What is the purpose of the Torah?
Are we called to do good works?
It’s this word, “works”. What a strange word. I had never heard it before I became a Christian and there seems to be so many negative connotations attached to it that surely it must be a bad thing? A bad thing … really? Are we not called to do good works, as Paul seems to be saying in the quote, or do we just sit around wallowing in the warm glow of God’s future promises to us? I had something to say about this in my book, God’s Tapestry.
“Yet many in the Church follow the thinking of antinomianism, that we are totally under grace and not law, a consequence of the teaching of Covenant Theology and the idea that Christ freed us from any responsibility for our behaviour. This is a disconnect, brought about through the toxic consequence of the pagan understandings of Platonism that has infected the Church for centuries. It’s the dualism that encourages an unconscious separation between our beliefs and our behaviour. Beliefs and doctrines come from our Greek nature, but allowing our faith to determine our actions is thoroughly Hebraic and we will allow the apostle James to remind us.” (p. 159)
And you must steadily be doers of the Word and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves. Because if someone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, this one is like a man when he observes his own natural face in a mirror: for he observed himself then went away, and immediately forgot what manner of person he was. But the one who looked into the perfect Torah the one of freedom, and continues to do so, not being a forgetful hearer but being a doer of work, he will be blessed, happy in what he does. (James 1:22-25)
“For as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26)
That’s all very well but we still need to know exactly what “works” James is referring to. Well the answer is quite simple, though not so for the majority of the Church that has grown up hating what I’m about to tell you. The fact is that it is Torah, the teaching/laws that we still need to follow with our deeds, or works. Not the 613 laws of Moses and the Israelites in the desert 3,500 years ago, but the Torah approved and taught by Jesus, just two thousand years ago. There’s a full list of these, as well as the reasoning behind the whole “Torah thing” in God’s Tapestry too.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel, in God in Search of Man, nicely ties everything together with this gem:
“Knowledge of God is knowledge of living with God. Israel’s religious existence consists of three inner attitudes: engagement to the living God to whom we are accountable; engagement to Torah where His voice is audible; and engagement to His concern as expressed in mitzvot (commandments).”
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp