For those of you who read the previous post on this blog and wondered if the person in question ever responded to my email, here is the follow-up conversation.
But, before we do that, I have to make something very clear. I have no problem with Israelites/Jews who choose to follow some portion of their historic tradition in order to demonstrate their love for God. Paul did not, either. But, his most vitriolic language was reserved for those Jews who attempted to convince Gentiles in Galatia that they ought to keep the sign of the Old Covenant — circumcision. If those Gentiles (specifically) did that, they were not only “fallen from grace” but they had been “severed from Christ.”
So, what I’m after here is for Gentiles to recognize that they simply cannot be justified by the Law. It did not justify Israel, and it cannot justify those who were never under that covenant to begin with.
With that introduction, here’s our conversation (their comments are interspersed with my comments).
Since you started this conversation with the accusation that I simply did not understand Torah observance, I’ll take one more shot at this. The things you have written are plainly and clearly wrong — not because I say so, but because you are taking Bible verses from their context and using them incorrectly to achieve your desired result. Like you, I’m not trying to be provocative. But, the New Testament writers withstood this sort of thinking quite adamantly.
For instance, you wrote:
Num. 15:13-16 says: "...For the generations to come, whenever an ALIEN OR ANYONE ELSE living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must DO EXACTLY AS YOU DO. The community is to have the SAME RULES for you AND FOR THE ALIEN living among you; this is a LASTING ORDINANCE for the generation's to come. You and the alien shall be the SAME before the LORD: The SAME LAWS AND REGULATIONS will apply to both you AND the alien living among you."
Did you even read this passage? It says that when someone (a Gentile) enters national Israel and is sacrificing “an offering made by fire,” they will make it according to the rules set out in the earlier portion of the chapter. Are you saying that’s what you’ve done? Have you joined national Israel? Are you making sacrifices with fire? Are you living within their borders (such as they are) and residing there as an alien?
So, this passage relates to neither you or me and it certainly has nothing to do with this discussion.
This idea of there being no difference between Israel and the foreign believer is reiterated in other passages: Rom. 10:12-13 -- "AND IN THIS, IT DISCRIMINATES NEITHER JEW NOR GENTILES...."
This whole passage reads — “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” (Romans 10:12-13 NASB, caps in original)
The passage is talking about salvation, not Torah observance. Salvation is not only available to Jews but also to Gentiles. Nowhere in this passage does it say that Gentiles who have come to Christ are now required to live like Torah-keeping Jews. In fact, the entire book of Galatians deals with that very subject and Paul said that people who promote that theology are “anathema.” (Gal 1:8-9)
God's commands (Torah), have been (in) existence since the very beginning, before there even were "JEWS," who only came into existence after Jacob begat Judah. Prior to Israel becoming a nation, those who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were called Hebrews, which simply means "crossed over." Torah is not just for "the Jews" but for anyone who has crossed over to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham was a pagan Chaldean after all.
Semantics. The law covenant was with all the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai after being delivered out of Egypt. It is not — nowhere, not ever, not even once — prescribed for Gentiles, nor was it ever spoken of as covenant between God and them.
Also, Torah has NOT been in “existence since the very beginning.” The Bible says just the opposite.
Romans 5:12-14 — Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even when there was no law. Got that? No law until Moses. And just as it had a beginning, it had an end.
Eccl. 12: 13-14 -- "Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything: fear God, and keep His mitzvot (commandments), this is what being human is all about. For God will bring to judgment everything we do, every secret, whether good or bad."
Solomon was king of Israel. He was talking about Israel. He was writing to Israel. They (Israel) were under a covenant to keep the law. None of those words apply to the church, who has been redeemed, blood-bought, and “perfected forever” (Heb. 10:14) by the finished work of Christ. He became a curse for us. He died for us. He justified us. No Christian is required to keep the Law.
You’re mixing and matching covenants.
Oh! No wait...none of this part of God's Word matters anymore though, right? Jesus nailed it to the cross and abolished it all. Come on!
At this point, you’re not arguing with me, you’re arguing with the Bible.
First off, He didn’t “abolish” it. I never said that. He fulfilled it. And yes, Paul says that He nailed it to His tree. That’s not me, that’s Paul.
By the way, “Come on!” is not an argument. It’s an expression of exasperation.
I am sorry if you have become exasperated by discussing these things.
Do you love God with all you heart, mind, and soul? If so, what do you DO to show that you do? We are called to be set apart and holy, right? Tell me, Jim, are you living a holy, set apart life? How do you know if you are or not? You indicate that the "OT" is basically just for the Jews, so, does it not follow then that only Jews are supposed to live holy lives? Will you please provide me with Scriptural proof that shows this is so? Do you know what the law is and what being under the law means?
That’s Paul’s whole point. The law did NOT result in the Jews living holy lives. It resulted in them being judged. So, he concluded that the reason for the law was to make sin more obvious (Rom. 7, Gal. 3:21).
Or, more clearly — “Why then was the Law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the seed to whom the promise referred. It was administered through angels by a mediator. (Gal. 3:19)
Also, the purpose of the law is to lead us to Christ, like a good tutor. But, now that it has led us to Christ, it has completed its purpose and we who are in Christ are no longer bound to it.
Gal. 3:24-26 — “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
I just don’t know how much clearer the Bible has to make it.
But, here’s the scary part. By keeping the law, you are begging God to judge you by that law. And, by your own admission, you haven’t kept it perfectly and perpetually. So, Paul says —
Gal. 3:10-11 — For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Of course I love God. And I show it by trusting His Son, just as His Son requires. Once, the Pharisees (who are real sticklers for keeping Law) asked Jesus what works they could do to improve their standing with God (sort of like you’re doing). They wanted a command, an action, a rule. He answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)
That’s what I’m doing. Exactly what God said to do: believe in Christ.
(I'm sorry for all the questions but I am trying to understand how you can possibly conclude that Torah is no longer relevant and not meant for all who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so please, humor me.)
Consider yourself “humored”. 🙂
The reason is plain and simple. Your tradition won’t allow you to see it, but I am staying perfectly consistent with what the Bible says about how New Covenant Gentiles are saved and justified. Not by the works of law, but by faith in Christ. And I really do hope, by God’s good grace, that the scales will fall from you eyes and you will read the Bible for what it is actually saying.
As for the seventh day Sabbath, what Biblical evidence can you provide that shows it was changed to a Sunday?
Changed to Sunday? It wasn’t. Sunday is the day of the week when Christ arose. So the early Christians, no longer Sabbath-keepers, began meeting on Sunday (Acts 20:7). That’s just history.
But, I have never argued that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday. That’s impossible because the word “shabbath” means “seventh.” There is no way to make the first day of the week into the seventh day. It’s a mathematic impossibility.
But, here’s what’s really important. Keeping the Sabbath was a sign of the Old Covenant (Exod. 31:13). When that Covenant was replaced by Christ’s blood of the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), the sign of that previous covenant was equally done away with. That’s why Paul could argue against Gentiles keeping the Sabbath. They were never part of that covenant.
Again, what Scriptures can you offer that prove that Sabbath keeping and the keeping of the Feasts (God's appointed times), do not apply to all believers?
Colossians 2:13-17 — When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Sabbaths, new moons, feasts — they’re all just casting shadows that were fulfilled in Christ’s appearance on the planet. He is the substance. I prefer Him to the Sabbaths and feasts ,,, you know, like the Bible says.
What Scriptures can you show me that say that God's Divine Instructions in Righteousness (Torah) were EVER negated?
There are no Scriptures that say that God’s Law was negated. That’s your word, not mine. But, there are multiple verse that say it was fulfilled.
Matthew 5:17 — “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
Hebrews 8:13 — When He (God) said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
I'm sorry, Jim, I'm not trying to be provocative. I just cannot fathom how you can conclude that Yeshua abolished the Law and yet still quote Him saying He hadn't come to do that! Jim:
You’re not being provocative. You’re just not understanding the genuine freedom we have in Christ. When Christ told law-keeping Pharisees “whom the Son sets free is free indeed,” that meant something. Paul repeatedly refers to the law as bondage, a yoke, and something that was against us. No one from Israel was ever justified by the law. And yet, people have imposed it on you as though it’s going to do you some good. It didn’t help Israel, it has never helped anyone; why would it help you?
The law was added to make sin all the more sinful. It cannot bend to help you. It can only condemn you. It can only curse you.
And that’s not what I want for you.
Perhaps there really is no point in continuing our discussion. It is clear from the tone of your second email that you think I am in error and obviously I think you are. I suppose we're at the proverbial dead end!
It doesn’t matter who thinks who is in error. It only matters what the Bible says. That’s our final authority. And so far you are not representing it correctly. But, I want you to, because there is great freedom, grace, and joy in Christ’s finished work. If He has finished it, then there’s nothing you can add to it. He gets all the glory. And that’s how it should be.
And, in case you think that I am utterly antinomian, I agree with Paul that, while we are not under the law of Moses, we under the law of Christ (Gal 6:2) — which is different. We follow HIS commands. But, we do not follow the Sinai Law. Rather than use commands written in stone to govern my behavior, I am trusting that the power of God through His Holy Spirit can achieve what the law could not do. He has changed me. He has enlightened and converted me. He is sufficient for all those who walk in the Spirit of God.
By the way, many years ago I taught a series on this topic — Law Versus Grace. If you care to listen, it’s here:
And if this is the end of our discussion, then I hope that God has mercy on you and yours.
So, there I was. Minding my own business. Not doing any harm. Just checking my email. And this note appeared —
Dear Sir, I have just read your article in response to an e-mail you received from someone who, like me, is Torah observant. Having read your responses it seems to me that you don't truly understand what Torah observance is. For example you cite keeping all 613 laws, picking up sticks on Shabbat and driving a car, etc. As a Torah observant person I can say that I don't keep all 613 commandments any more than any other human being ever has or was expected to. Most were for the priests, some were just for men and some just for women. Some were only in effect as long as the Temple stood and, indeed, it would be a violation to keep those now that there is no Temple. With regards to Shabbat and your implying that to keep it "properly" would entail not driving a car, picking up sticks, and so on. Might I remind you of HaShem's guidelines to keeping Shabbat? What you're implying are man-made or Rabbinical laws, which is what Paul disputed.
A Torah observant person who we would later find out is a Gentile. A person who was willing to bend the Sabbath rules to make them more do-able. Someone who claimed that Paul was only disputing man-made or Rabbinical laws. My curiosity was piqued.
So, being the inquisitive sort of person I am, I wrote back.
Thanks for writing. Since you stated that I don't "truly understand what Torah observance is," would you mind enlightening me? Don't just tell me where you think I am wrong, tell me what about Torah observance is right. I'd appreciate it. In Him, Jim Mc.
It took about a day for the response to hit.
Dear Sir, Thank you for making time to respond to my email and your subsequent attempt to engage me. You asked me to explain what Torah observant means, but I think we both know that this is a "trick" question. To be honest, I got the distinct impression that this question often precedes the majority of your interactions with those who are, or claim to be, Torah observant. Much like anti-missionaries or Christians that go out "witnessing" to people on the street. I get the feeling that you are "setting me up" by asking this. You probably have further pre-thought of questions to ask that are "activated" by certain phrases or statements made by those with whom you engage, all in a bid to bring them to a point where they either find themselves out of their depth or inclined to acquiesce to your beliefs. If I am at fault then I sincerely apologize. With that said, perhaps because I am a curious soul and somewhat given to healthy debate, I will attempt to answer your question in my own way. (We'll see of what I say triggers any of those scripted responses I sort of expect...she says with a wink.) Torah Observance means different things to different people, or so I have discovered, hence there doesn't seem to be a right or wrong answer from what I can tell. This is why I said at the outset that it is a bit of a "trick" question. After-all, what Torah observance means to many non-Jewish believers in Yeshua is not what it means to Jewish people who do not believe Yeshua is the Messiah. Therefore, with that in mind, I shall answer your question by telling you what it means to me, or rather, how I interpret it. I know that there are 613 commandments. The majority were for the priests. Some were only for men and others were only for women. Some are only applicable if the Temple is in existence and operational. Therefore, those 613 commandments are drastically reduced. Those that could be called the "forever" commands are the ones I take into account. Examples would be the seventh day Sabbath and the Feasts. Naturally, as a believer in Yeshua, I know that my salvation does not rest in Torah or Torah observance. Instead, I view Torah as God's blueprint that shows me how to live a moral, set apart (holy) life. It makes me more aware of my sins, of what Yeshua did for me, and of God's love. As one website puts it: Torah is God's Divine Instructions in Righteousness. He said it would never be abolished until everything that must happen has happened and that hasn't happened yet! Yeshua said He didn't come to abolish it. We are told that those who love God keep His commandments. There are hundreds of examples from both the Tanach and the NT that prove that His commandments still stand. Rabbinical law is another matter altogether and clearly you employed it when responding to another person by mentioning certain activities allegedly taboo for Sabbath. This is a common mistake or tactic that is employed. Sabbath was created for man, not man for Sabbath, as Yeshua said. I am not bound by rabbinical law. As a Gentile, I am grafted onto the original olive tree. I do not stand alone. As part of the olive tree I should do as they do. Those who join with Israel are to do as Israel does as we are told in Numbers. There is to be no difference. Yeshua did not abolish His Father's Divine Instructions in Righteousness. As Yeshua said in Lk. 16:17 "...and it is EASIER for heaven and earth to pass away than for Torah to pass away." To me, that really sums it up, but as I already said, there are countless verses telling us that Torah observance is still expected from any who claim to love God. And therein lies the explanation for why I choose to honor the seventh day Sabbath, keep the Feasts, and so on, or rather, why I choose to be Torah observant. I can find no Scriptural grounds for not being so. Of course, you're in the business of teaching people whereas I am not. I daresay I could answer your question better than I have here. Nevertheless, you asked and I have answered. In Him...
Okay. A tad defensive at first for someone who started this conversation, but fair enough. I did reply. And that’s the balance of this post.
There are so many things I hoped to unravel in this exchange that I decided to share it with all of you, in the hope that it will increase our understanding of why the New Covenant church is not under the Law of Moses.
(I won’t format it like the above emails. I’ll just post my response.)
Nope. Not a trick question. As you stated, “Torah Observance means different things to different people.” I just wondered what it meant to you since you were so convinced that I did not understand it.
I think I do understand. We just disagree. Let me explain.
I don’t expect to convince you, but at least you cannot say no one ever told you. 🙂
First off, what is Torah? The law of Moses constitutes a covenant between God and national Israel. Pay attention to these passages:
Deut. 29:1 – “These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.”
And what were those words of the covenant?
Deut. 29:29 – “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
Here’s the first really important thing to understand. “All the words of this law” constitute the covenant between God and Israel. It cannot be divided up or partitioned in order to make it more do-able. It stands as a single unit, as a covenant, with national Israel.
Jeremiah agrees, calling the law “the words of the covenant” (Jeremiah 11:6-8) And the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers in the day that I brought them up from the land of Egypt, even to this day, warning persistently, saying, ‘Listen to My voice.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.’”
According to Jeremiah, the reason that God punished Israel was because they did not keep “all the words of this covenant.” The law includes a curse for not performing it perfectly and perpetually.
Meanwhile, what about the Ten Commandments?
Exodus 34:28 — “So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”
Deuteronomy 9:9 — “When I went up to the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD had made with you, then I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water.”
Hebrews 9:3-4 — “Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;
So, what am I attempting to establish? That God formed the law (the whole law) and the Ten Commandments as the basis for a covenant between Himself and Israel. No Gentile nations were included. It was distinctly and uniquely Israel’s covenant. Which, by the way, they did not keep and underwent the curses that are included in the covenant.
So, how do I know that the law cannot be divided? Because James tells us that even if someone keeps the whole law, but misses it in one point, he’s guilty of the whole thing. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
And I will be quick to point out that nowhere in the Bible are certain commands referred to as “forever commands.” It’s the Law, in sum total, or it’s nothing.
