If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
As the modern church continues to suffer a mass departure from the faith and a colossal compromise of Biblical authority in this corrupt culture, we must be able to accurately identify the root cause of the problem and not merely address the obvious symptoms.
As I evaluate the cultural climate in which we live and examine the most pertinent challenges facing this generation, it is clear that Biblical compromise almost certainly began when Christians abandoned the clear authority of Scripture for a new authority — namely secular science which is established upon naturalistic (Darwinian) evolution. We can trace Biblical compromise directly back to the Enlightenment of the 17th Century and later to the rise of Darwinism in the late 19th Century.
Self-appointed scientific authorities launched an all-out assault on the integrity of the Bible and have done their best to discredit the historical, scientific and anthropological reliability of Scripture, especially the creation and global flood accounts in the book of Genesis. These godless so-called scientists were smart enough to know that if they could destroy the foundations of the Christian faith, then the entire system would come crumbling down.
And here we are … living in a culture where absolute truth has been rendered relative, morality has been perverted and the Bible has been stripped of its authority.
In order to address these issues and more, I have written an in-depth study of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. This study will help individuals, small groups and churches reclaim the truth of Biblical authority and reestablish the foundation of our faith.
I will be releasing one chapter at a time, along with other resources. Feel free to download and share this study with friends, family, church members, and skeptics alike.
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
One of the most common and consequential assumptions in the modern Christian church revolves around the principle purpose of God’s law — or Torah. Whenever a christian becomes spiritually convicted and convinced that the Torah is still relevant and applicable, he is almost always castigated by the “church,” either as a legalist or a heretic.
Traditionally, a New Testament christian who keeps the law of Moses is a walking contradiction — a religious oxymoron. We have been conditioned to label all “law-keepers” as legalists because of the false assumption that all Torah observers are attempting somehow to merit their own salvation by keeping the works of the law and therefore nullifying God’s grace. While such a sentiment has become ingrained within orthodox Christianity, it is both unfortunate and unnecessary because fundamentally it is a simple misunderstanding that easily can be resolved.
When voices of reason are allowed to be heard, it becomes apparent that there is no contradiction at all. Clearly the Scriptures teach that a sinner is saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and that no man can be justified — or declared righteous — by the works of the law. There is no disputing or debating this essential doctrine. Our justification is not the matter in question.
Consider the Apostle Paul’s own words in the opening Scripture above [Galatians 2:15-16]. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul says that even the Jews understood that they could never be justified (saved) by keeping the law. The message of salvation is consistent in Scripture from beginning to end.
The real question, however, is that once we are saved, what is next? What does God require of us AFTER we have trusted in Christ and received the free gift of eternal life? In other words, what role does God’s law serve in the life of a believer once he is saved by God’s grace? If the law is not God’s means of salvation, then what purpose does it serve?
Do we just throw out the law altogether and follow Jesus? But what path did Jesus walk?
Are we set free from the law and now follow a new set of values? But whose values? What values?
Do we simply walk by the Spirit in obedience to new commandments? But whose commandments? Which ones?
As you can see, the confusion about the principle purpose of the law has never been about the justification of sinners. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. The principle purpose of the law, however, has always been about our sanctification — being set apart unto God and conformed into the image and likeness of His Son.
While the law never was intended for our justification, it was given to us by the Father as a means of sanctification. Once we understand this simple distinction, we can understand both the principle and practical purpose of the Torah, as it still pertains to our lives today.
THE MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION
Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. 8Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.
When the LORD our God chose Israel from among all the nations on the earth, He set them apart as holy and called them to be a peculiar people, different from their pagan neighbors. God’s law was the means by which Israel was to be sanctified. As the children of Israel lived according to Torah — God’s eternal value system — the distinction between Israel and the heathen nations would become evident to all. Israel was set apart to be a light to the Gentiles by reflecting God’s goodness and glory and dispelling the darkness of idolatry and immorality [see Deuteronomy 4:6-8].
Interestingly enough, the Christian doctrine of sanctification is precisely the same. God’s people are saved and set apart to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus in order to be a light in the midst of a perverse and rebellious culture. As Paul writes to the Ephesians …
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
So if God’s law was the standard of righteousness that sanctified Israel and distinguished them from the rest of the pagan world, then would it not stand to reason that God’s law serves the same purpose today? If God’s commandments and statutes and instructions were good for His people back then, then why would Torah not also be good for His people today? Does God change? Do His values change? Does His word change? Does the definition of sin change?
Of course not!
The truth is that the law of God is just as relevant today as it has ever been, and anyone who desires to practice righteousness would do well to heed and obey God’s commandments. God’s Torah has always been the means for our sanctification in Messiah, and if our goal is to grow and mature in spiritual conformity to our Lord and Savior Yeshua, then we must return to His way of life. We must return to Torah.
THE END OF SANCTIFICATION
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.
[1 Thessalonians 4:3-5]
Once it is clearly established that the law was not given by God for our justification but rather our sanctification, all the apparent contradictions in Scripture are quickly resolved.
Obedience to the law is not the means of salvation, but it is the fruit of salvation. It is not the cause of salvation but the effect. We don’t obey Torah because we have to but because we want to. True, living faith in Messiah is a faith that results in works of righteousness.
Under the New Covenant in Christ, believers experience a spiritual union with Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our Helper, Teacher, Advocate, Counselor, and Comforter, but first and foremost the Spirit is “Holy,” which means His indwelling presence sanctifies us and empowers us to pursue righteousness in a life pleasing to the Father. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that sets us apart and writes God’s law on our hearts and in our minds so that we are able to keep His commandments and walk in obedience to Torah. The Spirit gives us the power to overcome the dominion of sin in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
As I have said before, the Bible defines sin as transgression of the law [1 John 3:4]. When we break God’s law, we are “under the law,” meaning we are subject to the curse and penalty of the law. It is only when we are living in obedience to God’s law that we are free. That is precisely why Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23 that there is no law against the fruit of the Spirit because as long as we are walking in righteousness we are free. There is no law against righteousness. Keeping the Torah is freedom. Breaking the Torah is bondage.
God uses the law in our life to guide us and keep us on the right path. God’s Torah is grace in our life because it reminds us of the Father’s will and keeps us close to the Father’s heart. We know that Yeshua kept God’s law and walked in perfect righteousness according to the Torah. He is our pattern of life — our example. As His disciples we should strive to live as He lived. That is the very definition of sanctification.
If our being conformed to the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ is the definition of sanctification and if Jesus walked in perfect obedience to God’s law, then the Torah is the necessary means of our sanctification, as we walk in the Spirit of Christ.
In closing, consider Paul’s words in Romans 6, once again contrasting “lawlessness” with righteousness by affirming the principle purpose of the law, as it leads us to our ultimate sanctification.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.“
Over the last few installments in this series, I have established how the covenant at Mt. Sinai was nothing short of a marriage contract.
The LORD God chose for Himself an elect bride — Israel — to be His own treasured possession from among all the nations of the earth. God brought His chosen bride to the holy mountain and proposed a covenant of betrothal. He would be their God and they would be His exclusive people. After making vows, all of Israel unanimously said “yes” and “we do,” and the covenant was sealed in blood.
Israel’s perpetual unfaithfulness, however, put God in an impossible position. For generations, Israel broke her vows, forsook her Husband, and went after other gods, until finally the LORD had enough. He could no longer ignore the brazen adultery of His chosen bride, and so God reluctantly issued the house of Israel a certificate of divorce and cast her out of her homeland, where she would be scattered to the four winds and absorbed by the Gentile nations.
NOTE — Although the house of Judah was even worse than her sister Israel (Jeremiah 3:6-11), the LORD preserved a remnant of the Jews for the sake of the promise He had made to David — see Hosea 1:6-7, 2 Kings 8:19
In the severity of His divine chastisement, however, God promised that one day — somehow — He would make a new marriage covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. This new covenant would provide the means for forgiveness and the pathway to restoration.
The only problem, however, is that in order to establish a new marriage covenant, God first had to cancel the original marriage contract made at Sinai. But in order to annul the first covenant, the Bridegroom God had to do something so profoundly radical that it would transcend all reason and exceed all expectation.
The Bridegroom God had to die. But how could God die? That would be impossible, right?
YESHUA — THE ELECT BRIDEGROOM GOD
Yeshua — aka Jesus — is called the Elect of God — God’s Chosen One — His Beloved Son. The Father elected the Son to fulfill His destiny as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the whole world. As John says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” [John 3:35]. Isaiah speaks often of the Messiah as God’s chosen.
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
Yeshua is God the Son, and He is the image of the invisible God — the exact imprint of His nature expressed in physical form. Whoever has seen the Son has also seen the Father.
When the LORD God came down on Mt. Sinai in power and glory, He did not show His form to the congregation of Israel, knowing man’s tendency to fall into idolatry [see Deuteronomy 4:15-19]. However, the LORD did reveal Himself to Moses in physical form, speaking to him face to face as a man speaks with his friend. The anthropomorphic language in Scripture clearly conveys the idea that God manifested to Moses in human form, even inscribing the 10 Commandments in stone with His own finger. Even the elders of Israel saw and beheld the God of Israel in physical form on the mountain [Exodus 24:9-11].
The significance of this cannot be overlooked or underestimated. If God the Son — Yeshua — is the image of the invisible God and the exact physical expression of the Father, then one must conclude that it was Jesus Himself with Moses on Mt. Sinai. If Jesus was the One who stood before the people of Israel and wrote the vows of the original marriage contract, then that can mean only one thing …
Yeshua is the Bridegroom God, and Israel is His chosen bride.
