There is a doctrine in almost every Christian church that Jesus came to take away the law of Moses and bring us to freedom from it. I bid to you that this is a false doctrine and it has caused the downfall of the church as a whole. I bid to you that belief in this undermines the entire message of the gospel, the point of all the Old Testament and much of the New Testament scriptures, the power of the believer, and the whole will of God.
In this article we’re going to explore the law of Moses in the New Testament. “Law” is more accurately called “Torah”, which means “instruction” in Hebrew. “Torah” and “law” will be used interchangeably throughout. We’re going to cover a lot of different scriptures. There are subcategories such as sabbaths and holidays, and food laws, which will be handled in their own respective articles. This study is not a salvation issue. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. (Hebrews 6:1) Sadly, many people will stop right here because their whole faith is based on simply being “saved” and have no desire to please the Father. I encourage you to keep reading and keep an open mind to the subject as you study, and remember, the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God. (Romans 8:7)
Usually when presenting this concept, the immediate response is something like “You’ve fallen from grace.” or “ You’re trying to earn your salvation.” or simply “Legalism!”. None of these can be further from the truth. The message of the gospel is clear, that by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16b) but that by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8), also remember that faith has always been what God desired most: What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:1-4. But...31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31.
Lets get something else straight too, The law is not just for the Jews either. “15 One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. 16 One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.’” Numbers 15:15-16 (see also: Exodus 12:49, Leviticus 24:22) One single law, Torah, for all Israel, whether they be native born or grafted in. (All gentiles are grafted into Israel through faith. This covenant is for all of us. (Romans 11, Jeremiah 31))
Heres why this matters:
He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1 John 2:4
This speaks for itself, now lets move into a much more famous verse, often quoted and seldom fully understood.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!
The key word here is the last one, “lawlessness”, also sometimes translated as “iniquity”. The word in Greek is “anomia” (ἀνομίαν). The word “nomia” is the word for “law”, or more properly “Torah”. Much like English, when an “a” is put in front of a word, it changes the meaning of the word to the opposite.
So were left with:
“A” - “Without” “nomia” - “Torah”
In other words, one could translate it: ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who are without Torah!”
Be aware that everything in the New Testament is also found in the Torah, so this is not to say that if you do not acknowledge the whole Torah you will be this unfortunate person (being as most of it is also in the New Testament). But this does not take away from the magnitude of the importance of Torah to God. As we continue this study we will see the importance of keeping the whole Torah.
Heres another famous verse, which is completely misunderstood, just because of lack of understanding of one word in it.
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The word in question here is “fulfill”. Usually interpreted by Christian leaders to mean that Jesus followed the law perfectly so we don’t have to. Which is kind of like saying I cleaned the house perfectly so it will never need to be done again. It can’t mean he did away with the law or it would read “I did not come to destroy the law but to destroy”. We will come across multiple reasons this idea is flawed. For now, lets just look at the word itself.
The word in greek is “pleroo” (πληρόω).
According to Strong’s concordance: (Strong’s: 4137) plēróō (from plērēs, "be full," see 4130 /plḗthō) – properly, fill to individual capacity, i.e. to the extent it is "meet" (appropriate). See 4130 (plēthō).
In short, it means to complete, or perfect. Which he did, the Torah leaves a lot of unanswered questions and unfinished prophecies. This is why in the same context he elaborates on various sections of the Torah, making sense of them, as well as addressing various manmade laws, often confused to be part of Gods law, but we’ll get to that later too. No part of this even implies that once the Torah has been perfected, it would be destroyed. Would you destroy a house right after you finished it?
Lets look at “pleroo” in other contexts:
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
If Jesus began his ministry by “fulfilling” all righteousness, and that actually means he ended it, then 2 chapters later “fulfilled”, or rather, ended, the law of God, he would be nothing other than a false prophet. This can’t be what the word means.
...so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
“fully preached” (Strong’s 4137), This is the same Greek Word.
19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
“supply” (Strong’s 4137), This is also the same Greek Word.
for I have not found your works perfect before God.
“perfect” (Strong’s 4137), This, again, is the same Greek Word. We’ll stop now but I suggest you do your own research, it’s a very interesting study.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
(see also: Deuteronomy10:12, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)
This verse tells us that how to love God and love others is exactly what the Torah is trying to explain, as well as the prophets. If you desire to love someone Gods way, the Torah tells us how.
