Subscribe to American Torah to be eligible for my next book giveaway and to follow along as I draw out the connections that are often missed in today's church teachings by clicking
→→HERE!←←

(*You must have a mailing address in the USA or Texas to be eligible for the book giveaway.)

A Dialogue on the Continuity of the Law

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2. Should Christians keep the Torah?

The conversation below took place in an online forum more than ten years ago. I’m reproducing it here because that forum no longer exists, and I think the content is worth preserving.

[Original post] Jay Carper:

It seems to me that an honest reading of Scripture without antinomian prejudice can only lead to the conclusion that God’s Law has not been set aside, abrogated, annulled, or whatever synonym for canceled you might prefer.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

1 Peter 2:21-22 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.

Matthew 5:17-19 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (19) Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Translation:

1) The Law of Moses says that no one may change the Law.
2) John said that anyone who violates the Law has sinned.
3) Peter said that Jesus never sinned.
4) Jesus said that he didn’t come to remove even a single ink mark from the Law and that anyone who does will be called the least in heaven.
5) If Jesus came to change the Law in even the smallest way, then he is a liar and a sinner, and he cannot be the Messiah.

I have never heard anything resembling a convincing counter argument. If you’ve got one, I’d love to hear it.

Jair:

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway.
1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law.

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levies, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law.

Mark Call:

No offense, Jair, but I’m solidly with Jay, and Yeshua, on this one.

Had He violated His own Written Word, in such places as Deut. 4:2 and 12:32, then He would have been a liar (including not only such references as Matt. 5, but many others, like John 5:47) and could not have been HaMashiach.

(This is, in fact, a very good reason that so many Torah-knowledgeable Jews reject a “Jesus” who supposedly “did away with” it. Many are thus shocked when they hear what “Yeshua the netzir” — a word they already know — actually said!)

But I’ve always considered any argument that relies on a Greek understanding which contradicts not only the Hebrew word, but the Torah itself, to be EXTREMELY suspect. “Nomos” is no better a rendering of the word “torah” than the English word “law” is, and it is very likely that many of the texts in the Brit Hadasha or “new” testament are translations of things originally penned in Hebrew as well.

(Speaking for myself, I will add that such “contradictions” were what originally led me to an agnostic rejection of the Bible as “contradictory”; what else could Mal. 3:6 mean by saying “I change NOT”? It was Greek “gods” who were capricious and untrustworthy, not YHVH Elohim.)

There are some things that CANNOT be done, Jair – and I see no problem with that, since one of the key principles of Torah understanding is discernment. Since I am not a king, or a wife, some things simply don’t apply to me. Same thing goes for certain sacrifices. (BTW, most of the “law done away” with crowd tend to miss a very important fact about “sacrifices” in general, and the Perfect Lamb in particular:
there IS no sacrifice in Torah for “rebellion”! The ramifications are profound…since He knew that “from the Beginning”.)

But good job, Jay; that’s about as good of a one-page summary as I’ve seen.

Jair:

It doesn’t rely on Greek, that’s just a side note, the point is that 1 John 3:4 does not say Law of Moses, there is nothing that says sin is specifically a violation of Mosaic law, just that it is a transgression of law in general.

But note that I never said Jesus changed or did away with Mosaic law either, insofar that that is Jays point point 4 stands on its own and the rest is immaterial.

Much more important than that is the idea that sin is a specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. God doesn’t change, but people do. The Law of Moses and its promises stood binding until all twelve tribes fell and their governments where wiped out due to constantly breaking their end of the deal.

You see that some things don’t apply because of gender, rank, heritage, or occupation. Why is it then a problem that things don’t apply because you are not a person with whom the deal was made? God made sure pretending to follow the Law of Moses as if it applied to you would be hollow by destroying things that where needed to follow it.

Part of discernment is knowing who you are and not applying everything the Bible says to yourself, that’s what the name it and claim it crowd do with anything they see as being good.

Jay Carper:

I haven’t had time to compose a response to your initial comment, Jair, so forgive me for skipping ahead…

For several years (5 or 6?) after realizing that the Torah still applied to the Jews, I said pretty much what your saying: The Law is still in effect, but what does that have to do with me?

Jeremiah 31:31-37 and the writings of Paul changed my mind. The New Covenant is the great hope of the gentiles. It is our way to adoption as sons of God. However, God told Jeremiah that he would make the New Covenant only with the houses of Judah and Israel: no gentiles allowed! Paul, relying on prophecies about “a people who are not a people” and “dry twigs” wrote that the gentile converts are grafted in to the tree of Israel. In the Messiah there is no Jew or Gentile–so far as salvation or entrance to the New Covenant is concerned–because they are all on an equal footing as citizens of Israel.

When a person becomes a citizen of a new nation, he adopts that nation’s laws. He cannot take his old nation’s laws with him and expect his conduct to be excused by the new government.

If the Torah still stands for Jews, then it still stands for all believers.

Mark Call:

I like Jay’s explanation, Jair, but would add another observation.

I’m not particularly fond of the limitation implied by the very terminology, “Law of Moses”, and think it is misleading. (In part, but not only, because of the occasional use of the term ‘torah’ to refer to the Pentateuch. Depending on context, “torah” can mean more.)

“Torah” literally is ‘teaching and instruction’. Yeshua used words translated into English as “torah and prophets” when He referred to what “is Written”. But note that Adam walked with God, and that Noah obviously knew which animals were “clean” and which were “unclean” long before that teaching and understanding were even Written down.

I contend that the “Law” (think “Law of Gravity”) was in place when the “Foundations were laid”. His “teaching and instruction” are a function of His design, and what He has Written about all of it is for our blessing, if we have “eyes to see”.

Jair:

Jay,
But that’s the thing, I can’t see how the legal system of Israel laid down in the time of Moses actually applies even Rabbinic Jews. They cannot honour it, they have to leave out chunks that they simply can’t do and in observing here and leaving out there they force that Law to change, and that is exactly what Jesus said not to do as per point 4 and Deuteronomy said not to do as of your first quotation.

I have no quibble with with the doctrine of adoption as you laid it out here.

Mark,
Yes, teaching and instructions goes beyond the Law of Moses. But the term Law of Moses was used in point 1. For clarity by the Law of Moses I mean specifically the legal system laid down for Ancient Israel by God and the promises tied directly too it. I should double check with Jay to see if that is close enough to what he means by the term. There are eternal ethics (or, eternal laws), but that does not mean that there are temporal or case by case ethics as well. The Law of Moses was a deal with a specific people under specific conditions. The histories and the Prophets detail those people violation those conditions, and the captivities show the deal ending. God promises to make another deal if they turn to him, but it is a different deal.

Your point about Noah knowing clean animals goes to show that cleanliness of animals goes beyond that time and government, I would say that is along the lines of an eternal law, though even then I would make exceptions in the case of starvation.

Mark Call:

I don’t necessarily disagree, Jair.

I just note, however that often the specific term, “Law of Moses”, is used to mean “that which does not apply to ME”.

Since I have come to regard ALL of His Torah, meaning “teaching and instruction”, as valuable for things like reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness, and a lamp to my own feet, I can do so far less legalistically.  😉

Jay Carper:

There are definitely parts of the Law that cannot be obeyed today. Those who would try are in the same basic situation as the Jews of the Babylonian exile. The Temple had been destroyed, and they were not allowed to travel Jerusalem anyway. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent.

Perfect obedience was probably always impossible. We just try to play the best game we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. Our salvation is through faith in God’s forbearance and not in strict obedience to the codified Torah.

Jay Carper:

Finally getting around to responding to your initial comment, Jair. I’m enjoying the dialog!

That’s not too hard, everything is predicated on point 2 which is the weak link anyway. -Jair

No, point 4 is the most important. Even if John’s reference to sin and law is irrelevant, Yeshua would still be a liar if he actually did come to remove anything from the Torah.