NO OTHER WAY
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus is the Bridegroom God who entered into a marriage covenant with the people of Israel on Mt. Sinai. Once the contract was ratified in blood, it was forever binding as long as both shall live. Israel, however, persisted in unbelief and adultery until God finally resolved to write her a certificate of divorce and release her to go into the nations and worship their gods. Judah too repeatedly broke her covenant with the LORD, resulting in exile to Babylon, but the LORD preserved the remnant of Judah to represent the whole house of Israel, knowing that the Messiah — Son of David — must come through the house of Judah.
And in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son — the promised seed of the woman — born of the house of Judah in the line of David, to redeem and restore God’s people by renewing the old covenant with both the house of Judah and the house of Israel [Jeremiah 31:31-34].
Few could have predicted, however, just how the Bridegroom God would redeem His wayward bride and the price He would be willing to pay to demonstrate the depths of His love for Israel.
UNTIL DEATH DO US PART
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
God’s law — His Torah — is eternal and forever binding, and therefore God has bound Himself to His own word. God takes marriage very seriously, as the original institution of man and the foundation of every other social structure. If marriage is profaned so is the family. If the nuclear family disintegrates, then society is sure to crumble. Knowing this, God put many important laws in place to protect and promote the sanctity of marriage.
Although divorce was never God’s original intent, He did permit divorce because of the stubborn and rebellious hearts of sinful men. The Torah allowed for divorce in extreme cases of sexual immorality, but also as a legal means of protection for wives who would otherwise be subject to social suicide if cast out by their husbands [see Matthew 19:3-9].
This is where things get interesting.
According to the Torah, if a man divorces his wife and she remarries another man, she can never return to her original husband.
When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.
This is precisely what happened to Israel. Yeshua the Bridegroom God sent Israel away with a certificate of divorce because of her unfaithfulness, and she went after other lovers and served and worship other gods. At that point, it was impossible for Israel to return to her first Husband, even though she presumed otherwise.
She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.“
“If a man divorces his wife and she goes from him and becomes another man’s wife, will he return to her? Would not that land be greatly polluted? You have played the whore with many lovers; and would you return to me?” declares the LORD.
As one can see, there seemed to be no hope for Israel — no way back to God. It was impossible for faithless Israel to return to her first husband according the God’s eternal decree.
Yet that which is impossible for man is possible with God.
There was only way for Israel to be released from the original marriage contract and be legally freed to remarry her first husband.
The Bridegroom had to die.
This of course still would not fully resolve the problem for obvious reasons, unless somehow, someway the Bridegroom was able to die to annul the original marriage covenant and then miraculously come back to life to establish a new covenant!
Or do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?2For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
What an amazing God we serve!
Not only was Jesus the Bridegroom God willing to give His own life and take the punishment we deserved for all of our sin and idolatry, but also He was raised in the newness of life in order to renew the covenant in His own blood! Yeshua is the same Bridegroom God of Israel, but having died He now legally is free to remarry His bride Israel under a new and better covenant [see Ezekiel 36, Isaiah 54, Jeremiah 31, Hosea 2]!
Yeshua the Bridegroom God made a willing choice to lay down His life for His chosen bride in order to bring her back into a new covenant relationship that can never be broken! This is the amazing grace of God! The only condition required is faith in Yeshua so that whosoever believes in Him — whoever chooses Christ — will be given the right to become sons of the the living and the beloved Bride of Christ.
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.
[Yeshua — John 14:21]
Whenever discussing the topic of keeping the Torah, Christians are quick to recoil at the notion that anyone could follow all those tedious, archaic rules. We have been preconditioned to believe that it is impossible to obey all of God’s commandments, so why even try? We often visualize the Torah as an endless bookshelf of bloated law manuals, full of useless ramblings of legal jargon.
As one popular meme says … “Ain’t nobody got time for that!“
Furthermore, Christians have been taught that Jesus died to abolish the law and render it obsolete, meaning that those old laws have been destroyed and done away with. We find comfort in the thought of tossing all those burdensome law books in the trash, never to worry ourselves with them again. Like William Wallace in Braveheart, we revel in the cry of “FREEDOM!”
After all, anyone foolishly trying to keep the Torah and actually obey God’s commandments is exchanging freedom for the chains of legalism, which only produces joyless, judgmental, rigid, religious hypocrites. The world doesn’t need more Pharisees. We just need more Christians who love and live like Jesus, right!?
But wait, what does it really mean to love Jesus? Did Jesus ever tell us how we are to love Him?
Yeah. Actually He did.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
[Jesus Christ — John 14:15]
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.“
[Jesus Christ — John 14:23-24]
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
[Jesus Christ — John 15:10-11]
It is usually at this point that Christians begin to get a little uncomfortable. Virtually every single verse of Scripture that defines what it means to love Jesus directly corresponds to keeping God’s commandments. So unequivocally the Biblical definition of loving Jesus is keeping His commandments.
Keeping Torah = Loving Jesus
Which then begs the question. If loving Jesus is obedience to Torah, then how on God’s green earth has the Torah been rendered obsolete and tossed in the trash? If keeping the Father’s commandments is the very expression of love for the Son, then how is it possible that Jesus has gotten rid of the law?
There truly is no adequate answer to this question. Although the antinomians will try in vain to rationalize away this reality with desperate interpretive acrobatics, the truth of the matter is that not only is keeping God’s law possible, but according to Jesus it is the very standard by which our love for God is measured.
Heaven forbid that Jesus’s disciples actually walked by faith in keeping the same commandments He kept and obeying the same Torah that He obeyed! Heaven forbid Christ followers actually followed the example of Christ!
Putting all sarcasm aside, it is Biblically indefensible to cast the Torah out and replace it with some false system of cheap grace. When the standard of righteousness is abandoned, sin abounds. We should not be surprised that the modern Christian church is rank with perversion, immorality, and licentiousness. We have forsaken God’s commandments and drifted far off the narrow path of righteousness.
Clearly the law has not been abolished. Clearly God’s commandments are applicable for the believer today. Clearly our obedience to Torah is how we express love for Jesus Christ our Lord. Anyone who teaches otherwise is sorely confused and gravely in error, according to Jesus Himself (Matthew 5:17-19).
Now that has been established, let’s take a closer look at just how uncomplicated keeping God’s law actually is.
TOO MANY LAWS?
Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. 47For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life.
Many have endeavored to determine just exactly how many laws are contained in the Torah. Traditionally the Jewish rabbis reached a consensus that the Torah consisted of 613 laws. Others have proposed that number can be refined to around 200 basic commandments. Of course all the laws can be categorized somewhere within the original 10 Commandments, which ultimately are established upon the two most foundational laws.
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Once again, we must remember that God’s Torah is a law of love. He desires right relationships both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with our neighbor). Every commandment God has given us to follow is for His glory, our good, and the good of others. God revealed His eternal value system to bless us, not burden us.
Still, it is difficult for many Christians to comprehend the practicality of incorporating over 600 laws into their lives. On the surface, such an endeavor seems overwhelming and exacerbating. Perhaps a little perspective will help alleviate any initial anxiety one may feel toward the Torah.
Take the United States for example. Between our state and federal governments, we literally have millions of laws on the books. Yet my life is overwhelmingly unaffected by 95% of them. I’m only concerned with the ones that apply directly to me. As long as I am a law-abiding citizen, then I am a free. If I break the law, then I immediately come under the law and must face the consequences.
But I certainly don’t lose any sleep over the millions of laws that do not apply to me, nor should I. I only need to obey the laws that I’m aware of. As Paul says, “where there is no law there is no transgression” [Romans 4:15].
I approach the Torah in a very similar way. Not every one of the 613 commandments applies to me. This allows me to simply focus on obeying the ones that do, which is not difficult at all (see Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Once I understood this principle, it actually was very liberating.
KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS
What does it mean to “keep” God’s commandments? We must make a distinction between keeping God’s law and actually doing it, or practically applying it to our lives. And before you think I am playing a game of semantics, let me explain.
First, it is important to understand the definition of the Greek word “keep” — téreó: to watch over, to guard, to preserve. To keep something means that you guard it, protect it, preserve it, treasure it, or observe it. To keep a law, however, does not necessarily mean that someone is able to practically do it. To keep God’s commandments means that you love, treasure, and guard Torah in principle, while not always applying the law in practice.
What if I told you that Jesus kept all of God’s commandments in fulfilling all righteousness, but at the same time He could not possibly have done or performed all of God’s commandments?
For example, there are dozens of commandments in the Torah that only apply to the Levitical priesthood and their role in temple worship. Since Jesus was neither a Levite nor served in the temple, those laws did not apply to Him. This means that Jesus did not practically do these laws, but He kept these laws in principle, meaning that He endorsed them, treasured them, and approved of them.
There are laws in the Torah that only apply to property owners. Jesus did not own any property as far as we know, not having a place to lay His own head. There are laws that only apply to women. Obviously, Jesus was a man and could not perform these laws, but He kept them by promoting and approving them. There are laws that involve the rules of war, yet Jesus did not command an army nor go to battle, so He never practically applied such laws in His life. There are laws only pertaining to husbands and fathers, and Jesus was neither during His lifetime.
I think you get the point.
