Connecting the Gospel to Its Pro-Torah Hebrew Roots
When I was taking a college level biblical Greek class a few years back, the Christian professor and I had a few discussions about the Torah. It was his belief that the epistles in the New Testament contained very few references to the Torah. In his mind, therefore, the Torah wasn’t a very prominent idea in the minds of the apostolic writers. I tried to enlighten him otherwise.
While the epistles might not contain very many outright references to the Torah — especially direct commands to be obedient to the Torah’s standards of righteousness, the apostolic writers weave the fundamental concepts of the Torah through their writings and make countless allusions to the Torah as we shall see in the study below. The Torah was just part of their spiritual and social fabric and background. It was their spiritual foundation, and to them Yeshua the Jewish, Torah-obedient Messiah, who was the Living Word of Elohim incarnate, was simply an extensions or expression of this basic idea of Torah truth and righteousness, and whose example they expected the saints to follow as his disciples.
2 Thess 1:3, Love. The Torah defines how a man is to love Elohim and his neighbor. Biblically speaking, is love merely an emotion, or is it something more? The Bible presents love as an action. Yeshua said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This action involves obedience to YHVH’s Torah-commandments. Elsewhere, Yeshua sums up the Torah when he quotes the biblical shema, which states that the duty of man is to love YHVH with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength and one’s neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:28–31 cp. Deut 6:4 and Lev 19:18). The shema is a summation of the ten commandments the first four of which show us how to love YHVH, while the last six how to love our neighbor. These ten statements form the foundation or cornerstone of the entire Torah, which expand out of them.
2 Thess 1:5, Righteous judgments of Elohim. As the just judge of the universe, YHVH Yeshua will judge all men at his second coming based on his word — the Torah (Rev 19:11, 15 cp. Isa 11:3–5 and Ps 119:172). He will then offer rewards to his servants based on how well they followed his Torah or not (Matt 5:19).
2 Thess 1:8, Taking vengeance. See notes on 2 Thess 1:5.
2 Thess 1:6, Righteous thing. The Torah defines what the biblical standard of righteousness is (Ps 119:172).
2 Thess 1:8, Know Elohim. One can’t know Elohim without understanding his character as defined by his Torah standards of righteousness. John expressed it this way: “Now by this we know that we know him if we keep his [Torah] commandments. He who says, ‘I knows him,’ and does not keep his [Torah] commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4).
2 Thess 2:3, Falling away [Gr. apostasia]. The Greek word apostasia means “defection, rebellion, abandonment, a forsaking, apostasy (see TWOT, AG, Thayer’s, Strong’s, et al).” The only other place this word is found in the NT is Acts 21:21 in reference to the lie that was circulating that Paul was teaching the Gentiles to forsake [apostasia] or reject the law of Moses. What does one fall away from or forsake? It is the truth of Elohim (i.e. the Torah; see Ps 119:141 and 152) that people have failed to love (v. 10) or believe in (v. 12).
2 Thess 2:3, Man of sin. The Bible defines sin as the violation of YHVH’s Torah (1 John 3:4); therefore, the man of sin is one who walks contrary to the Torah.
2 Thess 2:7, Mystery of lawlessness [Gr. anomia]. The Greek word anomia literally means “lawlessness” or in a biblical context “Torahlessness.” This man of sin is, therefore, walking in defiant rebellion against YHVH’s Torah standards of righteousness.
2 Thess 2:8, Lawless one. Literally, this could read, “Torahless one.” What other law could Paul, the Jewish apostle be talking about?
2 Thess 2:10, Love the truth. The Torah defines what truth is. Man is to love YHVH’s Torah. Is truth whatever someone says it is? Has YHVH left up to each person to determine his or her own truth? If so, how can there ever be unity or harmony between humans when each person is dancing to a different drum beat, tuned to a different pitch or following a different conductor to use musical analogies? YHVH hasn’t left man to wander aimlessly in search of the truth. Rather, he has divinely revealed his truth to man in the form of his Torah, which the Bible defines as truth (Ps 119:142 and 151). Yeshua the Messiah was the living embodiment of that truth (John 14:6) in that he was the Word of Elohim incarnate full of grace and truth (John 1:1, 14).
2 Thess 2:12, Believe the truth. Again, the Torah defines what truth is, and man is to believe in the Torah.
2 Thess 2:12, Unrighteousness. The Torah defines what constitutes YHVH’s standards of righteousness (Ps 119:172); therefore, unrighteousness, conversely, is anything that is contrary to the Torah.
