Yeshua: What’s more important than Torah-law obedience?

John 13:35, By this all will know. Love was to be the identifying mark of a disciple of Yeshua. The Bible defines love in several ways. We love Yeshua by keeping his (Torah) commands (John 14:15; 1 John 5:1–3). Yeshua defines the Torah as loving Elohim with all of our heart, soul mind and strength and loving our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:28–31). Paul says that all the laws of Elohim can be summed up in love (Rom 13:8–10). Yeshua said that the greatest expression of love is to lay one’s life down for another as Yeshua did for us (1 John 3:16; 4:11). Without love, all the good—even religious works—we may do YHVH counts as nothing (1 Cor 13).

It’s important to note that most disciples of Yeshua (including Christians) believe this principle, but, sadly, when it comes down to reality, many fail to live out the identifying principles of love. How easy it is to view our religious works as the main identifying marks Continue reading

 

Did the Torah-law end with Yeshua?

Luke 16:16, The Torah and the Prophets. Many people in the mainstream church view this passage as drawing a defining line between the so-called age or dispensations of law (in the Old Testament or Tanakh) and the age or dispensation of grace (in the New Testament or the Testimony of Yeshua). This in turn, in their minds, sets the Tanakh (which reveals the law or Torah) and Testimony of Yeshua (which supposedly reveals the concept of grace) at odds with each other. Is this a correct interpretation of this passage?

The evidence within the Testimony of Yeshua itself doesn’t support this common Christian interpretation, however. In no way is Yeshua annulling the Torah here, or else he would be contradicting what he clearly taught in Matthew 5:17–19.

Furthermore, Yeshua’s statement here can’t possibly mean that the Torah was now obsolete in the Testimony of Yeshua, since the apostles and early believers adhered to the Torah long after the passing of John the Baptist (Yeshua, p. 41, by Ron Mosely). Additionally, Paul’s statement in Romans 3:31 that the Torah is not voided by grace should dispel any notions that Luke 16:16 implies that the Torah would pass from the scene in the life of believers.

There are a couple of ways to understand this passage without doing violence to the Torah. First, it could be understood that Yeshua is saying that the Law and the Prophets were the only Scriptures in existence up to the time that John came on the scene. The implication is that more would soon come (ibid.).

A second way to view this passage is that Yeshua is stating that the Torah and the Prophets prophesied or pointed to the time when John would come thus ushering in the Messiah at which time there would be a change in the focus of the message of YHVH’s servants. Instead of just preaching about the Torah or that the Messiah is coming, now the message of “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (see Matt 3:2; 4:17) would be preached. This is a more expansive message that focuses now more on the salvation message centered on the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua. This message also includes obedience to the Torah (e.g. Yeshua said, “If you love me, keep my Torah commandments” in John 14:15, also 1 John 2:2–6). Moreover, Paul clearly affirms the validity of the Torah for the New Testament believer in his forceful declarative statement in Romans 3:31,

Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law.

The data found in the actual writings of the apostles confirms what Yeshua predicted in this verse. Of the some 8,000 verses in the Testimony of Yeshua, well over one-fourth of those verses contain direct references to the Person of Yeshua, while there are only about 260 direct references to the Torah. Yeshua himself confirms his own words as recorded by the Gospel writers. In the Gospels of Matthew and John, Yeshua spoke on 136 different subjects. The number one subject he talked about was himself (316 references), followed by his Father (184 references), then hypocritical leaders (177 references). The kingdom of Elohim comes in fourth place (77 references) and the Torah is in seventh place with 44 references. 

 

The Basics of Progressive Divine Revelation

Learning the divinely revealed truths of Elohim and his ways of righteousness as found in the Bible is a step-by-step process that will last a lifetime.

Exodus 21–23, Basic principles of morality and righteousness. After having given the ten statements (or “ten commandments”), which forms the basic cornerstone of the whole Torah and out of which all the other Torah commands branch, Elohim now expands on these ten basic principles in chapters 21 to 23.

This passage contains the basics of how to love YHVH Elohim and one’s neighbor as oneself (the golden rule). Exodus chapters 20 to 23 contain the basic laws and principles for a society to function smoothly at a high level spiritually. They form the foundation of societal governance, which the new nation of Israel needed in order to survive spiritually (in right relationship with Elohim) and to survive physically and morally as a holy or set-apart nation surrounded by heathen nations.

It is also interesting to note that YHVH didn’t give Israel all 613 Torah laws at once, but introduced them to Israel little-by-little on an as-need basis and so as not to overwhelm them all at once. It was like a parent teaching a child one step at a time on how to act like an adult. YHVH started with the ten statements of Exodus 20, then expanded these ten into the basic laws of chapters 21 through 23, and he then goes from there instructing the Israelites in ways of righteous living. This teaches us another truth about how YHVH operates with men: He reveals himself to those who seek him slowly, methodically over time. He and his ways are too transcendently great and expansive for the mind of man to encompass all at once.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith YHVH. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 58:8–9)

This measured method of divine revelation is exactly how the apostles chose to reveal YHVH’s truth to the new Gentile converts in Acts 15—little by little. First they heard the gospel message and came to Messiah, then they were given basic rules to follow in order to enter into the fellowship of the saints, then they would learn the laws of Moses over time each Shabbat.

