SALVATION: A TRIUNE PROCESS, NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT? (Part 1)

“COME FORWARD TODAY AND RECEIVE JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR!”  For most people, this was the moment when we went forward in church to confess our sins and to give our lives to the Lord.  Usually, the pastor would explain what we were about to do, and then he would have us repeat a prayer after him.  After completing this prayer, he would say that each of us have now been saved.  He might even quote Romans 10: 9-10,

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Most Pastors would say that “You are now saved and are a child of God.”  Although I would most certainly congratulate you for your decision to give your life to the Lord, but I would differ in that I would say that you have now taken YOUR FIRST STEP on the journey of salvation with the Lord.

A TRIUNE SALVATION FROM A TRIUNE GOD

Rather than salvation being a one-time event, it is a triune process, which comes from God, a Triune Spirit.  In Exodus 3, Moses asks God His name, and in His response, He gives Moses the name YHWH.  This name is derived from the verb “to be” (Heb. hayah), and it’s repeated 6,000 times in the Scriptures.  In fact, in the book of Revelation, it is translated into Greek and English by the three tenses of the verb:

…which is, and which was, and which is to come;…” (Revelation 1:4, 8)
…which was, and is, and is to come… (Revelation 4:8)
…which art, and wast, and art to come… (Revelation 11:17)
…which art, and wast, and shall be… (Revelation 16:5)

In all five verses, the covenant name of God is translated out into Greek by these three verb tenses: past, present, and future.  God exists outside of time, space, and matter, and as a result, He can see the past, present, and future all at the same time, and so He is always the Great “I AM.” But just as His name translates into three tenses, “I WAS, I AM, and I SHALL BE,”so does His salvation that flows out to those call upon Him, for as the Bible teaches, “for whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

So just as God Himself is a Triune Being, so salvation, which comes from God, is likewise Triune in its nature.    The three stages of salvation are the following:

  • NEW BIRTH (“I WAS SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN”)
  • SANCTIFICATION (“I AM BEING SAVED FROM THE POWER OF SIN”)
  • GLORIFICATION (“I SHALL BE SAVED FROM THE PRESENCE OF SIN”)

And all three stages comprise the one life-long process, whose overall purpose is to transform each of us from being a broken “slave of sin” into a son or daughter of God that’s been conformed into the image and likeness of Christ.

THE PROCESS OF NEW BIRTH (“I WAS SAVED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN”)

This process also includes conversion, justification, and adoption; consequently, sometimes these other names are used rather than “NEW BIRTH.”  However, I like this one because it emphasizes that something NEW is being BIRTHED in and through this experiential process.

In John 3, Jesus enters into a discussion with a Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus by night, and tells Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that You do, except God be with Him.”  Jesus then responds to Him by saying,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

But Nicodemus is confused by this.  He asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4)  But in response to this question, Jesus repeats what He had said in verse 3, but He elaborates further on what He meant by being “born again.”  To show this, I’m going to put the two verses side by side.

JOHN 3:3

JOHN 3:5

Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

So what Jesus has done in a very Jewish way is to define being “BORN AGAIN” as being “BORN OF WATER AND OF THE SPIRIT.”  Jesus here is not defining “BORN AGAIN” as simply being “BORN OF THE SPIRIT” as I’ve heard numerous times from ministers, believing that “being BORN OF WATER” was only a reference to physical birth.  In Jewish thinking, there’s an intricate connection between the water and the Spirit, which many Christians do not realize.

THE NECESSITY OF CHRIST IN THE NEW BIRTH

To be “BORN AGAIN,” it is imperative that we understand that this can only happen when we sincerely come to Christ, confess our sins, and ask Him to come into our hearts and lives to be our Savior, Lord, and King.   Our salvation is only made possible because of His shed blood and death on the cross, and His bodily resurrection.  Although we tend to put more focus on His death on the cross, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15 that without His resurrection our faith would be in vain:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  (I Corinthians 15:13-20)

Consequently, Christ’s resurrection is extremely important to our salvation, and not just the His sacrificial death on the cross.   But being “BORN AGAIN” is a process, and not an event.  For example, Jesus taught His disciples prior to His ascension:

Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned. (Mark 16:15-16)

As we can see, the process of the NEW BIRTH occurs in two steps: “(1) Believe and (2) is baptized shall be saved.”  So obviously, if you are not willing to do the first step, “believe,” then you are not going to end this process by doing the second step, being “baptized.”

Then in the book of Acts, we see two more people teaching the same thing and re-affirming this two step process for the NEW BIRTH.  First of all, Peter, in his initial sermon on the day of Pentecost:

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brothers, what shall we do?  Then Peter said to them, “REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:37-38)

What did Peter say? “REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED.”  The word “Repent” here involves BELIEVING the message of the gospel and accepting Jesus as their Lord, Savior and Messiah (or King), and then “BE BAPTIZED.”  The same two basic parts of the process as we see from Jesus in Mark 16:16.  Then the next person we see teach this same two parts is Paul, when describing his own conversion in Acts 22.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which lived there, came to me, and stood, and said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  And the same hour I looked up on him.  And he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of His mouth.  For you shall be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why are you waiting?  ARISE, AND BE BAPTIZED, and WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:12-16)

Paul here is recounting for the crowds what happened to him during his conversion (or NEW BIRTH) experience, and notice what Paul says that Ananias told him to do,

Arise, and BE BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)

By “calling on the name of the Lord,” “BELIEVING” is an assumed intricate part of this.  But in addition, Ananias told him to be “BAPTIZED, AND WASH AWAY YOUR SINS.” Consequently, there are at least three witnesses here that teach the same thing, “Repent (or Believe) and Be Baptized, and you shall be saved”: Jesus, Peter, and Ananias through Paul.  There are also 10 examples in the book of Acts that demonstrate this two-part process as well.   For example, all the following were baptized after they believed,

The 3,000 people saved on Pentecost (Acts 2:41) The Apostle Paul (Acts 9:18) The Philippian Jailer and his household (Acts 16:33)
The Samaritans (Acts 8:12) The Roman Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:47-48) Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue (Acts 18:8)
Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:13) Lydia (Acts 16:15) The Ephesian believers (Acts 19:3-5)
The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:28-40)  

So with three people, including Jesus Himself, teaching the same thing and 10 examples of this being done throughout the book of Acts, why is it that most Christians do not believe that water baptism has any part in the salvation process?

Another example we can see of water being a part of birth is in the natural birth process.  The process of physical conception and birth presents us with a picture of what it means to be “BORN AGAIN.”  Throughout the Old Testament, there are numerous passages where water is used in the process of rebirth.  For example, the first picture of this in the Bible is in the account of Noah and the Flood.  The earth was full of sin and violence, and God told Noah that He was going to flood the whole earth; that is, He was going to fully immerse the planet under water (“baptize it”).

But to preserve Noah and his family, as well as the land animals, He had Noah build the ark.  The ark is a picture of Christ, and just as those who were in the ark were saved,  so those who are in Christ will likewise be saved.  However, when God brought the world up out of the waters, the world was “clean” once more, and the sin was gone.  So there in this account, we have the combination of both salvation (pictured by the ark) and water baptism (pictured by the flood).  Those who made it through the flood (by being in the ark/Christ) are saved.

There are many other such pictures in the Bible as well, like Israel crossing the Red Sea.  To save their first born, they had put the Passover Lamb’s blood on the doorposts and lintel, demonstrating their faith in God.  So as we are saved from our Egypt’s of sin, so we too must rely on THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB and our FAITH IN GOD, but notice that Israel was not out of Egypt (a symbol of sin) UNTIL they CROSSED THE SEA.

It was only when they came out on the other side that the people were saved from the Egyptians.  If they had put the blood on the doorpost and lintel, but had not left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they would not have been saved from their slavery in Egypt.  They would have remained slaves.  Their coming out of Egypt happened as a PROCESS, not just a ONE-TIME EVENT.

In like manner, physical conception and birth are also two ends of the same process, and of course,  conception is when new life begins within the womb of a woman, which can be compared to us asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins and be the Lord of our life, because it is at this moment that the conception of our spirit happens, and we experience that new life within us.  To demonstrate this further, there’s an interesting verse in I John; it says,

Whosoever is born of God does not [continue to] commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot [continue to] sin, because he is born of God.  (I John 3:9)

There’s two things to point out about this verse.  (1) The verbs “commit” and “sin” are both present participles, which mean they refer to “repeated or continuous action,” which is why I put “continue to” in brackets. But (2) the word “seed” in this verse is the English translation of the Greek word sperma.  It is from this word that we get the English word “sperm.”  In this verse, the Holy Spirit is being pictured as “the sperm of God.”  God’s “sperm,” of course, is not physical, but spiritual, since it alludes to His Spirit.  However, interestingly, this image of God having “sperm” (although spiritual in nature) does most definitely identify God in a very masculine way (contrary to the many feminists and those in the LGBT camp who are now trying to say that God should be referred to with neutral, genderless pronouns).

