The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant
By: Jeff A. Benner



TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT

1 - What Is A Covenant?

2 - The Covenant with Israel

3 - The Holy Assembly

4 - The Torah

5 - The Sabbath Covenant

6 - The Feasts of the Lord

7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant

8 - The Desecration of the Covenant

9 - The Promise of A New Covenant


PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT

10 - The New Covenant

11 - The Holy Assembly

12 - The Torah

13 - The Sabbath Covenant

14 - The Feasts of the Lord

15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant

16 - The Desecration of the Covenant


CONCLUSION

Back Home Forward

12 - The Torah

When Christians are asked "Is the Law (Torah), as found in the Old Testament, to be kept by New Covenant believers today"? A variety of answers are given such as the following. "No, we are under grace and not the law". "The only law we have to keep in the New Covenant is to love God and man". "The laws given by God in the First Covenant were for the Jews, the laws given by Yeshua in the New Covenant are for the Christians". Are these answers biblical? What does Yeshua and the New Covenant writers say about the law (Torah)? Let me first say that it would be impossible for us to say that Christians do not have to keep any laws. For example, "You shall not kill" is just as valid of a command for us today as it was when the command was given to Moses. There are many other examples of First Covenant commands that are valid commands today, so the question is which First Covenant commands are valid today.

 

The Word Torah in the New Covenant

In the first part of this book we looked at the Hebrew word Torah. When the Jews translated the First Covenant Hebrew into Greek in the Septuagint they had to choose a Greek word which was closest in meaning to the Hebrew word Torah. Unfortunately there was no exact word to match the meaning of the concept of the Torah. The only Greek word that came close was "nomos"

When the New Covenant writers wrote the New Covenant, they continued to use the Greek word nomos for the Hebrew word Torah. Let us compare the Old and New Covenant uses of these two words.

Deut 31:26 - The Book of the Torah

Gal 3:10 - The Book of the Nomos

1 Kings 2:3 - Written in the Torah of Moses

1 Cor 9:9 - Written in the Nomos of Moses

Josh 24:26 - The Torah of God

Rom 7:22 - The Nomos of God

When the word nomos was translated into English, it was translated as "law". We could say that the original meaning of Torah has been "lost in the translation".

With this in mind, we know that where the Greek word nomos is used, we know that it is speaking of the Torah, and for this reason I will use the word Torah whenever the text of the scriptures or my writings are speaking of the Torah.

 

The Culture of the Torah

It is important to understand what Torah meant to Israel at the time of Yeshua and the New Covenant writers. In this way we will have a better idea of how the people responded to the various statements in the New Testament about the Torah.

You could say that Israel lived Torah. What I mean by this is that every aspect of a Jew's life was based on the commands and regulations set by the Torah. This included; the weekly Sabbath, yearly feasts, diet, clothing, shelter, school, worship, work, family relationships, government, friendships, travel, livestock, harvests, planting, medicine, births, burials, weddings and the list is almost endless. Yeshua, his Apostles and all of Israel lived their entire lives in this culture of Torah. Did Yeshua or the Apostles teach anything contrary to the Torah, contrary to their very culture?

For us today, in our western culture, a statement like "The Torah is done away with" means very little to us, but a statement like that to a Jew in the first century would be like saying "your culture, heritage, way of life, even your very life is worthless". The fact is, the statement above was never said or even implied by Yeshua or any of the New Covenant writers. If you look at each time the word nomos is used in the New Covenant you will see that the writers never condemned the Torah, but rather supported the Torah.

 

Three Different Types of Laws in the Torah

Three of the Hebrew words used for the various parts of the Torah as we looked at in chapter four are; mitzvah, mishmeret and chukah. Each of these also has their Greek word counterpart just as Torah does in nomos. Each of these Hebrew words were translated in the Septuagint and also used in the New Covenant in the following ways.

