By Norman Manzon
This study is the second and final part of the series, The Christian and the Law of Moses. In the first study, Part 1: The Abolition of the Law, it was demonstrated that, at the moment of Jesus' death, the entire Law and each of its 613 commandments became inoperative as a rule of life. This theme will be further developed here. We will then shift our focus to what the abolition of the Law means for the Christian. Before the reader proceeds, it is essential that he grasp the issues, arguments and conclusions presented in our first study. It is therefore urged that a study or review of Part 1: The Abolition of the Law be undertaken.
We'll begin again with a presentation of the Association of Messianic Congregation's Statement* on the believer and the Law, for which this series was originally written, followed by the conclusion of our Part 1 study.
The Believer and the Law of Moses
We believe the Law of Moses as a rule of life has been fulfilled in the Messiah and therefore believers are no longer under its obligation or condemnation. While the Law of Moses is no longer obligatory for believers, the Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life. Both Jewish and non-Jewish believers have the freedom in Messiah to maintain any aspects of the Law of Moses which do not violate the entirety of the rest of scripture. (Acts 21:24-26; Romans 6:14;8:2;10:4;14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 9:20; 2 Corinthians 3:1-11; Galatians 3:3,3:10-13;6:2; Ephesians 2:14 ) *Full AMC Statement
The Law was operative only until the Seed would
come (Galatians 3:19). When Jesus died, He became
the end of the Law (Romans 10:4), the Law faded
away (2 Corinthians 3:7,11), broke down (Ephesians 2:14), was abolished in His flesh (Ephesians 2:15), blotted out
(Colossians 2:14), nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:9), set aside (Hebrews
7:18), made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), rendered
inoperative (katargeo, 2 Corinthians 3:7,11; Ephesians 2:15).
In numerous places in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Law is referred to as Torah. In the New American Standard translation, "Law of Moses" appears fourteen times, and in each case, the Hebrew that Law is translated from is Torah. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for Law is nomos. "The word Torah, meaning 'law,' is always singular when applied to the Law of Moses even though it contains 613 commandments. The same is true of the Greek word nomos in the New Testament."(1) Therefore, when the Scripture says that the Law came to an end with the death of Christ (Galatians 3:19 and Ephesians 2:15, above) it means that every single Mosaic Law without exception became inoperative at that time.
James 2:10-11 also makes the point: 10. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. Puncture any part of a balloon, and the whole balloon explodes!
The Law has been distinguished and categorized in various helpful ways. The distinction between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law is made clear in Scripture: The former was given to Moses at Sinai and was written by the finger of God on stone (Exodus 31:18); the rest of the Law was given to Moses subsequent to Sinai, and was written by the hand of Moses on parchment (Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9-13,22,24-26). Other categorizations have been made by virtue of purely human reasoning, such as the division of the law into the moral, civil and ceremonial, or into laws concerning the priesthood, property, diet, etc.; but no matter how the laws may be distinguished or categorized, not a single category - not a single law - is operative today. In 2 Corinthians 3:7,11 letters engraved on stones refers specifically to the Ten Commandments:
7. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could
not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was . . . . 11. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that
which remains is in glory.
~ 2 Corinthians 3:7,11 ~
Again, the word translated fading and fades
away is katargeo, which means "to render inoperative." The entire Law faded away at the death of Jesus - even the Ten Commandments which, in verse 7, represents the entire
The Mosaic command to circumcise (Leviticus 12:3) became inoperative when the entire Law became inoperative; yet, circumcision is still enjoined upon Jewish males because it is the token of the prior Abrahamic Covenant, which still stands. A parallel situation exists with the Sabbath command as it was enjoined upon Israel before it was incorporated into the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:4-5,23-30; Exodus 20). It would be logical to conclude that the abolition of the Law has no bearing on the prior Sabbath commandment, and that it should still be obeyed; yet, this is not the case. New Testament teaching to the contrary will be explored below.
The abolition of the Law has various ramifications for the believer.
Since the Law has been abolished, no believer is under the Law.
Romans 6:14b. You are not under law but under grace.
23. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was
later to be revealed. 24. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be
justified by faith. 25. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
~ Galatians 3:23-25 ~
It must be emphasized that the Law was in effect only from Moses to the cross; that it was given solely to Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:19-20; Malachi 4:4; Romans 9:4);* that Gentiles who were not proselytes to the Law were never under the Law; that the church is never considered Israel in any sense;* and that Gentile believers are never called Jews or Israelites in the New Testament.* So whether the church as a whole or individual Jewish or Gentile members within it are considered, no valid argument can be raised to show that the church or any of its members is under obligation to any Mosaic law. (To follow-up on items with asterisks, see footnote 2.) This does not mean that the believer is not under a biblical system of commandments or laws - or, perhaps more accurately, exhortations. This, too, will be addressed.
Because the Law has been abolished and the believer is not under the Law, he has no obligation to obey any of the laws of the Mosaic system.
Romans 7:6: But now we have been released (Gr. katargeo, to render inoperative) from the Law. Romans 8:2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Acts 15:8-10 makes it clear that neither Jewish nor Gentile believers are obligated to the Law:
8. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9. and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
In Galatians 2:3, Paul resisted pressure to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus.
Believers are free from the bondage of the Law.
What, exactly, is the bondage of the Law? Let us observe some contrasts and then draw our conclusions.
Romans 8:15 contrasts the spirit of slavery to the Law with a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
1 Corinthians 15:56-57: 56. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:4 contrasts the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus with the bondage of the Law.
Galatians 4:3-6 contrasts bondage under the elemental things of the world (the Law) with the adoption as sons in whom God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
Galatians 5:1 contrasts freedom in Christ with the yoke
of slavery of the Law.
Romans 6:14: For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 8:2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Galatians 4:22-26 contrasts Sarah, the free woman, the mother of the children of promise, with Hagar, her bondwoman, who represents Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves.
Galatians 5:18: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
In Hebrews 2:14-15, Christ died that He might . . . free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Bondage to the Law, then, may be defined as required obedience to the Law while in a state of powerlessness to keep it. This bondage resulted in, and included, bondage to sin, eternal condemnation and fear of death. (Though God provided the sacrificial system by means of which Israelite and proselyte transgressions could be "covered" until Christ would die to forgive the faithful among them, none had yet entered into that state of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life because Christ had not yet died and risen.)
The bondage of the Law is set in contrast to the liberty of the believer who is forgiven of sin, is able to be led by the Spirit in power over sin, and live in the
blessed hope of eternal life. It is the difference between being a beloved son of an Abba! Father! and being a slave under a
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
~ Romans 8:2 ~
11. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12. instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,13. looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14. who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Condemnation is the judicial pronouncement of guilt, and may be human or divine. It is the opposite of justification, which, in the divine context, is the declaration of being in right standing with God. Divine condemnation may be temporal or eternal.(3) One who dies in unbelief is eternally condemned, and must spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15), but the believer is never eternally condemned. The Law brought condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9; Galatians 3:10); but now that the Law has been abolished, no believer can be condemned by the Law.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -
for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE."
~ Galatians 3:13 ~
He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 ~
1.Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2. For the law of the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
~ Romans 8:1-2 ~
So, here's "no" summary of what not being under the Law means for the believer: no obligation, no bondage, no condemnation. To expand a bit, no obligation, no bondage, no powerlessness, no unforgiveness, no condemnation, no fear of death. No kidding!
Two more no's may be added to the above, but they are in a different category. The above no's were yeses under the Law, but the no's of justification and sanctification were not.
Justification. Justification has to do with one's legal standing before God. The believer has sinned; but because he is "in Christ" he is declared righteous or justified by God because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to him: It has been placed on his account. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which God gradually conforms the believer's walk to the holiness of Christ. (Romans 6:19; 8:29; 12:2; Philippians 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:3)
Despite the fact that the Law had become inoperative, some early believers were under the notion that they needed to combine obedience to the Law with faith in Christ for justification and sanctification. Some today are under the same notion. However, the following passages attest that the Law never contributed to either:
1 Corinthians 1:30: But by [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. Old Testament saints were called righteous or just, but only in the sense that their sins were "covered." It took the death of Christ to confirm their justification in actuality.
18. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and
uselessness 19. (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.
The Law made nothing perfect. It did not justify, nor did it sanctify the believer in the sense of transform[ing] him to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 12:2).
1. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2.This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3. Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
~ Galatians 3:1-3 ~
The above passages apply to both justification and sanctification. We will now view passages that apply to one or the other.
Romans 3:20: by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.
Roman 3:28: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
|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, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 21. . . for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.|
~ Galatians 2:16,21 ~
Galatians 3:11: Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." lt is noteworthy that the quote within the passage is from Habakkuk 2:4. Even under the Law, the righteous man lived spiritually by his faith, not by his keeping of the Law!
