negative sense, denoting something opposed to having faith in
Yeshua for salvation. Indeed, Sha'ul rebuked the Galatians for trusting in works
these passages, Sha'ul was teaching against legalism-the attempt by
people to earn, merit, or keep one's salvation through obedience to law. But
there were no sufficient words to express "legalism." Instead he had
to use certain phrases which, interpreted incorrectly, could easily lead one to
believe that he was against the Torah.
E. B. Cranfield has shed much light on the meaning of these two Greek phrases,
helping us to perceive what Sha'ul actually meant by them, as well as to
understand more fully his true stand on the Torah. Because Cranfield's remarks
are so instructive, we will quote him at length:
will be well to bear in mind the fact (which, as far as we know, had not
received attention before it was noted)...that the Greek language of Paul's day
possessed no word-group corresponding to our "legalism,"
"legalist," and "legalistic." This means that he lacked a
convenient terminology for expressing a vital distinction, and so was surely
seriously hampered in the work of clarifying the Christian position with regard
to the law. In view of this we should always, we think, be ready to reckon with
the possibility that Pauline statements, which at first sight seem to disparage
the law, are really directed not against the law itself but against that
misunderstanding and misuse of it for which we now have a convenient
terminology. In this very difficult terrain Paul was pioneering. If we make due
allowance for these circumstances, we shall not be so easily baffled or misled
by a certain impreciseness of statement which we shall sometimes encounter.44
encounter the same dilemma in the Hebrew language. There are no Hebrew words
which can easily convey the concepts of "legalism" or
"legalist." Thus Sha'ul, whether using his Hebrew-oriented mind or his
Greek language, was hindered in his attempts to explain that legalism was not
what God intended. From our understanding of the true nature of the Torah and
Rav Sha'ul's (Paul’s) theology, it is our opinion that he did an excellent job
of overcoming this language barrier!
next detrimental theological tradition we must bring to light is the
long-standing misinterpretation of nomos/torah in the Book of Galatians.
This is the book that says, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not
under the law." (5:18) Moreover, such people have "fallen from
grace." (5:4) In addition, "I, Paul, say to you that if you receive
circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you." (5:2)
rather harsh-sounding statements, among a host of others in this letter, have
been used for centuries against any believer who desired to follow the
Torah-especially in regard to circumcision, Shabbat observance, or any other
non-moral issue. What are we to make of them?
we need to know are two basic facts. The first is the hermeneutical principle
established by Acts 21:20ff. If it appears that Sha'ul was teaching against the Torah in any way,
that impression must give way to the truth of how he lived his life. If Acts 21
tells us that Sha'ul lived his life according to the Torah and encouraged others
to do the same, then we will miss the boat if we interpret Galatians as coming
from an anti-Torah viewpoint.
second fact to bear in mind is the hermeneutical principle of context,
especially the context of the whole book. To be specific, the context of the
letter to the Galatians is that of justification by faith. Sha'ul was warning
them not to make a "law" out of the Torah. By turning God's teaching
and covenant into a list of legalistic laws, the Galatians were abandoning the
principle of justification by faith and resorting to justification by works.
They were using the Torah as a means of earning, meriting, or keeping the
eternal salvation which they had received by grace through faith in the finished
work of Yeshua.
provides several indications that this was the case with the Galatians. The
first is in 2:16, "nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the
works of the law, but through faith in Messiah Yeshua, even we have believed in
Messiah Yeshua, that we may be justified by faith in Messiah, and not by the
works of the law; since by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified." The issue on Sha'ul's mind was God's requirement for our
at the Greek of Galatians 2:16, we find that the definite
article before the phrase "works of law" has been left out. It is
not, as many English versions translate it, "works
of the law." If the translator adds the definite article, it helps the
reader to assume that "the law" is a reference to the Torah. In
fact, however, it is not. "Works of
law" is a phrase indicating a man-made system of works, of which
performance-based acceptance is the core belief. Ergon nomou should be
translated as "works of law."
Galatians 2:16 should read: "knowing that a man is not justified by works
of law but through faith in Messiah Yeshua, even we have believed in Messiah
Yeshua, that we may be justified by faith in Messiah, and not by works of law;
since by works of law shall no flesh be justified."
5:4 reads, "You have been severed from Messiah, you who are seeking to be
justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Many use this verse to
demonstrate that those who follow the Torah have fallen from the grace of God
because they are obeying the "law" instead of Messiah-who, it is
argued, set them free from the law. In defense of this position, they cite the
context (verses 2-3): "Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive
circumcision, Messiah will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every
man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole
law." They say, "If you do what the Torah says and circumcise your
sons, you are no longer following Yeshua."
response? Sha'ul himself provides the key for the correct understanding of this
passage in verse 4, in which he tells us that anyone who observes Torah while
"seeking to be justified by law" runs into all kinds of problems.
of the Galatians thought that obeying the Torah (or any set of standards) would
cause them to receive their spiritual heritage-justification before God.
However, the moment one believes that obedience can secure righteousness, he has
moved from the realm of grace into that of works. The blessings of God, he
thinks, are attainable as a result of what he does.
on the other hand, says that such a person has fallen from the principle of
grace to the principle of "law." In effect, when one believes such an
erroneous teaching, the atonement accomplished by Yeshua has no value for him,
since he is relying on what he does instead of what Yeshua did for him.
teachings of the Torah were never intended to be used for such a purpose. Eternal
salvation is based on receiving the promises of God, which are given by grace to
those who do not deserve them. The only acceptable response to this grace is to
receive it by faith, rather than attempt to earn it by doing something. If
we obey the Torah in order to enjoy the blessings of the grace of God received
by faith, we are not "fallen from grace"; rather, we are embracing the
grace of God for our lives. Put another
way, if man tries to earn the blessings of God instead of appropriating
Messiah's life, he has abandoned the principle of grace and fallen to the
principle of "law." To live the Torah is to live our new creation life
in Messiah: it is actually His life in us, a life of grace and truth. Thus the
Torah is God's revelation to those born of Him, concerning how they are to act
in line with the truth of the Good News. (Galatians 2:14)
biblical faith is the kind of trust in God that always
results in a changed life. The
Torah (as well as the Brit Hadasha) describes what that changed life looks like.
It does not cause that changed life. That is the miraculous work of God,
born of His grace.
must leave Galatians now. Our point was to establish the fact that the
statements in the letter which seem to teach against the Torah are not against
it at all if one uses the Torah properly. There were some Galatians who were
turning Torah into "law" by using it as a means of justification
rather than as a way of life resulting from their justification. Let us turn now
to the Book of Romans.
theme for the letter of Sha'ul to the Romans is similar to that of Galatians,
only more comprehensive. The main topic is justification, or righteousness (the
same root is used for both in Hebrew and Greek). In Romans, the rabbi is seeking
to expound fully on the whole theme of God's righteousness, showing many
different aspects to it. As in Galatians, he also must deal with the concept of
the Torah, for there were some in
the themes are similar, the traditions of interpretation of the "law
passages" are also similar. The Church has been comprised of mostly
non-Jews throughout the centuries, most of whom have had little comprehension or
appreciation for the Torah of Moshe. Therefore, they have taken little care to
properly interpret the "law passages." There are two key passages in
Romans which have been especially misunderstood by many exegetes, resulting in a
gross anti-Torah sentiment among the people of God.
first is in Romans 10:4: "For Messiah is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone who believes." Many understand this verse to mean
that Yeshua put an end to the Torah; that anyone who believes in Him no longer
has any responsibility to follow the Torah, because Yeshua followed It for him.
closer look at the Greek, however, reveals a different meaning. The Greek word
translated "end" is the word "telos." This word
actually stresses the "goal" or purpose for something. When used in
this verse, we can say that Messiah is the "goal (telos) of the
law."42 Or, as Stern translates it, "Messiah is the goal at
which the Torah aims." In other words, in the context, Sha'ul is speaking
of people seeking the righteousness of God. They should seek it as revealed in
the Torah and most fully realized in the Messiah.
goal at which the Torah aims is acknowledging and trusting in the Messiah, who
offers on the ground of this trusting the very righteousness they are seeking.
They would see that the righteousness which the Torah offers is offered through
Him and only through Him.46
instead of teaching that through faith in Messiah the Torah is now done away
with, this verse teaches that the Torah's goal is to point someone to the
righteousness found through faith in Messiah. A
sinner can only be made righteous through faith in the Messiah. However, as a
new creation in Messiah after receiving Yeshua, he is now able to live the Torah
lifestyle through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. In so doing, he is
living out who he now is-the righteousness of God in Messiah. The Torah is the
revealed righteousness of God. The Torah lifestyle is the living out of that
righteousness. What is it that is written on the new creation heart and mind?
The very Torah of God! (Jeremiah 31:33)
we will look at one of the passages most commonly used to demonstrate that the
believer has no responsibility to follow the Torah: the seventh chapter of the
Book of Romans. To be sure, this is a difficult passage to understand
completely. But I think that we can interpret it accurately enough to confirm
that it has nothing to do with eliminating a believer's responsibility to live
the Torah, to live the righteousness of God that he has become as a new creation
key questions that need to be asked about this passage are these: What has died?
What has changed? Was it the Torah that died? Or was it something else? We ask
these questions because the first half of the chapter speaks about a death, a
separation, a change that occurred when Messiah came into our lives.
know from reading Matthew 5:17ff that the Torah could not have died. It is God's
eternal Word! Therefore, something else must have died. What has changed is our relationship
to the Torah because of our changed relationship to sin. Before we knew
Messiah's righteousness by faith, we attempted to use the Torah as a means of
earning righteousness, something it was never intended to be. Only one outcome
could have resulted from such an illegitimate usage, and that is
condemnation-because such works-righteousness could never remove our sin.
God brought us to faith in Messiah, however, everything changed. By faith, we
transferred our trust from works we attempted to do ourselves to the finished
work of Yeshua. Our new reality is that Messiah has atoned for our sin and made
us new creations. In other words, we submitted to God's righteousness found in
Yeshua instead of relying on man's righteousness through our own efforts.
our relationship to the Torah has changed. Before, because we were using it
wrongly by attempting to earn our justification through following it, all the
Torah could do was condemn us. Now, because we believe in Messiah and are
trusting in God to justify us, the Torah has become something completely
different. Just as its Author designed it
to be, it is "holy, righteous, and good." (verse 12)
relationship to the Torah can change, according to Sha'ul, because the problem
was not the Torah-it was sin. "Therefore, did that which is good [Torah] become a cause of death
for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be
shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that
through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful."
(Romans 7 13)
years, many have been hearing a different interpretation of this crucial
passage. Now we want a new voice to be heard. Listen to it one more time as a
summary. This passage teaches that our
real enemy was sin, not the Torah. Because we are new creations in Messiah, our
entire relationship to sin has changed. Therefore, our entire relationship to
the Torah has changed. Before Messiah, sin caused the Torah to be a book which,
because I followed it in an attempt to earn righteousness, largely served to
condemn me. But Messiah has shown me that I cannot earn righteousness. Rather,
it is a gift from God to all who trust in the sacrificial atonement and
subsequent resurrection of Messiah. Hence, after I trusted in Messiah, the Torah
became for me what it was really meant to be all along: a holy, righteous, and
It All Up
true Torah is our walk of faith. Faith is taking God at His Word regarding who
He is and who we, His children, are-His bride and His people. The true Torah is
for us a mirror, reflecting who we now are as ones who have been redeemed and
made anew by the finished work of the Messiah.
Sha'ul understood this completely, and carefully exposed the age-old legalistic
tendency of men throughout his letters. Ya'akov adds to our understanding of the
true Torah in his letter when he says, "Do not merely listen to the Word
and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) Why? Because it
is telling us who we are! How do we know that this is how Ya'akov understood the
Torah? By his next statement in verse 23, "For if anyone is a hearer of the
word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten
what kind of person he was."
what this is saying! When we read the Word and then do not do just what it says,
we have looked at our own face in the mirror and then gone away and
"forgotten" what we look like. The Word of God is the mirror in which
we see who we now are-what we look like. Because the work of Messiah is a
finished work, all that is left for us to do is to rejoice in the finished work
of Messiah-our new creation self-and then "behave consistently" (our
walk of faith) with who we now are. The true Torah tells us, like a mirror, what
we "look like." That is, what behavior would be consistent with who we
now are-the righteousness of God in Messiah! (Romans 5:19)
is God's teaching to men about righteousness-what it is and how it behaves. The
true believer (anyone who is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb) does not do
in order to become. He does because he is what God has made him-the
righteousness of God in Messiah. Thus Ya'akov writes, "I will show you my
faith by my works." (James 2:18) The true Torah is the walk of faith-faith
and rest in the finished work of Messiah. "This is what the Sovereign Lord,
the Holy One of Israel, says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in
quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.' "
(Isaiah 30:15) Instead, "Since they did not know the righteousness that
comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's
righteousness." (Romans 10:3)
words of Rav Sha'ul summarize perfectly why and how man has perverted the true
Torah of God into a system of works by which he believes he can establish his
own righteousness. Read the rabbi's words once again, and think about them
they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish
their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness."
fully comprehending this, declares, "I will show you my faith by my
works." (James 2:18) "The man who looks intently into the perfect
Torah"-the what?-"the perfect Torah that gives freedom"-that
gives what? Freedom! Freedom for what? Freedom to be who we now are!-"and
continues to do this, not forgetting who he is but doing who he is-he
will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25, our paraphrase)
is a righteousness that is by the Torah (Romans 10:5). It is a righteousness
that is ours in God (Romans 10:3), and it is by faith (Romans 10:6). This is the
Good News of Romans 10:16. But not all the Israelites accepted the Good News.
Instead they, and mankind throughout the ages, have developed the concept of
"law." As we have seen, performance-based acceptance is a detrimental
theological idea all in itself.
says the Lord, 'Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask
where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls.'
But you said, 'We will not walk in it!' " (Jeremiah 6:16) The true Torah is
"a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be
blessed. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace." (Proverbs
the words of life (true Torah) are changed into "law," they cease to
be the words of life. Let us be very clear! Striving and toiling are the
identifying marks of Satan's kingdom. Dwelling in delight and rest are the
identifying marks of God's kingdom.
Shalom - Cameron MMin.