That’s the Torah. A covenant with Israel, with an attendant curse, which was never given to Gentiles. It stands as a complete unit. It cannot be divided up. And to miss it in any one place is be guilty of everything contained in it.
So, what about the Church? What about Christians, both Jew and Gentile? Are they under the covenant of Moses? Are they called to be observant of the rules and laws in Israel’s Covenant?
No. In fact, Paul argues that, since the law failed to justify anyone (Gal. 2:6, 3:11, 5:4) and ended in a curse, Gentiles should not be bound by that law. After all, it didn’t help the people with whom it was originally made, so why would people who were never part of that covenant observe it as if their partial observance will somehow help them?
Galatians 4:21 – “Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?” The KJV says, “do you not hear the law?”
Do you not understand what it’s really saying?
Galatians 2:19 – “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.”
Dying to the law is how you live to God. Not by keeping it.
Romans 4:14-15 — “For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”
Salvation is by faith, not by Torah. The Law brings God’s wrath.
Colossians 2:13-14 – “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
The “decrees that were against us, which was hostile to us” was Torah. The law. Christ became a curse for us (paying off the debt owed to us – the curse of the law) and then He removed the law as a means of approaching God, nailing it to His tree.
And then He resurrected, establishing a “New Covenant.” It replaced the Old Covenant. It did not ratify it. It did not rubber-stamp it. It superseded and did away with the Old.
Jeremiah 31:31-32 (Hebrews 8:8-9) – “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD.
In order for a covenant to be qualitatively new, it had to be replacing what was old. And it was not like what went before it. No mingling the two.
Hebrews 8:13 – When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
If God intended for something to “disappear,” I wonder what would drive a person to try and sustain it. Isn’t that human reason that stands against the clear will and intention of God?
When was this New Covenant established?
Luke 22:20 – And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
1Corinthians 11:25 – In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
The New Covenant in Christ’s blood (in contradistinction to the Old Covenant in the blood of bulls and goats) was established when His blood was spilled on Calvary. And, in establishing the New Covenant, He did away with the Old.
In fact, Paul was so sure of this fact that he said that if someone reverted to the Old, he was fallen from grace and Christ would be of no help to him.
Galatians 5:4 – You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
The Old and New stood in opposition to each other. The New Covenant utterly saved and justified everyone who was a part of it. The Old Covenant cursed and did not justify anyone. The difference is startling. And the notion that you can mix the two is utterly untenable, according to the New Testament authors.
I could go on. I could go on and on and on. I’m a preacher, it’s my job. 🙂
But, these warnings are enough to convince me that, since I was never part of the Old Covenant to begin with, once I’ve been covered by the blood of the New Covenant, there is no reason to go back to the thing that could not save. I am trusting in Christ implicitly for what He has accomplished, which is the salvation of all His people. He is my righteousness and my justification. I cannot add to that.
And I do not submit myself to Torah, because it is weak, it is replaced by the New, and it is a sure pathway to wrath.
That’s the essence of our disagreement.
And, let me say again, the Bible never divides the law into categories. There aren’t parts of the law that are now acceptable and parts that have faded away. The whole of the law is done away with in finished work of Jesus Christ.
I hope you realize that being Torah observant is tantamount to saying that Christ’s finished work was not enough to save you. You have to add something more. And the ‘more’ you are attempting to add is from a covenant that you were never part of in the first place. It’s not even logical.
As for your reference to Luke 16:17, I would respond by quoting the parallel passage from Matthew 5:17-18 — “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” And then He accomplished it. He fulfilled it. (John 19:28) That’s why it was nailed to His cross. That’s why Paul could speak of the freedom we have in Christ.
And whom the Lord sets free, is free indeed. (John 8:36)
As for your reasons for keeping the seventh day Sabbath, the Feasts, and so on, I will answer as Paul did in Colossians 2:16-17 — “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Christ is enough for me.
My hope and prayer for you is also from the pen of the apostle Paul. He instructed in Galatians 5:1 – “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
Yours for His sake,
Now, I just hope she listens.