Did Jesus follow the Torah? Did he change it?
What is the purpose of the Torah?
Now to the Bible itself. Rabbi Abraham Heschel says:
“The Torah is primarily divine ways rather than divine laws. Moses prayed: “Let me know Thy ways” (Exodus 33: 13). All that God asks of man was summarized: “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee … but to walk in all His ways” (Deuteronomy 10: 12).”
One thing that the Western Church has got into a complete muddle about is the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures and, in particular, the Torah, the first five books. Yet, in Judaism, the Torah is revered almost to an idolatrous level. For orthodox Jews it is the be-all-and-end-all and it is probably for that very same reason that it is neglected, misunderstood, even feared by the institutional Church.
Yet Jesus didn’t come to get rid of the Torah:
“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. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
But the purpose of the Torah for 21st Century Christians is different from that for the Jews in biblical times. As Paul explained most eloquently in Romans 7:7-12, the Torah was their tutor, highlighting what is needed for righteousness and, as a consequence, demonstrating their inherited sinful nature.
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
For us, the purpose of the Torah is simply to provide a framework for living. It is not going to get you saved but, once saved, it is going to provide a guide for a Christian, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, to live a life worthy of the incredible free gift of salvation bestowed on him/her.
The Torah may still be valid, but it is not compulsory. It is there as our guidance, to help us in our walk of faith. As it is the Torah of our heart, it really is a matter for prayer and specific leading and the worst thing you could do is insist that you have it right and everyone else is wrong. The same goes for the Sabbath and the biblical feasts. You go with your conscience and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. We are all different, with different backgrounds, circumstances and missions. God will use us all in different ways and will equip us all accordingly.
So we should now realise that the Torah has changed from the works-based Torah of Moses to the Torah of the heart, as taught by Jesus, where the only entry requirement for acceptance is faith. But this faith in the work of Jesus does not do away with the Torah, it simply frees it so that it can work alongside the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of the individual believer, through showing him (and her) the way of acceptable living.
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp