Torah and Faith
One of the key issues in today’s Messianic movement is the place that the Torah, or the Law of Moses, has in the life of the believer and the congregation. There are Jewish and Gentile believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) who are unsure, or maybe even confused as to their relationship to the Torah.
Some teach that believers in Messiah Yeshua, especially Jewish believers, are still under the Law’s authority for their fellowship, honor, and obedience. Others believe that Torah is totally irrelevant to the spiritual life, and unworthy of serious study and application. What is the truth, and how should we therefore live?
Saved by Faith
In Romans 3, Paul first demonstrates that a person is saved through God’s salvation by faith in Messiah Yeshua, and not by any works of the Law: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). Then Paul seems to reinstate the relationship between faith and Torah in Romans 3:31 “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”
Amazingly, Paul writes that rather than the Law being null and void (or nullified) through our faith, it is actually established by our faith in Messiah! In light of other Scriptures this raises two immediate questions:
In what way does our faith establish the Law (Torah)?
Doesn’t Paul also teach that certain aspects of the Torah are nullified by New Covenant faith?
How does our faith establish the Torah?
In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Paul wrote under the inspiration of Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) that all Scripture—at the time, meaning the Old Covenant, since the New Covenant was not yet fully written—is God inspired and profitable for our adequacy as sons and servants of God. Mature faith understands that the Torah…
Reveals the holiness and righteousness of God (Lev. 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15).
Reveals the fallen nature of man (Deut. 28:1, 15; 1 Tim. 1:10).
Recognizes that the Law reveals as praiseworthy those who lived by faith in God, not by their own righteousness (Gen. 15:6; Heb. 11).
Discerns that the Law witnesses to and leads one to Messiah (Gen. 49:10; Jer. 31:31; Gal. 4:19-25).
The Law is still and will always be profitable. God forbid that anyone should reject any inspired text, especially that which our faith establishes!
How exactly does our Faith establish the Law?
The holy Law of our loving Father reveals sin as our “falling short” of God’s standard, condemning us as sinners. By receiving Messiah’s forgiveness and atonement we therefore acknowledge the righteousness of the Law and its judgement of us.
If a condemned criminal accepts a pardon, he is admitting to the guilt of his crimes that put him under condemnation. But if he refuses to admit his guilt, he would therefore not be able to accept the free gift of the pardon. By our faith in Yeshua (accepting God’s pardon) we have thereby acknowledged our guilt and our need to escape condemnation (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:26). Our faith therefore establishes the Law.
Guilty or Not Guilty?
Orthodox (traditional) Jews have a reputation for Law keeping and Torah oriented worship. In actuality they are observing traditions of men (Matt. 15:1-13). They believe that the keeping of the traditions is pleasing to God. In the Babylonian Talmud it says, “Whoever is careful with Sabbath observance will be forgiven all his sins, even idolatry.” (Shabbath 118B). “Whoever studies Torah Law every day is guaranteed to go to heaven.” – Tanna DeBei Eliyahu. These same sincere people do not view themselves as condemned and hopeless sinners by the Torah.
Therefore, not seeing their need for Messiah Yeshua as their Savior, they reject His salvation. In so doing, despite their apparent devotion to the Torah, rather than establish the Torah, their unbelief denies the very purpose of the Law they are reputed to observe. Please pray for my people who are supposedly following the Law, but who in fact contradict it by not believing in Messiah Yeshua, God’s only way of salvation.
Are Certain Aspects of the Torah now nullified?
In Romans 3:31 the word that Paul uses for “make void” or “nullify” is katargeo in the original Greek language. The basic sense of this word is “to cause to be idle” or “useless.”
The term always denotes a superior power coming in to replace the power previously in effect such as, for instance, when light nullifies darkness.
In Romans 7:2,6 Paul uses katargeo to describe the marriage relationship which is ended through death of a spouse: “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband” (Romans 7:2). Here katargeo is translated released. Paul is showing here that we were married to the Law, and therefore under its jurisdiction and authority (Romans 7:1). Thus, we are “released” from the Law’s authority and under the new jurisdiction and authority of our new Husband, Messiah!
“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). The Law no longer has jurisdiction over our lives. We have liberty through our trust in and submission to Messiah.
This portion teaches us that faith does not nullify the Law, but that the Law’s authority over the New Covenant believer has been nullified. We therefore can develop our first principle from this truth for those of mature faith:
Mature faith is not under the Law but enjoys the liberty we have in Messiah Yeshua.
Remember, this does not mean that we are lawless, but that we are under the authority of the Messianic ‘Torah’ of our new ‘Husband’, Messiah Yeshua! (Matt. 11:28, 29; 1 Cor. 9:20,21). Tune in next month for the continuation of “Torah & Faith in Messiah.” Until then, Shalom!