Torah: The Law of Moses
This is a lengthy hub. While the Word says in Titus 3:9 "But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless”, I am writing once and for all to address the many Messianic Jews writing me to accuse me of bearing false testimony about the Old and New Covenants regarding the Law of Moses. Indeed, the Apostle Paul was accused of the same thing:
Acts 18:12-13 “The Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, ‘This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the Law.’
Messianic Jews insist that since all laws were "inspired by God" and given by God through Moses (Torah), all of them are good and should be followed, even under the New Covenant. Actually, Moses didn't give the Jews all the Laws they have today (Takanot). Those who "sit in the seat of Moses" (or Pharisees) have added to the Law of Moses and now have so many laws, some Jews simply cannot even keep the Sabbath in order to keep all the laws!
According to Karaite Jewish scholar and author Nehemia Gordon (who was raised to be a Pharisee), the book of Matthew must be interpreted correctly, based on the fact that it was not originally written in Greek, but in Hebrew. The Greek wording states in chapter 23:2-3 (KJV), "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not."
The correct Hebrew interpretation will give the Jewish Pharisees a new perspective: "The Pharisees and sages sit upon the seat of Moses. Therefore, all that he [Moses] says to you, diligently do, but according to their [Pharisees] reforms [takanot] and their precedents [ma'asim] do not do, because they talk but they do not do."
If you want more education on this topic (wholely from a Jewish perspective ~ not Messianic Jew or Christian), here's the link to a 2-hour video by Nehemia Gordon (this specific issue is found at 1:15).
I recommend reading four other hubs written to address the issue of Law and Covenants as follows:
The Law of Moses is found in the first five books of the Old Testament, called the Torah. The Old Testament is called the Tanakh, in the Hebrew language. While the Law of Moses incorporated God’s Law of the 10 Commandments, it totals 613 commandments called the Mitzvot. Though we already know Jesus rebuked following the Takanot, this hub is to specifically type out the New Testament verses that refer to the Law of Moses, so all can READ them here, look them up and read the context in which they are given.
New Testament Regarding the Law of Moses
Matthew 5:20 "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Luke 2:22 “And when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.”
Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”
John 1:17 “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”
John 7:19 "Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?"
John 7:23 "If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”
John 8:5 "Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
Acts 13:38-39 "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”
Acts 15:5 “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.’"
Acts 18:12-13 “The Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him before the judgment seat, saying, ‘This man persuades men to worship God contrary to the Law.’”
Acts 21:21 “and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”
Acts 28:23 “When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.”
Romans 2:23 “As you brag about the Laws in Moses' Teachings, are you dishonoring God by ignoring Moses' Teachings?”
Romans 2:27 “The uncircumcised man who carries out what Moses' Teachings say will condemn you for not following them. He will condemn you in spite of the fact that you are circumcised and have Moses' Teachings in writing.”
Romans 2:29 “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
Romans 3:19-22 “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; not one person can have God's approval by following Moses' Teachings. Moses' Teachings show what sin is. But now, apart from the Law, God's righteousness is revealed and is attested by the Law and the Prophets-even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe;”
Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”
Romans 3:31 “Are we abolishing Moses' Teachings by this faith? That's unthinkable! Rather, we are supporting Moses' Teachings.”
Romans 4:13-16 “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no Law, neither is there violation.”
Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under Law, but under grace.”
Romans 7: 4-6 “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”
Romans 7:7 “What should we say, then? Are Moses' Laws sinful? That's unthinkable! In fact, I wouldn't have recognized sin if those laws hadn't shown it to me. For example, I wouldn't have known that some desires are sinful if Moses' Teachings hadn't said, "Never have wrong desires."
Romans 8:2-4 “For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the Law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 10:5 “For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on Law shall live by that righteousness.”
Romans 13:8-10 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.”
Romans 14:1-2 "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only."
Romans 14:14 “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."
Romans 14:17 “For God's kingdom does not consist of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy produced by the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 14:20 "Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense."
Romans 14:23 “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin."
1 Corinthians 9:9 “For it is written in the Law of Moses, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.' God is not concerned about oxen, is He?”
1 Corinthians 9:20 “I became Jewish for Jewish people. I became subject to Moses' Teachings for those who are subject to those laws. I did this to win them even though I'm not subject to Moses' Teachings.”
1 Corinthians 15:56-57 “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 3:5b-6 “Our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:12-15 “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”
Galatians 2:16 “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
Galatians 2:19-21 “For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died needlessly.”
Galatians 3:10-12 “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law to perform them.’ Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’ However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary;”
Galatians 3:17-19 “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on Law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. What, then, is the purpose of the Laws given to Moses? They were added to identify what wrongdoing is. Moses' Laws did this until the descendant to whom the promise was given came to Abraham. It was put into effect through angels, using a mediator.”
Galatians 3:25-28 “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the Law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Galatians 4:9 “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things [the Law], to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?”
Galatians 4:21 “Those who want to be controlled by Moses' Laws should tell me something. Are you really listening to what Moses' Teachings say?”
Galatians 5:1-3 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Again, I insist that everyone who allows himself to be circumcised must realize that he obligates himself to do everything Moses' Teachings demand.”
Galatians 5:14, 18, 22-23 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement,‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no Law.”
Galatians 6:13 “For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Ephesians 2:14-16 “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
Colossians 2:14 "having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and He hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross;"
Colossians 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Colossians 2:20-23 “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles [see Gal 4:9 the Law] of the world why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Hebrews 8:6-7, 13 “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first [covenant through Law of Moses] obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” [brackets mine]
Hebrews 9:22, 26b “And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” “But now, at the end of the ages, he has appeared once for all to remove sin by his sacrifice.”
Hebrews 10:28 “If two or three witnesses accused someone of rejecting Moses' Teachings, that person was shown no mercy as he was executed. How much more severe a punishment do you think that person deserves who tramples on God's Son, treats as common the blood of the covenant by which it was sanctified, and insults the Spirit of grace?”
The Law of Moses Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
Regarding the argument Messianic Jews use found in Matthew 5:17-18 let's write these verses here, and understand that Jesus had not died on the cross yet when He spoke these words:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
Hebrews 7:28 “Moses' Teachings designated mortals as chief priests even though they had weaknesses. But God's promise, which came after Moses' Teachings, designated the Son who forever accomplished everything that God required.”
Luke 24:44 “Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."
Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 11:25, 27 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uniformed of this mystery: And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
Galatians 3:19 "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator [Moses], until the seed [Jesus] would come to whom the promise had been made."
1 Timothy 3:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
Matthew 5:20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
2 Corinthians 5:21 "He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus]."
Tradition of Messianic Jewish Worship
Matthew 15:3-9 shows how the Commandment of God (‘Honor your father and mother’), then the Law of Moses (‘He who speaks evil of their father or mother is to be put to death.') was altered to meet the Rabbinic law, which became a “tradition”:
“And He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?’ But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,’ he is not to honor his father or his mother.' And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. ‘You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'"
The Covering of Heads
When I recently visited a Messianic Jewish congregation, I noticed the majority of women covered their heads with scarves, and all the men wore the traditional skullcap (called a Kippah). At the end of the service, both husband and wife covered their heads with a prayer shawl (or tallit). While they consider this a sign of respect to God, the New Testament is clear that this is not to be done, and yet they hold to their Old Covenant traditions.
1 Corinthians 11:7 “For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”
1 Corinthians 11:13-15 “Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”
Romans 2:27 “The uncircumcised man who carries out what Moses' Teachings say will condemn you for not following them. He will condemn you in spite of the fact that you are circumcised and have Moses' Teachings in writing.”
Is this verse saying New Covenant believers are to follow the letter of the Law of Moses as part of our Spiritual walk with our Lord? No. Continue on to read verse 29: “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”
How is our heart "circumcised" (made clean)? How is our heart made righteous? It is by submitting our hearts to accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our righteousness, for nothing else can or will make us righteous before God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
It is informative to read the Law of Moses, to know right from wrong in the eyes of the Lord (if you need a "tutor"); however, we will see that God is not limited by a set of written laws. His Law is greater, in that everything we do will fall under the category of loving God and loving man in the ways His Word teaches us, and as His Spirit leads us. His Spirit gives us a CONSCIENCE. So, to accept the Messiah, our Savior, does not bear fruit of lawlessness, but that of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no Law (Galatians 5:23).
Messianic Jews are still spending the majority of their time reading and adhering to the Torah, and even kiss the Torah in their worship services. They are not to turn their backs to it as the holder of the Torah walks around to each person. The Torah does not include the New Testament, though they will read a little of the New Testament in their services. The reason there are so many scriptures listed above in the New Testament is because this is the MESSAGE to THEM! Yet, even today, over 2,000 years later, they enslave themselves to the customs they’ve followed since the beginning of time.
When we are truly saved, we will not stand before God one day and say, “I kept all the Law and therefore, I am righteous to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The ONLY thing we will say is, “I am a sinner saved by the blood of the Lamb and I am made righteous because He is righteous and His blood covers me.” AMEN.
More on this subject by Judah's Daughter
- The END of the OLD Covenant
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