What good thing must you do?

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Matthew 19:16, What good thing. Yeshua’s answer to the rich young ruler when he asks him what he must do to have eternal life might, in a cursory reading, appear that Yeshua is promoting a works based salvation. However this is not the case. Yeshua cleverly shows the young man that he is incapable of obtaining eternal life through good works, for man isn’t capable of perfectly following the Torah. In the case of the young man, he thought himself to be perfectly righteous, when in reality, Yeshua showed him that he was covetous, and therefore still an unrighteous sinner thus disqualifying himself from reward of eternal life. Yeshua, on the contrary, instead of promoting a works-based salvation model, instructs the young man to deal with his sin by selling his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, and then becoming a follower of him. The lesson here is that salvation and eternal life can come only as we turn from our sin and become a follower of Yeshua.

What Yeshua is really saying when he answers the young man’s question in verse 21 is this: “If you want to be perfect [Gr. teleios meaning “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness”],” turn from sin by obeying the Torah more completely, but also follow the Messiah by becoming his disciple. Remember, to hear and to obey (Heb. shema) the Messiah was a command of the Torah as well (Deut 18:15), and to not believe in him is sin (John 16:9 cp. 3:18). So according to the Bible, to be spiritually perfect or complete one must, as Yeshua said, love him by keeping his (Torah) commandments (John 14:15). It is the Torah that shows us how to love Elohim (and our fellow man as well).

Yeshua makes a similar point in his exchange with a scribe in Mark 12:28–34. While extolling the virtues of Torah-obedience, and commending the scribe for his understanding of the deeper heart issues of Torah-obedience, Yeshua makes an interesting concluding statement. He tells the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of Elohim (v. 34) as if to tell him, “You’re on the right spiritual track with regard to your Torah-obedience, and you’re heading for the kingdom, but that alone won’t get you into the kingdom. You must also become a disciple of Yeshua.

 

Torah-Obedience 101: Just Be Nice!

Luke 3:7–17, Then he said to the multitudes. What’s really going on in this exchange between John and the religious folks of his day? Let’s step back and look at the bigger picture.

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The multitudes of Jews had to make the long, hot and arduous journey down through the Judean mountains down to the Jordan River, which was the lowest spot on earth, to hear John the Baptist who was the latest fad preacher to come on the scene. However, when they arrived at his lonely wilderness pulpit, instead of stroking their egos by complimenting them for their religious zeal, he excoriates them and calls them a brood of vipers. John confronts them when he says that if they don’t repent, the fires of YHVH’s judgment will consume them (John 3:7–9). John’s preaching pierces their hearts, and lays them low spiritually, and they ask him what he expects them to do (John 3:10). John then preaches a message of social justice involving giving to the poor, being fair and honest in your business dealings, and if you’re a government worker, treating the citizens you serve with respect (John 3:11–14).

Interestingly, he doesn’t instruct these religious Jews in what many might consider to be the specificities and dos and don’ts of the Torah-law.  In our day, most Messianically inclined Torah teachers are telling their listeners to punctiliously start observing the 613 commandments of the Torah, and to cease working on the Sabbath, stop eating pork, toss the Christmas trees in the dumpster, grow a beard, put on a tassel and a head-covering, and to say “Yeshua” instead of “Jesus.” John instead tells his hearers to go back to the basic — something they either never learned to do or they had forgotten along the way. He’s really saying,  “Just be nice to your neighbor. Be fair, honest, loving and caring in your dealings with your fellow man.” And then John points them to Yeshua the Messiah who is soon to become the new star on the Judean preaching scene (Luke 3:16–17). So be nice and follow Yeshua—the most loving Person of all, he says.

When witnessing to people, what is our approach? Do we bash them over the head with a Torah scroll by telling them all the religious legal requirements that are required of them, or do we tell them simply to love one another and to follow Yeshua, which inevitably, but lovingly, will lead them to observing the righteous requirements of the Torah?

But there’s more. Continue reading