Hebrew = Greek = English

-----------------------------------

Mitzvah = Entole = Command

Mishmeret = Dogma = Regulations

Hukah = Dikaioma = Ordinances

 

The Eternal Torah

When God promised the New Covenant to Israel he said. "I will put my Torah in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:33) and quoted in Hebrews 8:16). Here we see that God's plans in the new Covenant included his Torah. The Greek word nomos (Torah) is used about 200 times in the New Covenant. Not one of these 200 occurrences ever says that the Torah has been abolished or taken away. Rather the New Covenant affirms the existence of the Torah. Here are just a few of these passages.

"It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Torah". (Luke 16:17)

Do we, then, nullify the Torah by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the Torah. (Romans 3:31)

So then, the Torah is holy... (Romans 7:12)

We know that the Torah is good if one uses it properly. We also know that Torah is made not for the righteous but for the ones without Torah. (1 Timothy 1:8,9)

But the man who looks intently into the perfect Torah that gives freedom, and continue to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:25)

"Do not think that I (Yeshua) have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Torah until everything is accomplished". (Matthew 5:17,18)

I would like to take a close look at this last passage as it gives a clear picture of how Yeshua related to the Torah. Yeshua said he did not come to destroy "the Torah and the Prophets". The phrase "Torah and the Prophets" is the name given to what we call the "First Covenant". The Torah refers to the first five books of the Bible and the Prophets are the remaining books of the "First Covenant".

Yeshua then said, "I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Yeshua is saying that he did not come to abolish the First Covenant books. The Greek word used for "abolish" means "to do away with". He said he came instead to fulfill the First Covenant. The Greek word for "fulfill" means "to fill" or "to complete". There are two parts of the First Covenant that Yeshua came to complete.

  1. Yeshua came to complete the Torah. Before Yeshua, no man could fill the Torah, meaning to keep it completely. By fulfilling all of the requirements of the Torah he could be the lamb sacrifice for our redemption. The only way to be perfect is to keep the Torah 100%.
  2. He also came to complete or fill the prophecies of all the prophets in the First Covenant about the Messiah. Yeshua came to fulfill the requirements of the Torah and fulfill the prophecies about him in the books of the prophets.

He then said; "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Torah until everything is accomplished". Has Yeshua completed all of the prophecies spoken about him? No, not until his Second Coming will all of the prophecies of him be completed. Since the prophecies are not yet complete, neither will the Torah pass away.

If Yeshua did not abolish the Torah, we should then be able to see this continuation of the Torah in the New Covenant. Let us look at just one. In Chapter 4 we looked at commands found in the Torah which were being kept in the book of Genesis. One of those commands was.

"you must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off." (Leviticus 17:14)

We found this Torah command also in the book of Genesis.

"you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it". (Genesis 9:4)

We can also see this very command in the New Covenant.

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)

In the New Covenant the Gentiles are told to abstain from the blood of animals. This command is found In Genesis (before the giving of the Torah), in the Torah (Leviticus) and in the New Covenant (Acts). This command is eternal just as the Torah stated.

This is a lasting ordinance (olam huqah) for the generations to come, wherever you live: You must not eat any fat or any blood. (Leviticus 3:17)

This command is clearly everlasting even into the New Covenant. If this is the case what about all the other commands which are called everlasting like the Sabbath and Feasts (which will be covered in the next two chapters). What about the Torah itself which is called everlasting?

"All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal (olam)." (Psalms 119:160)

 

Love and Torah

"A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love". (John 15:10)

Some will say that when Yeshua said, "A new command I give you", he is saying that he is replacing the First Covenant Torah with the following command; "love one another". There are three problems with this statement. First, as we read earlier, Yeshua said he did not come to destroy the Torah. 2) Yeshua did not say "a new Torah I give you". If Yeshua were in fact doing away with the Torah, he would have been doing away with the entire Jewish culture. Rather he said he is giving them "a new command". 3) Last, this is not really a "new command". Yeshua is actually quoting the Torah command in Leviticus 19:18 to "Love your neighbor as yourself". Yeshua is actually "renewing" this command because many have forgotten it.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the Torah. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Torah. (Romans 13:8-10)

Is this passage telling us that the only command we have to keep is "love"? Just as Yeshua is the "fulfillment" of the Torah, love is the fulfillment of the Torah. If you keep the Torah, you will love. Love is not an emotion it is an action. What is that action? Keeping the Torah, for Torah is love. Yeshua was asked a question by a fellow teacher of the Torah on this very matter.