God’s Spirit (His “sperm”) comes into us when we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life, and a new spiritual life begins to exist.  However, just as our physical conception results in a physical birth, where we are born into this life out of the water of the womb, so our spiritual conception results in a spiritual birth, where we are born into the kingdom of God out of water, a picture of the womb.   This picture of being “BORN AGAIN” should have been quite familiar to Nicodemus, but it wasn’t, which is why Jesus is surprised when Nicodemus doesn’t understand what He’s saying.

JEWISH WATER IMMERSION

In Jesus’ day, people were not “baptized” or “immersed” in water like Christians do today, where one person lays another person down into the water.  Instead, each person immerses themselves.  The other person is there just to make sure that the process is done correctly.

The person being immersed, steps into the water until it is waist deep, and then crouches down into a fetal position.  The water must cover them completely.  It is then that the water takes on the image of a womb, and the person in the water is in the same fetal position they would’ve been in the womb.  Then the person stands up straight out of the water, representing their “new birth,” or “new life,” i.e., they are now “born again.”

When looking at the baptism of Jesus, by John the Baptist, you will note that John did not lift Jesus up out of the water; instead, it says,

And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:… (Matthew 3:16)

And it was when He came up out of the water that the Holy Spirit came down and lit on Him as a dove.  In essence, He was “born of water and of the Spirit,” and if Jesus was “born of the water and of the Spirit,” shouldn’t we do likewise as His disciples today?  In Judaism, there were many reasons why Jews would immerse in water:

  • To indicate a change in status, such as a person was “unclean” and they now have become “clean” (whether ritually, or in their health, or spiritually).  For example, after the completion of their monthly cycle, women would immerse, so that their relations with their husbands could resume.  One also indicated a change in status when they began a new phase in their life, began a new career, or they wanted to develop a more intimate relationship with God.
  • To initiate one’s priestly office.  A priest had to wait until they were 30 years old, according to the Scriptures, before they could initiate their priestly office (Numbers 4).
  • For completing the process of conversion.

These are not all the reasons, but a few examples.  Jesus, though, was baptized in water, not for conversion or for the forgiveness of His sins, since He was sinless, but because He needed to indicate a change of status (He was changing from being a carpenter to being a rabbi), and He also needed to initiate His High Priestly office.  So in truth, when He came up out of the water, He was, in fact, “BORN AGAIN,” because a carpenter went down into the water, but He came up out of the water a rabbi and High Priest.  And so as His disciples, we too need to be “BORN AGAIN OUT OF THE WATER” just as He was.

But we must remember, it is not enough to be “BORN OF WATER,” we must also be “BORN OF THE SPIRIT.”  BOTH ARE NECESSARY.  Many times when I discuss this, people ask me about the thief on the cross.  However, the thief on the cross is the only man in the New Testament who was saved without being baptized in water afterwards.  He should be seen as the exception, not the rule.  Obviously, the Romans were not going to take the man down, allow John, who was standing right there, to baptize him, and then give the guy back to the Romans, so they could nail him back up on the cross.

It is important that we remember that the NEW BIRTH is a PROCESS, NOT AN EVENT.  The thief on the cross had begun the process, but obviously, he was not able to complete the first stage of the salvation process, but he went as far as he could.  But throughout the book of Acts, there are 10 accounts of people being saved, as I said earlier, and every one of them was baptized right afterwards.  There’s not one single exception to this in all the book of Acts, whether the person was a Jew or a non-Jew.  Consequently, we should be defining this first stage of the NEW BIRTH based on what is TYPICAL – what we find in the majority of cases in the Bible – NOT THE EXCEPTION.  This, in fact, is the rule when coming up with a definition.  In any definition, you my note the exceptions and rare occurrences, but you always base the meaning on what is TYPICAL, on what you find in the majority of cases.

Now in part 2 of this series, we will examine “Sanctification,” and then in part 3, the final part of this series, we will examine “Glorification.”

 

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“DID CHRIST BRING THE LAW TO AN END?”

DID CHRIST BRING THE LAW TO AN END?  This all depends on what “law” you are talking about.  If you are referring to the “law of sin and death,” then the answer is “yes,” but if you mean “the law of God,” then the answer is “yes” and “no.”  I would argue that the following did come to an end with Christ:

  • The time when we did not have Christ as our goal and model of what a Torah-observant man looked like has come to an end.
  • The time when the law was an outside motivator to obedience to God has come to an end.
  • The time when we did not have the Holy Spirit empowering us to live out the commandments of God has come to an end.
  • The time when God was still waiting to fulfill His promise to Abraham when He walked between the pieces has come to an end.
  • The time when we did not have an Advocate, Mediator, and High Priest in heaven to intercede and pray for us to help us walk out the commandments of God has come to an end.

But has the Law (Heb. Torah) of God been abolished, destroyed, annulled or done away with and is no longer relevant to our lives as believers?  Then the answer is a definite “NO!”  What most Christians do not understand is that God’s relationship with His people was not based on the covenant that God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, so what would be the point of abolishing or destroying it?  Did God throw out His plan and program that He had going in the Old Testament to start a whole new program with Christ?  No, He didn’t.  Those who believe this only demonstrate how much of the Old Testament they really do not understand.

THE ORIGINAL PASSAGE

So let’s go back and begin to unravel this mystery about how to view Romans 10:4.  To do this, we need to examine the original passage on which this misunderstanding is based.

For I bear them [Israel] record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.  (Romans 10:2-4)

I didn’t just want to look at the one verse in question, but I wanted you to see it in context.

THE REAL ISSUE

The issue here is not about the commandments themselves, but on whose standard of righteousness are we using when we keep them?  Are we using God’s standard of righteousness or are we following the standard created by Israel, or more specifically, the Pharisees?  The problem with traditional Christianity’s interpretation of Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) writings is that they take him and his writings out of their historical, cultural, and religious contexts, and as a result, they misinterpret what he has to say, particularly when it comes to the law.

“IS CHRIST THE END OF THE LAW?”

The problem in correctly understanding Romans 10:4 is how most people understand the word “end” today.  You see most people today understand the word “end” to mean one thing, but the word “end” in 1611 and in the Greek has a different meaning in mind.  As a college English instructor for 25 years, I can tell you that the meaning of words do not remain static or stay the same.  As the culture changes, so does the meaning and use of words.  For example, when I was growing up, “Aids” were people who helped out in the principal’s office, but now when you say that word, the first thing that comes to mind is a horrible disease.  Another example is the word “computer.”  Prior to WWII, a “computer” was a person who was hired to do mathematical computations, but after WWII, a computer became a machine, like we know it today.  It was during WWII when the machine “computer” was created to do what the human “computer” did but at a faster and more accurate rate.

Likewise, the primary meaning of the word “end” has also changed in the past 400 years.  In this verse, the word “end” is the English translation of the Greek word telos (Strong’s #5056), which means “to set out for a definite point or goal, or properly the point aimed at as a limit, result, purpose.”  However, this word does not mean “to terminate” here. The word “end” is still used to mean a “goal” or “point aimed at,” when we say, “What end did you have in mind?” meaning “what’s your goal or what are you aiming to achieve?”  And it is in this sense that the word “end” is to be understood.   Finally, this understanding of the word “end” is also supported by The Apologetics Study Bible, which points out in its footnote for this verse that the word “end” also means “goal” (1695).

PLACING IT BACK INTO CONTEXT

But the real test is to place this meaning back into the text and see if it makes sense.

For I bear them [Israel] record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.  (Romans 10:2-4)

What is the destination point, the target that God’s law is aiming to achieve within our lives, its goal?  Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) response is “Christ.”  He is the living embodiment and example of the Law [Torah].  In other words, if we could take all the commandments of the Law and use them to formulate a man, who would it be?  Christ.  This understanding of this verse fits with what follows in this passage.

TWO TYPES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

In the next section of verses, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) goes on to describe two types of righteousness, both of which deal with God’s law.

For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which does those things shall live by them.” (Romans 10:5)

In this verse, I have placed the quote in bold print.  Paul is quoting here a line that is found in five different verses: Leviticus 18:5; Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20: 11, 13, 21.  In all five cases, the phrase is used to contrast God’s expectation that people live their lives guided by His commandments.  However, in each case, that was not what they were doing.  This is the meaning of this line in its original context.

After making this statement, Paul then begins to make the argument that the standard of righteousness that the Jews are using in their obedience to the law [Torah] is man-made and, therefore, like the above quote, it does not satisfy God’s expectation.  But the standard that is of faith is when we walk out our love for God by obeying His Word, including His commandments, with Jesus [Yeshua] as our goal and destination point.  And to prove his point, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30:12-14.  But to show you the context of the Deuteronomy passage, here are verses 10-11:

If you shall hearken unto the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law [Torah], and if you turn unto the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.  For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not hidden [or too difficult  for/from] you, neither is it far off.

Clearly here, the context of this passage is the Torah, the commandments of God.  It is at this point that Deuteronomy 30:12-14 begin.

