Is Torah obedience too difficult?

Deuteronomy 30:11–14, Is the Torah too difficult to obey? Does YHVH’s Torah set an impossible standard by which we are to live?

If so, we are logically compelled to ask ourselves this question: Would a righteous and just Creator who is a loving Heavenly Father give to his chosen people and children a set of standards that were humanly impossible to perform, then curse them for their inability to meet these standards?

If so, then we must face the fact that Elohim is an unjust and a wicked tyrant! If Torah isn’t an impossible standard to follow, then what is the Torah’s purpose in our lives, and why does the Creator impose the Torah upon his people?

We believe that the Torah sets a standard of faith, trusting in Elohim, and that if followed it provides a system of repentance and sacrifice for obtaining forgiveness from Elohim and restoring a condition of being considered righteous in his sight. The Torah also teaches man how to achieve peace on earth and good will toward men by showing humans how to love Elohim with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

Paul quotes this same Deuteronomy passage in Romans 10:6–8 where he relates the Written Torah to Yeshua, the Living Torah or Word of Elohim incarnate (in the flesh). (Compare with John 1:1, 14.) He shows that they are one in the same and that Messiah Yeshua, through his life, came to reveal to man the righteousness of the Torah-law. This righteousness is available to us if we will but have a heartfelt faith in him (Rom 10:4, 9–10) and allow him to live out his righteousness in us through the empowering work of the Spirit of Elohim.

In verses 11 through 21, Paul goes on to relate this very truth to being the central message of the gospel that Isaiah prophesied (Isa 52:7) would be preached to redeem both houses of Israel to Yeshua their Messiah.

Furthermore, in Romans 10:4 Paul reveals that Yeshua is the end goal, target of or the full flowering or embodiment of the Written Torah in human form.

 

Does “Jewish Fables” = the Torah?

Titus 1:14, Jewish fables. Many people in the mainstream church are content to dismiss the Torah merely as Jewish fables having little or no relevance to Christians. Yet, the same preachers will passionately promote Christmas trees, Santa Claus and Easter bunnies. So what’s wrong with this picture? 

Moreover, many Bible teachers in the mainstream church teach that this verse refers to the Torah. They use it in attempting to prove that the commandments of the Torah are no longer valid for believers. Is this correct? In reality, Paul can’t be referring to the Torah here without contradicting himself elsewhere. In numerous places, he strongly upholds and defends obedience to the Torah (Rom 3:31; 7:7, 12, 14; 13:8–10; 1 Cor 7:19; 9:21; Gal 3:10; 6:2; 2 Tim 6:14; Tit 2:14) and even claims to follow it himself (Acts 21:24; 24:1425:8; 28:17; 1 Cor 9:21). He must be talking about the Jewish traditions of men, which Yeshua said in Matthew 15:3–9 and Mark 7:7–9 make of non-effect the word of Elohim. 

In fact, this is exactly what Paul is referring to here in this verse when he says “Jewish fables and commandments of men.” This is not a reference to the Torah the commandments which, in truth, came from YHVH Elohim and not from men. In the same verse, Paul contrasts these commandments of men with “the truth” from which men have turned away. 

So what is this truth that Paul references here? Since Bible defines its own terms, we must look to it for the definition of the word truth. Elohim is the source of truth (Deut 32:4 cp. Pss 86:11; 89:14; 117:2), he is truth (Ps 25:10; 31:5; 33:4), and his Torah is truth (Ps 119:142, 151). 

Truth is the opposite of a fable. One example of a Jewish fable and a commandment of men would be the idea that one can’t be saved unless they’re first circumcised (Acts 15:15:1, 5), which was the subject of the Acts 15 council. Paul vehemently fought this Jewish fable, and the whole Book of Galatians, for example, largely deals with this issue. If Paul had meant the Torah when mentioning “Jewish fables” then this makes Paul into a schizophrenic liar (since he promotes and lauds the Torah and claims to follow it elsewhere), while elsewhere he views the Torah as irrelevant and not necessary to be obeyed. Were Paul against the Torah, this would put Paul at odds with Yeshua who upheld the Torah (Matt 5:17–19) and with himself when he said to imitate Yeshua the Torah-keeper as he himself did (1 Cor 11:1). 

From this brief discussion, it should be obvious to a logical minded person that Paul doesn’t have the Torah in view when he mentions fables in this verse.

 

Allusions to Torah-Obedience in the Book of Second Thessalonians 

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 Continue reading

 

Allusions to Torah-Obedience in the Book of First Thessalonians

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.

1 Thess 1:2, Labor of love. (Hard work, intense labor or toil of charitable/agape love, benevolence, good will). 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.

1 Thess 1:9, Turn from idols … serve the living Elohim. The Tanakh (Old Testament) views idolatry as anything that takes one away from worshiping and serving YHVH by obeying his Torah commandments. The biblical prophets were continually warning the Israelites against following the idolatrous (Torahless) ways of the nations and urging YHVH’s people to repent of the sin of idolatry and to turn back to the Torah. 

1 Thess 2:12, Walk worthy. Walking involves action. Worthy indicates a direction or the manner of the walk. What determines whether the direction or manner of one’s walk is worthy or not? A religious leader, denomination, or each person himself? If so, then the concept of what is worthy is merely a subjective determination left up to the whims of individuals or a group of individuals. If so, how can there ever be any unity among people? YHVH hasn’t left such an important thing as this up to the changing vicissitudes and caprice of humans. YHVH Elohim determines for man what is worthy or good. This is delineated in his Torah — his immutable standards for righteousness.