One of the teachers of the Torah came and heard them debating (Yeshua and the Sadducees). Noticing that Yeshua had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments (entole), which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Yeshua, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." "Well said teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (Mark 12:28-33)

The scriptures are very clear, if we love God then we will want to keep his commands found in the Torah. The greatest problem Yeshua faced was that many of the people and teachers were keeping the Torah out of obligation not love (legalism). Yeshua is teaching them that God desires that his people keep his Torah out of a love for him. This was discussed in chapter four when we saw that Israel showed their love to God by keeping his Torah. This Torah-love relationship continues into the New Covenant.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yeshua did. (1 John 2:3-6)

The last line in this passage said we "must walk as Yeshua did". Do we really know how Yeshua walked? The gospels are very clear, Yeshua' walk was the Torah. The Torah is the standard of measure to determine a person's nearness to perfection. In order for Yeshua to be perfect he would have had to keep the Torah 100%.

Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. (1 John 3:24)

It has given me great joy to find some of you children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. (2 John 4-6)

 

Yeshua the Torah Giver

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. ... Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. ... If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching". (John 14:15,21,23)

Is "love" the only command Yeshua taught? Not at all, throughout Yeshua' ministry he taught from the Torah. Yeshua taught Israel how to keep the whole Torah, the way it was meant to be, in love and not obligation. We must also remember that Yeshua is God. We usually look at God as the giver of the Torah in the First Covenant, but Yeshua is God making him the Torah giver. Therefore, when Yeshua said "obey my teachings" he is not only referring to his teachings as a man, but also as God. 1 John 5:3 confirms this when it says, "This is love for God: to obey his commands".

 

Is Keeping Torah Legalism?

Everyone keeps some of the Torah. For example "You shall have no other gods besides me", "You shall not murder", "You shall not steal", "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex 20, Deut 5). Is keeping this Torah commands legalism? I do not think so. Then there is Torah commands in the First Covenant that are not part of the 10 Commandments such as the following which can be found in Leviticus 19.

  • Do not lie.
  • Do not practice divination or sorcery.
  • Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity, use honest scales and honest weights.
  • Rise in the presence of the aged.
  • Shows respect for the elderly and revere your God.

Is keeping these Torah commands legalism? Again, I do not think so.

Is the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath, Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles legalism? What if one chooses not to eat Pork as commanded in the Torah? Do you believe keeping these observances are considered legalism because they are Torah? What is the difference between these Torah commands and the ones listed above? Many keep Christmas and Easter or go to church on Sunday; are they considered a legalist?

Let's take a look at some examples of people who kept the Torah in the New Covenant. Was Yeshua a legalist? He kept every one of the commands found in the Torah. He had to since he had to remain sinless his entire life in order to be the "lamb without blemish" that would be sacrificed to atone for our sins. No, Yeshua was not a legalist.

What about the Jewish teachers who Yeshua and John the Baptist often criticized? The teachers strove to keep the Torah just as Yeshua did. So what was the problem with these teachers? The difference between them and Yeshua was not that they were keeping the Torah, but rather where their heart was while keeping the Torah. God looks at the heart of the man not the actions he takes. "The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts" (1 Chronicles 28:9). Yeshua kept the Torah with a heart of love to God, while some of the teachers kept the Torah out of obligation and pride, not out of a desire to show love to God. These teachers could be called legalist because their heart was not on God, but rather on their own prideful selves and looking at how good they are keeping the Torah. Not all teachers though can be lumped into one category of legalists, for there were those who were keeping the Torah out of love as Yeshua was teaching.

Legalism then is not keeping Torah, but keeping it out of obligation rather than love.

Another aspect of Legalism is your motive for keeping the Torah. Those who keep the Torah to earn their salvation are legalist because they are trying to earn salvation by their own deeds and not Yeshua'.

