"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Torah of Sinai Is a Law Never Intended for Us

I recently came across one of the best explanations for why Jesus followers are under a New Covenant, and why our lives are never ruled by Old Testament law (e.g. The Torah). 

Ironically, this explanation came from a Jewish believer in Jesus Christ. Eitan Bar is the Director of Media and Evangelism for One for Israel, the largest Israeli Messianic Jewish ministry in the world. 

Eitan and the staff at One for Israel are often asked the questions: "Are Christians under the Sinai Law? What should be the Christian's stance regarding the Torah?" (e.g. "the books of Moses," or the first five books of the Old Testament). To answer that question, One for Israel published an e-book called The Torah's Goal. Below are the 10 major points of that e-book. Again, these ten short points are probably the best explanation I'ver read for why the Torah is never to be considered the law for believers.

The sentences below in bold are the points I wish to emphasize. 

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1. There are about 350,000 Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) in the world today. Probably no more than 2-3% consider themselves “Torah Observant.”

2. We are aware of the growing number of gentile-Christians who call themselves “Hebrew Roots Movement” and consider themselves to be “Torah Observant.” Most in the Torah-observant circles are not Jewish. Thought should be given as to why non-Jews are so eager to observe a law never intended for them. One is given the impression that, far more than they emphasize faithfulness to the Messiah, the Torah observant/Hebraic roots groups emphasize Torah-observance as their distinctive, and in fact imply that they are being more obedient to God, or have a deeper spirituality, than other believers in Jesus. Perhaps they would argue their obedience to the Torah is faithfulness to Christ, but there is a distinct imbalance in their approach. Inadvertently, perhaps, they have created a two-tier system of believers: the more spiritual ones who observe the Law and the less spiritual ones who do not. This is not only unbiblical, but it also separates these groups from the rest of the Body of Christ in an unhealthy way, causing many of them to be prideful, judgmental, patronizing and arrogant of other believers. That is, in our opinion, exactly opposite to the essence of the Gospel of grace and love.

3. Perhaps without their realizing it, Torah-observant groups must either depend on rabbinic tradition, which is distinctly post-biblical, or construct their own traditions. For instance, members of such groups do not send their men to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem, as required in the Law of Moses, nor do they offer sacrifices. So there can be no question of this being an authentic, first-century way of observance. The irony being that if a gentile wants to really celebrate the festivals according to the Law, they first need to circumcise their household: “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it.” (Exodus 12:48).

4. We believe the Sinai covenant was for the nation of Israel, and was made 1) to show us our sinful nature; 2) to separate Israel from the nations; 3) as a temporary system until the Messiah comes: “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come…Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:19-25)

5. We believe that the core system of the Sinai covenant included the sacrifices, the priesthood and the temple (which no longer exist) – the commandments were tied to it and were an outflow of it. For example:
1) For the main biblical festivals one had to go up to the temple in Jerusalem in order to celebrate God’s feasts. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
2) For celebrating the Shabbat a sacrifice had to be made. (Numbers 28:9)
Therefore, attempting to observe the commandments without a temple is like eating mustard without a sandwich.

6. Kosher laws were connected to the temple and were temporary:They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Hebrews 9:10). Keeping the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 is an essential component of what people mean when they speak of “Torah observance” today. What people often fail to see, however, and what the writer of Hebrews has so perceptively observed, is the connection between the dietary laws and the tabernacle. Leviticus 11 is part of a larger section in Leviticus (Lev 11–15) called the Laws of Purity, all of which are tied to the purity of the tabernacle (Lev 16). For example, if one would catch sickness by eating an unclean animal, he might bring his sickness into the temple and defile it. This is no longer relevant for today. (See 1 Timothy 4:1-4).

7. We believe God promised a New Covenant (not a renewed covenant) that would replace the old one: “…I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant” (Jeremiah 31:31-32). And “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13). We believe that even Prophet Ezekiel’s temple prophecies the end of the Sinai covenant, as his description of a future temple contradicts the temple of the Torah.

8. Although our ministry members observe the Shabbat on Saturdays, and not on Sundays, we do not make a big deal out of it – as it’s no longer one day a week that we dedicate to God, but our rest in Yeshua is every day: “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:16–17). Also, while we call the Messiah “ישוע”(Yeshua), we have prayed “in Jesus’ name” before, and it seems to work just as well. 
He knows when we talk to Him, regardless of which name we use.

9. We believe that Rabbinical Judaism falsely teaches that the Messiah’s role will be to point us to the Law in order to teach us how to better observe the commandments and has erroneously influenced Torah observant groups. While we hold to Paul’s teaching that the Law points us to the Messiah and that the Torah’s goal is the Messiah Himself.

10. We believe that lasting change comes only through Yeshua. Yeshua’s commandments deal not only with the external: they go deep into our hearts and cause us to change from the inside, through the empowerment of the Spirit. With Yeshua, murder is not limited to a physical killing; adultery is not limited to a physical union. The standards are now much higher! Yeshua calls and empowers us through His Spirit to control our anger, shun lust, and love our enemies. You see, while following traditions or concentrating on what and how to do (or not to do) external things, we only become bitter with those around us and turn venomous toward those who do not agree with us. Yeshua’s goal is to deal with the inside, deep in our hearts—teaching us to love God and therefore to love all of His creation, everywhere, all of the time. “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8).

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Well said, Eiten Bar. Well said.

9 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Excellent! Simply excellent!