Part of this section comes from Deuteronomy 6. The following verse in Deuteronomy seems to explain that specifically that loving God with your heart, is keeping those words which Moses commanded, though that’s debatable.
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Jesus later repeats this principle when he says, very plainly:
If you love me, keep my commandments.
And John, repeats this again in his epistle:
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:2-3 (see also: John 14:23-24, 15:10, 2 John 1:6)
Note also that John says “and his commandments are not burdensome.” This should tell us that the legalistic “checklist” approach is not beneficial or at all what God desires. God desires obedience out of love and trust. A common misunderstanding of the Torah of Moses is that it’s an obligation, it’s not, its a tremendous privilege. We should realize how immensely blessed we are to have a God that loves us so much that he gave us an extensive list of direction for us to live a good life that blesses Him, ourselves, and others.
(See Deuteronomy 4:8)
Some try to say that Jesus law is different from the law of the Father. Is that possible?
According to Deuteronomy 13, if the Messiah, or any other prophet, say anything that turns one away from the Torah, he is false and needs to be put to death. Therefore you can look at this two ways.
A. Jesus upheld the Torah of God and died as our sacrifice on our behalf.
or B. Jesus rejected the Torah of God and died in sin, deserving everything that happened to him, and therefore cannot pay for anyone else's sin, being imperfect.
(Hopefully the correct answer is clear.)
2. Jesus never did anything that he did not get from God, the Father, and according to Malachi 3:6, God doesn't ever change. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
(see also: John 5:30, 6:38, 8:28, 12:49-50, 14:10)
So we’ve come to the conclusion that Jesus kept and taught his Father’s Torah. What do the apostles say?
1Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1 (see also: Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6)
Therefore did Paul keep the law? Yes.
Now your mind is going to fill with all those verses that seem to tell you that Paul always taught against God’s law. Well, we’ll get into a lot of those, but before we do you need to be aware of a few things.
Paul's main message was salvation, almost everything he taught was beginner level, salvation material. Obedience to Torah is not a salvation issue, its part of loving God after you’ve accepted the love he already has for you.
Paul was frequently accused in his time of the same thing he’s accused of now, teaching that the Torah is in invalid. Again, he never said such a thing, he taught that Jesus was more of a priority than Torah, which is true. He also taught that the manmade Jewish laws are not only unimportant, but in many cases, sin. We’ll talk more about Jewish laws later. Be aware when you read about Paul, specifically in Acts, that you listen to what he says about himself, not what his accusers say.
Here is a great example of the sharp contrast between what Paul’s accusers say, and what he says of himself (or in this particular case, what James says of him). This also points out very clearly that he keeps Gods Torah.
17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.
(v. 23 is in reference to a Nazarite vow, found in Numbers 6)
(see also: Acts, 24:24, 27:8, Romans 7:25, 1 Corinthians 9:21)
(Paul’s approval of Gods Law: Romans 3:31, 7:12, 7:20, 1 Tim 1:8)
In this section we see Paul keeping the Torah, even by example of the Nazarite vow. We see the same accusation that he’s received today. And if you look at the other verses listed below it, you see this is not an isolated incident. So why do so many people think otherwise, then and now? Peter writes:
...as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
2 Peter 3:15b-16
Peter warns that Paul is hard to understand, he is an incredibly educated man, after all. He also warns that many people, which are untaught and unstable, will twist his words to their own destruction.
By the way, what would someone of that day be taught in? Torah. This was their schooling system of that time. they grew up learning Torah. If you do not know Torah, you will misunderstand Paul in that area.
17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:17-18a
(“wicked” in V. 17 is also often translated as “lawless”)
So lets take a look some some of Paul’s confusing statements, as well as a few from the other apostles.
7 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.”
(see also Romans 4:15)
"Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness."
1 John 3:4
so, sin is defined as transgression of the law, or more accurately, the Torah. lets continue...
"And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin."
1 John 3:5
(See also Hebrews 4:15 “yet without sin.”)
Ok, so since sin is transgression of Torah, he (Jesus) was manifested to remove our transgression of Torah, and in him, there is no transgression of Torah. continuing...
"Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him."
1 John 3:6
Whoever abides in Jesus does not break Torah! Whoever breaks Torah has neither seen him nor known him!
