What is the purpose of the Torah?
Did Jesus follow the Torah? Did he change it?
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
Doesn’t this speak of a change in emphasis, from the Torah of Moses that teaches us of the tragic consequences of sin, to the Torah of the heart, the Torah of the spirit of life in Messiah Jesus?
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Paul reminds us how the Torah of the heart, as taught by Jesus, fulfils that taught by Moses, by reminding us of how love has to be the motivation behind all that we do.
For a fuller explanation of the continued relevance of the Torah today, may I direct you towards my book, God’s Tapestry. But to summarise, using the principles we have learned so far, let’s consider the Torah. Its form is as the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. But its function has subtly changed, from the 613 laws and teachings at the time of Moses, that forged the Hebrews into a holy Kingdom of Priests, by explaining the standards of behaviour that God had set for them. The new function, for the Body of Christ, Jew and Gentile, is still to provide a framework of living, the Torah of Jesus, but to do so in the light of the new deal brought about by the conditions of the New Covenant, regarding Jesus’ atonement for us on the cross.
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:21-25)
And what of the Old Testament as a whole? We need to realise that the Hebrew Scriptures may have these thirty nine divisions (books), each with their unique style and emphasis, but it is important that we sense the unity that connects them, the narrative of the Holy Spirit, guiding us into all truth. I think that if there is one truth that for me encapsulates the central message of the Hebrew Scriptures, it is this: God prefers a people who sincerely obey Him to a people who insincerely worship Him.
Now is this heresy I preach? You might argue that we are surely created to worship Him and just as surely, when all is wrapped up, we will join the Heavenly Host in Revelation 4:8:
“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, all around and within they were full of eyes, and they do not have rest day and night saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, Who was and Who is and Who is coming.”
Yet - and this is a personal opinion - surely He is more pleased with those servant-hearts cheerfully making the tea in the small kitchen than with some in the sanctuary, who are stretching out their hands and bellowing worship songs, but are mostly thinking about that nice cup of tea waiting for them at the break. If I am honest, there have been many times when “worship time” has conflicted with my state of mind. I am not always ready to sing songs, or smile and act like I’m connecting with God. Perhaps we should develop a Church culture where some of us can sometimes opt out from compulsory “praise & worship” and, instead, help with the tea making, or whatever task needs doing?
“And Samuel said, has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to listen is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp