~ What Does the Brit Chadasha ~
~ Say About the Torah? ~
There are several Brit Chadasha passages that are translated in a way that sometimes causes confusion as to their actual meaning. For example:
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross, ...
(Col. 2:13-14 KJV)
Please note, the thing which was nailed to His cross was something called ordinances. This English word ordinances, comes from the Greek word dogma (Strongs #1378). We are all familiar with this word since it has been transferred into the English language and is in common use today. It comes from the primary root word, dokeo (dohk-eh-oh) which means: 1. to be of opinion, think, suppose; 2. to seem, be accounted, reputed; 3. it seems to me; I think, judge; it seemed good to, pleased me; 1 determined.
This is exactly what dogma means today. It is an idea or practice that seems good to the leadership or people in a religious body, and therefore becomes part of the belief system of that organization. It may or may not be contrary to Scripture. Many times, dogmas become more important to the religious organization than the Word of God itself. Another term used to describe dogmas is Church tradition.
This meaning of the word is actually confirmed, in the book of Colossians, just a few verses down the page:
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
(Col. 2:20-22 KJV)
Paul definitively names the ordinances he is referring to as ... the commandments and doctrines of men. These cannot be the commandments found in the Torah, for those commandments are of God, not of men. Here Paul is making a direct reference to the traditions of men, just as Yeshua did when He spoke against some of the traditions of the Pharisees.
... Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.
In those days, it was the traditions of the Jews that presented problems for Gentiles who wished to become a part of the Body of Messiah. Today, it is the traditions of professing Christian Church organizations, and their dogmas, which hinder Jews from becoming part of the Body of Messiah and Believers from growing in grace and knowledge.
Another passage that sometimes causes confusion is:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, The man who does those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ... The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart ... that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.
(Rom. 10:4-6, 8-10)
A common teaching here is that since Christ is the end of the law, then the law is done away and salvation is entirely by grace. This is partly right and partly wrong. We are saved entirely by grace, of that there can be no doubt. But does salvation through grace require that the law (Torah) be eliminated? No, not at all.
The main problem in
understanding this passage is the English word end
which is the Greek word telos (Strongs # 5056). It
certainly can mean end or termination.
But it can also mean the last in any succession or series;
that by which a thing is finished; the end to which all things
relate, the aim, purpose. Messiah (Christ) is the aim
or purpose of the Torah. He is the one to whom
the entirety of the Torah points. He is the
goal of the Law (Torah).
One key to understanding a scripture is to know to whom it is being addressed. The book of Romans was written to Gentile Believers, but in the above passage Paul is referring directly to those of the circumcision, the Jews. This is apparent from the preceding verses:
Brethren, my hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them (Israel) witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they (Israel) being ignorant of Gods righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end (goal) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The Jews believed that
salvation could only come if one kept the law scrupulously. (Not
just the law found in the Torah, but all the
other laws they had added through their traditions.)
In other words, they wanted to earn their salvation
by their own righteousness or works. But no one, in their own
strength, can accomplish this. Only Yeshua was able to
keep the law perfectly, and He did not keep it by the standards
set by the traditions of the Pharisees. (Remember their conflicts
over what was permissible on the Sabbath?) Now that Yeshua
has become the perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices, our
righteousness comes by grace ...through faith
(Eph. 2:8). Only Messiahs blood can take away our sins
(lawlessness), and redeem us from the penalty, which is death.
Yeshuas sacrifice made a way for us to become justified, to have the penalty paid, to be redeemed from sin, and to be empowered with the Holy Spirit so that we can have the power needed to lead lives that are sin-less. (But not entirely sin free until we are changed.)
~ Positive Torah Statements ~
~ in the Brit Chadasha ~
Now let us look at some of the statements that Paul and Yaakov (James) have made concerning the Law (Torah).
For as many as have sinned without law (Torah) will also perish without law (Torah), and as many as have sinned in the law (Torah) will be judged by the law (Torah) [for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified].
For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law (Torah); but if you are a breaker of the law (Torah), your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law (Torah), will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law (Torah) is the knowledge of sin.
... for all have sinned (transgressed the law) and fall short of the glory of God.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Torah).
Do we then make void the law (Torah) through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
... where there is not law there is no transgression.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin (transgressing the law) that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Therefore do not let sin (transgression of the law) reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
What then? Shall we sin (transgress the law) because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, You shall not covet,
Therefore the law (Torah) is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
For we know that the law (Torah) is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For I delight in the law (Torah) of God according to the inward man.