Know that a man is not justified by observing the Torah, but by faith in Yeshua Christ. So we, too have put our faith in Christ Yeshua that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the Torah, because by observing the Torah no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Those who trust in Yeshua as the only means of salvation and keep the Torah to show their love to God cannot be called a legalist. James 2:20 calls keeping the Torah-works and "faith without works is dead".

If you keep the 10 commandments, are you trying to earn your salvation? No, I don't think so. You are saved by faith in Yeshua, but you desire to follow His commands because you want to show your love to him as Yeshua said; "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

This heresy of salvation through keeping the Torah is mentioned in 1 Timothy where Paul is saying that this is an improper use of the Torah.

We know that the Torah is good if one uses it properly. (1 Timothy 1:8)

Words like Torah and works are often misunderstood and are considered negatives. We all observe parts of the Torah and do works. If we are not, then there is something wrong. Whether you observe the 10 commandments or observe the Passover or help the little old lady down the street by mowing her lawn, you are doing Torah and works. This is what we, as Christians, are called to do.

 

Faith and Works

Are works only taught in the First Covenant and faith only taught in the New Covenant? Absolutely not, Habakkuk 2:4 says; "the righteous will live by faith". We already know that God commanded Israel to live by the Torah (works) but we can also see that they are to live by faith also. As we shall soon see, we are also told to live by works in the New Covenant. Faith and Works are inseparable, just as Grace and Torah are inseparable.

Obedience of the Torah is works. We are commanded to do works but we are also told that no amount of works can save us. If we say that we are saved by grace and do not do the works of the Torah, we are dead. If we do the works of the Torah without the grace of God in our lives, we are also dead. Grace and Torah (works) must be equally balanced in our lives. You cannot have one without the other.

"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24)

"For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26)

 

Grace and Torah

All Christians will agree that "we are saved by grace and not the keeping of the Torah". Is Grace a new teaching in the New Covenant? As we saw in the first part of the book, the Hebrew word "hen" means grace. We know this because "hen" was translated into the Greek word "charis" which is translated into English as "grace". So we saw that God gave grace to Israel. If Torah existed side by side with grace in the First Covenant, then cannot Torah and grace exist side by side in the New Covenant?

No one in the First Covenant or in the New Covenant could ever keep the Torah 100%. We know that there are those in the Old and New Covenants who received eternal life. Many will say that those in the Old Testament were saved by the sacrifices that were performed as described in the Torah. But Hebrews 10:4 tells us that it "is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take way sins". Only by the blood of Yeshua can anyone be saved, whether in the Old or New Covenant because Yeshua' sacrifice was "once for all" and he did "take away the sins of the world" (John 1:19).

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance - now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:14-15)

The gift of grace is salvation given to those that could not keep the Torah and do not deserve salvation, which is given through the blood of Yeshua. Throughout all time it has only been by the Grace of God that men are saved, in the Old as well as the New Covenant.

 

Righteousness and Wickedness

In chapter four, we looked at the definitions of righteousness and wickedness found in the First Covenant. The Hebrew word for righteousness is tzedikah, which was translated into the Greek word dikaios in the Septuagint and is used throughout the New Covenant. Also the Hebrew word for wickedness is rasha which was translated into the Greek word adikia in the Septuagint which is also used in the New Testament. In the word adikia you might recognize a form of the Greek word dikaios with an "a" in front of it. When an "a" is at the beginning of a word it takes the word behind it and turn it into an opposite. So a-dikia actually means unrighteous.

So then, the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7:12)

Just as in the First Covenant, we see that the Torah and its commands are righteous. And we can also see that those who keep this Torah are also righteous.

For it is not those who hear the Torah who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the Torah who will be declared righteous. (Romans 2:13)

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

Since Righteousness is keeping Torah (just as it was in the Old Testament) then unrighteousness (wickedness) is not keeping Torah.

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness (adikia) of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness (adikia). (Romans 1:18)

And so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (adikia). (2 Thessalonians 2:12)

 

New Covenant Observers of the Torah

Yeshua

In order for Yeshua to have been the perfect lamb for the sacrifice, he had to be without sin. The Torah is the standard by which God measures sin. Therefore, Yeshua kept all of the Torah, 100%. If we look at Yeshua' life we would see a lifestyle which was centered on the Torah. All of Yeshua' teachings to the Jews and his disciples were also based on the Torah.

Peter

[Peter] saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied, "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. (Acts 10:11-16)

Because of Peters insistence that he has never eaten anything unclean, clearly shows that Peter still recognized the dietary commands of the Torah. Many have said that God has removed the dietary requirements through this vision to Peter. But this is not the case. Did Peter eat of the unclean animals? No, the sheet was taken back up to heaven after Peter refused three times to eat. The purpose for this dream had nothing to do with clean and unclean animals, but with a Jews relationship with Gentiles. This vision will be examined close in Chapter 15.

Believing Jews

They said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, an all of them are zealous for the Torah". (Acts 21:20)

The Greek word used for thousands is translated in other places as many thousands or ten thousand. In either case, there was a very large number of Jews who were believers and all of them were zealous for the Torah, meaning that they diligently kept the Torah and would not compromise it. Some of these believers were also Pharisees.

Paul to the Jews

Paul was a devout follower of the Torah, he was a Pharisee of Pharisees (Acts 23:6). He obeyed the Torah and he taught the Torah, this is contrary to what is often taught in the "churches". Never did Paul ever imply that one did not need to obey the Torah. Let us first examine the passages that show that he did keep the Torah.

[The believing Jews] have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. (Acts 21:21-24)

There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is not truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the Torah.

Reports came to the believing Jews that Paul was teaching the Jews to turn away from Moses, meaning that they do not need to keep the Torah. This idea came from Paul's unique ministry to the Gentiles. The believing Jews requested Paul to join the four men who were taking a vow (Nazarite vow as outlined in Numbers 6:13,14). This would show that he is still obedient to the Torah proving that the reports were false accusations. We see in verse 26 that Paul agrees to this request. Throughout Paul's writings, to both the Jews and the Gentiles, he always upholds the Torah.

I believe everything that agrees with the Torah and that is written in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)

I have done nothing wrong against the Torah of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar. (Acts 25:8)

Do you not know, brothers - for I am speaking to men who know the Torah - that the Torah has authority over a man only as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)

So then, the Torah is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7:12)

I delight in God's Torah... I myself in my mind am a slave to God's Torah. (Romans 7:22,25)

When Paul was preaching to the Jewish Bereans in Acts 17:11 they examined the scriptures (Torah and the Prophets) daily to ensure that Paul was teaching the truth, and they were considered of noble Character because of this practice. If Paul had been teaching anything different than the Torah which is taught in the Scriptures, they would have seen this and exposed his untruthful teachings.

Paul to the Gentiles

Clearly the believing Jews kept the Torah, including Paul. But did the Jews or Paul ever teach the Gentiles that they did not need to follow the Torah? In Paul's letters to the Gentiles he confirmed the validity of the Torah for the Gentiles in Rome and Corinth and he never taught against it.

Do we, then, nullify [destroy, abolish] the Torah by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold [stand on, establish] the Torah. (Romans 3:31)

For everything that was written in the past [The Torah and the Prophets] was written to teach us. (Romans 15:4)

In these passages above, Paul is teaching the believers in Rome that the Torah was written for them to stand on and learn from.

It is written in the Torah of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, Doesn't he! Yes, this was written for us. (1 Corinthians 9:9)

In this passage, Paul has taken one of the commands from the Torah and is teaching to the Gentile believers in Corinth the intent of this command to learn how to apply it in their lives. This shows the relevancy of the Torah in their own walk as Gentile believers.

Although Paul always taught the Torah to the Gentiles, he did teach them a freedom within the Torah through Christ. It was this freedom in the Torah that brought about the accusations that Paul was teaching against the Torah. This freedom in the Torah will also be discussed in a later chapter.

 

Is the New Covenant Without A Torah?

Does the New Covenant ever teach that the commands or regulations found in the First Covenant Torah do not need to be kept in the New Testament? Clearly the answer is no. There are passages that are often used to imply this concept, but if carefully examined with an open mind and heart we will see that this is not the case.

Before we go any further there is one thing that needs to be understood about the epistles. Depending on who and what problem Paul was addressing will depend on what type of language he uses. One of the heresies that came into the Assembly in the first century was that keeping the Torah alone saved the believers. When Paul wrote to these assemblies (churches) he used words and phrases that appear "anti-Torah" but are in fact "anti-salvation through Torah". The Galatians were one of these churches, which were teaching this heresy. Paul puts down their observance of Torah and lifts up Yeshua sacrifice as the only means for salvation. Contrasting the book of Galatians is James letter, which was directed to a people who believed that the Torah was not necessary. In the case of the book of James, the keeping of Torah is stressed. I would like to point out that no where in the New Covenant does any writer ever say the Torah is taken away. Keeping this in mind let us examine three passages used by the church to support the concept that the Torah does not need to be kept.

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under Torah, but under grace. (Romans 6:14-15)

Under the old covenant, Israel which included Yeshua, were under the law as it says in Galatians 4:4-5; "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under Torah, to redeem those under Torah, that we might receive the full rights of sons". Israel was under Torah because of the curses of the Torah that would come upon Israel for disobedience. Yeshua came under Torah, and by keeping the Torah he did not have the curse of the Torah over him. But he took on the curse of the Torah for us.

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Torah by becoming a curse for us, for it is written; 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree'" (Galatians 4:13)

This passage shows us that we are free from the curses of the Torah, which were hanging over us, but have salvation by the grace of God apart from the Torah.

All who rely on observing the Torah are under a curse (Galatians 3:10)

The Judaizers who were trying to teach the Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised were also teaching that keeping the Torah could only save you. Although the New Covenant, especially Paul, teaches that we need to be obedient to the Torah, he is continually reminding the believers that the Torah cannot save us, because if we are disobedient to the Torah only one time, the curse of death is on us (Romans 7:9-11). Therefore it is only through Christ that we can be saved, apart from the Torah. Does this mean that the Torah is removed, certainly not, for as we will see at the end of this chapter, the purposes of the Torah are still to teach and instruct us in how to conduct our lives as God's people.

Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Torah. You who are trying to be justified by Torah have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:3)

First, does this passage say that Torah does not need to be kept? No. Second, let us remember that the sign of the first covenant was circumcision. Those who chose to join in the covenant between God and Israel were required to be circumcised. The Jews who were requiring the Gentiles to be circumcised were requiring them to take on the sign of the first covenant and with it comes the requirement to keep the whole Torah to show their obedience to God. The new covenant, being different does not require circumcision as the sign. Also under the new covenant, we are given freedom in the keeping of the Torah since the curse has been removed.

The Jews who are requiring circumcision are reverting back to the first covenant with its curses and are not excepting the grace that God has provided in the new covenant.

If we read the next verse, we will see Paul's purpose for this statement, "You who are trying to be justified by the Torah have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal 5:4). The Judaizers are trying to teach a salvation by works (Torah), which is impossible. Salvation can only come from Christ.

 

The Torah in the New Covenant

One of the concepts that Yeshua was teaching was that the "Spirit" (intent) of the Torah is more important than the "letter" of the Torah. For example, the Torah says that you will not reap the edges of your fields, this is for the poor (Lev 19:9). But if I do not have a field, does this command apply to me? Yes, the spirit of the command is to feed the poor and I can do that with canned goods in my cupboard. By feeding the poor with these cans, I am keeping the Spirit of the Torah. Now that we understand the "spirit" of the Torah, do I still have to do the "letter" of the Torah? Of course, if it is possible and right to do so. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:21; "I am not free from God's Torah", If I did own a field, I could not glean the edges of it, but leave it for the poor. At the beginning of this chapter we recognized that Christians are required to keep Torah, such as in the 10 Commandments. But should we limit it to just this list of commands? Let us examine some of the First Covenant commands found in the Torah and see if they are taught in the New Covenant. Leviticus chapter 19 gives a list of various commands, let us compare these with the New Testament.

