What is evil? The Torah or man’s sin nature?

Romans 7:4, You have been made dead with regard to the Torah. Are you free to break the law if you’re now dead to it? David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary (p. 375) explains that it is not the Torah that has been made dead (or abrogated), nor is a believer made dead in the sense of no longer responding to its truth. Rather, he has been made dead not to all of the Torah, but to three aspects of it: (1) its capacity to stir sin in him (vv. 5–14), (2) its capacity to produce irremediable guilt feelings (vv. 15–24), and (3) its penalties, punishment and curses (8:1–4).

To fully understand Paul’s writings, one must have a complete understanding of the Torah and all of its aspects. Most individuals coming from the Christian theological perspective have a very limited and narrow understanding of the Torah (or as they term it, “the law”). For example, they fail to understand that how we react to the Torah—obedience versus disobedience—will determine how Torah “reacts” to us. For example, YHVH has embedded into the Torah a cause-and-effect spiritual mechanism: obey and be blessed, disobey and suffer the consequences, i.e., the curses of the Torah. Other laws in the universe with which we are familiar have the same cause-effect rewards-punishment systems built into them. How about the law of gravity? Try jumping off a tall building, for example. Paul in verse 13 asks whether we are implying that the (good) Torah, like gravity, is bad? His reply is that it’s not. Gravity, like Torah is good. It is when someone defies gravity and jumps off a tall building that gravity takes on a negative connotation with the corresponding curse of hitting the ground hard. Is this because gravity is inherently evil? No. The law of gravity is for our benefit, since it keeps man from spinning (or floating) uncontrollably off of this earth into outer space. So what causes men to jump off of tall buildings? Gravity or the evil inclination or sin nature inside of their character? The answer is obvious. The same idea applies to the Torah. Paul says in verse 13 that it was sin working death in him through something good (i.e., the Torah), so that sin might be clearly exposed as sin. So the Torah is very beneficial at exposing the sin in our lives, bringing it out into the open so that it can be dealt with (through confession, repentance, and faith in the blood atonement of Yeshua), so that we might be redeemed, justified, sanctified and finally reconciled to YHVH. Even the Torah’s “negative” side has a very beneficial outcome for those who are willing to follow YHVH’s path of reconciliation and righteousness.

Many Christians resist the Torah not because it’s inherently evil, but because of their own anit-Torah, rebellious sin nature (see Rom 8:7; Jer 17:9), which resist and reject anything that casts himself in a negative light and forces him to deal with the resident sin in his life. Romans 8:7 explains the root of this problem in man: “The carnal mind is enmity against Elohim, for it is not subject to the Torah-law of Elohim, nor indeed can be.” At the beginning, Adam and Eve were not subject to Elohim’s Torah-instructions and quickly rebelled against his clear commands, and humans have been following in this path of pride and rebellion ever since.

—Stern concludes with regard to verse 4 that believers have been made dead to the aspects of Torah on which Paul is here concentrating. I would add that because the death of Yeshua has taken place in their place they now belong to someone else who paid for them the penalty of their violating Torah (the wages of which is death, Rom. 6:23). He bought them with his blood, or redeemed them from the grip of sin and the sentence of death, they now belong to him to whom they owe a debt of gratitude.


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