Paul and John define sin as that which breaks the Torah. Another way to say it is simply that the Torah defines what sin is. So just with simple logic, if the Torah is void, sin is void, and we can do whatever we want without any regard to the consequences. This is where the entire message of the Gospel falls apart. With no sin, there is no need of a savior or redeemer, there is no repentance, or grace.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
(see also: Galatians 5:18)
How can we not be “under the law” and still be expected to keep it? If the law defines sin, then to be “under the law” is to be under condemnation of sin. This is why Romans 7 talks about the law and Romans 8:1 says there is no therefore no condemnation. As I like to think of it, “under the law” is to be under “the thumb of the law” waiting to get crushed. For example, if a person commits murder, that person must come under the punishment sanctioned by the law and thus receive the punishment. This is how the enemy twisted the perfect law of God and made it destructive, like he often does. Paul explains this here:
7 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.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
(see also: Galatians 4:24, 2 Corinthians 3:6)
“taking occasion” - taking advantage of the opportunity.
But don't forget:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
(see also: Romans 6:1)
to sum this section up, shall we break Torah because we are not under the (condemnation of) Torah? Certainly not! Make a little more sense?
Interestingly enough, the phrase here “certainly not!” is the strongest way in the Greek language to say “No!”
There are various practices throughout the gospels that Jesus rebukes repetitively. Many people will read these things and assume it to be the same law that Moses gave, the Torah. This is not the case, Deuteronomy 4:2 reads: 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. The Jews, in violation of this verse, added whole sets of new rules and claim that they are also commandments of God. Many of these commands contradict the Torah. These are that which Jesus rebuked.
Just as a side note, not every Jewish tradition is set up this way. We can actually see Jesus keeping many of these too, for example, The Lord’s supper is a traditional Passover seder. Also we see Jesus keeping the feast of Dedication in John 10:22. This is Chanukah. These are only a handful of examples of many. Tradition is not by itself a bad thing, only when it transgresses the commandment of God.
This is not meant to bash the Jewish people. Only a part of them observed these traditions to begin with. Also within these writings is a lot of great wisdom, however there are also some ridiculous things, and the ridiculous things are what we will be looking at here.
Josephus writes about this in this way “What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers.” (Josephus, book of antiquities Book 13, chapter 10, section 6) They received “observances from their fathers” the same type of language used in Mark 7:3,5, Galatians 1:14, 1 Peter 1:18. Josephus correctly says these traditions are NOT written in the law of Moses.
These also say “"My Son!" Be careful concerning Rabbinical decrees even more the the Torah… The Torah contains prohibitions…But anyone who violates a Rabbinical decree is worthy of death.” (Eruvin 21b) They held up their own traditions above the word of God, and admit it. This is why Jesus was so vehemently opposed to it.
Moreover, they say “"A person use not say "I will not keep the commandments of the elders because they are not from the Torah" The Almighty says to such a person. "No My Son!"Rather all that they decree upon you, Observe! As it is written, According to the instruction which they teach you."” (Pesitka Rabbati 3) This is an obvious butchering of the word of God, which says do not add to the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32). On top of that when they say “As it is written”, they reference back to Deuteronomy 17:11 which says “According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.” When you look at the context of the passage, in verse 9 it is very clear that the "they" is not in reference to rabbis, but to priests, Levites, and judges.
Now lets look at a good example of this in the scripture:
7 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. 2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”
9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
17 When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. 18 So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” 20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
(see also Matthew 15:1-20)
We see here a strong contrast, the Pharisees are upset that Jesus and his disciples don’t keep the “traditions of the elders”. Jesus rebuttals by saying they have “laid aside the commandment of God,” to “hold the tradition of men”. He then brings up a different topic that follows the same idea. The Pharisees taught that “‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God)”. Notice the “Moses said” “but you say” followed by “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” The Pharisees, and by extension Orthodox Judaism today, override the commandment of God for their traditions. THIS is what Jesus rebukes frequently, not the Torah of Moses.
While we’re here, theres always the confusing little line “thus purifying all foods”. For more details on food laws specifically in the New Testament, see www.newheartnewspirit.com/be-holy-what-should-we-eat. But for now, the Pharisees called a food unclean if one did not wash their hands in this certain way, Therefore if a clean food was to be eaten with unwashed hands, according to the Pharisees, it becomes unclean.
Secondly, to an observant first century Jew, “food” was only that which is already considered clean by God. Like when you have someone come to your house, and you say to them “eat whatever you want”, you do not expect them to start chewing on the couch. Theres an understanding of what food is. Theirs simply differed from the way we think of it.
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.