In previous entries (see below) we saw that the Torah was not replaced in the New Covenant, but was written on our hearts by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. We saw that Yeshua put His personal endorsement on every last letter and penstroke of the Torah, and we have seen that when it is not being added to and when it is understood that it is God’s grace received by trusting His Messiah, the Torah is not a burden too heavy to bear. And we saw that the “Jewish,” or ceremonial, parts of the Torah tell us how to love God, just as the “moral” commandments tell us how to love our fellow man.
What then about the Apostles? Didn’t they say that keeping the Torah was putting one’s self “under the Law” instead of under Grace?
What is sin? According to the Apostle Yochanan (John), “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn. 3:4)–or to put it another way, since nomos nearly always means “Torah” in the NT: “Everyone who practices sin also practices Torah-lessness, for sin is Torah-lessness.”
And again from Sha’ul: “What shall we say then? Is the Torah sin? [Ed. note: Some Christians seem to think so.] Let it not be said! But I did not know sin except through the law. For also I did not know lust except the law said, You shall not lust” (Rom. 7:7). The Torah tells us what is sin, so that we may avoid it. It also tells us what is good, that we may be more like God. Every Biblical Christian would agree with that in regards to not stealing or avoiding idolatry.
I’m not saying that one has to be Jewish to be saved or to grow in one’s Christian walk. God likes variety (see the second half of Rev. 7), and He loves you just as much as a Gentile. And I’m certainly not saying that Torah-keeping is a prerequisite for salvation; it’s not. But neither should you preach against keeping God’s commandments.
Moreover, in falsely teaching that Yeshua came to do away with the Torah, we have put a stumbling block between the Jewish people and their Messiah:
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ -which you have not known-‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.
Now consider the perspective of an observant Jew: He hears of this Jesus fellow, who came with all these signs and wonders and prophecies, but who, according to the Christians, came to do away with the Torah and start a new religion based on worship of him rather than worship of the One God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Based on the information being given him by the vast majority of Christians, the Jew would be right to reject Jesus according to the Torah.
But Yeshua never did away with the Torah. What He did away with were the curses the Torah pronounces against those who do not keep it. Being thus freed from the curses, we can now follow the Torah out of love and a legitimate desire to be like God instead of out of fear of punishment. Having no fear, and having instead received the Spirit of Adoption, we don’t have to add fences around the Torah lest we accidentally violate it–and it was those fences, all those additional laws and traditions, which would be codified centuries later in the Talmud, which were the “yoke too heavy to bear,” the “heavy burdens” that the Pharisees tied up on others’ shoulders and refused to help them carry.
Nor did Sha’ul, who told others to imitate him as he imitated the Messiah (1 Co. 11:1), ever say that the Torah was done away with. On the contrary:
For not the hearers of the Torah are just before God, but the doers of the Torah shall be justified. (Rom. 2:13)
Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the Torah, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the Torah, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the Torah? (Rom. 2:26-27)
Do we then make void the Torah through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish (i.e., uphold) the Torah. (Rom. 3:1)
Therefore the Torah is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Rom. 7:12)
For we know that the Torah is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Ro 7:14)
For I delight in the Torah of God according to the inward man. (Rom. 7:22)
For Christ is the end (telos, goal) of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:4)
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. (1 Co. 7:19)
Therefore the Torah was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Gal. 3:24)
But we know that the Torah is good if one uses it lawfully . . . (1 Ti. 1:8)
All Scripture (including the Torah) 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Ti. 3:16-17)
Sha’ul was never opposed to the Torah, nor to keeping it. What he was opposed to was the misuse of the Torah, in Torah-keeping as an end unto itself, as if one could keep God’s Law well enough to earn the salvation that God has freely offered by His grace.
And if none of that makes sense to the reader, then I have one last argument: My Lord kept Torah, therefore I strive to keep Torah–not for salvation or rewards, but so I can be like Him. My Lord kept kosher, therefore I keep kosher. My Lord wore tzitzit (tassels with a blue thread) on His clothing, so so do I. My Lord celebrated the Feastdays, therefore I celebrate the feastdays. My Lord kept Sabbath on the seventh day, and so do I. My Lord observed Hanukkah (John 10:22), and so do I.
It’s as simple as that.
Shalom, and Happy Hanukkah!
(And for my more conventional brethren, Merry Christmas!)