Once we understand that “keeping” the law does not necessarily translate into practically “doing” it, then we can begin to understand that many, if not most, of the 600+ commandments in the Torah do not directly apply to our lives. And just like that, keeping the Torah became really simple.
As a general rule, each individual should strive only to obey the commandments that apply to him or her, while still “keeping” the whole Torah by endorsing, affirming, and guarding all the laws that do not apply. That is what it means to keep God’s Torah. Just like Jesus could not practically perform all 600+ laws, neither can we. We only live out and walk out the commandments that directly apply to us as individuals.
Now, it goes without saying that we will never be perfect in keeping the Torah. Of course God’s understands that we will fail and stumble and miss the mark. That is precisely why Jesus came into the world. I thank God for the obedient life of Yesuha our Messiah who fulfilled God’s law in perfect righteousness! I thank God for the substitutionary death of Yeshua on the cross, bearing the punishment I deserve for breaking God’s law. I would have no hope without Christ.
But just because I am saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus does not in any way give me the license to forsake or break God’s laws. If anything it should be my motivation and joy to strive toward obedience and pursue righteousness out of my love for Him!
As I continue in this series, I will do my best to address many of the individual laws in the Torah and examine if and how they apply to our lives.
In the meantime, I recommend you begin to study Torah for yourself and rediscover the heart of God for your life. As King David says …
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
Laws are just made to be broken … so the saying goes.
But we know that is not true.
Any good parent, for example, will set in place house rules and establish boundaries that are intended to bless and protect the children. The expectation is clear. These rules are for their own good and are to be obeyed without exception. Breaking the rules will only result in pain and punishment and erode trust in the relationship.
Man’s rebellious heart is naturally averse to the law. Our sinful nature wages war against the law — both the laws of God and man. Man is prone to break the rules in search of some false form of freedom, but lawbreakers always seem to end up in the same place — either dead or in prison.
The truth is that a lawless man is never free. He is a slave to his sin — a dead man walking. Lawbreakers are the only ones who are “under the law,” facing the consequences and bearing the full weight of impending judgment.
It is the lawful citizen, however, who is truly free. A man who obeys the law is not “under the law” but rather free to live and enjoy his life without fear of punishment. Once again, it is not the law itself that holds men captive and puts them in bondage. Quite the contrary! A man is only “under the law” once he has broken the law.
God put His law in place for our own good. Obeying the law is not sin. Just the opposite is true. The Biblical definition of sin is transgression of the law.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
[1 John 3:4]
UNDER THE LAW
Yet entire theological systems have been built upon the flawed notion that Christians are no longer “under the law,” which traditionally has been interpreted to mean that God’s law no longer applies to our life. We have been told by our church leaders that the law has been done away with, rendered obsolete, and abolished at the cross. Christians are no longer under the burden of the law but are under grace, which means that we don’t have to keep those old, burdensome laws anymore but are free to do whatever we want!
But is that true? Is a Christian free to abuse God’s grace as a license to sin? Does God’s law no longer apply to our lives now that we have been saved by grace? Seems like the Apostle Paul said something about this dangerous mentality.
For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!
Do you see it? Do you see how men have misinterpreted this one idea from the writings of Paul and twisted it to mean the polar opposite of what it really means? When Scripture says that believers are no longer “under the law,” that does not mean the law itself has been done away with or abolished.
It simply means that believers in Christ Jesus are no longer under the PENALTY and CURSE of the law — which is death! Paul reminds us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” [Galatians 3:13].
Jesus willingly received the death sentence that stood against all lawbreakers (you and me), which means that we are no longer under the curse of the law. We have been set free from the condemnation of the law. This is good news indeed!
But this does not mean that the law itself is now somehow destroyed or that it is no longer applicable to our lives. God forbid! It means now that we have been redeemed from the penalty and the curse of the law, we have been given the grace to go and walk in obedience to His law — keeping His commandments and so fulfill the law of Christ!
We are no longer slaves to sin — as we once were disobedient lawbreakers. We have become slaves to righteousness — keeping God’s law out of love and gratitude for God.
The law has not changed. God’s house rules have never changed. God’s expectation for His children to be obedient to His rules has not changed. But when we sin against God and break His law, we willingly put ourselves back under the law, which breaks God’s heart and breaks fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
Of course we still belong to the family of God, but when we break the law, we are acting once again like slaves to sin. It is only when we obey God’s commandments that we are living in freedom.
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
THE LAW OF LIBERTY
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
So if breaking the law is sin that leads to bondage, then keeping the law is righteousness that leads to freedom. This what the Bible calls the perfect law of liberty. The law itself is God’s moral standard, His eternal value system. It is the way of life, and all who obey Torah are free! It’s that simple, and yet how many Christians today have a positive view about the law?