Before the Lord's ascension, the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39), and the following passages show that it is only by the Spirit that the believer is sanctified. Therefore, since the Spirit was not yet given under the Law, the Law did not sanctify.
Romans 8:13: if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body
25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26. so
that He might sanctify her, having
cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . . 32.
This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference
to Christ and the church.
~ Ephesians 5:25-26,32 ~
1 Peter 1:1-2: 1. Peter . . . to those . . . who are chosen 2. . . by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ.
The above passages show that sanctification takes place in Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, in Colossians 2:20-23, Paul teaches that placing oneself under a set of rules for the sake of sanctification is futile: 20. The elementary principles of the world . . . such as, 21. "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" . . . . 23. . . . are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
1. It is the Spirit that sanctifies.
2. There was no sanctification during the Age or Dispensation of the Law because the Spirit had not yet been given.
3. Even now, while we have the Spirit, placing oneself under the Law, or any law, contributes nothing to sanctification.
9. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10. You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
~ Galatians 4:9-11 ~
It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and
do not be subject again
to a yoke of slavery.
~ Galatians 5:1 ~
There are valid, though not obligatory, reasons for observing certain Mosaic laws, and these will be discussed; but it is never valid to observe any Mosaic law for justification or sanctification.
Paul wrote Galatians in an attempt to deliver the Galatian believers from the notion that they needed to come under the Law of Moses
as a prerequisite for receiving the salvation that is in Christ; yet, in Galatians 6:2, we read, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."
The Law of Christ harks back to the words of Jesus:
35. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 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
~ Matthew 22:35-40 ~
But if Paul was seeking to deliver the Galatians from the bondage of the Law, why did he choose the word "law" in the title, Law of
Christ, that he created. Didn't he know that "Law" might encourage the Galatians to continue under some system of law? Perhaps the conundrum could be solved if we looked at some of the meanings
of nomos, the Greek word for "law," in various Bible dictionaries. We normally think of "law" as hard, rigid commandments that we're ordered to comply with on pain of penalty, and this
is one valid meaning of the Greek word; but of the three Greek dictionaries I consulted, three provided the same alternate meaning:
They are, ver batim,
- Strong's Dictionary: figuratively (a principle).
- Thayer's Greek Definitions: 1a2) a precept or injunction; 1a3) the rule of action prescribed by reason.
- Mounce Concise Dictionary: a rule of life and conduct.
Key words used: principle, precept, injunction, rule of action, rule of life and conduct. None of these convey the concept of the kind of law that requires obedience on pain of punishment. Perhaps the Galatians understood that this concept of law is what Paul had in mind. Certainly, Paul did not mean to convey that his listeners were to put on a yoke of slavery similar to the one he was attempting to relieve them of! It was Paul that wrote, you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14).
Consistent with these definitions, the "laws" in the New Testament are appeals or exhortations, even though some are very firm and urgent, a far cry from the "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots" of the Mosaic Law. In fact, it was in reference to the Law of Moses that Paul said, in the same letter, It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (5:1).
But what of the word commandment in Matthew 22:38? We normally think of "commandment" as a thundering pronouncements of the kind that God made on Sinai; but here, again, we'll look to alternate definitions:
- Strong: precept.
- Thayer: charge, precept, injunction; a prescribed rule.
- Mounce: an injunction; a precept.
These definitions are akin to the alternate definitions of nomos, and none of them convey the concept of a Sinaitic type of commandment.
David Guzik's comment on Galatians 6:2 is worth considering: "Through this whole letter Paul battled the legalists among the Galatian Christians. Here, he hit them again. Paul essentially said, 'Do you want to fulfill the law? Here is your law to fulfill. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.'” (David Guzik's Enduring Word Commentary)
Whether Guzik's take on Galatians 6:2 is accurate or not, the alternate definitions should be received as liberating concepts by those who have a tendency toward legalism.
According to Finis Dake, "There are 1050 commands in the N.T. for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under about 800 headings."(4)
Dake was quite a researcher! However, his choice of the word "commands" should be taken with a grain of salt in light of our study of "law" and "commandment" above.
Nine of the ten Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) have been resurrected in the Law of Christ. It would be misleading to say that they appear in the Law of Christ as they have been abolished, nailed to the cross. In a manner of speaking, they have died with Christ and been resurrected in glorified form.
The following study is courtesy of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.(5) The wording and scripture references are his, but I added the scripture texts.
Nine of the original Ten Commandments are found in the Law of the Messiah, and that is why we must obey them. But the commandment relating to the Sabbath is not
found anywhere in the Law of the Messiah.
Hebrews 4:9 reads, So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. This verse is often misinterpreted to mean that the believer is required to rest physically on the seventh day of the week - but verse 10 interprets it as enter[ing] His rest, the rest that comes through obedience to Christ as opposed to one's own works, that is, to any other course of action. This is brought out by verse 4, which quotes Psalm 95:11 and refers to the general disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (Psalm 95:10).
In the following passages, which apply to the Sabbath commandment in the Law - and the Sabbath commandment prior to the Law - Paul affirms that the Sabbath rest for the people of God does not refer to physical rest on the seventh day of the week:
Romans 14:5: One person regards one day above another, another regards every
day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
Colossians 2:16-17: 16. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - 17. things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus disclosed the nature of the rest that is in Him: 29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
The Sabbath rest for the people of God refers to a rest of the soul, not of the body.
2. Sabbath Worship Was Never Enjoined in the Law
Sabbath worship was never enjoined in the Law. Sabbath rest was: complete rest. . . in all your dwellings (Leviticus 23:3). Families were to rest in their own homes. Required corporate Sabbath worship was a non-Mosaic development. (The corporate Sabbath worship enjoined in Ezekiel 46:3 is part of Millennial Law that will take effect in the future Millennial or Messianic Kingdom.)
3. The Sabbath Commandment Was Not Carried Over to the Age of Grace
No biblical command carried the Sabbath over to the Age of Grace in which we live, nor switched it to Sundays.
Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17, cited above, likewise make it clear that the believer is not required to observe any of the Leviticus 23 feasts. Neither is he required to keep the kosher (dietary) laws (Matthew 15:11; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:14,20; 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Hebrews 9:10), nor the laws concerning tithing. Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament only in reference to giving under the Mosaic Law.
Another use of "law" in the New Testament is in the phrase, "law of God," which also needs consideration. The designation is found in three places, all in Romans.
Romans 7:22. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
Romans 7:25. I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 8:7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
There is considerable difference of opinion as to whether Paul, hypothetically picturing himself as under the Law, used the phrase in reference to the Law of Moses, or whether he used it in reference to the Law of Christ. If the former, then the primary meaning of “law” is to be taken. If the reference is to the Law of Christ, or even to God’s timeless principles, then the secondary meanings of “law” is to be taken, and the considerations and conclusions under The Law of Christ section, above, apply to Paul’s use of “law of God” because the meaning of the designation is identical with the meaning of the Law of Christ.
To sum up, the secondary meanings of "law," presented above, should be applied to the designations, Law of Christ, commandment(s) as used by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40, and law of God (if Paul meant it as identical with the Law of Christ) as such definitions are consistent with the tenor of New Testament exhortations and with the concept of grace as opposed to the concept law in Romans 6:14.
The Law was abolished - but what, exactly, was abolished? The Law of commandments contained in ordinances (Ephesians 2:15). The Law was abolished as a rule of life. It was not obliterated from the pages of Scripture. We can still read it, study it, and be blessed by it in various ways (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Many blessings can be reaped from the entire Old Testament, but our focus will be strictly on the commandments of the Mosaic code.
The chief value of the Law today is its capacity for instruction.
1. Types and Prophetically Illustrative Content
We can glean countless principles from the Law.
Other principles are:
3. Understanding Israelite Culture and Scripture
The Law was a foundational element in the culture and mindset of all Bible writers and Israeli personages from Moses through the first century. Jesus was born under the law (Galatians 4:4), and major portions of the New Testament deal with issues concerning the Law. Understanding the Law contributes much to understanding not only the Old Testament, but the New.
Though no one is required to keep any part of the Law today, one may validly choose to keep certain parts of it for various reasons, among which are:
1. To Affirm Our Love for Our Heritage
In Acts 21:21-24,26, Paul kept the law of Nazirites (Number 6:1-21) to falsify the rumor that he taught Jews that they needed to reject the Law and Jewish customs, lock, stock and barrel.
When I became a believer, my Orthodox Jewish mother almost lit a memorial candle. Almost twenty years later, I flew from Hawaii to Florida with my wife and two daughters, wore a yarmulke (a skullcap, a custom that has gained the force of Orthodox law) and celebrated the Passover with my parents and a brother. My brother later told me that my mother said, "I can see how Christianity is good for him." There was more to it than that! but she saw that I loved and respected my Jewish upbringing, and that blessed and honored her.
