Christian Misunderstanding or an Antinomian Assault?

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PODCAST – PART 1

PODCAST – PART 2


POSTED 27 NOVEMBER, 2017

reproduced from The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION

In the quest for Biblical continuity, we must accept the whole canon of Scripture as being the inspired, inerrant Word of God for the Believer: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, TNIV). God’s Word must be able to convict us regarding sin, and how we are to live and properly conduct ourselves in the world: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Holy Scripture, coupled with presence of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts and minds, is to guide and convict us regarding what we should and should not be doing, and how men and women of God are to properly live their lives pleasing Him. As we examine Scripture, we must be willing to put any preconceived ideas about God and His Word aside, and let the Bible speak for itself in its totality, with our ultimate loyalty being to the text—and not a particular theological tradition or ideology. It is imperative that as we do this, we must not hesitate to compare multiple English Bible translations and examine original meanings of Hebrew and Greek words and phrases in their proper context. We must know what the historical background behind a Biblical text is. We need to have an ample idea about what various scholars and specialists have proposed and commented upon. Above all, we must strive to be pleasing to our Heavenly Father, as we allow His love to change us from within and guide us to share the good news of His Son with all.

The issue of the validity (or even relevancy) of God’s Law, contained in the Pentateuchal books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is controversial for many of today’s modern Christians who claim to obey Him. Millions of Believers have dismissed the foundational instruction of Moses’ Teaching, and not only find themselves ignoring or dismissing God’s commandments in the Law—but they find themselves living in ungodly ways in broad discontinuity to the example given by our Lord Yeshua (Jesus). Somehow, many believe that “freedom in Christ” equates to not being held to any set of standards or code of conduct by God, as opposed to being set free from the bondage and insidious influences of sin. Many, while rightfully recognizing that salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), purposefully overlook how we are to demonstrate good works resultant of such salvation (Ephesians 2:10).

Yeshua the Messiah issues a rather sober word, when informing His followers that at a definite point in the future, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). Fortunately there are many Christian people today, who will never fall into this category, even if they may have an incomplete understanding or perspective on the importance of God’s Law. But then again, there are many others who are not interested in obeying the Lord and changing their lives. They are the kinds of people who, most sadly, live forth that errant Corinthian slogan refuted by the Apostle Paul: “Everything is permissible for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12, NIV). There are many who express some degree of belief in the Bible, yet they are not willing to expel any effort to follow any of the Bible’s instructions, making the necessary changes to their lives.

Many contemporary, conservative Christian pastors will tell their churches that God’s people today should obey the laws of the land in which they reside on the basis of Paul’s words in Romans 13. Yet while we are to obey human government, at least to a wide degree as it provides some important civil services, many of the same will say that the Law of God—perhaps including the Ten Commandments—was either “abolished” by Jesus or “nailed to the cross.” Some would see this as being a bit inconsistent: heed secular law, but do not heed Divine law? Given the importance that the Torah of Moses plays within not only the Tanach or Old Testament, and how the Prophets of Israel continually call the people back to a path of obedience—but the significance it has within the teachings of the Messiah Himself and His Apostles—it is easy to see how some of today’s Christian leaders have taken various liberties in regard to Scripture.

Of course, it is not surprising to find out that many of today’s pastors and theologians have an answer to why the Law of Moses is to not really guide, or in some cases be that important, for Christian Believers. Some of these answers regard ecclesiology, and surround a view that the Law was only given to Israel, and not a second group of elect known as “the Church.” Some of these answers are theological, and concern presuppositional viewpoints which hold that only those who lived in the pre-resurrection era prior to the arrival of Jesus were to concern themselves with the Torah. In some cases, mostly among more liberal theologians, what composes the Torah is largely thought to not be the product of a real historical figure named Moses, but rather various literary sources and mythologies strewn together after the Babylonian exile in the Sixth Century B.C.E. (the JEDP documentary hypothesis).[1]

All three of these vantage points take some rather severe liberties in regard to the integrity of Scripture. If not rectified, I know that I have a concern that many prominent theologians and Bible expositors will be held directly responsible by the Lord for keeping zealous Believers desiring mature instruction away from heeding Moses’ Teaching (cf. Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6; Luke 17:2). A relatively conservative Believer such as myself is well within his rights when he asks: If more Christians today taught that the Law of Moses were to be followed, would we even have debates over whether things like homosexuality or abortion on demand were sin? Simply comparing the condition of much of the evangelical Church from when my two parents raised me in the mid-to-late 1980s, and the way things have considerably devolved now in the mid-to-late 2010s, some significant reevaluation in terms of the validity and relevance of the Torah is sorely needed and is most imperative.

If more of the contemporary Church actually did believe that the Law of Moses were valid instruction, there would be no debate at all over whether homosexuality, pre-marital sex, or abortion were sins—or even if they could be tolerated. The Torah plainly denounces these things as sin,[2] and for most cases this level of offense originally merited a capital death penalty. It is true that there are evangelical Christians who recognize these things as sin, but who do believe that the Law of Moses was for a previous age. They rightly argue that the Apostolic Scriptures or New Testament speak against these sorts of offenses,[3] but how strong an argument do they really have when they have chosen to be purposefully cut off from the Tanach or Old Testament?

It is imperative that we think critically and speak out about these sorts of issues, “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), seeking full compliance with the entire Bible and purpose of God from Genesis-Revelation. We must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by others or what they might think, as we should seek only to please our Heavenly Father and use the reasoning skills and abilities He has given us to probe His Word for answers, in order to be effective servants of His in the world.

When comparing worldly laws to the Lord’s eternal ordinances, which ones have priority? The answer is most obvious. The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we are to obey His instructions. Our loyalty to God and to His Word must eventually override our loyalty to any human theology, as useful as much of it may be at times.

Yeshua says in the Last Days that “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). What is this to mean? Do those who consciously disobey or disregard the Torah not love God? Are they practitioners of lawlessness? These are some very strong words from the Lord. None of us should ever want to be among those labeled with the negative moniker: “lawless.” We surely do not want to be considered loveless, who may be regarded as demonstrating utter hatred toward our fellow human beings. Most importantly, none of us wants to be consigned to a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth”[4] for eternity. Perhaps it is time that we all begin to seek the Lord, truly asking Him how we are to obey Him, and imploring Him for answers to various difficult-to-understand Bible passages.

An Innocent Dismissal of God’s Law?

On at least one front surrounding the issue of the Torah being relevant to today’s born again Believers, it can be somewhat understood why many pastors and Bible teachers prefer not to focus too much time dealing with the “Old Testament.” How many of today’s pastors really want to have to deal with the many questions and criticisms lodged at them regarding controversies pertaining to whether there really was a King David or Conquest of Canaan, an Exodus of the Ancient Israelites from Egypt, and of course what Genesis chs. 1-11 really mean in light of modern science?[5] We cannot totally blame some spiritual leaders for wanting to avoid these kinds of debates, and instead simply trying to focus their assemblies on the teachings of the Lord Jesus and His love for all.

The problem, of course, is asking when and if a pastor’s congregation of Believers is going to be able to (ever) handle the solid food of God’s Word (Hebrews 5:12-13), and with it various Biblical controversies. Because many Christian pastors have consciously chosen—rather poorly—not to get involved with the various issues of the Tanach’s reliability, as a sad result too many Believers have been withheld from desperately needed instruction in the Law of Moses. The environment that they needed to facilitate further growth, maturation, and insight into the Scriptures has not always been present, or in some cases even been facilitated or allowed.

It is very true that much is lost when the commandments of the Torah are not frequently understood against an historical backdrop in the Ancient Near East. The meaning of instructions such as “The sons of the third generation [of Edomites and Egyptians] who are born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 23:8), can only be understood within the narrative of the Torah, and the relationship of Ancient Israel to those two groups. Likewise, many of the commandments that we read about, while seeming a bit archaic or outdated when compared to Twentieth and Twenty-First Century legal codes, afforded many rights and privileges to people within Ancient Israel in the Thirteenth Century B.C.E., who would not have otherwise been defended in either Mesopotamia or Canaan. To understand the Pentateuch, no different than any other part of the Bible, one must recognize its original setting and the initial audience to whom it was issued: Ancient Israel delivered from Egyptian servitude, being prepared to enter into the Promised Land.[6]

While there are definitely ancient historical and cultural issues to consider when reading the Torah—as well as a whole host of ancient Jewish interpretations and bodies of Rabbinical commentary as well—understanding its commandments is not something as difficult as one may think. The Lord exclaims, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach” (Deuteronomy 30:11), meaning of course it is “not too baffling for you” (NJPS). Even with some commandments in the Torah clearly given for an original Israelite audience and ancient level of technology, which cannot be followed in a modern world, they still very much inform us about the character of the God of Israel—especially as Israel’s Law was to be quite subversive to the laws of its pagan neighbors. Such commandments are to be placed upon the hearts and minds of God’s people even today, so that we might understand His redemptive purposes for humanity throughout the multiplied millennia of history.

It is entirely inappropriate to regard the Law of Moses as only being applicable or relevant for another era. The very promise of the New Covenant is that God’s Torah would be supernaturally transcribed onto the regenerated and cleansed hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Likewise, it is anticipated that in the Last Days those from all over the world will stream to Zion to be taught from the Law (Micah 4:2-4; Isaiah 2:2-3). These missional texts—highly valued by many Christians, and most especially varied Old Testament theologians today—place the Torah of Moses squarely within the declaration of gospel message. While salvation in Yeshua (Jesus) is freely available to all who desire reconciliation with their Creator (Ephesians 2:8-9), the Torah provides the necessary instructions in order for the redeemed to practice the good works He expects of His people (Ephesians 2:10).

No conservative, evangelical Christian today wants to ever instinctively be accused of outright dismissing the Law of God, so instead there are various theologians who advocate that Believers are to follow a “law of Christ” (cf. Galatians 6:2). Rather than this “law of Messiah” being Yeshua’s own authoritative interpretation and application of the Torah (cf. Matthew 5:17-19), it would instead be something widely dissimilar from it. Even though it would properly embody His example of self-sacrifice and service, such a “law of Christ” would make a stark break from the Law of Moses in many areas. In one textbook I had to use in my seminary studies, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart—which for the most part is generally quite good in terms of the variety of topics it covers—its authors explain their position that there is definitely a distinction to be maintained between the Apostolic Scriptures and Tanach Scriptures, being of the position that “The Old Testament is not our Testament.”[7] They summarize,

Only that which is explicitly renewed from the Old Testament Law can be considered part of the New Testament ‘law of Christ’ (cf. Gal 6:2). Included in such a category would be the Ten Commandments, since they are cited in various ways in the New Testament…and the two great commandments from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. No other specific Old Testament laws can be proved to be strictly binding on Christians, valuable as it is for Christians to know all of the laws.”[8]