1 Thess 2:13, Word of Elohim. This is another reference to the Tanakh, whose foundation is the Torah. John in the book of Revelation, several times juxtaposes the terms Continue reading

 

Colossians Two—Difficult Passages Explained

Colossians 2:14, Having wiped out. Here Paul mentions that Yeshua blotted out the handwritings of legal decrees that were against us when he died on the cross (Col 2:12–15). What was against us? It was the Torah law that specified that the sin of adultery carried the death penalty (Lev 20:10). For those who are washed in Yeshua’s redeeming blood and have been buried with him by water immersion or baptism (Col 2:12 cp. Rom 6:3–11), the devil, who is the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10), no longer has any legal basis against which to lay the charges of the sin of unfaithfulness against us before the Almighty (Col 2:15). Likely, there is a heavenly record of each man’s sins written in one of the books (which are in addition to the book of life) mentioned in Revelation 20:12. These books be opened at the last judgement and will be used to determine one’s eternal rewards based on one’s works of righteousness (v. 12). Some will be granted eternal life, while others will be destroyed in the lake of fire (v. 15). As mentioned, those who are under the blood of Yeshua and whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, there is no condemnation. 

In this passage, Paul may be alluding to the law of the jealous regarding an unfaithful woman (Num 5:11–31). In this case, the Torah instructs a man to bring his wife whom he suspects of adultery before the priests along with an offering of barley meal. What follows is one of the Torah’s more curious rituals. The priests, in front of the woman, sprinkle some dirt from the door of the tabernacle into an earthen vessel filled with holy water. Her head is uncovered, and she is then made to hold the barley meal, while she is put under oath and questioned about her alleged extramarital sexual activities. A curse is put on her if she Continue reading

 

What Is the Biblical Definition of Legalism?

 

A Wild and Crazy Place to Be

The spiritual Babylon of the church system is a warm and comfortable place in which to live. Within its comfort zones, it has fixed boundaries and clear delineations. When one steps out of the mainstream church system, however, and into a more Hebraic and Torah-pursuant spiritual orientation, it can becomes the shooting gallery of the wild, wild west of doctrines and ideas. 

Outside the so-called organized church system, or churchianity for short, it’s a free-for-all wilderness of every man doing what’s right in his own eyes. In this wilderness outside of organized religion, one has to determine which church beliefs to hold on to and which ones are lies and unbiblical traditions our spiritual fathers have passed on down to us. Here one must learn to separate the spiritual wheat from the chaff. As one’s eyes are opened to the pro-Torah Hebrew roots of the Christian faith, there are many new ideas and doctrines to consider. When coming onward and upward to a fuller knowledge of the truth, one must determine priorities without falling prey to more false doctrines and legalism. This includes determining which biblical truths are the trunk of the tree issues, and which areas are the twigs and the branches. 

In the midst of this confusion, there are many winds of doctrines blowing around capturing people’s attention. People often get sidetracked from the trunk of the tree issues and get hung up on nonessential issues. Paul warned about this.

That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind [violent agitation, very strong tempestuous wind] of doctrine [teaching, instruction], by the sleight [deception] of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive [to delude, lead astray from the right way]. (Eph 4:14)

If one is not grounded firmly on the foundation of essential biblical truths, one can get hung up on side-issues that can become nonessential pet doctrines. Those who fall prey to this tendency will often gravitate toward biblical teachers who agree with them. A pet doctrine can become so important to a person that it can become a spiritual idol in one’s heart. One can become so convinced of the importance of a Continue reading

 

Galatians: Explanation of Terms and Quick Overview

Definition of Terms in Galatians

The law (the Torah):

The Torah of Elohim as contained in the first five books of Scripture (the Penteteuch [Greek] or Chumash [Hebrew]). Defined literally, Torah in Hebrew meansteachings, precepts, instructions [in righteousness].” In the Jewish religion the term Torah can have both broader and narrower meanings than just the five books of Moses: (a) the entire Tenakh (or Old Testament); (b) the Oral Law; (c) or strictly the legal code (non-narrative) parts of the first five books of Moses. 

The law versus [a] law: 

In most cases where the term the law is found in the English “New” Testaments, the definite article the is not part of the original Greek (this can be verified by consulting a Greek interlinear), even though the English translators have not italicized it indicating it as a word which has been added by the translators to clarify the meaning of the text (as they have in the KJV and NASB Bibles). The term law by itself (without the definite article the preceding) can, at times, simply refer to: (a) any legal code of do’s and don’ts without reference to faith, heart conviction or love; (b) legalism; (c) a perversion of the Torah into a system of do’s and don’ts to earn, merit or keep Elohim’s love and favor and thereby to receive salvation. 

Under [the] law: 

(3:23; 4:4, 5, 21; 5:18; also Rom 3:19; 6:14, 15; 1 Cor 9:20, 21) under [the] law can alternatively be rendered under subjection to legalism, according to David Stern. Finally, let’s look actually at the Greek word under as it is used in the phrase under law. 

The Complete Jewish Bible (by David Stern) translates the phrase under [the] law as under legalism (see Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 344 where he Continue reading