Romans 14:23 says, Whatever is not of faith is sin. If a Jewish believer grew up eating only kosher foods, his conscience might strike him if he ate non-kosher foods, such as pork or shellfish. Scripture allows him the liberty to restrict his diet to his satisfaction. He must, however, not judge those who do have the liberty in themselves to eat non-kosher (Romans 14). To use an example apart from Jewishness and the Law, converts from Islam may restrict their corporate worship to Fridays, and to make sure that they pray personally five times a day.
3. To Avoid Causing a Weaker Brother to
To use the same example, if a believer has the faith to eat non-kosher, and does so in the presence of one who does not, that might encourage the one without that faith to stumble, as it says in some versions (Romans 14:13), which, in light of verse 23, means to cause him to go against his conscience and thereby sin. The freer brother is required to observe the kosher laws in such a case, and to not sit in judgment of his weaker brother. (Romans 14).
Our AMC Statement reads, "The Law has much to teach us regarding a joyfully Jewish way of life." Every culture has its way of celebrating, and these are all fine as long as spirit and content are acceptable to the Lord. Many Jewish and non-Jewish believers alike like to celebrate in traditionally Jewish ways, such as, by celebrating the Passover and Tabernacles, and this is perfectly acceptable.
5. Fellowship, Teaching,
Learning and Jewish Evangelism
Such occasions as celebrating the feasts are valuable for fellowship, teaching, learning and Jewish evangelism. Concerning evangelism, Paul said, To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law (1 Corinthians 9:20).
1. Kinds of Laws
One must avoid observing any Mosaic law that contradicts or negates the New Covenant. For example, Leviticus 4 mandates that animal sacrifices be made for various sins. A believer must never offer a sacrifice for sin as that would negate the sacrifice of Christ, who, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD (Hebrews 10:12). The New Testament prescription for a believer's dealing with his sin is confession (1 John 1:9).
2. Reasons and Motives
One must never keep Mosaic laws out of a sense of legal obligation or for justification or sanctification. Nor may he keep any law so he could look Jewish or pious or promote godliness or religiosity via Jewishness, as Jewishness never drew anyone closer to God. Scripture never called anyone to Jewishness, but to a holy walk. This matter was settled in the Acts 15 council and is exemplified by Paul's refusal to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus (Galatians 2:3). Jesus decried such Pharisaical attitudes (Matthew 6:5; 23:5). If Jesus proved to be a Gentile, what a shock that would be for those who are puffed up because of their Jewishness or appearance as Jews! Paul said, We recognize no one according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16); and 1 Samuel 16:7:
|But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.|
This section is really an addendum; but since many confound the rabbinic with the Mosaic, and much messianic practice is rabbinic, it would be helpful to distinguish between the two and draw some applications.
1. Mixture of Mosaic and Rabbinic
Rabbinic law is an encyclopedic body of legal debates and opinions written by numerous rabbis over the course of many centuries. It is said to include the "Oral Law" given to Moses on Sinai at the same time he received the Written Law. However, Exodus 24:4 leaves no room for an Oral Law. When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Also Deuteronomy 31:9-13: So Moses wrote this law . . . . that they may . . . carefully observe all the words of this law . . . . If Moses wanted Israel to obey God fully, why would he allow the supposed Oral Law to remain unwritten? With these things in mind, it would be good to remember what Moses exhorted Israel: You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you (Deuteronomy 4:2). Also Revelation 22:18-19.
Rabbinic law has its roots in the Written Law, and some of it is Mosaic; but far more has been added. For example, the Mosaic Law commands, You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21), an ancient Egyptian rite. The command is very specific: boil, not roast; not just any animal, but a goat; not just any goat, but a young goat; not just any milk, but the milk of its mother. Nevertheless, out of this command has grown the rabbinic need for two sets of dishes to keep even the tiniest specks of any kind of meat and dairy from being consumed together, the need to wait a half hour (or hour with some) after eating dairy before eating meat, six hours after eating meat before eating dairy, and much more.
2. Drastic Contradictions
Some rabbinic law drastically contradicts the Mosaic. Jesus spoke of this (e.g., Mark 7:9-13). From the perspective of the believer, the most significant thing about rabbinic law is the universal rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and the rejection by many rabbis of the Jewish identity of Jewish believers. This is in stark contradiction to Deuteronomy 18:15-18, which is in reference to Messiah.
In verse 15, Moses commanded on behalf of the LORD, The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. Yet, to the Shemonah Esrei, the Eighteen Blessings that observant Jews pray three times every weekday as the central prayer of the liturgy (with abbreviated forms on Sabbath and other occasions), the following "blessing" was added at the end of the first century, making it nineteen:
|For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the nozerim [Nazarenes] and the minim [heretics] be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.(6)|
1. Keeping Rabbinic Law in General
Many believers desire to keeps parts of the Mosaic Law, but do not realize that much of today's Jewish observances are of rabbinic or cultural origin. Many elements of the modern Passover ceremony are nowhere found in the Law of Moses, and none of the Friday night Sabbath ceremony elements - standardized prayers, candles, challah bread, wine - are found in Mosaic Sabbath law. Certainly, if believers ought not to keep Mosaic law under a sense of obligation or for justification or sanctification, neither ought they to keep rabbinic law or cultural custom for the same. Paul had these words to say about observing the commandments and teachings of men for such reasons:
|20. If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21. "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22. (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23. 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.|
~ Colossians 2:20-23 ~
However, they may be observed for the same reasons noted above for keeping Mosaic laws, and with the same caveats.
2. Praying the Liturgy
One matter that needs to be thought through by messianic synagogues, and churches in general, is that of liturgical worship, that is, the repetition of standardized prayers and declarations, which was the dominant feature in synagogue worship in Jesus' day, and is today. It is the standard practice in major sections of the church, and it is common for messianic believers to hold Friday night Sabbath services and celebrate Passover and other such events that invariably contain standardized prayers.
In Matthew 6:7, Jesus instructed, And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. The Greek for meaningless repetition is battologeo. One definition that Thayer gives is "to repeat the same things over and over." Strong defines it as ". . . to prate tediously: - use vain repetitions."
Having just spoken these words, the Lord could not possibly have meant that "the Lord's Prayer" immediately following in verses 9-13 was to be such a prayer.
Nowhere is it recorded that He or any other believer repeated it. All recorded prayers of believers were extemporaneous. He said, Pray, then, in this way. It was a sample prayer that indicated that one's prayers should be addressed to the Father, that prayers should be made for God's will
to be done on earth, that requests may be made for personal provision, etc.
I would therefore say that, at the very least, if there is no strong rationale for instituting or retaining liturgical praying, then it ought to be avoided or eliminated and replaced by extemporaneous praying. Such rationale may conceivably include accommodating a significant number of new Orthodox or Conservative Jewish believers until they are weaned away from liturgical prayer, or when working with similar groups in Gentile populations such as Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, where liturgy has the force of law.
Theologizing is easy. Application is, at times, difficult, especially for pastors, who know that bringing their flocks to maturity is a process.
These point are certain:
3. Who May Pray?
One thing that rabbinic synagogues get right and many churches where even extemporaneous prayer takes place do not, is the fact that everybody prays, not just the rabbi, the pastor or selected elders or deacons. Acts 2:41-42 speaks of repeated corporate New Testament prayer that included everyone:
41. So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand
souls. 42. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Based on verse 42, it is likely that many of these meetings were called and overseen by some whom the Lord was raising up as leaders. Certainly, the apostles led some of them. In other words, such meetings functioned as incipient local congregations where everyone had the liberty to pray.
4. Distinguishing the
Mosaic from the Rabbinic or Cultural
Within the limits of the caveats, a believer may observe modern Jewish observances; but he must be careful not to assume that any particular aspect of the observance is of biblical origin. What is required for such discernment is the study of the Scriptures.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and
do not be subject again
to a yoke of slavery.
~ Galatians 5:1 ~
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1. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 021: The Eight Covenants of the Bible, p. 24, pdf.
3. The believer falls into temporary condemnation when he sins (1 Timothy 3:6; 5:12), but, in the eternal context, his justified position remains intact. His condemnation brings discipline upon him, and this discipline is evidence of his sonship, not of disownment, and his condemnation is rescinded upon repentance or death. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 with 2 Corinthians 2:5-8; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-9; 1 John 1:9)
4. Dake, Finis. Dake's Annotated Reference Bible: Old and New Testaments Compact Edition (Dake Publishing, Inc., 2001) "New Testament Commands," pp. 544-548.
5. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Dr., Messianic Bible Study 137: The Spiritual Life and the Believer's Rule of Life, p. 15., pdf.
6. Ehrlich, Uri. "Birkat Ha-Minim." Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0003_0_02999.html.