Fee and Stuart’s mention of the Ten Commandments as being a part of this independent “law of Christ” is actually somewhat novel, as many would argue instead that the Ten Commandments are part of an abolished Law of Moses. Yet, in clearly wanting to regulate the Torah as only being relevant instruction for Ancient Israel, they issue a degree of caution—especially because of how significant obeying the Torah is throughout the remainder of the Tanach. For example, Fee and Stuart emphasize how “in the Old Testament the righteous regularly express delight in God’s law (e.g., Pss 19 and 119).”[9] Is their implication that Bible-believing Christians today should not express some level of spiritual delight, satisfaction, or at least appreciation for the Torah? Is it somehow wrong for Believers to pray to the Lord, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8), or “If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92)?[10] Even if our salvation is to be certainly found in the finished work of the Messiah at Golgotha (Calvary)—and by no means in our various human actions—are we to really not admire God’s Instruction in the Law of Moses that much?

Many of today’s Bible teachers think that the Torah is just a part of past Biblical history, and is not really to be a part of a born again Believer’s spirituality in the present. Often not acknowledged, though, is that the main changes which have occurred in terms of the relationship that God’s people have to the Torah relate to the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices (Hebrews 7:18), which were clearly brought in to regulate sin (Galatians 3:19). Such a priesthood has been set aside (at least until the Millennium given the tenor of Ezekiel chs. 40-44) with the final sacrifice of Yeshua now offered (Hebrews 10:12, 14), and the Torah’s capital penalties have been absorbed by His atoning work (Colossians 2:14).[11] Changes which have not occurred concern how God’s people are to live and conduct themselves as His upright representatives in greater society, as Deuteronomy 26:18 admonishes, “The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments.”

Many of those who emphasize that Believers are to follow a separate “Law of Christ,” completely independent from the Torah, are by no means lawless or immoral people, as many of them truly live forth the greatest commandments to love God and neighbor.[12] But, many of these persons can be quite under-informed and rather anemic when it comes to actually fleshing out what the “Law of Christ” might actually be. Most commonly, a separate and independent “Law of Christ” is believed to compose Yeshua’s teachings in His Sermon on the Mount. Yet when this is asserted, no honest reader of Matthew chs. 5-7 can overlook the fact that Yeshua’s teaching is predicated on the authority of Moses’ Teaching, with the Lord Himself not only declaring His intention not to abolish the Torah (Matthew 5:17), but to fulfill it and bring it to its acme or climax in His actions and ministry. As John R.W. Stott concurs, “He…claimed to be both teacher and lord, gave his own authoritative interpretation of Moses’ law, issued commandments and expected obedience.”[13] While Moses was by no means the Messiah, to entirely disconnect the Torah from Yeshua’s teachings is a significant mistake.

Real Antinomianism in Our Day

When one seeks to defend the validity and relevance of the Torah for Messiah followers living today, it is common that you will see the term “antinomian” used. This is a technical, theological word that is often used to describe lawlessness. Baker’s Dictionary of Theology states that “The word comes from the Greek anti, against, and nomos, law, and signifies opposition to law. It refers to the doctrine that the moral law is not binding upon Christians as a rule of life. In a wider sense it is applied to the views of fanatics who refuse to recognize any law but their own subjective ideas which they usually claim are from the Holy Spirit.”[14] The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms astutely informs us how “It has appeared periodically throughout church history.”[15]

Many of today’s Messianics will accuse various modern Christians of being “antinomian” because they do not keep the seventh-day Sabbath/Shabbat, remember the appointed times or moedim of Leviticus 23, or eat a kosher style of diet. While I am among those who believe these things to be valid and worthwhile practices for Believers,[16] I recognize how there are many sincerely born again people who have not yet made them a part of their faith practice. I think it is more worthwhile that our attention be focused, especially now in the mid-to-late 2010s, upon some of the true antinomianism that has been growing in evangelical Christianity, which Messianic Believers and many evangelical Believers alike can agree is most disturbing and revolting. Perhaps if we can understand how we got to this point, then appropriate steps can be taken to solve the problem.

In the first two decades of the Twenty-First Century, it has become self-obvious that far too much of the organized Christian Church in the West has tolerated behavior and sin that my parents’ generation, and certainly my grandparents’ generation, would never have allowed. The Apostle Paul informs us of how “in the last days difficult times will come,” specifying how there will be various “haters of good,” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3, 4). While there have undeniably been various other low points throughout religious history, the kinds of discussions that go on regarding “sin” among a few of the theologians and Bible teachers I may read today really is utterly ridiculous, and at times down right revolting. Even what are perceived to be “New Testament commandments” of Jesus are largely dismissed, as the only thing that is said to really matter is just some rather vague or ever-fluxuating concept of “love.”

There is a significantly undiagnosed reason why various liberal theologians and pastors seem to be having more and more success among today’s Christians: conservatives who largely dismissed the relevance of the Torah did not teach as much on sin as they should have. Look at the degradation of just basic ethics and morality over the past half century. When people are not taught that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4)—even in an incomplete sense of just composing Divine ethical and moral instructions—then sin can quickly become whatever people “feel” is wrong. While the Holy Spirit indwelling the saints is to surely be present to convict us, if we have no guidelines of what sin is from the Holy Scriptures, then we can have a tendency to make “sin” into whatever we want, or even what best fits our fallen human agenda.

Does this mean that some might actually manifest a modern-day form of Judges 17:6, “everyone did as they saw fit” (TNIV)? Not submitting oneself to the instruction of God in the Torah, much less being informed by its commandments, has allowed far too many claiming Believers to subjectively define sin from an errant, mortal, and probably a rather fleshly-oriented point of view—rather than from the standpoint of our Eternal Creator.

While there are many truly saved and born again Christians, who just need to start reading more of their Bibles on a more frequent basis—and who will be convicted by the Lord to change their various habits—there is an immensely singular controversy in contemporary evangelicalism which has been directly caused by dismissing the Torah or Law of Moses. The biggest controversy in evangelical Christianity today easily regards the validity of homosexuality, with debates over the possible ordination of homosexual clergy splitting many churches and denominations.[17] What is the basic logic of those arguing in favor of homosexuality being acceptable for Christian people? It is that the sexual instructions which prohibit such behavior were only intended for Old Testament times and the culture of Ancient Israel (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13), and that Jesus abolished the Law! Jack Rogers, formerly an evangelical Presbyterian, states some of the reasons how he came to believe that homosexuality is now acceptable:

“The Hebrew word toevah translated as ‘abomination,’ refers here to something that makes a person ritually unclean, such as having intercourse with a woman while she is menstruating. Ritual purity was considered necessary to distinguish the Israelites from their pagan neighbors….Jesus was concerned [only] with purity of heart…When we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:17), we understand that our challenge is not meticulously to maintain culturally conditioned laws, but rather, with Jesus, to love God and love our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-40). When these texts in Leviticus are taken out of their historical and cultural context and applied to faithful, God-worshipping Christians who are homosexual, it does violence to them.”[18]

Since the legalization of homosexual marriage in the United States in 2015, a definite spiritual shift has taken place in the evangelical Christian world, with many leaders and pastors steadily embracing homosexuality as something not actually prohibited by God’s Word. While it may be true that there are areas of significant improvement that many of today’s Believers need to make—as the Lord Yeshua died for all sinners, and none of us needs to be found making a final judgment on any particular person’s salvation—the Apostle Paul did not at all consider homosexual practice to just be something cultural, but directly consequential of humanity’s general rebellion against the Creator God (Romans 1:26-27).[19] I am sorry to say that the evangelical Christianity which made a rather genuine and positive contribution to my family in the 1980s and 1990s, now finds itself in its twilight period.[20]

Many of the evangelical Christians whom today’s Messianic Believers are likely to encounter, rightly oppose homosexuality as a valid lifestyle, and the ordination of gays and lesbians as clergy. They oppose abortion-on-demand, pre-marital sex, and would certainly uphold a Torah ethic in many places, being social conservatives. They also want, as all of us should, to demonstrate Yeshua’s love to those who are in error. But, it cannot be denied that a major factor in today’s evangelical Christianity being radically split on these issues is precisely because the Torah has been jettisoned from its collective psyche and spiritual ideology. Even among some of your very conservative, evangelical Believers of today—when the Law of Moses is entirely relegated to past Biblical history—is it at all possible that important ground has been ceded to the enemy? In the past several decades, Satan has certainly done an excellent job at wreaking havoc on contemporary evangelicalism. Much of the culmination of this has been witnessed via the homosexual agenda (although heterosexual sins certainly abound as well). Because too many people are not quite sure what to do with the Torah, has a true antinomian assault been unleashed upon too much of the Body of Messiah?

Appreciating the Hebraic and Jewish Roots of Our Faith

No one should be at all surprised, as a direct result of the magnitude of contemporary Christian ethics and morality being skewed—why many evangelical Believers (in spite of what some denominations say) consciously know that they have ignored God’s Instruction in the Old Testament for far too long and that this must be rectified. This is not to say that they want to dismiss with the teachings of Jesus or the New Testament in any way. Instead, what they want is a far more holistic Biblical worldview.

In the case of my own family throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, once my late father Kimball McKee (1951-1992) came to faith in 1984, he was not only stirred to regularly study the Holy Scriptures—but he and my mother became acquainted with the Messianic Jewish teacher Zola Levitt and the Hebraic and Jewish Roots of Christianity. While much of this involved understanding how Jesus Christ prophetically fulfilled things such as the Passover, or how He will return in association with the Fall holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur[21]—it also definitely involved being a bit more aware of the Law of Moses and God’s commandments. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kim McKee brought some rather early Messianic understanding into Christ United Methodist Church of Florence, KY, most notably by holding an educational Passover presentation during Holy Week right before Easter/Resurrection Sunday.

Before my father died and went to be with the Lord in 1992, he had been approved by his district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Northern Kentucky for local pastoral ministry,[22] and had he lived he would probably have remained in Methodism until some of the present circumstances being faced by evangelicalism at present. Yet, being raised by a good Presbyterian in my Grandad McKee, and having married the granddaughter of the highly regarded Methodist Bishop Marvin A. Franklin in my mother—my father would never have been among those who advocated some “Law of Christ” entirely independent from the Law of Moses in the Old Testament. I fully believe that were he still with us today, he would totally approve of the spiritual and ministry course that we have continued on in his stead, honoring the legacy he set before us.

While many Christian Believers have known that they must heed the Torah’s instruction in terms of the Ten Commandments, and the Torah’s ethical, moral, and sexual instructions—much of the interest that has helped significantly grow the Messianic movement in the past two to three decades (1990s-2010s) has been because their interest in Moses’ Teaching has not stopped there.

