I read Hebrew all the time; I speak it all the time in my head, since I have no one with whom to speak it out loud. So, I tend to use Hebrew words/terms and transliterate Hebrew names into English versus using the English translation. For me, it is practically second nature now. I realize that is not so of most, even of many of those who attend our congregation. That’s why I’ve added our congregation’s glossary to the bottom of my posts.
Most everyone knows I am a Messianic Jew, and the overseer of such a congregation. But, many, many of you do not understand what that means; and many have a misconception/preconception about me that is not accurate, maybe more than one. I do not, not for a second, believe that one ‘works his way into the Kingdom;’ neither do I believe that one ‘earns’ his ‘righteousness’ through any works of the Torah.
Just as Paul [Sha’ul] was FALSELY accused of teaching that, so have I been accused, and so have some of you understood, without actually having had a conversation with ME about it, by simply asking.
I have lost friends over that misconception! Good, long-time friends who would not endeavor to understand me. It’s really bizarre.
People have ‘unfriended’ me for taking something I stated out of context. I found out an old Navy friend would not ‘friend’ me when he discovered I was Messianic/Jewish.
So, I am here both to set the record straight, and to clarify exactly what is meant by the difference between ‘following the Torah of Messiah in obedience’ and ‘being under the law.’
You may ask any one of the long-time fellow congregants of mine, or the astute newcomers who pay attention, and they will tell you heartily that we do NOT teach that one must observe the Torah in order to obtain ‘righteousness.’ In fact, I specifically and often teach just the opposite.
First, what is the “Torah”? It is what is translated as ‘law’ in most decent “New Testament” scriptures. Specifically, however, it is the first five books, the books of Moses [Moshe], Genesis through Deuteronomy.
But, Torah does not mean ‘law;’ it means “Teaching”, or “Instruction.” It contains ‘laws,’ and ‘commands,’ or mitzvot, khukim, mishpatim, pakidim, the Hebrew words being rendered commands, ‘statutes’, ‘judgments/ordinances’, and ‘laws.’ It, the Torah, is so much more than those, however. It contains ‘precepts,’ ‘principles,’ ‘promises,’ ‘prophecies,’ ‘blessings’, ‘curses,’ poems, songs, and more, as well as all those statutes, ordinances, etc. All of these together constitute the ‘Instruction of a Father.’
It was NEVER meant that one gains ‘righteousness’ by it; but, it DOES and plainly says that one gains LIFE by it. Why? Because all these beautiful guidelines are together a single picture of the perfection of Messiah Yeshua! “Messiah is the goal at which the Torah aims.” [Romans 10:4]
The Torah itself says that Abraham was ‘justified’ by HIS TRUST in G-d.
[I use that term to represent to you that the G-d of Abraham has a Name, and it is יהוה . The dash invokes the notion that He is not just any ‘god’, like ‘Allah,’ or ‘Krishnah,’ or any other entity named ‘god.’]
Abraham TRUSTED in יהוה , and it was ‘charged to his account’ as ‘righteousness.’ The biblical term there is ‘tzedaka,’ which is from the word ‘tzedek,’ and is meant as a ‘legal’ term. It means, ‘having been made right,’ ‘having been made ‘just’.’ What does that mean? It means having one’s own transgressions against the righteous Torah of G-d expunged off of his eternal record of wrong. Sin is quite simply when one breaks the Torah, or disobeys it. [I John 3:4] Our sins were written down. Righteousness means having a clean slate. Abraham’s eternal ‘account’ is wiped clean. Abraham was a sinner just like the rest of us, and still sinned after having received his righteousness in Genesis 15. But, because he TRUSTED the G-d that spoke to him, his account was ‘considered purged clean.’ The record of his sin was erased.
In all of the prophecies spoken to Abraham, the Messiah’s coming was predicted, and Abraham looked forward to that coming, trusting that one day G-d would indeed ‘justify’ many, through that promised one.
Because he trusted, he obeyed! His obedience did NOT change his eternal status! But, his obedience did ‘testify’ to those around him that he trusted! And, that he obeyed the voice of G-d!
“Because Abraham kept my charge, my statutes, my decrees, and my laws.” G-d told Abraham’s son that he was keeping his promise to Abraham through him, Isaac [Yitz’khak] BECAUSE of ABRAHAM’S OBEDIENCE.
Obedience is the ‘evidence’ of TRUST; it is the ‘substance,’ the visible ‘substance’ of faith, that MOVES the HAND of G-d.
So, while no one is given a clean slate because of any torah-keeping, being obedient to His Torah is the ‘proof’ that we have heard of the Messiah and trusted in Him, and received the promise from Him.
Yeshua says this…
He says that anyone who teaches those who trust in Him to disobey the Torah will be called the least significant in His kingdom. And, in contrast to that, He says that anyone who DOES the Torah, and also teaches others to do so [obey torah], will be called more significant in His Kingdom. He is very, very plain about this. Read Matthew 5:17-19, and know that when he said ‘law,’ he said Torah.
This is what is meant by James [Ya’akov], the brother of Yeshua, when he writes what we are reading in our weekly reading schedule this week:
“Even so, by itself, faith without works is dead. For a man may say, “You have faith and I have works;” show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one Elohim; you do well. The demons also believe, and they tremble. Would you know, O weak man, that faith without works is dead? Was not our father Avraham justified by works, when he raised Yitz’khak his son upon the altar? You can see how his faith helped his works, and how by works his faith was made perfect. And the scripture was fulfilled which said, “Avraham trusted Elohim, and it was accounted to him for tzedaka;” and he was called the Friend of Elohim. You see then how a man by works becomes righteous, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rakhav the harlot justified by works when she welcomed the spies and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
So, Abraham’s faith was ‘made perfect’ by his works: ‘Abraham kept my charge, my statutes, my decrees, and my laws.’
Now, for one who is trusting in his own works to ‘make him just’, that one has indeed fallen out of grace, and this is what the book of Galatians does teach. This is what it means to be ‘under the Torah;’ TO BREAK IT! Trying to be made just by it is a failure, because the Torah itself says we are justified by EMUNAH! THAT is the error of the Galatians! Because no one can be made righteous by keeping commands! This means that the one doing this is not trusting in the Messiah’s blood! So, he is BACK under the punishment of the Torah! But, every human who is not trusting is also held ‘under’ the weight of the Torah on Judgment Day, because the Torah tells the WORLD to trust in Messiah! [Rom 10:4] They are condemned, if they do not learn to trust. We have never taught that a person is justified by doing the Torah, and neither do we try to earn any better place with G-d by doing what He says to do. But, being obedient indeed DOES make our faith ‘perfect,’ or ‘full.’
That word for ‘perfect’ does not mean the same to ancient Jews as it does to us, but our English word gets us thinking in the right direction.
The word is ‘full’ in Hebrew. ‘Complete.’
It is only used one other time in the renewed covenant scriptures, in Philippians 3:12. And it is interesting that in that passage, Paul is teaching about trying to reach the perfection of Messiah, the ‘goal,’ of His perfection. Remember, Romans says that the Messiah is the ‘goal’ at which Torah aims! The word Torah is rooted in a term for ancient archery, meaning AIMING AT A TARGET. The ‘instruction’ is like the finger of the archer pointing at the bullseye. So, Paul is striving for making his faith ‘perfect’, by obedience! Just like Abraham!
“Not as though I had already attained or were already PERFECT; but I am striving that I may reach that for which Yeshua HaMashiakh appointed me. My brethren, I do not consider that I have reached the goal; but this one thing I do know, forgetting those things which are behind, I strive for those things which are before me; I press on toward the GOAL to receive the prize of victory of the highest calling of Elohim through Yeshua HaMashiakh.”
So, those of us who keep the Torah, observing His Sabbath, keeping His Feasts, eating ‘clean food,’ ALONG WITH striving NOT to judge, or to covet, or to commit adultery, or to murder, or to steal, or to lie, do so NOT to try to become any more righteous than anyone else who trusts, but to live out the ‘substance’ of our trust by obeying Him.
We can only know HIS WILL by reading HIS word!
It is by reading HIS word that we learn what day the Sabbath is. It is by reading His word that we learn what ‘food’ is. It is by reading HIS word that we learn what ‘holidays’ to keep. It is by HIS word alone, and not by our traditions.
Yes, many of the Jews of Yeshua’s day were trying to become righteous by their own Torah deeds; and they were teaching that to new believers. They themselves had not trusted in Yeshua! Paul tells us they were false brothers! They pretended to believe, to try to get the new Gentile converts to Messianic trust to join them in their own form of ‘righteousness,’ which went against the Torah! The very Torah they claimed to teach. NOT ALL JEWS taught this! And, Paul never once told them not to obey! He only told them not to trust in their own works to justify themselves legally before G-d, to claim salvation because of works, and then he and every other apostle compelled the believers to DO THE WORKS OF THE TORAH. They were following the Messiah’s instructions:
“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one yod, nor a tiny stroke shall pass away from the Torah, until everything comes to pass. Whoever therefore tries to loosen even one of these smallest mitzvot [commandments], and teaches men so, he shall be regarded as small in Malkhut HaShamayim [The Kingdom of Heaven]; but anyone who observes and teaches them, he shall be regarded as great in Malkhut HaShamayim.[The Kingdom of Heaven]”
There are commandments that tell us to do things, and there are commandments that tell us not to do things. We are commanded to keep His Sabbath. We are likewise commanded not to worship HIM in the ways [and at the times] that others worship their gods. We are commanded to eat meat; we are also commanded not to eat certain types of meat. These are all the ‘easy’ commandments that most people forget to care about. The hard ones are: to practice love for our enemies, to forgive those who offend us, to show mercy to sinners. These things are difficult to do. We are to do them, WITHOUT FORGETTING to do the easy ones! [Matthew 23:23] And without TWISTING his words to suit our personal desires.
This is what our congregation teaches, and that for which we strive.
I hope this clears things up for someone! I hope someone who may have been on the verge of deleting me at least decides to see my heart! I love the SAME Messiah that I met in my youth in southeast Texas; I am just ‘pressing on toward the GOAL to receive the prize of victory of the highest calling of Elohim through Yeshua HaMashiakh.’ I desire to obey Him, to show Him to others in TRUTH, removing confusion. And I hope to help as many others as would make their faith sure to do the same. “Examine yourselves, and see whether you are of the faith.”