1 John 3:4 is a peculiarity, the root of the word law in both instances is anomee’ah instead of nom’os, its the only time anomee’ah (for lack of text inserts right now) is rendered that way, in every other case it is rendered iniquity. The term in no case refers to the Law of Moses, though nom’os frequently does. -Jair

Anomia isn’t translated “law” here either, not even in the KJV. It’s translated “transgression of the law,” which is essentially the same thing as lawlessness or iniquity. Therefore, sin = lawlessness. To what law could John have been referring but the Law of God? In every case, both anomos and anomia refer to breaking God’s commands found in Torah, i.e. the Law of Moses. I would have checked every instance of nomos also, but there were 195 of them listed in the KJ Concordance! The first dozen or so bore out the same pattern.

Sin may well be lawlessness, iniquity, wickedness etc. You could argue from this passage that Sin is a transgression of any given law that you are bound, but you couldn’t argue that sin is specifically a transgression of Mosaic law. -Jair

No, you couldn’t argue that sin is the transgression of any law. (Well, you can argue it, but that doesn’t make it true.) That might be a literal interpretation of the word, but that is clearly not the way it is used throughout the NT writings. It is always used in reference to Torah.

Jay Carper:

Thank God for that, because without cities of refuge, the Levites, the Priesthood, years of Jubilee, and on it is impossible for us to follow the Law of Moses. That was law was for a specific deal which people broke, God totally burned the bridge of following the law of Moses. He made sure we couldn’t pretend the deal was still on by destroying key things required to follow it. I have respect for anyone who tries to emulate its precepts, but no one can obey that law without saying ‘I’ll just do my best here’ and ‘I can’t do that so it doesn’t mater’ there. -Jair

God said that he would never reject Israel nor his covenant with them. It doesn’t matter that they broke it. God still promised to keep it. He said that he would never forget them and never destroy them, but that if they would repent, he would be waiting to accept them back.

Leviticus 26:44-45 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. (45) But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.

Ironically, in trying to apply that deal to themselves people have to change much more than jots or iotas, they have to ignore or comprise the things they can’t do, and that is an insult to the law. -Jair

I don’t know if the law can be insulted or offended by one who is under the covering of Yeshua. We do not owe our allegiance to the commands, but to the commander. Obeying his commands, which he has never retracted and never can without breaking his word, as well as we are able can only honor him.

Jair:

Mark,
With that said we are saying pretty well the same thing, cool.

Jay,
I think the shortest way to reply would be to point out that Leviticus 26 isn’t talking about our forefathers but the forefathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Israel himself. All of whom lived before the Law of Moses was given. Gods Covenant with the children of Israel goes beyond that specific legal system, it existed before it and continues to exist after it. Just to be clear I never said God rejected Israel.

I’m very sure that the law can be offended by people covered by Christ, its no doubt plagues could have been minimized by valuing the precepts concerning sanitation. But one way or the other we are not talking about retracting commands, we are talking about trying to follow commands given to other people. Our standing orders are different than those of pre captivity Israel, and he made sure we knew it by making sure we couldn’t actually follow the wrong set of orders.

Jay Carper:

“Offending” was a poor choice of words on my part. “Insulting” was better. I didn’t mean to imply that the commands couldn’t be broken. I was thinking more along the lines of being accountable to the law as an entity in itself.

I agree that the Torah is not the covenant itself, and that it existed before Mt. Sinai.
I disagree that we are talking about commands given to other people. God was clear that the New Covenant is only with the houses of Israel and Judah (together being the nation of Israel) and no one else. If anyone becomes party to that covenant, then they become one with Israel also, sons of Abraham, just like the mixed multitude who came out of Egypt in the Exodus.

Mark Call:

Very good, Jay. I often ask folks, “well, would you like to be ‘grafted in’, or not?”

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

“As a moral obligation to the covenant…”

I would call it a moral obligation to the God with whom we have covenanted. I do not believe that God’s Law is unique to a particular covenant, but rather it is the standard to which he holds his people. When we come into covenant with God, his standards, as the rules of his house, automatically apply.

Jair:

If we aren’t talking about being accountable to the law as an entity in itself I’m not sure we are actually disagreeing anywhere.

To be clear I agree that all of Israel in all time including those ‘grafted in’ are under the Covenant with Abraham, which is neither new nor old, but just is. However only those who lived in the Nation of Israel from the time of Moses to the captivity are bound to say, observe Jubilee as a moral obligation to that covenant.

Jay Carper:

You’ll get no argument from me there. Laws about saddles don’t apply to me because I don’t have any animals that wear saddles. Laws about sacrifices don’t apply directly to me either, because there is no Temple at which a sacrifice could be made. There are definitely valuable lessons to be drawn from those laws, but the laws themselves don’t apply. Many laws did not apply to Moses even after he had written them. He wasn’t a woman. He didn’t have a stone house. He wasn’t a king.

Jair:

In turn I will readily agree that Jesus did not do away with or change what most modern Christians supposed him too, and that your argument against said change is to my knowledge unbeaten.

Jay Carper:

LOL. Thanks!

Faith and a Punch in the Mouth

Eventually you have to stop preparing and start moving.When some people prepare for a road trip, they spend weeks planning, packing, and making checklists. Other people throw some clothes in a backpack and hit the road without so much as a route mapped out in advance. Based on my own experience, I know which one I’d bet on reaching their destination and having more fun while there, but to each his own.

Of course, some journeys require more planning than others. There’s going to the grocery store and then there’s going off to college. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t know which is which and sometimes there’s just no time for thorough planning.

The Hebrews spent a lot of time moving from place to place in the wilderness. They spent very little time preparing for each move, but those moves didn’t require or allow extensive planning. Is the cloud moving? Then it’s time to go. But on either side of their wilderness journeys there were two moves that were of a very different sort.

God gave them one day to get ready to leave Egypt and had them prepare by asking their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold. God told Moses to tell the people, “Go ask your neighbors for money. God is sending one more plague tonight, and Pharaoh’s going to let us go in the morning.” They didn’t have years to save their pennies or to collect survival gear. They didn’t have weeks to pack up for the movers. They had one day.

Which was more than Yeshua gave to his disciples one time:

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:7-11 ESV)

Just like with the Hebrews many centuries before, Yeshua wanted to teach his disciples to trust in Providence. When God tells you to go, he will also provide the means. When the “what” is certain, but the “how” seems unimaginable, trust God to provide the means or an alternate route.

God provides. To reinforce that point to the Hebrews, he led them to a dead end, trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s chariots. Failure appeared certain, yet he made another way. God parted the sea and brought it back together again to drown Israel’s enemies.

Once in the Wilderness, God transformed them from bitter, defeated, and dependent slaves into a cohesive nation with a powerful faith in him. He spent forty years preparing them for their next mission, the conquest of the Promised Land.

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve learned that no amount of planning can ever account for every possible eventuality. Stuff happens. Roads fork. Children. As Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.”

At some point, you have to move from planning to execution. You have to stop training, contemplating, brainstorming and start storming castles.

You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward. (Deuteronomy 2:3 ESV)

After an entire generation had died in the wilderness, it was finally time to stop moving from one campsite to another. It was time for Israel to turn north toward Canaan and start confronting the peoples whom God said had lost all claim to the land.

They had the Torah and the Ark of the Covenant. They had the priesthood and new, aggressive set of leaders. They were hardened and free, no longer thinking like slaves. The Hebrews were as prepared as they could ever be and nation after nation fell before them.

And then they came to Jericho.

They looked at each other and asked, “Now what?” It seemed that nothing they had experienced had prepared them for the impregnable walls and well trained soldiers of Jericho.

But that wasn’t quite true. It was true that their swords, slings, and arrows were no more effective than feathers against that wall, but all of their weapons and tactics were the least of their tools. They had one weapon that was mightier than all the armies that have ever existed: faith.

Faith brings obedience and obedience brings victory.

When no weapon was of any use, they obeyed God. They marched, blew trumpets, marched some more, and then shouted for all they were worth. Against all reasonable expectations, Jericho’s walls collapsed before the weight of their faith and the city was theirs.

Planning and preparation is important–nothing about any of these stories should lead you to believe that God doesn’t want you to prepare for life or ministry–but planning isn’t everything. Eventually you have to stop circling the mountain and turn northward.

When God told the Hebrews to ask their neighbors for traveling money, when he told them not to fear Pharaoh, when he told them to move from camp to camp, and when he told them to march around Jericho he was preparing them by building their faith in him. Without faith, all of our plans and maps will come to nothing. Whatever we might accomplish in life, wherever we think we have gone, without faith in God and the obedience that inevitably follows it, it will all turn to dust before the end.

On that day, when everyone and everything is getting punched in the mouth, only those things solidly built on a foundation of faith and obedience to God will survive.

The Conditions Under Which God Sent Israel to War

In Deuteronomy 1-3, Moses recounts to Israel their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, including all of their triumphs, tragedies, and embarrassments. “Remember when we did this and we went there, and then we fought those people, and I told you this thing, then you did that, and we had that other war with those other people, and God was really mad at you about this thing, and don’t mess with these people, but don’t be afraid of these others…” It’s all quite a story.

Most of Torah is concerned with how people are to relate to each other and to God as individuals, but this passage is much more interested in how Israel had behaved as a nation in relation to other nations. There were essentially three ways that God told Israel to treat with the peoples they encountered:

  1. They attacked you. Destroy them.
  2. I’ve given their land to you. Destroy them and take it.
  3. If they leave you alone, you leave them alone.

Does this resemble American foreign policy? Not even remotely. We are constantly meddling in the internal affairs of foreign nations for any number of reasons. We invade countries all over the world because we don’t like how they do business or how they treat their own people or their neighbors. The precedent that God set with Israel and her neighbors is simple: If they’re not actively attacking you, then stay out of their business.

It’s not isolationism to avoid military adventurism. Would you call a neighbor antisocial if he didn’t break down your door and shoot one of your children before borrowing a tool? You don’t have to shoot and bomb people to have a relationship with them.

It’s not a bad idea to have a “big stick” at hand, though, just in case.

Peace is not isolationist

∞ > 10: God Is Not a Grasshopper

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27
Acts 9:1-22

Deuteronomy 1:23-33 “The plan pleased me well; so I took twelve of your men, one man from each tribe. And they departed and went up into the mountains, and came to the Valley of Eshcol, and spied it out. They also took some  of the fruit of the land in their hands and brought it down to us; and they brought back word to us, saying, ‘It is a good land which YHWH our God is giving us.’… Yet, for all that, you did not believe YHWH your God, who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

When Moses recounted the story of the twelve spies, he left out an important detail: ten of the twelve spies brought back a bad report. “The land is bountiful and beautiful, but we are grasshoppers next to the inhabitants!” Is it any wonder that the people lost their faith? Why did Moses make it sound as if the Israelites doubted God for no good reason?

Because they did! God promised to bring them into the Land. He destroyed Pharaoh’s army and spectacularly broke Egypt’s power. The whole world was soon talking about Israel and her God in fear. Yet when ten men told them how mighty were their enemies, they turned on the God whose presence was physically manifested among them in a gigantic pillar of fire. What were they thinking!? It didn’t matter how many spies came back with a bad report. It didn’t even matter that two of them spoke truthfully. No handful or army of men can stand in the way of God fulfilling his promises to us.

But we can.

If you say that you are inadequate to the mission God has assigned to you, then you are completely misunderstanding your mission. The problem with saying that “We are grasshoppers in our eyes” is that we are irrelevant. Stop looking at yourself and start looking at God! Is He a grasshopper in our eyes?

Fear is so easy. We entertain it and feed it our whole lives while we starve faith. It’s no wonder we don’t see miracles when by our constant expectations of disaster we accuse God of faithlessness.

How God sees you vs how you see yourself.
How God sees you vs how you see yourself.