In my own personal religious experiences, the law was always cast in a negative light, as if Torah was contrary to grace and bondage for the believer. The law certainly was never taught as life and liberty, so like so many Christians, I developed an antagonistic attitude toward the law, as if Jesus had saved me and set me free from the law.
Now that I am rediscovering Torah, however, I realize just how wrong I was and how far off the path we have drifted.
Jesus did not save me from the law! Messiah saved me from the curse and punishment of the law — which is death. This one adjustment in my perspective has opened my eyes to see the joy and blessing and yes … the FREEDOM of keeping God’s commandments and obeying His laws.
THE SON HAS SET US FREE!
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free …” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“
[John 8:31-32, 34-36]
Notice Jesus says that His true disciples are those who obey His teaching — aka Torah — and the result of obeying Torah is coming to a knowledge of the truth. Then once we discover the truth of Torah, the truth will set us free! Think about that for a moment. How profound! How many times have we missed this?
Jesus died in our place to take the punishment that we deserved for breaking God’s law (sin)
Once freed from the law of sin of death, Jesus calls us as His disciples to follow Him and obey His teachings (Torah)
As we learn Torah, we come to the knowledge of the truth and as we obey Torah we live out the truth as Jesus did
As we walk with Jesus in obedience to His commandments, we experience true freedom from sin and true joy in keeping the perfect law of liberty for God’s glory
Scripture is clear. It is impossible to Biblically defend the notion that followers of Jesus Christ are no longer expected to keep God’s law and obey His commandments. The meaning of the phrase, “under the law,” has been so twisted and perverted in the church that millions of Christians have been led astray and convinced that the Torah has been rendered useless and no longer applies to them.
Nothing could be further from the truth! God’s law has never changed and never will. Why would Jesus die for our sins and set us free from sin only to turn around tell us we are now free to sin? That’s absurd!
Jesus died to set us free from the curse of the law so that we would become beloved sons and daughters who walk in faithful obedience to God’s law. Keeping the law is not bondage. Keeping the law is the very definition of righteousness that leads to freedom! Since we have been set free from sin and death, we should never go back to being slaves to sin.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.
The entire story of human history can be summed up in one thought — man makes a mess of things and God has to clean it up.
God says one thing, and man does another. Man wanders off the path and God calls him back. Man’s heart is deceitful, and by nature man seeks to do that which is right in his own eyes, which put him at odds with God’s word. As a result, we have become masters at twisting, perverting, and cherry picking God’s word to suit our own desires, or simply ignoring it altogether.
The Creator tells Adam in the garden … you are free, which means I am giving you a choice. Everything is yours! Take anything you want. I have just one simple commandment: do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Did God really say?
Adam did what was right in his own eyes and transgressed God’s only command, making a big mess of things. And the rest is history.
As time passed and man descended into deeper depravity and sin, God progressively added more commandments to clearly establish His moral boundaries and righteous standards (see Galatians 3:19). The LORD revealed His Torah to Noah before and after the flood (Genesis 6-9) and later instructed Abraham in His commandments so that he and his family would live set apart from the world and be blessed. Most of us have never considered that Abraham kept the Torah 400 years before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. The LORD blessed Abraham, the man of faith, because he “obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” [Genesis 26:5].
By the time the LORD gave the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the law was nothing new. God’s value system is eternal — it never changes. God did not create the Torah at Sinai. He merely revealed it.
The LORD further expanded on His commandments to address the specific circumstances and situations that inevitably would occur in a covenant community living together in the same land under the same legal constitution. Israel was called to be a peculiar people, set apart from the nations. God engraved His laws in stone and told Moses to codify His commandments in writing, which have been preserved in the Bible to this day.
And once the book of the law was written, the LORD gave very specific instructions that no one is authorized to change His word — ever!
God especially made it clear that no one has the authority to add to the Torah or take anything away from it. To change God’s word is to reject His authority and pervert His character.
Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.
Yet here we are nearly 3,500 later, and that is precisely what has happened — men teaching as doctrines their own traditions above the commandments of God. This grievous error has cut both ways, in both adding to and subtracting from God’s word.
DO NOT ADD
Over the course of time, the Jews became notorious for adding to the Torah by ascribing authority to their oral traditions, religious commentaries, and rabbinic teachings. In many ways, Judaism elevates their man-made traditions found in the Mishnah and the Talmud above the pure and plain commandments of God.
This is precisely why Jesus was particularly harsh with the religious leaders of His day. Jesus had no issue with the Torah. He is both the Author and embodiment of the Torah and obeyed the law perfectly as our example. Jesus condemned the Jewish leadership for elevating their own traditions above the Torah and putting a stumbling block of unnecessary burdens on the people.
“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. 8You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”9And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”
Man’s rules make a mess of God’s truth. The Jewish traditions had made the Torah burdensome and difficult, when God never intended His law to be difficult [see Deuteronomy 30:11-14]. This is why Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden light. He came to expose the legalistic traditions of men that had perverted God’s word and to call His people back to the purity and simplicity of the Torah as God intended.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.“
But the Jews are not the only ones to blame for making a mess of God’s word. While Judaism has been guilty of adding to the Torah, Christianity has been guilty of taking away from it.
DO NOT TAKE AWAY
The early church consisted predominantly of 1st Century Jews who believed in Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah and were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses first in Jerusalem and Judea and eventually to the nations. As far as the Apostles were concerned, Jesus had not come to start a new religion but rather to fulfill all the promises in the Torah and the prophets.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus and His Apostles all were avid Torah observers, keeping the Biblical feasts, eating clean foods, and worshiping at synagogue every Sabbath. Even Paul — who has become seriously misunderstood and grossly misinterpreted in orthodox Christianity — loved the law of God and kept Torah, saying “for I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” (Romans 7:22).
When Paul reached the Gentiles with the gospel and multitudes from the nations began to put their hope in Yeshua as Messiah, Paul reminded them that they were no longer strangers but had been brought near by the blood of Christ and incorporated as citizens in the commonwealth of Israel [Ephesians 2:14-21], being grafted in to Israel as God’s covenant people [Romans 11].
Even the Jerusalem Council [Acts 15] gave Gentiles four basic rules from the Torah to be an initial entry point for new believers, and then the Apostles instructed them to continue to grow in their faith by attending synagogue every Sabbath to learn how to live through Torah [Acts 15:21].
Consider, for example, the testimony of the Apostle John, who considered obeying the Torah as the purest expression of love for God.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
[1 John 5:1-3]
But just exactly which commandments could John be talking about? Surely he wasn’t referring to all those Old Testament laws, but only the most obvious ones like do not murder or lie or steal or commit adultery. Surely John didn’t really mean to say that followers of Jesus should treasure all of God’s commandments, did he?
After all, Christians like to incorporate some of the Torah into their lives but at the same time are quick to dismiss and plainly reject others — taking away from God’s word.
Well, let’s look to our greatest authority to answer that question — Jesus Christ, the Author of the Torah Himself. What did Jesus say about picking and choosing which laws we want to keep and which ones we don’t? You may be surprised to find out what He has to say — and in the Sermon on the Mount of all places.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to do it — to perfectly live and embody it as our example. Last I checked heaven and earth still remain to this day, so not one stroke of the law has been done away with. That sounds pretty permanent to me.
And if that weren’t already clear enough, Jesus goes even further to emphasize that anyone who “relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of God.”
In Jesus’ own words … DO NOT TAKE AWAY FROM THE TORAH!
It does not get any clearer than that.
And yet the “church” is filled with self-proclaimed Jesus-loving Christians who have stripped away much of the Torah, showing blatant disregard to Jesus Himself. Christian leaders are guilty of changing the word of God and replacing it once again with their own traditions.
So where Judaism has added to the Torah, Christianity has taken away, creating two religious extremes that have strayed off the narrow path and made a mess of God’s word.
But God is sorting it out and cleaning up this mess we have made.
God is calling millions back to the unadulterated truth of His word and bringing people from all over the world — both Jew and Gentile — back the pure and simple way of Torah — to live as Jesus lived and walk as Jesus walked and to obey as Jesus obeyed in freedom and love.
The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
Have you ever felt like something significant was missing from you life, only to discover that it was right in front of you all along? Have you ever stumbled upon a valuable treasure in your possession that for years you assumed was worthless?
What changed? The value or importance of these things never changed. Only your understanding and perspective changed, allowing you to see its worth for the very first time. And the moment you came to the knowledge of the truth, you were filled with overwhelming joy and gratitude!
That is exactly what has happened to me.
I recently discovered a precious gift from God — an ancient treasure of immense value — that has been in my possession for decades, only I failed to see it and appreciate it for what it was.
What could be so valuable and yet remain hidden for so long?
I am talking about Torah … the eternal truth of God revealing His love for His people.
What is Torah?
I know what some of you may already be thinking. If Torah is so important and so valuable, then why doesn’t the church emphasize it? Why has orthodox Christianity ignored it for 2,000 years? Why doesn’t my pastor preach on it? Why haven’t I heard anything about it?
Even for those in modern mainstream evangelicalism who at least have some surface-level knowledge, the Torah remains totally foreign as old laws that only apply to the Jews anyway. What does God’s law have to do with me — a Gentile Christian? Torah sounds so Old Testament. Aren’t we living under the New Covenant?
Yes I know. I am well aware of the common objections, knee-jerk reactions, and visceral emotions that emerge whenever the controversial topic of Torah is broached among brothers. I know because I once felt the very same way. I will address all of these unfortunate assumptions in due time. For now, however, I would like to start by providing a Biblical definition of Torah.
The Hebrew word torah — תּוֹרָה — is used about 200 times in Scripture and simply means “law or laws.” Over time, the Torah primarily became identified with the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), yet sometimes it generally can refer to God’s word as a whole. At its heart, however, Torah represents one thing — the heart of God for His people.
Torah is God’s eternal value system that He revealed as a blessing to His people. Torah simply is the way to live according to God.
Many times in Scripture, God provides a litany of words that represent the comprehensive nature of His Torah. These often include His instructions, His ways, His laws, His commandments, His statutes, His principles, His ordinances etc…
Consider the following passage from Deuteronomy 30 as a prime example [emphasis mine].
And you will again obey the voice of the LORD and follow all His commandments I am giving you today. 9So the LORD your God will make you abound in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the offspring of your livestock, and the produce of your land. Indeed, the LORD will again delight in your goodness, as He delighted in that of your fathers, 10if you obey the LORD your God by keepingHis commandments and statutesthat are written in thisBook of the Lawand if you turn to Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 11For this commandment I give you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12It is not in heaven, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 13And it is not beyond the sea, that you should need to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and proclaim it, that we may obey it?’ 14But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it. 15See, I have set before you todaylife and goodness, as well as death and disaster. 16For I am commanding you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and increase, and the LORD your God may bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.
Notice all the ways God describes His Torah.
The Bible speaks of Torah as eternal (Psalm 119:89), as perfect (Psalm 19:7), as light (Proverbs 6:23, Psalm 119:105), as joy (Psalm 19:8), as holy and righteousness (Romans 7:12) — even as the way, the truth, and the life (Psalm 19:19, Proverbs 13:14).
So if we are willing to start with God’s word and His very own definition of Torah, we logically must come to one conclusion alone.
The law of God is good. The law of God is perfect. The law is true. The law is eternal. God does not change nor does His word!
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
[Apostle Paul — Romans 7:12]
But Hasn’t God’s Law Been Abolished?
The Torah has been there all along, on virtually every page of my Bible from beginning to end, and yet for most of my Christian life I dismissed it — even shunned it — and read right over it because I had been taught by men that the laws and instructions of God did not apply to me anymore.
I had been taught that the law was nailed to the cross, done away with, abolished by Jesus and was no longer of any use or purpose to Christian living. I even was told that the law was bad and to make any attempt to obey God’s law was at best legalism and at worst a false gospel potentially resulting in my eternal damnation.
I had been taught that the law was a burden, and certainly not a blessing. I had come to believe that the law was only for the Jews under the Old Covenant, but now I was set free from the heavy yoke of the law by Christ.
But then again, there were those 10 Commandments? At least some of them still apply right? And the Levitical laws about sexual immorality. Those seemed to still be in play for Christians. And what about Jesus and the Apostles? They clearly lived Torah-observant lives, and aren’t we told to follow their example?
It just seems like either God’s testimony is unclear and confusing and even misleading, or at the least Christians are very confused and don’t understand God’s word.
So my question is … which is it? It cannot be both. If God never changes and His word never changes, then what do we make of this apparent tragic contradiction in Scripture. Either God’s word is wrong, or our understanding of God’s word is wrong, and I think we all know the answer to that.
Either the law is good or it is bad.
Either the law is true or it is false.
Either the law is a blessing or a burden.
Either the law is light or darkness.
Either the law is freedom or bondage.
Either the law is perfect or defective.
Either the law is life or death.
As you can see, we have some serious sorting out to do, and that is precisely what I aim to do in this series. I will address the primary objections and common misunderstandings surrounding this controversial subject, and I hope to help you begin to see and discover the very same treasure that I have found in God’s word.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
God has promised to create new heavens and a new earth once Christ returns to reclaim His throne in Jerusalem. What will this unprecedented time be like and what role will believers play in God’s kingdom.
To discover more about this amazing topic, be sure to watch the video teaching of Session 38 in my Revelation Series — Alpha and Omega. If you find this content helpful, please be sure to share it abroad. Also, consider liking and subscribing to this blog below to receive my latest content.
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
What is the millennium and how does the Bible describe? Are we to take God’s kingdom of 1,000 years seriously or is it only allegorical language to convey some undetermined age of renewal?
To discover more about this fascinating age of rest, renewal, restoration and the reign of Christ, feel free to access the digital resources below in my Alpha and Omega Series. If this content is helpful for you, please consider liking, sharing and subscribing to this blog for more content just like this.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
Jesus first came as the Lamb of God to suffer and die for the sins of the world. He is coming again as the Lion of Judah to wage war against the wicked and crush the head of the Dragon.
To discover more about this unique Day — the Day of the LORD — be sure to access the digital resources below. Also, if you find this content helpful, please be sure to like, subscribe and share this post. Thank you and God Bless!