Learning the divinely revealed truths of Elohim and his ways of righteousness as found in the Bible is a step-by-step process that will last a lifetime.

 

The radical message of John is still radical

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

The multitudes of Jews had to make the long, hot and arduous journey 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 by saying 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. In a proper response, 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 one’s business dealings, and if one is a government worker, then treat the citizens one serves with respect (John 3:11–14).

Interestingly, he doesn’t instruct these religious Jews in what many consider to be the Continue reading

 

The Torah of YHVH Vs. the Law of Moses

Luke 2:24, Law of the Lord/YHVH. This phrase is found only three times in the NT—here and in vv. 24 and 39. The same phrase is additionally found 18 times in the Tanakh and obviously refers to the Torah (e.g. Pss 1:1; 19:7; 119:1). Is the law of YHVH the same as the law of Moses?

The phrase the law of Moses is found a similar number of times in the Bible: 15 times in the Tanakh and seven times in the NT. Obviously the phrases the law of YHVH and the law of Moses are synonymous terms in that they refer to the same thing: the Written Torah. From the obvious meanings of these two terms, we learn that YHVH Elohim is the divine source or origination of the Torah, while Moses was merely the one who first wrote it down or codified it, and as the leader of the nation of Israel, he administered it.

It is interesting, if not ironic, how the mainstream church chronically refers to the Torah as “the law of Moses,” when Scripture refers to the Torah as “the Torah of YHVH” the same number of times less one. The mainstream church’s choice of one term over the other seems to reveal, sadly, its apathy, if not, at times, its outright antipathy, toward YHVH’s Torah. To justify this ungodly attitude, it has chosen to use the term that casts the Torah-law of Elohim in the most negative light possible by inferring that its source is man and not Elohim. This furthermore underscores the truth of Paul’s words in Rom 8:7 about the carnal mind of man being at enmity with the laws of Elohim in that it refuses to be subject to them.

 

Your good works will not save you!

Mark 12:34, You are not far from the kingdom. Yeshua makes this complimentary statement to the scribe who had correctly and succinctly summarized the message of the Torah (both its letter and spirit intent) in verses 32–33.

However, note that Yeshua didn’t say, “You are in the kingdom of Elohim (i.e. “you have eternal life”).”

What was the one thing that was keeping this scribe from being in the kingdom? It was doubtless the same thing that kept the rich young ruler from obtaining the eternal life that he sought (Matt 19:16). After having obeyed the Torah the best that he could, the young ruler still needed to surrender all to Yeshua the Messiah, and to follow him unreservedly (Matt 19:18–22).

Not only is it difficult for humans to surrender all to the Master, and then to follow him wherever he leads, but after having followed the Torah the best we can, we must still humbly recognize that without the righteousness of Yeshua in the equation, our best efforts at Torah-obedience will still miss the mark of YHVH Elohim’s acceptable standard of righteousness, thus leaving us maybe not far from the kingdom, but definitely not in the kingdom of Elohim.

 

What is the difference between the Torah and the law of Moses, if any?

This question from on of our loyal readers just came in about my recent post on Acts 15.

Great teaching Natan, but one question…I never thought of there being both a Torah law and a law of Moses that was custom rather than law. So circumcision isn’t a Torah Law but Law of Moses that is a custom rather than law. How does one tell the difference between what Moses commanded that is a Torah law and what he commanded as his customary law? Referring to this: ” Rather, what he was referring to was the customs Moses established (which become known as the law of Moses), which exceed the basic requirements of the Torah. In this case, it was the custom the circumcision as a requirement for inclusion in the nation of Israel and is based on the Passover requirements found in Exod 12:43–49. “

Here is my response—

What is the difference between the Torah and the Law of Moses?

Is there a difference between the Torah and the law of Moses? Technically, no, since the Scriptures use the terms law of Moses and the law (i.e. Torah) interchangeably in many places.

However, many people think that the law of Moses or the Torah originated with Moses. I have emphatically taught over the years, and the Scripture is clear on the fact, that the Torah didn’t originate with Moses, but from eternity or from heaven where Elohim exists. How can we assert this? This is because the Torah is a reflection of the heart, mind, will and righteous character of Elohim. It is spiritual and is thus eternal as Paul states in Romans 7:14.

At the same time, and in a sense, Moses is the originator (by the hand of Elohim) of the law of Moses as a opposed to the eternal principles of the Torah, which, again, are a reflection of the heart, will, character, holiness and righteousness of Elohim. What do I mean? Moses is the first person to have written the Torah down (perhaps that’s one reason he needed to be educated in Egypt, so he was capable of such a task). He put the Torah into a form that had not existed before: a national constitution for a physical nation state. For the first time, he codified the Torah or turned it into a written legal code. This was necessary because Israel was now a nation with physical borders and not just a large nomadic family or tribe. As such, Israel needed a system of written laws by which to govern their nation. Therefore, Torah had to be expanded and more clearly defined, if you will, to meet those requirements. The laws of Elohim had to be specifically spelled out and put into a written form. In this form, political leaders, judges, priests and people would know what the law was, so that could be studied, obeyed and adjudicated. Furthermore, the nation could pass no new laws that in any way would contradict the Written Torah, which was the supreme law of the land.  

Consider this. The principles of the Torah are eternal, spiritual and endless because Torah Continue reading