For what the law (Torah) could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin (transgression of the law) in the flesh.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law (Torah) say the same also?
(I Cor. 9:8)
... knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law (Torah) but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!
For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor (sinner).
For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 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 gave Himself for me.
Is the law (Torah) then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.
(Gal. 3:2 1)
But we know that the law (Torah) is good if one uses it lawfully.
(I Tim. 1:8)
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
But he who looks into the perfect law (Torah) of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
~ The Purpose of the Torah ~
It is evident from scripture that those called of God through the Messiah, Yeshua, are considered to be the very children of God.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
(Rom. 8:16- 17)
Since God the Father is an all loving father, He is not going to leave us without adequate instruction on how we should live our lives. This He has done, in great detail, in a series of documents collectively called the Torah.
However, the Torah lacks something. It tells us how to live, in order to be in agreement with the way God Himself lives, but it does not give us the power to accomplish that righteous lifestyle. Try as we might, through our own good efforts and the works of the flesh, we simply cannot follow all of the instruction perfectly. Especially since Yeshua told us it is not only the way we act, but also the way we think that must be changed.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.
You have heard that it was
said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed
adultery with her in his heart.
(Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28)
Now the law (Torah) of God has been raised to a whole new level of seriousness. Yeshua was not doing away with the Torah, He was making it even more important.
The reason there is sin in the world is not because the Torah is a defective law that needs replacing, rather the defect is in the heart and flesh of sinful man. Man just cannot obey perfectly, he is totally unable to do so.
* Sin Identified *
This points up the
first purpose for the Torah, which is to identify sin,
to show us where we come short of the righteousness of God, and
to cause us to understand, that no matter how great our works
might be, we can never even come close to attaining the
righteousness needed to be full-fledged children of God.
However, even if we could keep the Torah perfectly, it was never intended to be the vehicle by which we enter into eternal life, for that is a free gift given by God to those who believe.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
* A Righteous Tutor *
The Torah (instruction or law) was not intended to be the source of eternal life, rather it is the tutor which leads us to an understanding of Messiah and how His sacrifice is absolutely necessary for salvation. This is the second purpose for the Torah.
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law (instruction) was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
This passage, by
itself, seems to imply that the law is no longer of any value,
since faith has now come. Yet when you examine all of the
scriptures involving the Greek word nomos (translated
law), it is absolutely clear that sin is the transgression
of the law and that we, as Believers, are to no longer live
The main problem here is that the word law in the Brit Chadasha is used to describe a variety of quite different portions of the law. For example, the word law can refer to the first five books of the Bible (Torah), the ten commandments, the sacrificial law, the statutes and even the judgments. One needs to have a through understanding of the laws as given by God in the Tanakh before a valid judgment can be made on what Paul intended when he wrote some of these passages.
In the context of Galatians chapter three, it is important to point out that Paul is here referring specifically to the sacrificial law.
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
The only law that was ever added because transgression had already taken place was the law of the sacrifices. (Remember there had to be laws already in existence in order for transgression to occur.) The sacrificial law was instituted to remind people (instruction again) of their individual and national sins, and to bring them to a state of repentance. In other words, the sacrificial law part of the Torah was the tutor of the Jewish people, so they would understand their sinful condition and be ready and willing to accept the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua in place of their tutorial animal sacrifices. God has never delighted in animal sacrifice but always wanted the sacrifice of a contrite heart.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart--
These, O God, You will not despise.
In their book, Torah Rediscovered, Ariel and Dvorah Berkowitz make this comment about the book of Galatians: in Galatians, it was not Shauls (Pauls) primary purpose to teach about how to apply Torah to the life of the believer. His primary purpose was to emphasize that one may not live according to Torah in order to earn, merit, or keep ones justification. The same kind of idea would also apply to Romans. (p 20).
* The Understanding of Salvation *
The third purpose of Torah
is to give us understanding about the true source of salvation.
That true source is faith in the Messiah, Yeshua, as the
One who has redeemed us from our sins.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we (Jews) have believed in Christ Jesus, that we (Jews) might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
But if, while we (Jews) seek to be justified by Christ, we (Jews) ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law. that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 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 gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
We must get out of our minds any idea at all that keeping the law will earn us salvation. But that does not mean that we can just go along thinking good thoughts about the sacrifice of Yeshua and conduct our lives any way we see fit.
