For the most part, I don’t find a lot to comment on in the second section of Peter’s article, though I do like a couple of his comments enough to want to lead off by repeating them:
After the beatitudes when Jesus describes those who will be the most blessed by the arrival of the kingdom of heaven He then turns to His audience (Matt. 5:13-16) and encourages them to accept responsibility for the message that He is declaring to them. He refers to them as salt and light saying, “You are the light of the world! Don’t hide your light! It is your good works that will glorify your Father in heaven!”
Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith!
It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are.
In any case, I’d like to delve into the real meat of Peter’s article, which he states as such:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:17-18)
Here Jesus was making it clear that He had not come to advocate lawlessness. His message was not to be received as against the Law and the Prophets, but should instead be recognized as fulfilling the Law. Jesus makes this clear at the beginning of His ministry, yet the Gospels go on to record that this was precisely the issue that caused so much friction between Jesus and the “Teachers of the Law.” On one hand Jesus says that every jot and tittle of the Law will remain until heaven and earth pass away, yet on the other hand we see Jesus breaking the Sabbath, violating purity regulations by deliberately touching lepers and corpses, and opposing (and in fact halting) the perfectly lawful application of a punishment upon a guilty adulteress (John 8).
Here’s the real point at which Peter and I disagree. It’s very common in Christian circles to justify tossing away “the Law” on the basis that Jesus supposedly did the same. However, those of us who have studied both what the Torah actually teaches and the Jewish traditional interpretations of the first few centuries recognize that while Yeshua often departed from rabbinic traditions, he never actually violated or taught against the Torah itself. Rather, he taught the Torah in its purest essence.
Before I continue, let me add that Yeshua had not yet initiated a New Covenant before his sacrifice. Therefore, even if we accept that a new covenant means a new set of commandments (which I am not conceding, but just for example), Yeshua himself was “born under the Law” (Gal. 4:4), and therefore if he indeed violated the Law as Peter claims, he himself was a sinner and not the Messiah and Savior. Or to put it another way, Jesus could hardly fulfill the Law by breaking it.
Therefore, Peter’s claim that Jesus on several occasions deliberately violated the Torah is actually an accidental blasphemy on his part–and because I know Peter, and I know what the churches typically teach on this topic, I will emphasize again the word “accidental.” Peter’s intention of course is to elevate Christ, not denigrate him.
With that in mind, I’m going to spend the next few posts addressing Peter’s proof-texts and demonstrating that in no case was the Torah itself violated, though certainly certain rabbinic traditions were.
Before I do that, let me touch on the end of Peter’s article on Jesus and the Law and hit the main points:
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus pays lip service to the Law of Moses even as He suggests three ways in which the Old Covenant law is both temporary and deficient:
“Lip-service?” Really? Would that be rather hypocritical of him? Sorry, but even more than claiming that Paul was talking out of both sides of his mouth, this statement deserves the
1. The law will remain only until heaven and earth pass away.
Which very obviously hasn’t happened yet. Nor will it happen even after the Second Coming. Consider for a moment Isaiah’s prophecy:
It shall happen in the latter days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
and all nations shall flow to it.
Many peoples shall go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion the Torah shall go forth,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations,
and will decide concerning many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa. 2:2-4)
This prophecy is so important that it is repeated word-for-word in Micah 4:1-3, the only case in all of Scripture of a prophecy being repeated exactly by two different prophets. It is clearly a promise of the World-to-Come–for all of the benefits we have had in the Spirit, we have not yet managed to eradicate war from the earth–but it clearly states that the Torah will go forth from Zion to bring about that peace. Moreover, Isaiah 56:6-7 (quoted by Yeshua when he drove the moneylenders from the Temple) contains an open invitation for non-Jews to keep the Sabbaths (which includes the feasts), Isaiah 66:23 states that all flesh will worship the Lord on the Sabbaths and new moons (again, the feasts), and Zechariah 14 actually states that the Feast of Sukkot (Booths) will be compulsory on the nations! Isaiah 52:1 states that there will be a day when no one uncircumcised or ritually impure will be allowed to come into Jerusalem (cf. Eze. 44:23)–so much for the idea that circumcision and ritual purity have been abolished!
2. The law will remain until it is fulfilled, and Jesus came to fulfill the law.
“Fulfill” does not mean to “abolish by keeping” or “bring to an end.” Consider Galatians 5:14–“For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Okay, so obviously, I just need to love my neighbor as myself just once, and then I can go rob his house, right? No, “fulfill” in a NT context means to show fully the true meaning, whether that be the true meaning of a prophecy or the true meaning of the Torah.
Heaven and earth are both still here, yet even the most ardent “Torah-observant” Christian accepts that all of these jots and tittles are of no effect in the everyday life of the believer who is “in Christ.” Sacrifices have ceased, the Temple has been destroyed, and the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by the priesthood of all believers with Jesus as our High Priest. We all realize that for all intents and purposes these areas of the Torah have been abolished by the death and resurrection of the Messiah (despite the fact that it seems that Jesus said that He had not come to abolish the Torah).
Actually, no we don’t. We recognize that because the Temple was destroyed, certain commandments of the Torah can no longer be carried out in a physical manner. However, under the New Covenant, the disciples of Yeshua continued to participate in the Temple service, even taking voluntary Nazrite vows and keeping them (Acts 2:46, 3:1, 18:18, 21:23-26, 24:17)–which would require participation in the sacrificial service and even bringing their own sacrifices (“their expenses that they may shave their heads,” Acts 21:24, cf. Num. 6:13-17). Moreover, most premillennial Christians recognize that there will be a third Temple and a restoration of the sacrificial service, as described in Ezekiel 40-48. How does that fit with the idea that “those areas of the Torah have been abolished”?
If we can recognize the stark reality of all of the abolished “jots and tittles” for things such as animal sacrifice, which all believers agree upon, then the door is open to consider the openly debated aspects of Torah observance such as Sabbath-keeping and dietary restrictions as well.
Yeshua states plainly that he didn’t come to abolish the Torah and the prophets. Peter says he did. I’ll go with what the Lord says. Moreover, since the Apostles continued to participate even in the sacrificial service, and we know they continued to keep the Sabbath, why would the Sabbaths, Feasts, and kosher suddenly be on the table for discussion?
3. The Law of Moses is deficient when compared to the requirements concerning righteousness for the kingdom of heaven.
The problem is not with the Torah, but with ourselves (Rom. 7:5). And as I will continue to show, everything that Yeshua taught comes from, and is a clarification of, the Torah, not a “new law” in place of it.