Deuteronomy 30:12

Romans 10:6

It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the righteousness which is of faith speaks on this wise, Say not in your heart, Who shall ascend into heaven” (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

In comparing these two verses, we can see that Paul is taking what Moses writes about the Torah and he is applying it to Jesus.  Why?  Is Paul suggesting that Jesus has replaced the Torah?  No, instead, according to archaeologists and the remains of the homes in Israel that belonged to believers, the earliest term for Jesus [Yeshua] is HaTorah, “The Living Torah,” that Jesus [Yeshua] was the living embodiment and expression of all that the Torah was and represented.  So what was true of the Written Torah was likewise true of the Living Torah.

Deuteronomy 30:13 Romans 10:7
Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Or, who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

In this comparison, we see an apparent difference between these two passages.  However, as seen from Romans 6, Paul identifies the water (or seas) with death, so for him to interpret Romans 10:7 in this way is consistent with his pattern of interpretation.  But again, we can see that he is applying what Moses writes about the Torah to the person of Christ [Messiah].

Deuteronomy 30:14 Romans 10:8
But the word is very nigh unto you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it. But what says it?  The word is nigh you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

But it is here that Moses explains why the words of the Torah are not “hidden” or “are not too difficult” for the people to obey.  It is because the words are “nigh them, in their mouth, and in their heart.”  This is why, I believe, most Christians say they cannot obey the Torah, because the Torah is not “in their hearts” and it is not “in their mouth.”  Why the two places?  Because as Jesus [Yeshua] taught, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).   When Torah comes out of our mouth, Moses is saying, then it is in the “abundance of their heart.”  The problem is that most Christians don’t read and study the Torah, so then how could it come out of their mouth, and therefore, how could they possibly keep it?

Notice that the Torah that is “in their hearts and in their mouth” and that has Jesus [Yeshua] as its goal and target “is the word of faith,” Paul writes, “which we preach.”  You see, when the Jews are describing “the righteousness which is of the law [the written and oral Torah],” it misses the purpose and plan of God because the Pharisees (and later rabbis] would take the interpretation of the Scriptures in the direct opposite direction than what God originally intended; however, with Christ [Messiah[ as the goal and destination point of the Torah, then with that view in mind, then believers could obey the commandments in a way that God had originally intended, rather than what was being taught by some of the Pharisees at the time.  [Some had some good ideas and interpretations, but not all of them.]

THE REALITY OF GOD’S TWO TORAHS

So just as God’s written Torah [the first five books of the Bible] becomes a reality to us when it is in our hearts and in our mouth, and then, we are able to do it, Paul applies this same concept to the Lord Jesus Christ [Heb. Adon Yeshua HaMoshiakh].  So how do we make Jesus [Yeshua] a reality in our lives?  The same way we make Torah a reality in our lives: Him being in our hearts and in our mouth.

That if you shall confess with YOUR MOUTH the Lord Jesus, and shall believe IN YOUR HEART that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with THE HEART man believes unto righteousness; and with THE MOUTH confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:9-10; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that according to these two verses, if all you do is “believe in your heart” that God has raised Jesus [Yeshua] from the dead,” you have righteousness, but not salvation.  It is only when we combine the belief of Christ’s [Messiah’s] resurrection with our confession from our mouth that we are saved.  And in the combination of these two elements, we begin our life-long walk of salvation with God, a walk that is not complete until we come into His Presence, either at His coming or at death.

May Christ [Messiah], the Living Torah, and the Written Torah of God both comprise the abundance of our hearts and the confession of our mouths to the glory of God, Amen.

 

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PAUL AND THE TORAH: A BASIC INTRODUCTION (Part 3)

HOW WAS THE WORD TORAH USED DIFFERENTLY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT THAN IT WAS USED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?  As we discussed in part 2 of this series, the Hebrew word Torah was used to refer to the first five books of the Bible.  However, when we come to the New Testament, the word Torah has a wider, more diverse usage than what we see in the Old Testament since there were new institutions (Sanhedrin, synagogue}, groups (Pharisees, sadducees, Essenes, Zealots), teachings (midrashim), traditions (Oral Torah or Mishnah) and customs that did not exist at all during the time period of the Old Testament.

TORAH — ITS WIDE SPECTRUM OF USE

In the New Testament, the word Torah has a wider spectrum of use.  For example, Jesus [Yeshua] uses it to refer to the five books of Moses, and Paul [Sha’ul Paulus] also uses it to refer to the five books of Moses, but also uses to a prophecy in the book of Isaiah ( ).

THE PHARISEES’ VIEW OF THE TORAH

In order to begin to understand Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) view of the Torah, we first must understand the Pharisaic view of it since he repeatedly claims to be “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”  Their view of the Torah involves so much more than our Christian concept of the same word.  We read the word “Torah,” and we think about the first five books of the Bible, the Pharisees (and later Rabbinical Jews) read the word Torah, and at its most basic, they think about the following chart:

TYPES FORMS LEVELS
Written Torah Halakhah P’shat
Oral Torah Aggadah Remez
    D’rush
    Sodh

And there’s been much more added to the Rabbinical concept of Torah than what existed during the 2nd Temple period of the New Testament.  In order for you to have a basic understanding of what was in Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) mind as a Pharisee when he used the word Torah, I want to go through now and briefly explain the various terms within this chart.

THE TWO TYPES OF TORAH

The Pharisees, as well as Rabbinical Jews today, believes that God gave to Moses two Torahs on Mt. Sinai:

  • The Written Torah, which constitute the first five books of the Bible, AND
  • The Oral Torah, which is comprised of teachings of the Pharisees and the ancient sages, explanations for how to do the things taught in the written Torah, and customs that developed among the Jewish people as well.

This Oral Torah was later collected and written down in 200 A.D. by Judah the Prince, and is now called the Mishnah.  I have an English copy of the Mishnah, and it is 1,137 pages in length.  In fact, the first teaching in Tractate Avoth, the oldest Tractate in the Mishnah, dating back to at least 200 years before Christ, is the teaching –

Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it down to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and elders to prophets, and prophets handed it on down to the men of the great assembly.  They said three things: Be prudent in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence for the Torah.  (Tractate Avoth 1:1)

Consequently, this phrase “Raise up many disciples” was carved into the doorway of the Great Synagogue about 200 years before the time of Christ, and was the heartbeat of every rabbi.  And it was this same rabbinic heartbeat, “to raise up many disciples,” that was handed down by Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) to His disciples, in what Christianity calls “the Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20).

In the Oral Torah, there are a total of 6 divisions that are divided up into a total of 63 Tractates.  The 6 divisions are the following:

  • Zeraim (“seeds”) — this section deals with agricultural laws.
  • Mo’edim (“feasts” or “appointed times”) — this section deals with the Sabbath and the other feasts.
  • Nashim (“Women”) — this section deals with marriage, divorce, and contracts.
  • Nezikim (“Damages”) — this section deals with tort laws and other financial laws.
  • Kodashim (“Holy Things”) — this section deals with sacrifices and the Temple.
  • Toharot (“Purities”) — this section deals with laws of ritual purity and impurity.

Therefore, as a Pharisee, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) would’ve had the entire Old Testament, the Mishnah, and Pharisaic interpretations and applications of both memorized.  So that when he thought of the word “Torah,” it would’ve included much more than just the first five books of the Bible.

Therefore, what we as Christians need to understand about Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) being a Pharisee is that one was not born a Pharisee, but one became a Pharisee because of what one believed and practiced.  So when Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said, “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee,” he was not only identifying himself as a Pharisee, but he was also identifying and reaffirming his own belief system and practices, as well as saying that he was continuing in the Pharisaic beliefs and practices held by his father, and perhaps even his grandfather before him.

TWO FORMS OF TORAH

In addition to the two types of Torahs, the Pharisees (and Rabbinic Jews today) also believe that Torah included two forms of interpretation: Halakhah and Aggadah.

HALAKHAH: lit. “the way of walking,” or how we interpret and apply the commandments of God to our day-to-day life.  When a Jew talks about “Jewish Law,” he is talking about Halakhah — not Torah.  One’s view and understanding of the Torah is demonstrated by one’s halakhah, or how one interprets and applies it.   And each group during the 2nd Temple period of the 1st century, A.D., had their own halakhah, or interpretations and applications of the Torah.

For example, when two Jews were discussing halakhah, if person A thought that person B had misinterpreted or misapplied the Scriptures, he would say, “You are destroying the law!”  However, if person A thought person B had correctly interpreted and applied the Scriptures, he would say, “You have fulfilled the law!”

Understanding this, Matthew 5:17 takes on a whole new meaning:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law [to weaken or annul them by incorrectly interpreting and applying them], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy [to misinterpret and misapply them], but to fulfill [to correctly interpret and apply them].

As further proof this is the correct understanding of this verse, in just 4 verses after saying this, Jesus [Yeshua] begins to teach saying, “You have heard…but I say unto you.”  In these teachings, He is not correcting or changing Scripture, as I’ve heard Christian ministers erroneously teach, but interpretations and applications that were being taught by different groups.  When Jesus [Yeshua] referred to the Scriptures, He said, “It is written…” or “Haven’t you read….” But here, He says, “You have heard…” referring again, not to the Scriptures, but to popular misinterpretations and misapplications of the Torah.

AGGADAH:  These are teachings, including rabbinic teachings, that’s not considered halakhah (or legally binding), consisting of stories, parables, legends, history, and witticism.  Although aggadah is not legally binding, they are held in high esteem concerning one’s insight into the Scriptures and piety.

Although Jesus [Yeshua] did not spend a lot of time with Halakhah,  He was clearly a Master of Aggadah (spec., the telling of parables).  On the other hand, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) spent much more time with halakhah in his writings than He did with aggadah.

FOUR LEVELS OF TORAH

Not only are there two types and two forms of Torah, but there are also four levels of Torah.  The first letter from each of these four levels are put together to formulate the acrostic PaRDeS, which means “garden” or “orchard.”  It is taught that how much one gains from the study of the Torah depends on the amount of work one puts into it, just like how much “fruit” you gain from a “garden” or “orchard” depends on how much work you invest into it.  These four levels are the following:

P’SHAT.  The plain, simple grammatical meaning of the text.  It is at this level that the study of the Scriptures begin.  Also at this level, it was considered as one was studying the “breadth” of the Scriptures, and it was likened to one entering into the city of Jerusalem.

REMEZ.  There’s something in the text that seems to hint at or allude to a deeper truth, such as a word, phrase, image, etc.  At this level, it was considered as one was studying the “length” of the Scriptures.  The purpose of studying the use of remez within the Scriptures is to enlarge and strengthen one’s understanding of the Scriptures and one’s knowledge of God.  And studying the Scriptures at this level was likened to gaining access to the Temple Mount.

Not only was Jesus [Yeshua] a Master of Aggadah, but He was also a Master of Remez.  He was constantly alluding or hinting or pointing people back to the Old Testamental Scriptures.  For example, the title He most used for Himself “the Son of man” is itself a remez, alluding back to Daniel’s prophecy of the “Son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, as well as the discussions of the “Son of man” in the Apocryphal Book of Enoch, a book not found in our Bibles, but quoted in Jude 1:14-15.

DERUSH.  Also called “Midrash”.  lit. “investigation,” it is “to seek,” “to search,” “to explore” the concepts and teachings within the Scriptures.  It is the non-literal, homilectic (sermon) interpretation of Scripture (the moralistic meaning).

This level of understanding is based on a detailed level of analysis involving certain rules of logic.  It implies a level of understanding that’s arrived at only after delving beyond the literal wording of the text.  And at this level, it is said that one is searching the “depth” of the Scriptures.  Therefore, the purpose of studying at this level is “to seek out and search the deep and profound mysteries” found within the Bible.

SODH.  A “mystery” or the “hidden” or “secret” meaning of the text.  At this final level, it is said that one is searching the “height” of the Scriptures, and its purpose is to “cross over, lift up, and elevate to the sky the hidden, secret, or foundational meaning of the text.”  There are those who compare this level of interpretation to “being the most privileged among the privileged and entering into the Holy of Holies, the place of God’s manifested Presence.”

 In his writings, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said that the church was “a mystery,” or in other wise, one’s understanding of it comes only through a sodh-level interpretation of the Scriptures.

Although these four levels allow one to mine more material from the Scripture, it should be remembered that the three deeper levels – Remez, D’rush, and Sodh – are to further develop and expound upon the p’shat (or plain, simple grammatical) meaning of the Scriptures, but they cannot contradict the plain simple meaning of the text.

So when we consider the terms, “breadth,” “length,” “depth” and “height,” it should remind us of Sha’ul Paulus‘ (Paul’s) statement in Ephesians 3:17-19,

So that Christ [Messiah] may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend the breadth [p’shat] and length [remez] and height [sodh] and depth [derush], and to know the love of Christ [Messiah] which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

As we can see, there was a lot more to the Pharisaic view of the Torah than what most people think about in the church when the word “law” is used or thought about.  One of the biggest reasons why we do not realize the differences between Paul’s view and our own is that we tend to view Paul as someone like us, a “Christian” from our denominational backward, who believes things that we do.  However, I am hoping that through this study, we are beginning to see that this is not the case.

Jesus did not reveal Himself to Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) and transform him, and then throw away all of his previous preparation and training as a Pharisee.  Instead, the Lord made use of it.  For example, I was a college English instructor for 25 years, but two years ago, God called me to be a missionary.  Did God just throw away my 25 years of academic preparation and experience?  No, everyday He uses it to help me dig into the Scriptures, to mine out the treasures within its pages, and to share that information with others.  In much the same way, God did not just throw away the preparation and training of the Apostle Paul.  God used his Pharisaic background and training in the teaching and development of these beginning congregations, and in the writing of half of our New Testament.

Sha’ul Paulus‘ (Paul’s) faith in Jesus [Yeshua], the Risen Lord, Savior, and Messiah, did not remove him from 2nd Temple Pharisaic Judaism; instead, it gave his faith even deeper meaning, purpose and significance.  In truth, in and through the Messiah Jesus [Yeshua], God is keeping His promise spoken of by the prophet Isaiah:

The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law [Torah], and make it honorable.  (Isaiah 42:21)

 

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PAUL AND THE TORAH: A BASIC INTRODUCTION (Part 2)

WHEN WE OPEN THE PAGES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, DID THE ORTHODOX JEWS THEN HAVE THE SAME CONCEPT OF THE TORAH AS THEY DID IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?  No, they didn’t.  The concept of the Torah [usually trans. “law” in English Bibles] was much more complex and expansive than what we see in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament concept of the Torah centered only around the first five books of our Bible, but in the New Testament that was not the case.  Why?  Because it included institutions [i.e., Sanhedrin], groups [Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots], teachings [i.e., midrashim], oral traditions [the Oral Torah] and customs that simply did not exist in the Old Testament.

AN OVERLOOKED PROBLEM

This is the problem in studying the New Testament before the Old Testament.  Christians read and study the New Testament with all these institutions, groups, teachings, oral traditions and customs and views of the Torah, and then when they study the Old Testament, they impose all of these things and views into its writings  The problem with this is that all these things and views did not exist then.

A HISTORICAL ANALOGY

In fact, looking at the New Testament world, its lifestyles and concept of the Torah and believing that it was the same as the Old Testament’s is like looking at the United States today, its lifestyles and concepts of law, and saying that it is the same as the Puritan’s of Colonial America. Obviously, a massive amount of change has happened in the United States since the time of Colonial America in a little over 400 years, and a massive amount of change had happened in Israel in a little over 400 years as well (the time period between the Old and New Testaments).  And these changes also included Jewish concepts and views of the Torah.

TORAH – ITS OLD TESTAMENTAL MEANING

In the Old Testament world, the concept of Torah was much simpler, less complex.  In the Hebrew language, the word Torah does not mean “law,” as it is translated in our English Bibles, but it meant “Instruction, Teaching, Guidance, or Directives.”  The word, Torah, in its usual sense of the word, was used to refer to the first five books of the Bible, which God began to give to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and then His revelations to Moses continued until they came to time when they were to enter into the Promised Land.

The Hebrew term Torah is derived from the Hebrew word yara, which means “to cast, to throw, to shoot something straight.”  For example, the word yara is used when someone is casting a spear on a straight course, so that it hits the target or the mark.  Is Torah the target or the mark?  No, it is the “instructions” or “teaching” we need so that we can hit the mark.  So if the Torah is not the mark, then what is “the mark”?  It is a long, healthy satisfying and fulfilling life; that is the mark at its most basic level of meaning. And it is only in having an intimate relationship with God and in living in obedience to God’s word that this type of life is really possible, and the Torah is God’s instruction manual on we can come into that type of life.

SO WHY IS THE WORD TORAH TRANSLATED AS “LAW”?

If the Hebrew word Torah means “Instruction, Teaching, Guidance and Directives,” the question must be asked, why then do our English Bibles translate the word Torah as “law”?   In the 400 years between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there was a non-Jewish group known as the Gnostics.  Its basic theology was that each person was a god, but people were ignorant of this, so with the right teachers to teach them, they could come to this correct knowledge of truth, and thereby experience their own salvation. This belief was derived from Hinduism, but the Gnostics built on this Hindu idea by going around and gathering other “teachings” to add to their fundamental Hindu ideas.  This eclectic religion was seen as a threat to early 2nd Temple Judaism, and later to Christianity.

With the Greek conquest under Alexander the Great, many Jews left to find work outside the land of Israel, and over time, they began speaking Koine Greek, rather than Hebrew.  So as a result, a Greek translation for Greek-speaking Jews, was needed.  So according to tradition, about 250 years before the time of Christ, Ptolemy II, king of Ptolemaic Egypt (283-246 B.C.E.) who promoted the Museum and Library at Alexandria, requested Jewish scholars and interpreters from Jerusalem to be sent to Alexandria, Egypt, to translate the Torah into Koine Greek.  The resultant translation, known as “The Translation of the Seventy,” thereby its abbreviation LXX, became known as the Septuagint.

When translating the Torah into Greek, though, the scholars did not want the Gnostics to make use of the Torah in their teachings, so to protect the Torah, the scholars did not translate the word Torah by the Greek word didaskalia (Strong’s #1319; “teaching”), but they chose the word nomos (“law”) instead, since there were laws and commandments in the Torah.  Again, they did this, not to hide the meaning of the Torah, but to protect it from misuse and abuse by Gnostics and other such groups.  Of course, the use of the Greek word nomos or “law” in English is problematic since it has such a negative connotation in our language, as opposed to the Hebrew word Torah, referring to the  “instructions, teachings, or guidance” that God gave to Moses to give to God’s people, Israel.

A NOTE ABOUT THE GNOSTICS

The Gnostics were not only a threat to Judaism, as I said, but they were a threat to the early Christians as well.  The Apostle John spent many of his writings opposing the Gnostic influence on Christians.  For example, the Gospel of John, I John, and II John were written, at least in part, to help new believers understand the truth of the Gospel, as opposed to the “false gospel” being proclaimed by the “false teachers” of the Gnostics and others.   However, in spite of John’s efforts, the Gnostics did end up mixing their teachings with Christianity in the 4th centuries, A.D.  This is seen in such works as “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene,” “The Gospel of Judas,” and “The Gospel of Thomas,” as well as other Gnostic writings.  These “false gospels” were not written by these disciples, since they are dated back to the 4th century, A.D., but were written by Gnostics who ascribed their name to them.  These Gnostic writings were used in the writing of the novel The Da Vinci Code (2003), and then used in the movie that was released by the same title in 2006.

TORAH — A POSITIVE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

Now when we look at the Torah throughout the writings of the Old Testament, it is seen as something POSITIVE — NOT NEGATIVE.  For example, the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, was written to praise God for the Torah, its teachings and commandments.  For example,

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law [Torah] of the LORD.  Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with their whole heart.  They also do no iniquity. (Psalm 119:1-3)

The psalmist here says that we are “blessed” when we “walk in the [Torah] of the LORD.”  He then goes on to say later in the psalm,

Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.  Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law [Torah]; yes, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  Make me to go in the path of Your commandments; for therein do I delight. (Psalm 119:33-35)

So shall I keep Your law [Torah] continually forever and ever.  And I will WALK IN LIBERTY; for I seek Your precepts.  I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.  And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I have loved. (Psalm 119:44-47; Emphasis Mine)

The psalmist here desires to study, understand, and keep the Torah of the LORD “forever and ever.”  In fact, in seeking to understand and keep it, the psalmist writes, that it results in us walking “IN LIBERTY” or “FREEDOM,” and not in “legalism” or “bondage” as Christians have been taught to falsely associate with the Torah.  He then says,

O how I love Your law [Torah]!  It is my meditation all the day.  You through Your commandments has made me wiser than My enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.  I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Your way.  (Psalm 119:97-101)

“O how I love Your Torah!”  Due to centuries of erroneous interpretations and teachings, this mindset is hard for many Christians to understand.  In fact, I have heard several Christians argue that the term Torah here does not refer to the five books of Moses, but to all of Scripture.  However, if we look at the terms used here throughout the Psalm, it is obvious that the writer is referring to the Torah of Moses, not to Scripture in general.  The writer uses the words Torah, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, and judgments interchangeable throughout the psalm.  These terms are not used for all of Scripture, but for the teachings and commandments given by God to Moses.  And what does God also say about His Torah?

Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep Your righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:105-106)

Is the Torah of God “a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path?  Do we proclaim our love and commitment to study, meditate and follow the ways of Torah?  Do we proclaim that we “WALK IN LIBERTY” because we seek to keep God’s Torah?  This, in fact, as I said, the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what we hear being proclaimed by most churches today.  Instead of this, we hear churches proclaiming the Torah as “legalism,” “bondage,” and “death.”  Are we really talking about the same Torah or two different ones?

I will say, as we will see, based on New Testament usage, the word Torah can be applied to the whole Old Testament, but even though it acquires that wider usage, it still does not mean we can ignore the original meaning and usage of the word as it is used here in this psalm and in other places in the Old Testament.

TORAH — A DEEPER REVELATION, TRUTHS, AND REALITIES

But the Torah is more than God’s teachings and commandments, there are also deeper revelations, truths and realities contained within its writings as well.  To a certain extent we can see some of them in the English translation of the Bible, but I’ve discovered that there are more that are there within the Hebrew.  For example, in Psalm 119, the Psalmist also writes,

Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law (Heb. Torah).  (Psalm 119:18)

The Hebrew word translated “wonderful things” is pala, and it means, “extraordinary, astonishing, miraculous, and wonderful.”  I’ve discovered in my own research that there are things, pictures, and descriptions in the Hebrew that isn’t part of our English translations.  Indeed, there are “wonderful things” there, and so we need to pray and ask God to “open [our] eyes” and “to reveal” these “wonderful things” to each of us.  For a quick example, let’s look at Genesis 1:1 in our English Bibles:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Here is the same verse in the original Hebrew:

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

Hebrew, like many of the ancient world languages, is read from right to left, rather than left to right like English (and other more modern languages).  If we read this verse from right to left, we read “Bereshith bara ‘elohim ‘eth hashamayim v‘eth ha-eretz.”  What is important to note is the 4th and 6th words from the right.  The word ‘eth is comprised of two Hebrew letters: the Alef and the Tahv, or the FIRST LETTER and the LAST LETTER of the Hebrew alphabet.  In Greek, these same two letters would be the ALPHA and the OMEGA.  In the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals Himself to His disciple John, and He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 1:8).  In Hebrew, then, Jesus is the eth, He’s the Alef and the Tahv, there in Genesis 1:1.  And of course, this interpretation lines up with the following passage:

In the beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and THE WORD was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.  (King James Version, John 1:1-3)

 In [the] beginning was THE WORD, and THE WORD was with God, and God was THE WORD.  He was in [the] beginning with God.  All things THROUGH HIM came into being, and without Him came into being not even one [thing] which has come into being.  (Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, John 1:1-3; Emphasis Mine)

The second passage is a literal translation from the Greek text.  But notice in the King James, it is translated as “All things were made BY HIM,” and the Greek Interlinear, it says, “All thing THROUGH HIM came into being.”  The Greek word that’s used there means both “through” and “by,” but I believe that the word “through” is the better choice, because when we see Jesus [Yeshua] as the ‘eth, the Alef and the Tahv, then we literally have to read or move THROUGH [Him] in order for “the heavens” and then again for “the earth” to be created.  Indeed, as it is written, “without Him came into being not even one [thing] which has come into being.”

Consequently, Jesus as THE WORD, the Alef and the Tahv, the full expression of the Torah, He is there in the beginning with God, creating all things in the heavens and in the earth.  Consequently, what we see written in John’s Gospel was not completely new original material from God, but knowing and understanding the Hebrew text, John is explaining the revelation of Jesus [Yeshua], who He is and alluding to the fact that we can find Him right there in the very first line of the Torah, Genesis 1:1, as well as throughout the rest of the Torah and the entire Scriptures.

TORAH — A STILL YET DEEPER REVELATION

And yet on an even deeper level, each letter in the original Hebrew, called Paleo-Hebrew, was a picture-form language, much like the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Chinese, or Japanese.   And each picture had its own associated meanings.  For example, the word picture for Alef is an ox’s head, and it means “strength” or “leader” (being the first letter).  The second letter, Beyt, was the picture of a tent, and means “house.”  So when we put the first two letters together, it forms the word ‘Av, or “father,” who is the “strength and leader of the house.”

So what do we get when we put the word pictures together for the word Torah?  We discover that the meaning of Torah is “the cross-nailed man revealed.” This, of course, lines up with what Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] teaches in John 5:46-47,

For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.  But if you believe not his writings, how shall you believe My words?

Just as the Gospels in the New Testament teach us about the life and teachings of Jesus [Yeshua], the five books of Moses, the Torah, likewise has as its purpose to provide us with a written revelation of Jesus Christ [Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiach], “the cross-nailed man revealed.” But the problem in much of Christianity is that the majority of people’s eyes are blinded when they read the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, because when they read it, they don’t see Jesus [Yeshua].  Instead, they only see a list of do’s and don’ts, but not Jesus [Yeshua].  We need to pray and ask God to remove the veil from our eyes, so that we may see Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] in every part of His Word — not just in the New Testament.

 

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PAUL AND THE TORAH: A BASIC INTRODUCTION (Part 1)

WHAT IS THE TORAHIn order for us to move on in our study of Paul and his writings, we need to understand the concept of the Torah, and how it is seen and understood in the Old Testament, and how that view began to change during Ezra’s time, so that by the time of the New Testament, the view of the Torah, particularly by the Pharisees, had greatly expanded.  The problem we have in the church is that we are still following the Old Testamental model, when looking at the writings of Paul, instead of realizing Paul’s view as a Pharisee on the Torah was deeper and much more expansive than traditional Christianity’s.

GOD TOLD ME AN EVANGELIST WAS WRONG!

When I was fifteen, there was a well-known Christian TV evangelist that I enjoyed watching; however, on one of his broadcasts, he started talking about what a blessing it was to be freed from the bondage and legalism of the law, and as soon as he said this, there was a check in my spirit by the Holy Spirit that what I had just heard was wrong.  I did not understand at the time why it was wrong, but I knew in my spirit that it was.  Now after doing years and years of research and study, and visiting numerous synagogues, and prayerfully pouring over the Scriptures, I now understand why the Holy Spirit was telling me that what I had heard was wrong.

TORAH – THE BASIC CONCEPT

First of all, the Torah (usually translated as “law”) is used in the Old Testament to refer to the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

TORAH – THE BASIC FOUNDATION OF SCRIPTURE

And it is the basic foundation and framework of Scripture.There isn’t anything in the Bible that doesn’t ultimately finds its root or beginning seed within its pages, including the church.  For example, did you know that the book of Psalms is broken down into 5 books, corresponding to each of the 5 books of Moses?  Book 1 of the psalms (Psalm 1 – 41) corresponds in theme to the book of Genesis; Book 2 of the psalms (Psalm 42 – 72) corresponds in theme to the book of Exodus, etc.  Also, did you know that the message and teachings of the Torah are the central foundation and framework of what is taught by the Old Testament Prophets.  Consequently, if we remove the Torah from the Old Testament, we end up removing much of its heart, mind and organs, leaving very little teaching of any real value.  This is so much the case that in Isaiah 8 where the word “disciples” first appears in the Bible, we are instructed to “Bind up the testimony, seal the law [Heb. Torah] among My disciples” (Isaiah 8:16).  And then just four verses later, God says,

To the law [Heb. Torah] and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.  (Isaiah 8:20)

TORAH – THE FOUNDATION OF JESUS’ MINISTRY AND TEACHING

According to Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] in the Gospel of John, the Torah is the basis and foundation of His ministry and teaching.

For had you believed Moses, you would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me.  But if you believe not His writings, how shall you believe My words? (John 5:46-47)

TORAH – THE BACKGROUND AND FOUNDATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

What most Christians don’t realize is that the Torah is the background and foundation of not only the ministry and teachings of Jesus [Yeshua], but also of His early disciples and the Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) Himself.   Consequently, to really gain a thorough idea of what is being discussed in the Bible, one needs to have at least a working knowledge of the Torah handed down by God to Moses.

TORAH – GOD’S INSTRUCTION MANUAL FOR EVERYONE

What we in the church don’t realize is that the Torah is meant for everyone, not just for the Jewish people.  When we hear or read about the Exodus, we view that as only the Jewish people coming out of their slavery in Egypt, but that is not true.  According to the Bible, there was also a “mixed multitude” (non-Jews) who came out of Egypt with the Jewish people:

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, and six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.  And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up also them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.  (Exodus 12:37-38)

And it was this combination of people (Jews and Non-Jews) that God led from Egypt and brought to Mt. Sinai.  And this mixture of people, God called “Israel.”  Nor did God give the Torah to only those people who were there at Mt. Sinai:

Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the LORD our God AND WITH THOSE WHO ARE NOT WITH US HERE TODAY.  (Deuteronomy 30:14-15)

The Torah then was given to His people, Jews and non-Jews, not only those who were there standing there at Mt. Sinai, but also all Jews and non-Jews since then at well.  This, in fact, lines up with a teaching from the Jewish Midrash that I like:

The Torah was given in public for all to see, in the open.  For if it had been given in the Land of Israel, Israel would have said to the nations of the world, you have no share in it;   

Therefore, the Torah was given in the wilderness, in public, for all to see, in the open, and everyone who wishes to receive it, let them come and receive it. 

God does not impose His Torah and commandments on us, but each one of us must spiritually go to Mt. Sinai in our own lives to experience the revelation of God and to receive the Torah for ourselves.

IS THE PERSON FROM GOD – GOD’S TWO TESTS?

Not only are we instructed by God to “seal [His] Torah [“law”] among [His] disciples,” but if someone is not teaching us in according “to this word,” then God says, “there is no light in them,” and we are to disregard their teaching.  This actually corresponds to what is taught in the Torah itself.  We are taught two tests for any prophet (or religious leader):

  • If the prophet or dreamer of dreams gives you a sign or a wonder, and it comes true, but that prophet or dreamer attempts TO DRAW YOU AWAY FROM FOLLOWING THE TORAH, you are to ignore that person’s teachings.  You are, instead, to follow the commandments of God.  Why?  Because we are told, “the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4; Emphasis Mine]
  • If the prophet tells you that something is going to happen at a particular time, and it does not happen, then that prophet is a False Prophet, and we are to ignore that person’s teachings. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

The very first test that God gives us regarding a prophet or a “dreamer of dreams” is the question: “Are they teaching you to follow the Torah or drawing you away from it?”  Those who take you away from it, God says, are not from Him.  And, of course, this lines up with His admonition in Isaiah 8.

TORAH – IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

WHAT ABOUT PAUL?

So what about Sha’ul Paulus (Paul)?  Most Christians would view him as violating Test #1; however, he isn’t.  The problem is not his writings, but traditional Christian interpretation of his writings.  Christianity has continued to misinterpret Paul because they have continued to ignore his own confession of faith: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”  And because they have failed to acknowledge him as a continuing Pharisee, they have failed to look at his writings through the teachings of the Pharisees.

For example, in both Romans and, more specifically, Galatians, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is trying to explain some complex Pharisaic (now Rabbinic) concepts and ideas.  For example, the Hebrew concept of Zachuth (Imputed righteousness and Imputed Sin) or the Yetzer Hara (lit. “the evil imagination” or “the evil impulse”).  For example, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) refers to the “evil impulse” as “the old man,” “sin,” “sin nature,” or “the flesh.”  There are times when it is evident that he is finding it difficult to get these ideas across due to the limitations of the Koine Greek language.

OTHER AREAS OF CONFUSION

Some other terms that are not interested by many Christians are the differences between Torah, its various forms and levels of interpretation (will discuss further on), and “the works of the law,” which really refer to certain Jews misusing and abusing the Torah for a purpose it was never intended by God to do — to maintain a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles.   So does “works of the law” refer to the commandments in the Old Testament?  No, it doesn’t.   What about the phrase “under the law”?  Is he’s talking about adhering to the Old Testament commandments?  No he’s not.  And when he says, “we’re not under law, but under grace,” is he saying we’re not under the law of God, but under grace?  No, he’s not.  Over and over again, the church has traditionally misinterpreted and misunderstood Paul because they have continued to interpret him from a Christian, Greco-Roman point of view, which has consistently been their mistake.

WAS PAUL THE ONLY ONE WHO GOT IT RIGHT?

Did you know that the Bible was written over a time span of 1500 years, by 40 different writers who lived on 3 different continents?  And did you know that all but one of these writers viewed the Torah (“law”) positively.  Only one seemingly doesn’t – Paul.  Even Jesus viewed the Law (Torah) as something positive, but only Paul seemingly does not.  Think about this.  Is it likely that all of the biblical writers and speakers, including Jesus Himself, got it wrong about the Torah, but Paul got it right, OR is it more likely that the church has just traditionally misunderstood Paul?

IF THE TORAH ENDED AT THE CROSS – WHY DID JESUS TEACH THIS?

For example, let me give you a verse to examine:

But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. (Matthew 24:20)

In this chapter, Jesus is teaching His disciples about His return and the signs of His coming.  In verse fifteen of this chapter, He talks about them seeing the “Abomination of Desolation” being set up in the Temple, and when they see this, they are to run to the mountains.  Now there are Christians who see this event as happening in 70 A.D., when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and then there are others Christians who believe this event will happen during the Tribulation period.  But in either case, this event would be AFTER THE CROSS.

So tell me, if the Torah [“law”] ended at the cross, including the Sabbath and the biblical feasts, as Christianity teaches, and as a result, we are not to follow its teachings anymore, then why is Jesus Himself telling His own disciples to pray that their flight would not be on a Sabbath?  If Christians are right and the Torah ended at the cross, then what difference does it make?  The fact that Jesus is warning His disciples to pray that an event that will happen at least 40 years later, if not during our near future, does not happen ON A SABBATH, only demonstrates one of many reasons why there’s a major problem with how traditional Christianity  understands and interprets the New Testament teachings regarding the Torah [“law”].

CONCLUSION FOR PART 1

There is so much more to the Torah, God’s Instructions and commandments, than just a list of do’s and don’ts.  The fact is that the Torah did not end at the cross, nor was the reason for Jesus’ death to bring an end to the Torah or the Temple sacrificial system.  Jesus died to deal with the sin issue in our lives, but as Christianity separated itself from its Jewish roots and time continued to progress, the misunderstanding of Paul’s writings regarding the Torah (“God’s law”) continued to build and build.  Until today, they refer to the Holy Words of God given to Moses on Mt. Sinai as “legalism” and “bondage.”