2 Thess 2:13, Belief in the truth. The belief of the saints should rest in the Torah, which is the biblical standard for truth (Ps 119:142 and 151).
2 Thess 2:17, good…work. The Torah determines what constitutes good works. The shema statement of Deut 6:4 and Lev 19:18 coupled with Yeshua’s statement in Mark 12:28–31 sums up the Torah as loving Elohim and one’s neighbor. This is the ultimate good work of Torah-obedience as John so clearly points out in numerous ways in his first epistle.
2 Thess 3:1, Word of YHVH. The Torah is the literal word of YHVH audibly dictated to Moses and the children of Israel and written down. This is also a reference to the Tanakh, whose foundation is the Torah. John in the book of Revelation several times juxtaposes the terms the word of Elohim and testimony of Yeshua. This seems to be a reference to what later became known as the Old Testament and New Testament.
2 Thess 3:2, Wicked men. The Torah determines what is righteousness and wickedness. Without a divinely revealed standard against which to measure mens actions against, the phrase “wicked men” is highly a highly subjective one at best, and meaningless at worst.
2 Thess 3:3, The evil one. What is evil and good? Has YHVH left it up to each person to determine this? If so, then each person will have a different opinion. Most would agree that evil is the opposite of good. The first biblical reference to good and evil is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9). YHVH planted this tree, so he’s the one who determined the standards of good and evil. So, in the a biblical context, what is good? In Psalm 37:27 we’re admonished to depart from evil and to do good. In the next verse, the psalmist juxtaposes the saints (those who pursue good) against the wicked (those who pursue evil), and he goes on to say that YHVH’s Torah-law is in the heart of the righteous saint (verse 31). This is one biblical example where good and the Torah are synonymous concepts. Conversely, if the Torah is the standard that determines what is good, then the opposite of this is evil. Torahlessness is evil. Satan is the ultimate force for evil in the universe and was the instigator of man’s sin and rebellion against the Torah-Word of Elohim at the tree of knowledge.
2 Thess 3:5, Love of Elohim. The Torah determines what is love, and YHVH has bound himself to his Torah-word.
2 Thess 3:6, Walks disorderly. What is the term orderly supposed to mean? Logically, it has no meaning if it means something different to each Bible teacher, church, denomination or saint, since each entity will have its own nuanced definition. This would create disorder, not order, within the spiritual body of Yeshua. The concepts of order and disorder must be determined by a non-human source — one that is higher in authority and transcendent above the human plane. Biblically speaking, order versus disorder can only be determined by the YHVH’s standards of righteousness, which is his Torah — his divinely revealed truth, which shows man how to walk properly in respect to Elohim and his neighbors. What other biblical code of ethics can one point to besides the Torah that is over-arching enough and to which the Bible’s authors continually appeal and make reference? Some who refuse to acknowledge the validity and supremacy of the Torah may point to “the law of Christ,” “the royal law of love,” “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” as alternatives to the Torah. Sadly, what such individuals fail to recognize is that all these alleged replacements of the Torah are nothing more than elucidations of the Torah in light of a Spirit led faith in Yeshua, who is the Living Torah-Word of Elohim. There are no contradictions in the Scriptures, and the Word of Elohim can’t be broken. Elohim is not a liar in that he has one standard of righteousness at one time for one people-group and another one for another latter group. Neither he nor his standards of righteousness have changed from Adam until now. Only men change, and in their changeableness, they attempt to lay on YHVH Elohim himself the blame for changing. Woe be to any man who accuses Elohim of anything —especially of any sort of character defect! Yet this is what modern theology does in attempting to disprove the validity of the Torah. This is nothing more than men trying to take their vain doctrines and philosophies and trump the immutable truth of Elohim. This is secular humanism. This is the mind of man trying to outwit the supreme intellect of the Creator of all things. This is man attempting to put himself on the throne of his own life instead of Elohim. How pitiful! Why do men to this? Because they are innately rebellious against YHVH’s standards of righteousness and, as such, want to pick and choose what aspects of YHVH’s Word to follow or not, even as Adam and Eve did when listening to the serpent’s lies at the tree of knowledge. This is the pathway of sin and rebellion. Paul identifies the problem succinctly in Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against Elohim; for it is not subject to the Torah of Elohim, nor indeed can be.”