Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Torah Validity

“The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?’ And He said to them, ‘Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN” [Isaiah 29:13, LXX]. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.’ He was also saying to them, ‘You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER” [Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16]; and, “HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH” [Exodus 21:17]; but you say, “If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),” you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.’ After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. And He said to them, ‘Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?’ (Thus He declared all foods clean.) And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man’” (NASU).

“Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out. Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands, because they rejected My ordinances, and as for My statutes, they did not walk in them; they even profaned My sabbaths, for their heart continually went after their idols. Yet My eye spared them rather than destroying them, and I did not cause their annihilation in the wilderness. I said to their children in the wilderness, ‘Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers or keep their ordinances or defile yourselves with their idols. I am the LORD your God; walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and observe them. Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’ But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; they profaned My sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness. But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations in whose sight I had brought them out. Also I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations and disperse them among the lands, because they had not observed My ordinances, but had rejected My statutes and had profaned My sabbaths, and their eyes were on the idols of their fathers. I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live; and I pronounced them unclean because of their gifts, in that they caused all their firstborn to pass through the fire so that I might make them desolate, in order that they might know that I am the LORD’” (NASU).

“Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them” (NASU).

This further study, of what “under the Law” really means, will consider some of the strengths and weaknesses today’s Messianic Believers have, especially when a Christian family member or friend exclaims “We’re not under the Law!” Not only will this analysis provide some more detailed answers to those who are skeptical of a Messianic’s Torah obedience, but it is engaged with contemporary thought and opinion surrounding the terminology “under the Law,” and why “under the Law” meaning “obedient to the Torah of Moses” is a poor conclusion.

Today’s broad Messianic movement does adhere to some form of post-resurrection era validity to the Torah of Moses. At the very least, today’s Messianic people believe that the weekly Torah portions should be read and contemplated, as we let its accounts inform our understanding of how God works in history, and how we need the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. By virtue of holding its main worship services on Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath, observing holidays and festivals not adhered to by most of today’s Messiah followers, and being concerned about clean and unclean meats—today’s Messianic people do inevitably have some conflict with a great deal of contemporary Christian thought and theology, which teaches that the Torah or Law of Moses has been abolished.

Matthew 5:17-19, which preface the Sermon on the Mount which follows, are some of the most important verses of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) for today’s Messianic movement. These verses speak of the Messiah’s intent to fulfill, and not abolish, the Mosaic Law. But what does it mean that the Messiah was to come and fulfill the Law? Does it just pertain, as is commonly thought, to the prophetic agenda of accomplishment that is realized by the Messiah’s arrival? Or, is there a multi-layered dynamic of the Messiah’s coming to “fulfill” the Torah, which must be taken into consideration? Has the Law been “fulfilled and thus abolished,” as many people today conclude? If this is in error, then what might need to be corrected in some Believers’ view of the Torah?

In theory, most evangelical conservative Christians claim to honor the Bible as if all of it is the inspired, inerrant Word of the Lord. However, in practice, the same cannot often be said, especially when it comes to many Christians’ attitude concerning their approach to the Law of Moses, or the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy).