Is Obedience to Torah for Today?

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See also Torah-Keeping in Messianic Judaism

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 those in the Messianic Movement continue in Torah observance is that God requires it. The only portions of the Torah that have been temporarily “set aside” are those which deal with the ceremonial aspects of temple worship and those that require residence in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) under a theocratic government ... impossible to follow now because there is no Temple; but in the future Kingdom under Yeshua’s theocratic government ...? That is an area wide open to speculation. For me, this is the simplest line of reasoning to support Torah observance:

 1. When the two primary divisions of Systematic Theology known as Theology Proper (the Doctrine of God) and Christology (the Doctrine of Christ, the Messiah) are correctly understood, the conclusion is reached that God the Father has never appeared to man at any time, and that all appearances of God to man at any time, whether recorded in the Apostolic Writings (so-called “New Testament”) or the Tanakh (so-called “Old Testament”), are the Person of God the Son (also known as Theophanies or Christophanies).

 2. The Apostolic Writings teach, without any fear of contradiction, that Yeshua is God the Son.

 3. Therefore, all appearances of God to man at any time are in fact appearances of Yeshua, whether before or after His incarnation (physical birth).

Having determined logically that all appearances of God in the Bible are appearances of Yeshua, we now turn to the Torah.

 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) and “If you keep my commands (mitzvot), you will stay in my love — just as I have kept my Father’s commands (mitzvot) and stay in his love.” (John 15:10).

 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, just as He kept the Torah and is loved by the Father.

Yeshua also said:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law (Torah) or the Prophets (Neviim); I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law [the Torah] until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law (Torah) to fail.” (Luke 16:17)  

If the above line of reasoning is correct, then the Torah consists of the words of Yeshua, about which He said:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35)

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:” (Luke 6:47)

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Luke 21:33)

“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’”  (Luke 24:44)

“But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:47)

“He 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.” (John 14:24)

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

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: Jews who come into a relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach are to remain Torah-observant Jews; Rav Sha'ul (Paul) lived and died a Torah-observant Jew, as did all of those who Jews who followed Yeshua during the first and second centuries; and Rav Sha'ul never instructed fellow Jews to turn away from Torah.

The word “Jew” applies not only to religious preference; it also denotes an ethnicity. Any physical descendant of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya'akov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is born ethnically (biologically) as a Jew, but may abandon the religious practices of Judaism. A person who is born a Jew is always ethnically a Jew, regardless of what he/she believes or does not believe, or what he/she does or does not practice. 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 Caucasian (non-Chinese). 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. [GO HERE for more information about the Jerusalem Council.] So the question is not whether or not Messianic Jews are required to continue observing Torah (or are exempted from observing Torah). The question is rather whether or not all believers (both Jewish and non-Jewish) are obligated to observe Torah (Biblical Torah, not Rabbinic Torah).

 1. The Torah is the Word of God.

 2. All Believers are obligated to believe, observe, and obey the Word of God.

 3. Therefore: All Believers are obligated to observe and follow the Torah of God.

Is obedience to Torah a condition of salvation? No. Disobedience to Torah of any kind or to any degree is sin (1 John 3:4)[NOTE], which can be forgiven (Matt. 12:31) by God’s grace!

8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. [Most Gentile Christians stop reading at the end of verse 9.] 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them [that is, walk in—perform—the good works, obey the Torah]. (Eph. 2:8-10)

Do we then obey the Torah of God in order to be saved? No! Rather, we obey the Torah of God because we have been saved. When we enter into a relationship with Messiah, we are created as a “new creature“ (2 Cor. 5:17) — a saint. The word “saint” is derived from the word “sanctified,” which means to be set apart for a specific purpose. (I have a special pan that I have sanctified for cooking only eggs; nothing else gets cooked in it for any reason.) Eph. 2:10 (above) says that we are created in Yeshua HaMashiach as a “saint” and set aside for the specific purpose of walking in the good works of Torah! We obey His mitzvot [instruction, commandments, or Torah] because He asked us to, because He created us and sanctified us for that specific purpose, and because we love Him.

One additional thought on the subject: we are to be His disciples (talmidim).

“Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim [disciples], immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, …” (Matt. 28:19)

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.

Click here for more information on the phrase “because the Torah is taught every Shabbat.”

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NOTE:

How can we best understand 1 John 3:4? By simply reading it for what it actually says, not for what we want it to say.

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness [Torah-less-ness; without Torah] ; and sin is lawlessness. (NAS)

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law [Torah]: for sin is the transgression of the law [Torah]. (KJV)

The word translated as “lawlessness” in most modern English versions is the Greek word anomia (anomia). Anomia is a compound word made from two Greek words: a (without) and nomia (law) and means contempt for and/or violation of the law. Nomia is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word hrwt (Torah), and is consistently used in the Septuagint to translate the word Torah. The Septuagint (or LXX) is the Greek translation of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) that was begun in the third century BCE and completed approximately 132 BCE, and the quotations from the Tanakh that appear in the Greek versions of the Apostolic Scriptures are almost all taken from the LXX. So we can easily see that the literal meaning of anomia is “without Torah” and the actual intention of what the Shliach Yohannan (the Apostle John) wrote is accurately rendered in the Complete Jewish Bible:

Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah. (CJB)

The very definition of “sin,” according to 1 John 3:4, is “violating Torah.” Does God then simply turn His head and look the other way when a Christian says that “Jesus nailed the Law to His cross”? That teaching simply does not appear anywhere in Scripture, and is just plain heresy.

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