A little personal observation follows: My only real exposure to Jewish tradition came via my brother ... my only sibling .. who converted (from nothing) to Judaism, married a Jewish girl, and moved to Long Island.

I didn't have much contact after that, for nearly 20 years. But immediately prior to, and after, his death from cancer, we spent some time among his family there. And noted many rituals which were most interesting. It's been 17 years, but as I best recall....

1) At his funeral, at which I spoke, they pinned a little black ribbon on my lapel. It had been cut halfway through with scissors. indicative of a halfway-severed relationship. We could use that at our funerals, too.

2) The graveside part of the service was delayed until I could get there. They waited until I threw the first 3 shovels of dirt onto the casket in the ground. Followed by his other family and then friends. After it was all covered, then the bulldozers finished. "We bury our own".

3) After the services there, we went to Art & Judy's home, where Judy sat shiva. A week-long period of mourning, during which family and friends provided everything she needed ... meals included.

4) As we entered the house, there was a pitcher of water, a basin, a towel, and a bowl of hard-boiled eggs. As we entered, we rinsed off our hands, dried them, and ate an egg. The washing and the egg symbolized cleansing from old life (with Art) and beginning of a new life (without Art).

The symbolism was wonderful. I will never, ever forget it. It stood for times and events that we would do well to remember in similar circumstances in our lives. And the ritual isn't necessary, as we have His law "written on our hearts".

But I still have the ribbon.

Pege' said...

Wade, I like your post. Well explained. I wonder why we have to go to such deep explanations when the Bible is clear. OLD testament...NEW testament. Oh how Christians like to complicate things. Jesus said HIS yoke is easy and HIS burden is light. He is the ONLY ONE who ever kept all of the commandments, why would he place them upon us as followers of Him? My personal opinion it is all based in "WORKS BASED SANCTIFICATION". Some believers think they will become more sanctified by what they do instead of who Christ is and our relationship with the God head.

Tom Ross said...

Wade, it is interesting that so much discussion is centred around G:3501, "neon", which has the understanding of '"new" with respect to time' i.e "youngest" and G:2537, "kainous" which has the understanding of "refreshed like new again" i.e. rejuvenated to be fit for purpose once more.

It is also interesting that G:3501 is only found once in close association with the word "Covenant" or "testament" in the New Testament where it is found in Hebrews 12:22-24" - But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

In all other occurrence of where the covenant or testament is mentioned, it is also associated with G:2537.

In Hebrews 12:24 it is a question as to whether or not the Greek word "neas" G:2537 should be associated with the word "covenant" or the word "Jesus".

This is where I see the justification of the "New" Covenant theology begins to fall down.

Paul, on a number of occasions speaks of the Renewing G:365 of our minds and then the putting on of the renewed G:2537 self in Christ, i.e. Ephesians 4:23. That is to say, that God wants us for who we are in that He is willing to renew us so that we become the very person that He intended us to be from the beginning of time. However, if we insist that people must become a "brand new" person, and put on a brand new self then I as a person is being invalidated in this expectation of many people.

In the Parable of the "Neon" wine is put into "refurbished/refreshed" wineskins which are suitable to hold the new wine since even brand new unused wine skins can age such that they too burst if new wine is put into them.

God's covenant with all of mankind from the beginning of time has not changed, yet we today want only what is brand new covenant and in doing so we are not willing to acknowledge our previous failure as a human being and its associated sin(s).

Jesus is the newest means through whom we obtain reconciliation with God.

Shalom

Aussie John said...

Wade,

Thank you for this excellent expression of New Covenant truth.

Dale Rudiger said...

I was unjustly excommunicated from my former church for coming to the defense of a friend who was shunned and maligned for disagreeing with the pastor concerning some counseling he received. As part of God's healing process, He brought me to Hope of Israel Congregation in Charlotte, where I encountered sweet fellowship with the Jewish and Gentile believers there. They celebrate all the Old Covenant feasts of Israel, but explain how each of them was fulfilled in the Messiah.

I would most assuredly have become a member there were it not for the requirement to fulfill an 18 month membership process and agree to a statement of faith that contained a different eschatology that I could not subscribe to.

Gordon said...

God's new covenant with us, cut in the blood of Jesus, is far better than the one given via Moses, according to the book of Hebrews.

The new one takes us back to pre-Mosaic days when believers lived by their faith and trust in God and His Anointed One, who was yet to come(Hebrews 11). While in Moses we all stand alone and condemned , in Christ Jesus we are saved from our sins. This He does by revealing Himself to us, and through the power of His love, the love of sin is expelled.

His Spirit now places His desires within our hearts to go and sin no more.
Welcome, Holy Spirit! Make me sensitive to your guidance and wisdom. Amen.

RRR said...

Perhaps it is appropriate to view the Old Torah age and the post-crucifixion/resurrection age in the same light as viewing this current church age and the age following the return of Christ. We now live in our current fog with the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit but still in our carnal bodies. The fog will be lifted and we'll get a glorified body when He returns. When that happens, surely nobody would want to cling to the old, pre-rapture days. Each age serves its purpose and then we ascend to another, more glorious level.

Christiane said...

Hi BOB CLEVELAND,
I can appreciate your account of your brother's funeral and the comment of family 'We bury our own.'
Is very possible that in shouldering this burden and committing our loved one, we grow stronger by having taken part, and that strength helps us to carry on. Thank you for sharing your experience. Very moving.

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