Is Torah for Today?
Q. My boss and I have been having some discussions ... we have been discussing … the Messianic movement and why they are continuing in Torah observance. ... We discussed the fact that Jesus and His disciples were Jewish and continued in their Jewishness even after accepting Him as Messiah, and that a natural-born Jew should continue in their Jewishness — which I don't think he agreed at all. Acts 21:15-25, I believe, shows that the Jews are to remain Torah-observant Jews, and that Paul was a Torah-observant Jew, and [that he did] not tell fellow Jews to turn away from Torah. What was the other verse where it talks about the same rules for Gentiles but it adds “because the Torah is taught every Shabbat”? ... He keeps going back to people believing works gets them to heaven; I told him that is not what being a Torah observant Messianic is about.
A. The reason that
Messianic Jews continue in Torah observance is that
the two primary divisions of Systematic Theology known as Theology Proper
(the Doctrine of
Apostolic Writings teach, without any fear of contradiction, that Yeshua
all appearances of
Having determined logically that all appearances of
1. The One Who called Himself “I AM” — the One Who appeared to Moshe (Moses) on Mt. Sinai — the “I AM” who wrote the Torah in stone with His own finger and gave it to Moshe, was Yeshua.
2. The Torah, therefore, is the written record of “the commandments” (mitzvot) of Yeshua HaMashiach.
3. Yeshua said, “If you love Me, keep My mitzvot (commandments)” (John 14:15).
4. Since Yeshua’s mitzvot were given to Moshe at Sinai and recorded as the Torah, then Yeshua instructed us to keep the Torah if we love Him.
Yeshua also said:
If the above line of reasoning is correct, then the Torah consists of the words of Yeshua, about which He said:
Since Yeshua used the phrase “My words” to indicate his teaching (the Hebrew word for teaching or instruction is torah), then we can replace the phrase “My words” with “My Torah” in all of the above quotations, and still be accurate both logically and theologically.
I agree with your interpretation of Acts 21:15-21.
A Jew who is born a Jew is always a Jew, regardless of what he/she believes or does not believe. A Jew doesn't become a Gentile (non-Jew) by embracing Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah any more than a Chinese person who embraces Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah becomes an Anglo-Saxon (non-Chinese). [Look how many Irish-Americans celebrate St. Patrick's Day! I dare you to tell an Irish-American that he/she is no longer Irish!] But that brings us to the sticky question of who is to be Torah observant.
At the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) it was decided that Gentiles who embraced the Jewish Messiah were not required to be circumcised, nor were they required to convert to Judaism in order to be “saved” — but they could [and I believe they were expected to] learn how to follow Torah over time as they participated in the Holy Community, the Synagogue, and the “teaching of Moshe” on every Shabbat. So the question is not whether or not Messianic Jews are required to continue observing Torah (or are exempted from observing Torah), but whether or not all believers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) are obligated to observe Torah (Biblical Torah, not Rabbinic Torah).
Is obedience a condition of salvation? No. Disobedience
of any kind is sin, which can be forgiven by
Do we then obey the Torah of
One additional thought on the subject: we are to be His disciples (talmidim).
The Hebrew word that Yeshua used in this context was “talmidim,” or talmid in the singular form. A talmid, or disciple, is not a person who wishes to know that the teacher knows. Rather, a true talmid is a person who wants to be what the teacher is, and to do what the teacher does. Yeshua was obedient to Torah every moment of His life, not because He had to be, but because He chose to be. As talmidim of Yeshua, we should strive to live our lives the way he lived His life, not because we have to, but because we choose to — because that should be the desire of our hearts.
Do modern Messianic Jews “keep the law” as spelled out in the Torah?
Q. I’ve been trying to learn the underlying culture of Christianity. I realized just recently how much of my understanding of scripture was flawed because of my lack of understanding about Jewish (Hebrew?) heritage.
I’d be grateful for any links or information like “Messianic Judaism for dummies” or something along those lines.
One question for now...and I realize that it’s probably a big one so just an overview is fine: Do modern Messianic Jews “keep the law” as spelled out in the Torah?
I had seen a post that kind of alluded to that and I wondered.
Related to that, I was under the impression that Messiah was the final sacrifice necessary as described in Hebrews. (You know; how it contrast the year-after-year sacrifices of the priests with Jesus once-for-all sacrifice.)
I’m just trying to make sense of it and tie up loose threads in my mind...
A. To answer your question, I don’t know of a website that specifically offers “Messianic Judaism for Dummies” but I try to keep some basic information posted on my website at FamilyBible.org. I will be retiring from my secular job the end of June  and plan to spend a lot more time working my website and this eGroup after that. (If you do find a “Dummies”-level website, I would certainly appreciate hearing about it.)
You asked an extremely broad question: “Do modern Messianic Jews ‘keep the law’ as spelled out in the Torah?” That question has an both an extremely narrow answer and an extremely broad answer.
The “narrow” answer is “Yes, most do to the best of their ability.” But that answer requires a lot of terms to be defined:
There is no established “central authority” for Messianic Judaism, so there is nothing that could be categorized as a “general Messianic Jewish theology” ... there are probably at least as many different opinions as there are teachers within the Messianic Movement.
For those who come to faith in Messiah from Orthodox Judaism, I would assume that there is a greater tendency to follow Rabbinical interpretation of Torah and Talmud than there is for those who come to Messianic Judaism from other traditions.
For those who come to faith in Messiah from Conservative, Reform, or Reconstruction Judaism, I would assume that there is a tendency to continue in most of their own practices and traditions.
Among Gentile Believers who are involved with the Messianic Jewish movement, the spectrum of involvement is extremely wide, and range from those who attend Messianic services from time to time out of mere curiosity to those who seek a “formal conversion” to Judaism.
Among the leadership of the two largest American Messianic groups, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, there has been considerable discussion of the pros and cons of establishing any kind of formal “conversion” process for those who would desire it.
One of the more prominent leaders of the MJAA is of the opinion that ethnic Jewish members of Messianic congregations should keep the entire Torah as much as possible, and should also follow the Rabbinic traditions as long as they do not contradict the written Torah (which they often do). He has stated (in my personal hearing) that he feels Gentile believers in Messiah, whether members of Messianic Jewish congregations or not, are subject only to the Noahic Commandments:
These commandments, referred to
as the Noahic or Noahide commandments, are inferred from Genesis Ch. 9,
and are as follows: 1) to establish courts of justice; 2) not to commit
blasphemy; 3) not to commit idolatry; 4) not to commit incest and
adultery; 5) not to commit bloodshed; 6) not to commit robbery; and 7) not
to eat flesh cut from a living animal. These commandments are fairly
simple and straightforward, and most of them are recognized by most of the
world as sound moral principles.
My own personal opinion is that “it is the privilege of
Believers in Mashiach to rejoice in the assurance of their salvation and
their freedom from ‘bondage’ to Torah through the testimony of
By the term “legalism” I mean the futile effort to earn God’s favor by “being good” or by “doing good.”
If I were to offer a “general rule,” I would have to say that probably the majority of Messianic congregations take the position that all believers in the Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile, although “saved by Grace through Faith plus nothing else” have a responsibility to do their best to live by God’s standard of righteousness, to be a light to the world as Messiah commanded. This would include observing all of God’s appointed Feasts and Festivals, including the seventh-day Sabbath (Fourth Commandment), and abstaining from “forbidden” foods (the most predominant of which would be pork and shellfish).
I would also think that the majority of Gentile members of Messianic congregations take the position that they consider themselves blessed and fortunate to have been “grafted in” to Israel by Grace through faith, and are privileged to partake in the blessings, the covenants, the Torah, the people, the land, and the Messiah of Israel.
Of course, with no Temple and no Priesthood, it is not possible to observe the provisions of Torah that are specific to those two institutions, just as it is not possible to observe the commandments pertaining to living in the Land of Israel for those of us who do not live there.
You are absolutely correct in your understanding that the sacrifice of Messiah was the final, ultimate, and only efficacious sacrifice for the sins of the people. However, there are a number of respected Bible scholars (mostly Dispensationalists, however) who believe that there will be “memorial” sacrifices performed as part of worship in the Millennial Temple (I haven’t yet made up my own mind on this particular issue).
I hope you find these few comments helpful.
This page was last revised at 06:22 AM on Friday, 22 February 2013
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C., section 107, some material on this web site is provided without permission from the copyright owner, only for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research under the "fair use" provisions of federal copyright laws. These materials may not be distributed further, except for "fair use" non-profit educational purposes, without permission of the copyright owner.
*Ari Levitt is the shem kodesh of Messianic Pastor Dr. Rickard (Ari) Levitt-Sawyer. As the free expression of my religious beliefs, the content of this website is protected under the provisions of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Except where otherwise specifically indicated, the opinions expressed on this website are my own, are sometimes highly speculative in nature and subject to differing interpretations, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of any other organization or individual. If you disagree with my opinions, please CLICK HERE before contacting me.