* Gods Standard *
The fourth purpose of the Torah is that it provides us with a standard by which we can measure our obedience to God and His way of life. The Brit Chadasha is full of scriptures that teach the need for our obedience. Like all children, it would be very confusing if we were asked to obey something but did not know what was expected of us. If there is no standard by which obedience can be measured, then the possibility of becoming displeasing to our parent is greatly multiplied. Thankfully, God does not leave us in that situation. He has provided an entire Bible (both the Tanakh and the Brit Chadasha) to instruct us about what He considers to be righteous living and the standards which we should follow.
... But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
(I Peter 4:17)
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: We ought to obey God rather than men.
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, ...
Obedience is essential if we are to lead lives that are pleasing to God. An important point to remember is that obedience, by itself, is not complete unless it is coupled with faith.
By faith Abraham obeyed...
By the same token, faith without obedience (works) is also incomplete.
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? ... You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
The main way in which we learn to obey the instruction of God is when we learn to truly love God and love, and forgive, our fellow man. If one truly learns how to properly love, then he will never fail in applying the instructions of the Torah.
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
* Protector *
Today, we live in a
world that is fraught with dangers. It is now very difficult for
people to isolate themselves from the evils of a world which is
being deceived by the god of this world, Satan the
devil. From the tender age of infancy, our children are subjected
to visual and audio stimulation that teaches disobedience,
disrespect for parents and all authority, incredible violence,
illicit sexual activity, and the cheapness of human life. The
primary source of this influence is television programming and
It is no wonder that the Western world, and especially America, leads the way in lawlessness and violence. We are a violent society, and despite a recent statistical drop in crime, we are still out of control. But how can the Torah protect us from the evil influence that is all around us? I challenge you to begin to obey its precepts and find out for yourself. If every family that professes to believe in Jesus (Yeshua) as their Saviour, would begin to follow Torah as it applies to us today, the effect on this country would be enormous. God would truly honor the obedient efforts of His people by giving us the promise of His protection.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.
King David loved the Torah of God. He learned its precepts from his youth, being taught by his father and the community around him. We need that kind of zeal and dedication today toward the Torah (instruction) of God. Although David had to fight many battles during his life, God was always on his side. Over and over, David called upon God for help and protection. God became Davids shield of protection. Today, we can also claim that same shield of protection.
Great peace have those who love Your law (Torah)
And nothing causes them to stumble.
Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
~ The Status of the Torah Today ~
still stands as the supreme document that tells us how God wants
society set up, the way in which He expects people to relate to
Him, and the way they should treat one another. It is impossible
to understand the mind of God unless one has a good understanding
of the Torah.
Obviously, portions of the Torah have been changed now that Messiah has appeared and offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice. The book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to explain that the Levitical priesthood has been changed and that we now have a new High Priest, Yeshua, who is a priest after the order of Melchizadek.
For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
It is clear from this
passage that the Torah (law or instruction of God) can
be changed. This is the current state of all of those
instructions in the Torah which pertain to the Levitical
priesthood. However, this does not negate the ten commandments,
or the many other Torah scriptures that teach us how to
worship God and how to live a life of love toward our neighbor.
As an example, the Constitution of the United States of America
can be amended so that a portion of the Constitution becomes
changed. Such action does not eliminate the entire Constitution.
If it did, then there would no longer be a law of the
land. The same principle holds true for the Torah.
According to the Jews, there are 613 commandments given in the Torah, however, no one person was ever required to keep all 613. Some are for the High Priest only. Some are only for women, others only for men, while others are only for the Levites. Some are laws that pertain to the nation of Israel when they live in the land. Only by studying the Torah can anyone ever come to a correct understanding as to which ones are applicable today in our walk of obedience.
~ The Practice of Torah Study ~
Well before the time of
Yeshua, it was the practice of the Jewish people to read
a portion of the Torah each Sabbath in the synagogue. It
is believed this practice was begun by Ezra when the Jewish
captives returned from Babylon, although no one can prove it one
way or another. Different formulas have been used. During the
time of Yeshua there was one cycle of reading that was
accomplished in one years time, and another cycle that took three
years to complete.
During the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Jewish people were not allowed to read the Torah, or circumcise their children. Anyone who did so was put to death. Many were martyred because they did circumcise their children. However, they managed to get around the prohibition concerning Torah reading in a very resourceful way. They set up a cycle of readings in the Neviim (The Prophets) that reminded them in some way of the Torah reading that was supposed to be read that particular week. It might have been a reference to a story found in the Torah portion. It could even be a single word that reminded them of that weeks Torah passage. Then one of the men would say; Oh, that reminds me of the story about... and off they would go into a discussion about that weeks Torah reading without ever having to actually read the Torah passage itself. These readings from the Neviim became known as the Haftarah, which means other readings.
In Yeshuas day it was customary (as it is today in the orthodox synagogues) for both the weekly Torah and Haftarah portions of scripture to be read each Sabbath. It provided the basis for discussion by anyone who might want to comment upon it. It was also common to invite a distinguished guest to participate in the Torah or Haftarah readings and make whatever comments they deemed appropriate. This was the situation in which Yeshua found Himself when He visited his hometown of Nazareth, and went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as His custom was. (Luke 4:16). The passage He was given to read, out of the book of Isaiah, is no longer found in the Haftarah readings of today. This could well be because the rabbinic Jews removed it due to the great distress and persecution they have received at the hands of the so-called followers of Jesus (the Christians) over the centuries. It is impossible for anyone to say definitively one way or the other. The point is, Torah and Haftarah reading was common practice then, and it is a tradition that still exists today. Yes hua held to many of the traditions of the Jews which did not contradict the Scriptures. Certainly, He participated in and was a regular attendee at the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was also the Apostle Paul.
The common practice today is to read the entirety of the Torah and the companion Haftarah scriptures in a one year cycle. The cycle begins on the first Sabbath after the Festival of Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) with the very first reading which begins in Genesis 1:1. The following section gives the readings for each Sabbath of the current cycle. Those Believers who are currently gathering at home or in small fellowship groups might want to begin using the Torah readings as a basis for their Sabbath study. There are many Jewish commentaries available that can aid in this study. However, if you wish to have a written study and tape that directs its teaching of the Torah toward Yeshua HaMashiach, we would recommend that you contact: First Fruits of Zion, P0 Box 280827, Lakewood, CO 80228-0827, and ask about the Torah Club. They also publish a fine magazine, also called First Fruits of Zion, which contains some commentary on the weekly Torah readings.
Click here for the Current Weekly Torah Reading Schedule........
There is some
difference of opinion about how to end the years reading.
The day of the last reading is called Simhat Torah
(Rejoicing in the Torah). In the land of Israel that day
is the same day as the Eight Day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
However, the Diaspora, the Jews celebrate Simhat Torah
on the day following the Eighth Day. In 1997 that would fall on
Friday, October 24th.
Since the Torah is the foundation of all the Scriptures, it serves us well to repeat this cycle over a period of years. If you decide to do the Torah readings, you will be surprised at how much more you learn each year. There are so many levels of understanding that God has written into the Scriptures, that a person can never obtain all of its meaning in just one reading.
~ Brit Chadasha Readings ~
Some of you may want to
add Brit Chadasha scriptures to the weekly readings as
well. Simply take the total number of chapters in the four
gospels and the book of Acts and divide by the number of weekly
readings and you can add that many chapters of the Brit
Chadasha to the list given here. May God bless you
abundantly in your study of the Torah and of all the
(In the next issue of Hebrew Roots we will examine the Oral Torah. What is it? Where did it come from? What is its function today in the lives of Believers? Stay tuned.)
~ Sources ~
Bloch, Abraham, P., The Biblical
and Historical Background of Jewish Customs and Ceremonies, Ktav
Publishing House, Inc. New York, 1960.
Berkowitz, Ariel and Dvorah, Torah Rediscovered, First Fruits of Zion, Inc., Lakewood, CO, 1996.
Bullinger, E.W., The Companion Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, 1974.
_____, Number in Scripture, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1967.
Holy Bible, The, King James Version, Oxford, University Press, London.
The Jewish Encyclopedia, 12 vols., Funk & Wagnalls Co., New York & London, 1901
Juster, Daniel, Jewish Roots, Davar, Pacific Palisades / Rockville, 1986.
Martin, Ernest L., The Original Bible Restored, Foundation for Biblical Research, Pasadena, CA, 1984.
The Open Bible, The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1965.
Spier, Arthur, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem I New York, 1986.
Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD, 1969.
Strong, James, S.T.D., L.L.D., Strongs New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa Falls, 1986.
Tanakh - The Holy Scriptures, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia / New York, 1988.
Thayer, Joseph Henry, D.D., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1977.
Wylen, Stephen M., The Jews in the Time of Jesus, Paulist Press, New York, 1996.