 

Torah in the First Covenant

 

Torah in the New Covenant

 

Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy (2)

 

Be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15,16)

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Each of you must respect his mother mother and father (3)

 

Honor your father and mother (Eph 6:2)

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Observe my Sabbaths (3)

 

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. (Heb 4:9)

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Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal (4)

 

Keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21)

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When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the LORD... If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. Whoever eats it will be held responsible because he has desecrated what is holy to the LORD, that person must be cut off from his people. (5-8)

 

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.... For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you have fallen asleep. (1 Cor 11:27-30)

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When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. (9-10)

 

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor. (Gal 2:10)

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Do not steal (11)

 

Do not steal (Rom 13:9)

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Do not lie (11)

 

Do not lie to each other (Col 3:9)

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Do not deceive one another (11)

 

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor. (Eph 4:25)

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Do not swear falsely (12)

 

Let your "Yes" be "Yes" and your "No", "No". (Mat 5:37)

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Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. (13)

 

Do not defraud (Mark 10:19)

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Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. (13)

 

The worker deserves his wages (1 Tim 5:18)

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Do not curse the deaf (14)

 

Bless and do not curse (Rom 12:14)

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Do not put a stumbling block in front of the blind (14)

 

Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. (Rom 14:13)

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Do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (15)

 

If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the Torah as Torah breakers. (James 8:9)

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Do not go about spreading slander among your people. (16)

 

Slander no one (Titus 3:2)

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Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. (16)

 

Love does no harm to its neighbor. (Rom 13:10)

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Do not hate your brother in your heart. (17)

 

Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. (Mat 5:22)

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Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt (17)

 

Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning (1Tim 5:20)

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Do not seek revenge (18)

 

Do not take revenge (Rom12:19)

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Love your neighbor as yourself (18)

 

Love your neighbor as yourself (Mat 5:43)

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Keep my decrees (19)

 

Obey my command (John 14:15)

 

Commands Not Found In the New Covenant

There are many different church denominations today and there are many differences of opinions on doctrines throughout all of them. The churches debate predestination vs. Free will, infant baptism vs. Adult baptism, the real presence vs. symbolic presence of Christ's body and blood in communion, and the list goes on. But there is one doctrine that every denomination agrees on, that is tithing. Why? Nowhere in the New Covenant are we told to give tithes. The only place in the Bible, which commands the giving of tithes, is in the Torah.

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30)

I agree that believers need to tithe, but I do not do it because my church tells me, but because God, through his Torah, tells me to do it.

Just because tithing is not found in the New Covenant, does it mean that we do not need to obey it? At the beginning of this chapter, I mentioned that the church agrees that some of the Torah is valid today, but the question was which parts? Most would say, only those commands that are found in the New Covenant, but as we have just read this is not necessarily the case. It appears that the church and individuals pick and choose which commands are required to be kept based on which ones best fit with there needs and desires. This can cause a great deal of problems, and it has. The only answer can be that God decided along time ago what commands he wanted his people to keep, and this has never changed. God gave his Eternal Torah to his people, to be kept eternally by his people.

There are other commands found in the Torah that are not mentioned in the New Covenant which no believer would question their validity for today. One of them is the third of the 10 commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. (Exodus 20:7)

Why do we agree that this command is valid today? Most would say that this is one of the 10 commandments and those are for all time. What about the fourth commandment to keep the seventh day holy? If the church says that we do not need to keep the seventh day holy then the 10 commandments are not for all time. The truth is that the 10 commandments and the Torah are for God's people throughout all time. The next chapter will discuss the seventh day Sabbath.

 

The Purpose of the Torah

In the first part of the book, we looked at the six reasons God gave Israel the Torah. They were,

  • Government Regulations
  • To make the nation of Israel holy
  • To set boundaries
  • To show obedience
  • To show sin
  • To show love to God
  • To promote a healthy lifestyle

Do these reasons remain in the New Covenant? Do we still need the Torah? Let us take a look at each of these and see what the New Testamentary teaches us.