It is undeniable that the modern Messianic movement originally began as an evangelistic outreach of Jewish Believers to their fellow Jews who needed to know Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah. As many Jewish people came to saving faith in Yeshua the Messiah, they needed to establish communities where they would be able—as strange as it might sound to others—to still be Jewish. They could still observe the weekly Shabbat, the holidays of Israel, eat kosher, perform circumcisions and bar/bat mitzvah, use the siddur (prayer book) and wrap tefillin (phylacteries), and identify with their cultural Jewish heritage and be involved with the State of Israel. In more recent days, however, the Messianic movement has also been a significant magnet for many sincere evangelical Christians, who want to embrace their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, and a life of Torah obedience, in a far more tangible and real way than just following the Law’s ethical and moral instructions. These Believers want to live as much as they can like their Jewish Savior, and they want to be united in congregational fellowship with their fellow Jewish Believers as a testament to the “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15) that He has formed, itself a small snapshot of the greater reconciliation to come to the cosmos (Ephesians 1:21-23).

Of course, as this has taken place, and as the broad Messianic movement tends to have a very positive and even pro-active view of Torah observance—this has spurred on a great deal of questions, as well as much criticism. Most of this has come from various Christian persons, who when they witness families such as my own enter into the Messianic community and adopt a lifestyle of Torah obedience—keeping Shabbat, the appointed times, and eating kosher among other things—really wonder why we would do this. More often than not, those who are the most skeptical and critical (as opposed to those who are open-minded, but just not totally sure at present), do actually believe that the Law of Moses has been abolished by Yeshua the Messiah.

Aside from our Lord’s own words that explicitly stand against any person who says that He came to abolish the Torah (Matthew 5:17ff), many of today’s Christians are unable to realize that throughout a great deal of Church history—the widespread dismissal of the Law of Moses that one witnesses has been the most common proof used by the Jewish community against the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth. Many religious Jews think that Jesus classifies, according to the Deuteronomy 13 warnings against false prophets, as a man who led people away from the Torah of Moses—at least because of the conduct of His later followers.[23]

Among various Jews, mostly academics, Jesus is of course approached from the perspective of basically being a good moralistic teacher or a kind of liberal social reformer. It is thought that some of His followers probably embellished some of His original teachings, given much of the Messianic fervor in First Century Judea. One who came along and is thought to really have “cashed in” on the Jesus message was Paul of Tarsus, perhaps as some opportunist who abused the message of the man from Nazareth. Among some Jews, Paul is thought to have taken the Jesus message out to Greeks and Romans, distorting it and promising them an easier way to Heaven or the world to come. This came by this man Paul teaching that those from the nations did not have to keep the Law of Moses. Jewish columnist David Klinghoffer writes the following in his book Why the Jews Rejected Jesus:

“Again and again, addressing Christians of Jewish and non-Jewish background, he granted full liberty from the law. ‘Now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive’ [Romans 7:6]. Christ was ‘the end of the law’ [Romans 10:4]….If he personally sometimes obeyed the laws, this was only for appearances’ sake. It made observant Jews who had not as yet accepted Christ feel comfortable. He admits this plainly: ‘To the Jews I become as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I become as one under the law—that I might win those under the law…I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some’ [1 Corinthians 9:20, 22]…[I]t’s obvious that after a Jew had acquired Paul as his teacher, the full implications of the novel doctrine would be revealed to him. Henceforth this new Jewish believer would be ‘discharged’ from the commandments.”[24]

Such a view of these same Pauline passages is, quite sadly, confirmed in the words and conclusions of many of today’s well-known and highly respected Christian theologians who precisely declare that Christ came to abolish the Mosaic Law. We can be overwhelmed with Jewish opinions over two millennia in terms of what they think about the message contained in the Messianic Scriptures, or what various Christian voices have said. Our job as responsible Bible readers, however, is to postulate whether is it entirely irreconcilable that the New Covenant expectation is “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it” (Jeremiah 31:33), with the Pauline assertion “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, NASU)—a widespread and common view of this being some kind of termination.[25]

What do today’s Messianic Believers do about this, who believe that the Law of Moses remains relevant instruction to be heeded by the redeemed?

Correcting Christian Misunderstandings

From a surface reading of many English Bibles to be sure, those who want to make the case that the Law of Moses has been nullified are able to make seemingly “viable” positions against today’s Messianic movement. They are able to take verses from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), which if we just examined at face value in English, could suggest that the Torah has been done away with or abolished. But as any responsible Bible reader, who has invested an appropriate amount of time into the discipline of either inductive Bible study or exegesis knows—our appeal is ultimately to be to the source text that sits behind our English translations.

In this publication, The New Testament Validates Torah, we will make considerable utilization of the Greek Apostolic Scriptures and demonstrate why the Law of Moses was not at all abolished or nullified by Yeshua the Messiah, and why figures such as the Apostle Paul did not dispense with it either. Passages such as those above (Romans 7:6; 10:4; 1 Corinthians 9:20, 22) and many others, will be exegeted from a conservative Biblical perspective with careful attention to the source text, and they will be engaged with an appropriate array of scholarly views—both for and against a pro-Torah position. Yet, as born again Believers who should have put our individual faith in the completed work of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), we must understand that in light of all the arguments we will be examining, His words relating to the Law of Moses stand primary:

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:18; cf. Luke 16:17).

