Law/Torah

I believe that it is important to obey many of the precepts, instructions and commandments (mitzvot in Hebrew) set forth by God, to Moses, in the Torah.  Paul said that the law is holy, and each commandment (mitzvah) is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12).  James indicated that the perfect law gives freedom and brings blessings (James 1:25).

King David said that the Lord’s law is perfect, His statutes are trustworthy, His precepts are right, and His commands are radiant (Psalm 9:7,8).  The writer of Psalm 119 wrote these facts about God’s Law/Torah:

  • I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. (Psalm 119:30)
  • Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. (Psalm 119:43)
  • The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy. (Psalm 119:138)
  • Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. (Psalm 119:142)
  • You are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (Psalm 119:151)
  • All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. (Psalm 119:160)

It generally is accepted that there are 613 Mitzvot or Commandments to follow in the Torah.  No one was or is expected to keep all of them, though.  For instance, some apply only to men, some only to women, some only to those who live in Israel, and some only to those serving in the Temple, which no longer stands.

The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20-23, 24:7) consists of the commandments spoken to Moses by God at Mount Sinai, before the people broke their covenant with Him via the golden calf episode (Exodus 32).  After this happened, penalties for breaking fellowship with God (especially worshiping other gods) became more severe.

There actually were no sin offering requirements in the Book of the Covenant.  Sin offerings were required only after God's covenant with Israel was broken.  Once Jesus died on the cross, all the penalties for sin in the Torah were paid in full, enabling believers in Him to gain eternal life without further sacrifices.

Obedience to the Law/Torah, in whole or in part, is not essential for the complete remission of sins, nor for eternal salvation.  The ancient priests in Israel offered daily sacrifices, none of which could take away sins.

However, through Yeshua/Jesus, everyone who believes in Him can receive forgiveness of sins and is justified from everything for which the Law/Torah could not justify (Acts 13:38,39).  Jesus made one sacrifice for sins, which has perfected believers who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:11,12,14).  The sacrifices were to remind the people of their sins, but it was impossible for the blood of animals to take away their sins (10:3,4)

Jesus’ death on the cross is the only thing that has paid the penalty for sin (that is, transgression of God’s Law), but it did not eliminate the requirement for us to continue upholding and obeying the original written Law, in conjunction with our faith (Romans 3:31).  It is unnecessary, though, for Christian Gentiles to convert to Judaism to be a part of God’s eternal covenant.

Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the written Law/Torah of God but to fulfill it (that is, to live it out and to clarify it); furthermore, this Law will be in effect for as long as the present Creation is in existence (Matthew 5:17,18), since God does not change (Malachi 3:6).  For instance, when Jesus said to do to others what you would have them do to you, He specifically was elucidating the Torah commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18).  More importantly, He was summarizing the entire Law/Torah and Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

Following Jesus’ crucifixion, it no longer was necessary to offer sacrificed animals as compensation for sins.  This is because Jesus’ one-time offering and sacrifice of Himself satisfied that stipulation for all time (Hebrews 9:24-26).

Our present offerings and sacrifices begin with sacrificing our pride and acknowledging that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8,10).  Then we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, rejecting the ways of the world and being transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1,2).

We also are to praise God continually and to be self-sacrificing on the behalf of others (Hebrews 13:15,16), as well as to sacrifice our own self-will and our pride when they will lead to sin.  The sacrifices that God desires are a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).  Another substitute for altar sacrifices is prayer (see Prayer, an Altar Sacrifice).

Furthermore, we should “slaughter” and “burn” those aspects of our character that we know are offensive to God and replace them with the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  In these ways, we will be offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, and renewing our minds so that we no longer conform to the ways of the world but, instead, to God’s perfect will for our lives (Romans 12:1,2).

Numerous aspects of the first and second comings of Jesus were written about by the ancient prophets in the Old Testament.  This included the writings by Moses in the Law/Torah (Luke 24:27,44; John 1:45).  Jesus even said that the Scriptures (of the Old Testament) testified about Him and that Moses wrote about Him (John 5:39,46).