Jesus is coming back real soon to a holy people “without spot or wrinkle.”  We need to wake up to the erroneous views and beliefs of those of the past, and begin again to walk in the holiness God has called all His people to walk in, as a “Kingdom of Priests and as a Holy nation” (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:9).

 

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DID GOD INTEND FOR A PERSON TO KEEP THE WHOLE LAW? (Part 2)

In part 1 of this two-part series, called “Did God Intend For A Person to Keep the Whole Law?” we examined the first two erroneous assumptions that the question, “Can people today keep the whole law?” is based.  So now, in the second part of this study, we want to examine the last erroneous assumption upon which this question is based.

FALSE ASSUMPTION #3: IF YOU CANNOT KEEP ONE POINT, THEN YOU CANNOT KEEP ANY OF IT

This false assumption is derived from a misreading of James 2:10, and is used to try and argue that unless one keeps the whole law, you end up disobeying God anyways, so you might as well not even try.  James writes,

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

On the surface, this seems to back up their point, but let’s look at this statement a bit closer by applying it to Jesus Himself and seeing if it works with Him, and then looking at James and finally by putting it back into context.

First of all, let’s apply this statement to Jesus Himself.  Did Jesus obey the laws of the Levitical priesthood?  Is there evidence in the Gospels that Jesus learned how to cut up the sacrifices and then offered them on the altar for people?  No, there’s isn’t.  Is there any evidence that Jesus kept a farm, and he kept the edges of his fields for the poor, widows or orphans?  No, there isn’t.  Is there any evidence that Jesus kept the laws regarding menstruating women?  No, there isn’t since He’s a man, not a woman.  My point is that if we apply this Christian argument to Jesus Himself, as stated in their understanding of James 2:10, then it must be concluded that Jesus was a sinner, since He Himself did not keep the commandments mentioned.  However, the Bible says that Jesus was without sin, so apparently, then one does not need to obey all the commandments, for one to be seen as “blameless” in their obedience to the law.  One only needs to keep those laws and commandments that apply to them, just as Jesus kept all the laws that applied to Him as a single Orthodox Jewish man living in the land of Israel during the Second Temple period of the first century, C.E..

Some people might say, “Yeah, but Jesus was God, so He didn’t have to keep them all,” but as a Jewish man, if He did not keep them, then He would have been guilty of sin, and even as God, if He didn’t keep them He would be a hypocrite, like the scribes and Pharisees He accuses, since He would have taught one thing and did another.

But let’s look at a person like you and me; let’s examine the author of this epistle, the person of James.  What was he like? According to the early 4th century, C.E., Church historian, Eusebius, in his book Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged (trans. by C.F. Cruse), he quotes Hegesippus’s description of James the Just.  Hegesippus was a Christian chronicler of the early Church who lived between 110 – April 7, 180 A.D.  This would place him about 80-150 years after the time of Christ, or about 10-80 years after the time of the Apostle John. In his writings, Eusebius quotes him as saying:

(4) James, the brother of the Lord, who, as there were many of this name, was surnamed the Just by all, from the days of the Lord until now, received the government of the church with the apostles.  This apostle was consecrated from his mother’s womb.  (5) He drank neither wine nor formented liquors, and abstained from animal food.  A razor never came upon his head, he never anointed with oil, and never used a [public] bath.  (6) He alone was allowed to enter the sanctuary [Temple].  He never wore woolen, but linen garments.  He was in the habit of entering the Temple alone and was often found upon his bended knees, and interceding for the forgiveness of the people; so that his knees became as hard as camel’s, in consequence of his habitual application and kneeling before God.  (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 59-60)

From this we learn that James, the brother of the Lord and the author of the New Testament book of James, remained a Nazarite from the time of his birth until his death, much like the prophet Samuel or John the Baptist.  Even though Samson started off as a Nazarite, he shared his secret to his great strength with Delilah, who then used that knowledge to betray him into the hands of the Philistines by having someone else cut his hair, thereby losing his great strength, so he could be easily captured.

But unlike Samson, James remained a Nazarite to his death.  From this account about James in Eusebius’ history, we discover that there were many of the Jewish leaders who had come to faith in Yeshua [Jesus].  As a result, those among the scribes and Pharisees who were not believers came to James and asked him to do the following:

(10) We entreat thee, restrain the people, who are led astray after Jesus, as if he were the Christ.  We entreat thee to persuade all that are coming to the feast of the Passover rightly concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee.  For we and all the people bear thee testimony that thou art just, and thou respectest not persons.
(11) Persuade therefore the people not to be led astray by Jesus, for we and all the people have great confidence in thee.  Stand therefore upon a wing of the temple, that thou mayest be conspicuous on high, and thy words may be easily heard by all people; for all the tribes have come together on account of the Passover, with some of the Gentiles also. (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 60)

One may wonder why the Scribes and Pharisees would come to James with this request; however, in the time up to the resurrection, James did not believe that Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) was the Messiah.  What is inferred from the New Testament is that James did not come to faith in Yeshua (Jesus), until Yeshua (Jesus) personally appeared to James after the crucifixion and resurrection, much like Yeshua [Jesus] had done to Sha’ul Paulus (Paul).

In I Corinthians 15, we learn that after Yeshua (Jesus) rose bodily from the dead, He was seen by “Cephas (Peter), then of the twelve” (15:5), and then the passage continues:

After that, He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.  After that, He was seen by James; then of all the apostles.  And last of all he was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.  (I Corinthians 15:6-8)

So it may be that the scribes and Pharisees were not aware of this event, and James’ transformation and new faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Promised Messiah.  One must wonder why James did not say something?  It may be that he saw this as opportunity to tell all those who were there that Yeshua [Jesus] was, in fact, the one true Promised Messiah.  But once they got James in place on the wing of the Temple, they went down to where the people were gathered, and cried out to James:

(12)  The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees, therefore, placed James upon a wing of the Temple, and cried out to him, “O thou just man, whom we ought all to believe, since the people are led astray after Jesus that was crucified, declare to us what is the door to Jesus that was crucified?  (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 60)

Taking advantage of this situation, James responds to their question by stating the following:

Why do you ask me respecting Jesus the Son of Man?  He is now sitting in the heavens, on the right hand of great Power, and is about to come on the clouds of heaven.  (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 60)

In addition to this confession, he also proclaimed that “Jesus Christ was the Son of God, our Savior and Lord” (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 59).  Obviously, the scribes and Pharisees were so infuriated in that James had proclaimed his faith in Jesus, rather than denouncing him, that they went to the wing of the Temple and threw him down.  And then those down below began to stone him, since he didn’t die from the fall immediately.  But James turns around, kneels down and prays,

I entreat thee, O Lord God and Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 61)

When he didn’t die right away from the stoning, one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, grabbed a club and beat him to death. (Book 2, chapter 23, p. 61)

But in looking at how he lived and died, James kept to his faith in the Torah, as well as his faith in the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus); in fact, he went ever further than what was required in the Torah for a Nazarite to do, so he would remain blameless in his obedience to God.  And interestingly, even in his death, he said the same words as Jesus, His Lord and brother: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Now considering what we now know about James, is it likely that he believed since he could not do every thing taught in the Law that he believed that obedience to the Law was a waste of time?  Obviously not.  Instead, from his extreme Nazarite lifestyle, his death, and what he wrote in his epistle, there’s reason to question Christianity’s interpretation of James 2:10.  So let’s put this line back into the context of the passage.

5.  Listen my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?
6.  Yet you dishonored that poor man.  Didn’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
7.  Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that you bear?
8.  If you really carry out the royal law [James’ view of God’s law] prescribed in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Leviticus 19:18], you are doing well.
9.  But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10.  For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all.
11.  For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder.  So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker.
12.  Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom [another description of God’s law by James].
13.  For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  (James 2:5-13)

Now when we look at the line in context with the rest of the passage, we can see verse 10 is not given to try to dissuade readers from obeying the law (Heb. Torah), as many Christians use this verse, but James is using it for the exact opposite purpose.  He is using it to try and encourage more, fuller obedience to the commandments, not less, which would be in keeping with what we know about James and his ultra-Orthodox Jewish Nazarite lifestyle and beliefs.

Consequently, then, when Christians use this verse to try and dissuade people away from obeying the commandments, they are clearly taking this verse out of context and misrepresenting it, to make it say what they want it to say, rather than using it as James intended it to say within his epistle.

Conclusion of Part 2

Consequently, then, Christians need to quit asking this question since it is based on these three erroneous assumptions.  It is time that we are taught and learn to put the Scriptures back into their appropriate contexts, and to view things in the New Testament from the light and perspective of what is taught in the Old Testament, the order in which gave and taught the Scriptures, rather than the traditional order used by the church in teaching the Scriptures backwards, New Testament and then the Old Testament.