Government Regulations

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15)

God is still our King, and as pointed out earlier, a king is no king without his law and our King still requires our obedience to his Eternal Torah

To make holy

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified [set apart] in Christ Yeshua and called to be holy. (1 Corinthians 1:2)

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers, For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?...Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14,17)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. (Romans 12:2)

We are called to be different than the world, set apart and holy. Only by following God's Torah is this possible.

To set boundaries

Many churches today that do not teach the Torah or the commands of God have become much like the world around them. They have no boundaries. They permit many of the sins of the world in the church. Even the divorce rate and the unwed pregnancy rate are mere reflections of this world. The churches need to learn that God has set his boundaries and we are not to cross them.

To show obedience

The man who looks intently into the perfect Torah that gives freedom, and continue to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23)

One, who truly loves God, will desire to obey him.

To show sin

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the Torah; rather, through the Torah we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20)

Paul is not referring to an old Torah, which is no longer valid, but a present Torah, which makes us aware of sin. Some people have even held the idea that it is sinful to keep the Torah, but Paul deals with this issue also,

Is the Torah sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the Torah. (Romans 7:7)

In our attempts to obey the Torah, we recognize the fact that we cannot keep it perfectly, just as Israel saw in the First Covenant. We then recognize the sin in our lives and realize that we cannot come to God on our own, but need a Savior to save us from our sins.

So the Torah was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)

To show our love to God

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

This was already discussed, but it is an important part of the Torah, without it, we would have no way of showing God how much we love him. To simply say, "I love God", means nothing unless it is supported with action. The Bible tells us that this action is to do his Torah.

To promote a healthy lifestyle

Israel escaped many of the diseases and epidemics that the other nations suffered because of their obedience to the commands of God. Many of the Torah commands deal with a clean and healthy lifestyle, which are considered normal practices today by the majority of the world. Many third world countries today would eliminate many of the diseases and pestilence if they would turn to these commands of the Torah. Just the simple act of washing the hands which is found many times in the Torah, will remove bacteria and viruses, preventing them from entering the body when eating.

To make the Jews jealous

There is one additional purpose of the Torah for the believers in the new covenant.

Again I ask: Did [Israel] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. (Romans 11:11)

The word envious can be translated jealous. Today there are many Jews who do not believe in the Messiah Yeshua and keep the Torah because they recognize that they are required to, not out of a hearts desire to follow God but as a religious obligation. When Gentiles begin to keep the Torah out of a love for God and a desire to follow him and his Torah, the Jews will become jealous and ask, "Why are these Gentiles keeping our Torah better than us and with a desire that we do not have?" They will begin to ask why and how the Gentiles do this and they will have the opportunity to show them that is through the Messiah Yeshua.

 

Chapter Summary

  • The Torah continued as the way of life for Israel during the New Testament period.
  • The Torah is everlasting and the New Covenant continues to refer to the Torah in the present and not in the past.
  • The means by which we show our love to God is by obeying his commands.
  • Keeping the Torah is not legalism, but rather how and why one keeps the Torah can be legalism.
  • Faith and Works, Grace and Torah, are inseparable, you cannot have one without the other.
  • The definitions of Righteousness and wickedness must come from the First Covenant, because that is where the New Covenant writer received their definition. Righteousness still means keeping Torah and wickedness still means not keeping Torah.
  • Yeshua, Peter and Paul all kept Torah.
  • Much of the Torah commands can be found in the New Covenant.
  • Some of the Torah commands cannot be found in the New Covenant, but this does not mean that they do not need to be kept. Tithing is one example of a command of the Torah not found in the New Covenant, but is recognized as a valid command for today.
  • The purposes of the Torah as seen in the First Covenant, remain in the New Covenant.
  • One new purpose of the Torah is to make the Jews jealous and bring them to the Messiah.

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Jeff A. Benner

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