Jesus (not Muhammad, as Islam claims) was the Prophet, foretold by Moses, to be “raised up” for the people (Deuteronomy 18:18,19; John 6:14; Acts 3:22,23).  Jesus pointed out to the religious Pharisees of His time that their teachings were rules taught by men; they had forsaken the written commands (Torah) of God, holding instead to the traditions of men (Mark 7:7,8).

Calling the Pharisees and teachers of the law “hypocrites,” Jesus said that they honored God with their lips but their hearts were far from Him; they worshiped God in vain, and their teachings were merely rules taught by men (Matthew 15:7-9; Isaiah 29:13).  Thus, Jesus spoke out against manmade “laws” rather than God’s written Law/Torah.

In a similar manner, most modern-day Christians observe and celebrate days that are Church traditions and mere substitutes for days ordained by God.  These include the following:

  • a first-day (Sunday) Sabbath; whereas, the Fourth Commandment stipulates a seventh-day Sabbath (see Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday?),
  • Easter (which is “Resurrection Day” or the Feast of Firstfruits), and
  • Christmas (Jesus was born during Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles, which falls in late September to mid October).

When Moses was a long time in coming down from Mount Sinai, the people got tired of waiting.  Finally, they asked their High Priest, Aaron, to make them other gods (Deuteronomy 32:1).  So Aaron directed them to bring gold, and a golden calf was made, which became a manmade god in conjunction with a manmade festival (32:2-6).  God punished them for doing this (32:27,28,32).

Similarly, after waiting a long time for Jesus to return from heaven, the Church—both Catholic and Protestant—grew weary of waiting for Him; and “high priests” created manmade gods/idols, along with manmade festivals and celebrations.  These have become traditions that substitute for the real God and His appointed feasts and festivals.  Essentially, these are “golden calves” within the Church.

Jesus fulfilled the Hebraic Spring Festivals/Holy Days at His first coming, and He will fulfill the Hebraic Fall Festivals/Holy Days when He returns, first in the clouds and then back to earth.  Jesus said that He was the “Lord of the Sabbath”; then He went into a synagogue (Matthew 12:8,9).  Being Jewish, He went to synagogues and taught on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21,22; Luke 4:15,16,31, 13:10), which was the seventh day of the week: Saturday.  There also are several cases of Paul’s entering synagogues and/or teaching on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14,44,45, 16:13, 17:1,2, 18:4,11).

Likewise, I also feel that, on some level, believers should observe, or at least acknowledge, the Hebraic feasts, festivals, and holy days of the Lord (Leviticus 23:1-44).  I would include in these holy days a seventh-day (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday) Sabbath, which is the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15see Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday?).

I think it is fine for Christians to attend church on Sunday.  However, I feel that it still is important for them to accept the Fourth Commandment as written and acknowledge a seven-day Sabbath.  For instance, they could join together with other like-minded people for a Bible study on Friday night or Saturday.  It also is recommended not to do regular work from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Those not observing a seventh-day Sabbath might claim that they no longer are “under the Law of Moses.”  Yet, by observing only a first-day Sabbath, in essence they are continuing to be “under the law of Constantine,” who made Sunday the official day of rest in 321 A.D.  This may have been an endorsement of what Christians had practiced for nearly two and a half centuries.  Much of the early church had adopted Sunday as their day of worship, since Jesus Christ had risen on the first day of the week, even though there was no scriptural basis for doing this.

Nonetheless, the Torah did not “go away” when Jesus was crucified and resurrected.  It was not “nailed to the cross,” as some will claim.  The Torah is part of the covenant with Israel, which has not been abolished (Matthew 5:17) but continues to be the foundation of the new covenant, for both Israel and the Church.

What was “nailed to the cross,” figuratively speaking, was the record of sins and transgressions of the law, along with their associated penalties, of those who will accept Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf.  Jesus Christ redeemed us from the curse or penalty of the law by becoming a “curse” for us on the cross (Galatians 3:13).

The penalty for our sin is canceled eternally because the sacrifice for our sin, Yeshua/Jesus, lives eternally.  Also “nailed to the cross” was the collection of traditional, man-made rabbinical laws, rules, and regulations, which were advocated by a majority of the Pharisees and Sadduces of Jesus’ time.

Some will point to Jeremiah 31:31,32 and Hebrews 8:8,9, noting that the new covenant will not be like the old covenant that God made with Israel, which the people broke.  They will say this is “evidence” that the new covenant has nothing to do with keeping the ancient Law written in the Torah.

However, if we read a little further, we will see that the ultimate fulfillment of the new covenant will be when God puts the Law/Torah in the minds and writes it on the hearts of those in Israel (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).  This is after Yeshua/Jesus returns to rule and reign, during the Millennium.

At that time, Jesus will reside in/on the millennial Temple and Holy Mountain of the Lord in Jerusalem, teaching us His ways; and the Law/Torah and Word of the Lord will go out from Zion (Isaiah 2:2,3; Micah 4:1,2).  Since Gentile believers and Messianic Jewish believers have been grafted and re-grafted into the “olive tree” of Israel, then the Law/Torah will be established in their minds and written on their hearts as well.  People’s hearts will rejoice as they go up to the mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 30:29) in Jerusalem.

Jesus, the Lord, will sit on His throne in Jerusalem as King over Israel and over the whole earth (Jeremiah 3:17; Zechariah 14:9; Luke 1:30-33).  People from powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek and entreat the Lord (Zechariah 8:22).  He will be the Source of counsel, guidance, justice, and mercy for all the people in the world.

We are not required to keep God’s commandments or Torah, nor to become “legally Jewish,” to obtain justification for our sins in His eyes, leading to salvation and eternal life.  Salvation from our sins, and an eternal existence with God, can be attained only through our faith and belief in the following things:

  • Jesus Christ as our Lord,
  • His personal sacrifice on the cross,
  • His blood atonement as payment for our sins, and
  • His resurrection from the dead.

It is our faith that brings God’s forgiveness and grace to us.  That is, we are justified by faith rather than by works (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 5:1,2), just as Abraham’s faith was credited to him, by God, as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3).  However, keeping God’s commandments does demonstrate that we love Him and His Word, plus it makes it more likely that things may go well for us and our children (Deuteronomy 4:40).

This does not mean that bad times, and even tragedies, will not occur for us.  It simply means that God is more prone to bless us in our lives, on an enduring basis, if we obey His Law.  One example of doing this is tithing (Malachi 3:10,11).  If we give a portion of our income to churches and to other worthwhile organizations, the Gospel message can be spread and basic provisions can be supplied to those who are needy or destitute.

The littlest “jot and tittle”—meaning the smallest Hebrew letter (yodh = ) and the tiniest diacritical mark, hook, or point of any Hebrew letter ()—of the Law/Torah will be in effect until the present heaven and earth disappear (Matthew 24:18).  This will take place at the end of the Millennium, after which a brand new heaven and earth will come into existence (Revelation 21:1,5).

John counseled that if we are to abide in God, we will walk as Jesus did; furthermore, John said that he was not writing a new command but an old one (1 John 2:6,7).  In walking by the Law/Torah, which was the “old command,” Jesus observed it completely and flawlessly.  Likewise, those who claim to live in Him should strive to do the same.

Here are some articles by John Thomley showing how and why the Law/Torah has not been done away with, as many claim, but continues to be applicable today:

God's Law Is For Modern Christians

Christians offered Sacrifice in the Temple?  Romans 14
Was the Apostle Paul Schizophrenic?  Ephesians 2:14-15
Acts 10 – Peter's Vision  What About Animal Sacrifices?
Mark 7:19 – (Thus He declared all foods clean)  Can we trust a translation?
Acts 15 – How are Gentiles saved?  Acts 15 - How are Christian Gentiles to live?
How were people saved before Jesus came?  Paul's Letter to the Galatians 
Colossians 2:14 and 16-17  The Reasons God's Law was Given to Man


Basics | Israel | Law/Torah | Eschatology
 

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