 

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DID GOD INTEND FOR A PERSON TO KEEP THE WHOLE LAW? (Part 1)

CAN PEOPLE TODAY KEEP THE WHOLE LAW?  The question, at least on the surface, looks like it would provoke some interesting biblical conversation; however, many Christians who ask this question use it with the intent of dissuading obedience to God’s commandments.  But those who ask this question are not aware that their interpretation of the law, as well as this question, is based on three erroneous assumptions.  Although I believe in their minds, they are sincere in what they believe – based on their denominational interpretation of Scripture – but this does not change the fact that the assumptions they are using in their argument are erroneous or false.

In this part of this blog article, we will examine the first two false assumptions that this argument is based upon, and then in the second half of the article, we will examine the last assumption, which is derived from James 2:10.

FALSE ASSUMPTION #1 – THE QUESTION ITSELF

The very question they ask, “Can people today obey the whole law?” is based on a false assumption: that God intended an individual to keep the whole law.   When one goes back and actually reads “the Law,” or more accurately, the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, one realizes the error of the assumption.  God never intended for anyone to actually keep all of the commandments given.  And the reason people can’t keep it is not because people are morally corrupt, as most Christians often teach, but simply because one would have to be a man and a woman at the same time, as well as a farmer, a priest, a high priest, and a king at the same time too.

For example, in the book of Leviticus, there are a series of commandments in the first 6 chapters, where God gives instructions to the Levitical priests on how the animal sacrifices were to be performed.  Now did God intend for every person to walk into the Temple and to cut up their own sacrifices and offer them on the altar?  No, He didn’t.  There’s also commandments regarding a future king.  Did God intend for everyone in the nation to rule and reign as king, so they would have to do these commandments?  No, He didn’t.  Thirdly, in Numbers 6, God gives instructions for what one should do who takes upon himself the vow of a Nazarite.  Now did God intend or require every male to take the Nazarite vow?  No, He didn’t.  It was only for those who wanted to do this.  We could also look at the laws regarding the High Priest, women or farmers.  My point is that although there are commandments that apply to everyone, there are commandments, such as the ones mentioned (plus others) that were not intended for everyone to follow.  Therefore, to even ask the question is to imply an assumption that simply is not true.

Let’s consider the United States Constitution.  There are laws in the Constitution that do not apply to me as an American citizen, but even though those laws do not apply to me directly, I am still required to obey the Constitution.  For example, there are laws that regulate the office of the U.S. President.  I am not the President, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me.  Also, there are laws regarding Congress.  I am not a congressman, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me.  And finally, there are laws regarding the Judiciary [Judges], but I am not a judge, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me.  But even though there are laws that do not apply to me, there are laws that do, and therefore, I am only required to obey those laws.

In much the same way, not all of God’s laws apply to me as a citizen of His Kingdom.  Now why don’t most Christians see this?  Because they have been taught to view God’s commandments through the “eye-glasses” or “lens” of a RELIGION, rather than through the “eye-glasses” or “lens” of a KINGDOM.  Unlike a RELIGION, a KINGDOM is a political, social, cultural, historical, and also, in this case, a religious entity, and based on everything that I’ve studied and the revelations that God has given to my wife and I, God NEVER intended His Word to be viewed as a RELIGIOUS TEXT, but as a KINGDOM MANUAL.

In other words, the commandments of God comprise God’s Constitution for His KINGDOM.  Israel was the first NATION to come into His KINGDOM, so as a result, God instructed them on what was expected of any NATION who would become a part of His KINGDOM.  The commandments, therefore, were given to teach them who God is, what He is like, and how they were to conduct themselves in relationship to God, how various elements of their NATION were to conduct themselves, as well as how individuals within that NATION were to also relate to God and to one another.

Just as an architect and builder would build a model home to draw people into that area and to buy homes from them, so God created His own model NATION, so other NATIONS would see Israel [His model nation], and would want for themselves the same thing.  For example, look at what Moses tells the people of Israel, who are ready now to go into the Promised Land to occupy it:

Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land wherever you go to possess it.  Keep therefore and do them; for this is YOUR WISDOM and YOUR UNDERSTANDING in the SIGHT OF THE NATIONS, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this GREAT NATION is a WISE and UNDERSTANDING people.  For what NATION is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?  And what NATION is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?  (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

Did you notice that the focus is on Israel as “A NATION,” and not upon them as individuals?  Also, did you notice that their obedience to these commandments would be their “WISDOM” and “UNDERSTANDING” – NOT their SALVATION?   Nor did God intend for Israel alone to be the only NATION in His KINGDOM.  Look what God reveals to the prophet Daniel:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Did you notice that although there is ONE KINGDOM, it is made up of “ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS (not just one), AND LANGUAGES (also not just one).”  The KINGDOM is MULTI-NATIONAL, and therefore, the Law (Heb. Torah) is likewise meant for people of ALL NATIONS, not just for the Jewish people.

However, I know people will say, “But God gave the Torah to only the Jewish people,” but that is biblically not true.  The Jewish people were not the only ones who came out of Egypt with Moses, but there was non-Jews in that group as well:

And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up along with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.  (Exodus 12:38)

How can the Law (Torah) be only for the Jewish people, when it was given to a population that consisted of both Jews AND Non-Jews?  The reason most Christians do not see this blatant contradiction in what they think the Law is about, and who it was given to vs. what it says about itself is two-fold:

  • They have not been taught to view them in this way.  An error in perspective that goes back many, many centuries; and
  • They don’t read their Bible, particularly the commandments, since many of them don’t believe they pertain to them, so they think, “Why read it?”  They rely on the minister to tell them what they need to know, and what is often given is the denominational view of things, rather than what the Bible actually teaches.  This is not an assumption on my part, but based upon surveys and studies which indicate this.

I’m not trying to be offensive here, but the fact is that in general, most Christians do not read their Bible.  They revere it, and they think it is important, but they don’t take the time to actually read and study it.  Also, most Christians have been taught to read their Bible backwards.  They start with the New Testament before they get to the Old Testament.  This means that they’re understanding the Old Testament in light of what their denomination believes the New Testament teaches – this is clearly seen in the different interpretations of the New Testament by the various 34, 000 Christian denominations – rather than understanding the New Testament in light of what the Old Testament teaches, which is the order and framework in which God intended for us to use.

FALSE ASSUMPTION #2 – THE ABSENCE OF THE TEMPLE, PRIESTHOOD, AND SACRIFICES

Christians who don’t believe that all the law can be kept also are quick to point out that several of the commandments involve a Temple, a priesthood, and animal sacrifices.  However, they are also quick to point out that since these things do not exist, we cannot obey these commandments; therefore, the effort to obey God’s commandments is a waste of time.  However, their assumption is again in error.

When ancient Babylon conquered Israel in 586 B.C.E., they destroyed the first Temple that had been built by King Solomon.  The Jews were then taken as captives to Babylon for seventy years.  While in Babylon, the Jews did not have a Temple, active priesthood or animal sacrifices.  Did God then tell them, “Sorry guys, no Temple, priesthood or sacrifices, so I guess we’ll just have to forget this whole commandment thing”?  No, He didn’t.  Instead, He expected them to keep what commandments they could.  For example, in the book of Daniel, which was written by Daniel while the Jews were in Babylon, Daniel maintained his obedience to God by praying three times a day (Daniel 6:10) and by keeping the dietary laws (Daniel 1:8, 12-17).  Prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Jews, like David, prayed three times a day (Psalm 55:17), and now in Babylon, Daniel is continuing this practice as well.

Did God reject Daniel’s, as well as Hananiah’s (renamed “Shadrach”), Mishael’s (renamed “Meshach”), and Azariah’s (renamed “Abed-nego”) obedience to what commandments he and his friends were able to keep since they could not keep them all?  No, instead, God blessed their obedience to Him.  Even though they could not keep them all, He still blessed them for the commandments they did keep.  For example, Daniel 1:17 says, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”  When we obey God and His commandments from our hearts, He blesses us in this life, He does not condemn us because we cannot keep them all, as Christians suggest from this question.

And when the Jews returned from Babylon, they eventually did rebuild the Temple, and re-instituted the Levitical priesthood and the animal sacrificial system.  And then those commandments which they were not able to do before could now be done.  And likewise today, there’s not been a Temple since 70 A.D., when the Romans, under Titus, destroyed it, but now in Jerusalem, the Temple Institute has recreated all of the elements for the Temple, and it has been training the Levitical priests on how to do all their duties, like how to perform the animal sacrifices.  The only thing that’s missing is the building.  So my question to those Christians who ask this question is, “What will you say when there is a Temple, a functioning priesthood and animal sacrifices?  What will happen to your argument then?”

CONCLUSION OF PART 1

Consequently, from these first two erroneous assumptions, we can see that the basis on which this concept is based is not logically, or biblically, valid.  And even in part two, as we examine the Christian understanding and use of James 2:10, we will continue to see the same problem: the discrepancies between what Christians believe and teach from what the Bible itself teaches.

 

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