Letting Yeshua the Messiah, the LORD God made manifest in the flesh, be our Interpreter, we must conclude that the Torah has not yet passed away. Heaven and Earth still stand! Notably, the Messiah further tells us, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). At the very least, what the Lord tells us here is that one’s status in the Kingdom is determined by how he or she handles the Torah or Law of Moses. Those who teach from the Torah, affording it an honored place in one’s Bible reading, and encouraging others to follow and value its commandments—will be considered great. Those who teach against the Torah and dishonor its instructions will be considered least.

I truly desire to see that no born again Believer ever be considered “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven, much less be considered lawless. We need to all be in compliance with the Word of the Lord and receive all of the great and awesome blessings that He has for us! I want to see people blessed by God, as opposed to being penalized by Him in any way.

Thankfully, as I have reviewed my own family’s Christian history and the denominational traditions represented therein, I have been able to find various voices throughout post-Reformation history who have rightfully recognized that faithful Believers need to approach the issue of Biblical continuity from Genesis-Revelation with great care, skill, and sensitivity. Certainly as time has moved forward, and there has been more sustained contact with the lands of the Bible, greater research into the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, and more historical and archaeological information to appropriate—some generations have had more “light” than others. Among these groups of Messiah followers spread across the centuries, though, is not only a definite desire to serve and please Him—making a sustained difference in the world—but also a need to recognize that there is a specific plan and purpose witnessed in the Holy Scriptures. Walter C. Kaiser, who is undoubtedly one of my most favorite evangelical theologians, expresses how only a Supreme and Omniscient God could be behind the marvelous tapestry of the Bible, giving it a single, unifying theme of redemption. In his book Recovering the Unity of the Bible, he summarizes,

“When a full document like the Bible is drawn from so many individual books written over such a long period of time, and the writers did not know each other and rarely were contemporaries of each other or even from the same continents, it is hard to imagine that any kind of coherence or ongoing strategy would be possible. But the Bible, extending over two testaments and some sixteen hundred years, and written by about forty writers in three languages, representing three continents, exhibits some strong general schemes that suggest a common archetypal plan and purpose in the story of redemption….If God was behind the production of all these contributions, then the unity is the result of a driving plan and the harmony reflects what he has willed and purposed.”[26]

With such an impetus of seeking a thematically-unified Bible behind many previous generations of faithful and Messiah-honoring Believers—it should be no surprise that in our day, among many seeking God’s truth, there is a highly renewed interest in the Torah or Law of Moses. One of the final admonitions of the Tanach Scriptures, interestingly enough, is actually: “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel” (Malachi 4:4). Yet while previous generations of Christians were limited in their understanding of Moses’ Teaching to perhaps only its moral and ethical instructions—however important and critical these may have been for their time—today’s emerging Messianic movement, being highly informed from Jewish theology, is able to promote an even wider scope of Torah relevance and obedience for God’s people.

No one, most especially myself, denies how the rise of the Messianic movement has led to a number of Christian persons vehemently opposing God’s Torah. Some of this comes as an over-reaction to the bad attitudes of various extremists and fundamentalist voices identifying themselves as “Messianic” or “Hebrew Roots,” and their over-inflated rhetoric against some of the ills of historic Christianity. At the same time, though, even when a message of Torah validity is presented fairly, reasonably, and in concert with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the thrust of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17), and a greater embodiment of God’s love and grace being central—there are still those who want absolutely nothing to do with it. They believe that the Apostolic Scriptures are on their side, and that the Law of Moses has been fully abolished and rendered inoperative. They sometimes believe that Torah observant Messianics are trying to “earn their salvation,” or are perhaps even unsaved! Rather than just dismiss their claims, as far too many Messianic persons I know have done, we have to instead consider the requirement of Proverbs 18:17 upon us as responsible and mature people of God:

The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines” (NRSV).

I believe that when you finish reading the analysis provided in The New Testament Validates Torah, that as a Messianic Believer you will be able to strongly defend the validity of Moses’ Teaching for born again Believers when a Christian who believes that the Law has somehow been abolished confronts you. If you are an evangelical Christian investigating Messianic theological views, you will no doubt be challenged and be forced into the Scriptures to reevaluate many of the things you have either been taught or have heard in the past. Most importantly, for whomever you are: may the quest for all of us be to be in full compliance with the Word of God, and conform to the example that our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) demonstrated for us during His time on Earth.

Does the New Testament Really Do Away With the Law?

Within Part I of The New Testament Validates Torah, we will be analyzing the specific views of a stereotypical evangelical Christian pastor, who believes that the Law of Moses was abolished by Jesus. The various reasons and objections to following the Torah that he offers are fairly common, in terms of what is commonly said when Messianic Believers interact with various Christian family members, friends, but above all acquaintances or certain associates from a church. We will analyze the statements that this “pastor” makes on a point-by-point basis. I think it is safe to say that these reasons constitute many of those you will often encounter as a Messianic Believer, who wants to live the life of our Lord Yeshua, by being obedient to the Torah.

The pastor’s comments are reproduced below, before we begin our review of his remarks:

Does the New Testament
Really Do Away With the Law?

some thoughts on the Mosaic Law from a typical pastor[27]

The Law is a unit of 613 commandments given by God to the people of Israel. The word Law is sometimes used when referring to all Old Testament writings such as in John 10:34 and 15:25 when Jesus quotes Psalms and 1 Corinthians 14:21 when Paul quotes Isaiah. But it is important to remember that there is only one Law. When referring to the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws, we are speaking of three aspects of the Law, not three laws. Those who say we must keep the Law tell us that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial and civil laws, but not the moral law.

First, the Law was given to point out our sins. “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions…” (Galatians 3:19). It is the standard that is used to show how sinful we are.

Many people think that the Law was given so that by keeping it we will become righteous. This is a wrong understanding of the Law. The Law is our referee to show us how many times that we step out of bounds. It shows how utterly filthy and wicked our sin is (Romans 7:13). In God’s eyes, even our righteousness is called filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Second, it points to the Savior: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The Law not only points out the problem, but also the solution. It is our tutor (teacher) to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith, not by keeping the Law. Jesus paid for all of the sins of the world (1 John 2:2; 1 Peter 2:24), the very sins that the Law pointed out. The only way to receive forgiveness from sins is by receiving Jesus Christ into our lives because there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12).

No one is able to keep the Law. Hebrews 7:18-19 tells us that the Law was set aside because of its weakness, because the Law made nothing perfect. As a matter of fact, the power of sin is in trying to keep the Law (1 Corinthians 15:56). This is why Paul said that the Law was given so that transgression might increase (Romans 5:20). Sin takes opportunity through the commandments and becomes alive by increasing the desires to break them (Romans 7:8-9).

Most people believe that the Law is “Laws” rather than “Law.” If we keep the entire Law and break only one, we are guilty of breaking them all. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). The Law is not like a carton of eggs, where if you break 5 you still have 7 unbroken eggs. It is like a sheet of glass—if you break one part, the whole sheet is broken. If you keep one part of the Law, you are obligated to keep them all.

No one will be justified by the Law. “Because by the works of the Law no one will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). If the Law were able to impart life, then righteousness would have been based on the Law (Galatians 3:21). But it can’t, so it isn’t. The following verses show that Christians are not obligated to keep the Old Testament Law:

*indicates passages added to the original list

Isaiah 1:13-14: God hates the Jewish feasts of the Old Testament*

Ezekiel 20:12-26: God actually gave His people bad laws that they could not follow.*

Hosea 2:11: God has put an end to the Old Testament Sabbath and feast days.*

Matthew 5:17: Jesus fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law.

Matthew 11:13: The Law of Moses was only in effect until John the Baptist.*

Mark 7:1-23: Jesus Christ declared the dietary laws, and hence all commands, of the Mosaic Law to be obsolete.*

John 1:17: The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth realized through Christ.

John 13:34: Jesus Christ gave us a new law of love to replace the laws of the Old Testament.*

Acts 10:1-48: Peter was shown a vision nullifying the dietary laws.*

Acts 15:19-21: The Apostolic decree says nothing about new Christians observing the Mosaic Law.*

Acts 20:7: The early Christians met on the first day of the week, a clear abolishment of the Jewish Sabbath.*

Romans 3:19-22: Through the works of the Law no one will be justified.

Romans 3:27-31: Justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Romans 4:5: God justifies those who do not work.

Romans 6:14-15: We are not under law, but under grace.

Romans 6:23: Eternal life is a free gift.

Romans 7:1-25: We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ.

Romans 8:1-4: The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 10:4: Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Romans 11:6: Grace is no longer on the basis of works.

Romans 14: God does not care about what days people celebrate or what food they eat.*

1 Corinthians 6:12-20: All things are now lawful.*

1 Corinthians 8: Paul permitted Gentile Christians to eat idol food, a clear violation of the Mosaic Law.*

1 Corinthians 9:19-23: It is only necessary to keep the Old Testament law to convert Jews to Christ.*

1 Corinthians 10:14-33: Paul says to eat whatever is set before you.*

1 Corinthians 16:2: The early Christians met on the first day of the week, a clear abolishment of the Jewish Sabbath.*

2 Corinthians 3: The veil of the old covenant has been removed.*

Galatians 2:11-21: By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:12-14: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law.

Galatians 3:23-25: The Law is our tutor to lead us to Christ.

Galatians 4:8-11: The Sabbath and Old Testament feast days are weak and worthless principles.*

Galatians 5:1-4: Those who try to keep the Law of Moses have fallen from grace.*

Ephesians 2:8-10: We are saved by grace, not as a result of works.

Ephesians 2:14-15: The Law was abolished in the flesh of Christ.

Philippians 3:2-11 Righteousness is not derived by the Law.

Colossians 2:14: The Law of Moses was nailed to the cross of Christ.

Colossians 2:16-23: Christians are not to be judged for not keeping the Sabbath and Old Testament feast days.*

1 Timothy 1:8-9: The Law is not made for a righteous man.*

1 Timothy 4:1-5: Those who observe the dietary laws have committed apostasy against Jesus.*

2 Timothy 1:9: Salvation is not according to works.

2 Timothy 2:15: The Word of God is to be rightly divided between the Old and New Testaments, Israel and the Church.*

Titus 1:14: The Old Testament law is to be regarded as nothing more than Jewish myth.*

Titus 3:5-8: He did not save us according to our deeds, but according to His mercy.

Titus 3:9: We are not to be concerned about obedience to Jewish laws.*

Hebrews 4:1-10: Jesus is our Sabbath rest now.*

Hebrews 7:11-12, 18-19: A change of law has taken place, because it was weak and worthless.

Hebrews 8: The New Covenant makes the Old Covenant obsolete.

Hebrews 10:1: The Law was only a shadow of good things to come.

Hebrews 10:9: God takes away the first covenant to establish the second.

Revelation 1:10: The Sabbath has now been replaced with the Lord’s Day.*

Some people try to argue, “If we are no longer under the Law, what’s left to keep us in line? That means we can now sin all we want.” On the contrary, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

Grace is actually a higher law than the Old Testament Law. Grace changes our hearts so that we want to do God’s will. It is called the law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12), the royal law (James 2:8), the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:1-4), the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), the law of faith (Romans 3:27), and the law within (Hebrews 8:10). We are now under the law of the Spirit who lives within every Believer and not under the letter of the Law: “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).


NOTES

[1] For an analysis and refutation of this, from one of the premier Jewish Bible scholars of the Twentieth Century, consult Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch (Jerusalem: Shalem Press, 2006).

[2] Homosexuality: Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; adultery: Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:24; abortion: Exodus 21:22-25.

[3] Homosexuality: Romans 1:26-27;1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10; 2 Peter 2:10; Jude  7; adultery/fornication: Mark 7:21; Matthew 5:27-28; Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 6:9; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5; Colossians 3:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 1 Peter 2:11-18; Revelation 2:14, 20; 9:21.

[4] Cf. Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28.

[5] For a fair-minded analysis and refutation of the practice of historical minimalism, whereby the Scriptural record is not treated as a valid testimony to support its own claims, consult Iain Provan, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III, A Biblical History of Israel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003).

For an excellent analysis of the relevant Creationist data, the author highly recommends Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1-11 (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe, 2014).

[6] For a further discussion of a variety of relevant issues, consult the author’s article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah,” appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper.

[7] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 167.

[8] Ibid., 169.

In my review of How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth for my inductive Bible study class on the Gospel of Matthew at Asbury Theological Seminary (Spring 2005), my main criticism was that it did not even get around to really discussing the Old Testament until about two-thirds of the way into their 287 page book:

“While I thought this was a good read, and I picked up many points from the authors, I was a little upset that they did not start us out from the Old Testament and work our way to the New Testament, and emphasized reading Scripture like a house starting with a foundation and building its way forward. I am sure they did this with the fact that many lay people will be reading this book, and the fact that people are generally more familiar with the New Testament than the Old Testament. I personally just thought talking about the Old Testament in detail two-thirds of the way through the book was out of place.”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Also to be considered could be: Psalm 1:2; 119:77, 174.

[11] Consult the article “The Significance of the Messiah Event,” appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper.

[12] Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

[13] John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1978), 20.

[14] Alexander M. Renwick, “Antinomianism,” in Everett F. Harrison, ed., Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 48.

[15] Donald S. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 13.

[16] For a further investigation and discussion, consult the various volumes of the Messianic Helper series by Messianic Apologetics.

[17] The various positions of this debate are accessible in Dan O. Via and Robert A.J. Gagnon, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003); Preston Sprinkle, William Loader, Megan K. DeFanza, Wesley Hill, and Stephen R. Holmes, Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016).

[18] Jack Rogers, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), pp 72-73.

[19] Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website “Romans 1:26-27,” which includes an analysis of the clause para phusin or “against nature.”

[20] I am even more sorry to report that in Spring 2015, the main person responsible for conferring my M.A. in Biblical Studies upon me at Asbury Theological Seminary, laying his hands and praying over me, Dr. Steve Harper, publicly came out in favor of homosexual marriage, albeit in his retirement. Even more lamentable than this, though, was the utter silence from many of his former faculty colleagues, in publicly condemning him.

Much of Harper’s transition to accepting same-sex relationships as being acceptable to God is covered in his book For the Sake of the Bride: Restoring the Church to Her Intended Beauty (Nashville: Abingdon, 2014).

[21] Cf. Zola Levitt, The Seven Feasts of Israel (Dallas: Zola Levitt Ministries, 1979).

[22] Consult the author’s article “To Those Who Have Gone Before Us.”

[23] It is very true that along with this, one of the other main reasons why many Jews throughout history have rejected Yeshua as Messiah, is because orthodox Christian theology affirms Him as being Divine, the LORD, God the Son. In much Jewish theology, however, the Messiah is to only be human. This is steadily becoming a major area of disagreement within parts of the Messianic community, but one which must ultimately be guided by the claims of the Biblical text.

For a further discussion, consult the author’s publications Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, released in two volumes.

[24] David Klinghoffer, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (New York: Three Leaves Press, 2005), pp 108-109.

Against: Pamela Eisenbaum, “On the Contrary, We Uphold the Law!”, in Paul Was Not a Christian: The Original Message of a Misunderstood Apostle (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), pp 208-239 where this liberal Jewish professor argues that Paul has been misunderstood in terms of opposing the Law. Contrary to someone like Klinghoffer, what she thinks he really opposes is Torah-keeping for non-Jews but not Torah-keeping for Jews. While I would be of the position that God’s Torah bears relevance for all of His people, regardless of ethnicity, Eisenbaum’s analysis is worthy of a perusal.

[25] Notable to this verse is recognizing that the NASB does list for Romans 10:4 the alternate reading “Or, goal” (Spiros Zodhiates, ed., Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, NASB [Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994], 1498). More obvious would be how the 2005 TNIV says “Christ is the culmination of the law,” but even more to the point would be the 2010 Common English Bible’s “For Christ is the goal of the Law.” (Technical details are evaluated further in our analysis of Romans 10:4.)

[26] Walter C. Kaiser, Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan, and Purpose (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), pp 20-21.

[27] This analysis is loosely based on a discussion called “The Sabbath,” which originally appeared on the website of Cornerstone Church of Garden City, KS <odsgc.net/~cornerst/sabbath.htm> in 2000 (their church website is now <http://cornerstonepeople.org> and this information has been subsequently removed), even though additional verses and passages have been added.

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