So, I was reading this morning in that famed book that everyone thinks tells us not to keep the Torah.
I’ve written at length about it before, and people have said I write a bit like Sha’ul, and things are not so easily understood. I am compelled to simplify today, as much as I can, the arguments in that book.
Check history. I wish I could cite references today, but alas, I cannot. Nevertheless, the issue was that there were “Judaizers” trying to force ONE doctrine on new, Gentile believers in Messiah. The history is that this was a faction of Pharisees, from the “House of Shammai,” the sect within a sect of Judaism that believed, for about 150 years before Messiah, that all Gentiles must convert, become a Jew, with the FINAL SIGN/ACT of conversion being physical circumcision. [Acts 15:1, Gal 5:2-6] They further taught that they could not be ‘saved’ if they did not fully convert to Judaism, and could therefore not worship in the Synagogue with Jews any longer, for rejecting the doctrine. This is documented history. Moreover, the ones bringing this manmade, foul doctrine into the Messianic community were NOT believers in Messiah Yeshua, but were false brothers, pretending to be ‘saved’, and perhaps pretending to be Messianic! [Gal 2:4] This was ‘another gospel’, which did not exist! It was manmade. The “B’sorah” that Sha’ul preached is clearly seen in Acts 13 and 14. But, these Jews were NOT even “Messianic Jews” who trusted Messiah, but PRETENDED to believe in Yeshua, to take control of the Gentile community! In truth, their ‘faith’ in G-d itself was false! [Gal 4:17] Not all Jews believed in salvation for Gentiles by circumcision. Only half of the community of Pharisees did. But Shammai was the ruling house among the Pharisees. The “House of Hillel” opposed them, calling Shammai the “Synagogue of Satan,” and they believed that the Gentiles who came into the Synagogue could be saved by doing a minimum number of mitzvot [commandments]. Obviously, both ‘houses’ were trying to earn their salvation, and no true believer in Yeshua has ever taught that! And thus, they were ‘false believers’! No true follower of Yeshua has ever taught that salvation is finalized by circumcision. [Gal 2:15-16] Including us!
[ some today believe that the Hillel doctrine on Gentiles was what is today called the “Noakhide Laws” of B’reshit [Gen] 9. These are indeed very similar to the mitzvot given by Ya’akov [James] as compulsory for worshipping in the Synagogue to the Gentile believers in Yeshua! But, we do not follow Rabbis anyway, as they rejected the One Shepherd and Rabbi]
Ya’akov’s mandate for Gentiles to follow a certain small set of mitzvot [more than four, in fact several chapters of Torah] [Acts 15:20, 29] was NOT directed as a proof of salvation, but a matter of ‘order’ and ‘right’ in worshipping, IN THE SYNAGOGUE ! ON SHABBAT! [Acts 15:21]. Acts chapters 13 and 14 are the record of Sha’ul [Paul] preaching to the Galatian Gentiles, IN THE SYNAGOGUE, ON SHABBAT. They continued to worship there on Shabbat. Nowhere did they shift to ‘sun-day’. The mandate not to undergo circumcision FOR SALVATION did NOT go so far as to tell them to stop worshipping on Shabbat! If this was the ‘turning point,’ why did Shabbat observance not cease then also, instead of in 320 A.D. when Constantine mandated it, and less than 100 years later when Rome began killing BELIEVERS who would not STOP keeping Shabbat?
Sha’ul did not dismiss Torah altogether in the book of Galatians. In fact, he shows us its purpose: “For through the Torah I am dead to the Torah, that I might live to Elohim.” [2:19] And he declares emphatically that Torah is NOT contrary to the promise of the B’sorah [good new/gospel] : “Is the Torah then against the promises of Elohim? What profanity!” Sha’ul also told them, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Mashi’akh, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Adoneinu Yeshua HaMashi’akh a minister of sin? What profanity!” [ch 2] “Sin IS breaking Torah.” [1 Jo 3:4] What most people do not realize when reading this is that the sin he’s addressing is trying to become righteous on one’s own, which is an infraction against Torah! TRUST has ALWAYS been the mechanism of salvation! “If we are found sinners” to Sha’ul, and all the Talmidim of Yeshua, is to be found ‘breaking Torah’. Again, the sin of trying to save oneself by obeying Torah is in fact an infraction against TORAH! But, just like Avraham, who because of his “Emunah”, or firm trust/faith, was given “Tzedaka” by Elohim, and the PROOF of it was that he THEN kept ALL the decrees, statutes, and laws of G-d [Torah, Gen 24], so too we who trust in Messiah [As Avraham did, Yeshua said, “Avraham saw My day”, the resurrection, on his way to bind and offer his own son], prove our Emunah by obeying Torah: Torah defines sin, it tells us what it is, and it tells us what ‘good deeds’ to G-d are. We do both: observe [do] things G-d tells us to do, and keep/guard ourselves from doing things He said NOT to do. All believers practice this in some form or fashion, and to some measure. WE who are Messianic simply TRUST that G-d is PLEASED further when we keep His Sabbath and His other Appointed Times, as Yeshua did, and as Sha’ul and all the Apostles did.
Avraham is the father of our faith: “So then, it is those who trust who are blessed through Avraham the trusting one.” Sha’ul is telling us that our Jewishness or Gentile flesh [circumcised or uncircumcised] has NOTHING to do with our Salvation, whatsoever, but that ALL are ‘saved’ because of TRUST.
Most readers of Galatians come away with the conclusion that the Torah is a curse. This is lack of basic reading comprehension, not because people cannot read, but because they read the text with that foreknowledge/presumption, and they cannot ‘un-see’ that INTERPRETATION.
“For those who rely on the works of the Torah are still under the curse; for as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not practice everything which is written in the book of the Torah.” This in NO WAY declares that the Torah IS a curse: but, it says that anyone who does not do EVERYTHING Torah says is cursed. It is indeed true that no one has ever lived his life perfectly according to Torah, aside from Yeshua, the perfect Torah keeper. So, Abba, in His compassion, redeemed those who trust in Yeshua out from under the curse OF the Torah: “Mashi’akh has redeemed us from the curse in the Torah by becoming accursed for our sakes; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” that the blessing of Avraham might come on the nations through Yeshua HaMashi’akh, that we might receive the promise of HaRu’akh through absolute trust.” The curse in/of the Torah is very explicit, in VaYikra there are whole chapters describing what the curses are for those who break it! But, that does not in ANY WAY negate the righteous life described in Torah! And every REAL believer knows that. They just do not yet see that G-d STILL loves HIS Sabbath, all His ‘sabbaths’, the seven other appointed times that He made for all mankind perpetually.
“But then, when you did not know Elohim, you served those things which from their nature were not gods. But now, after you have known Elohim, and, above all, are known of Elohim, you turn again to those weak and poor principles, and you wish again to come under their bondage. You still observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid that perhaps I have labored among you in vain.”
There are several things to look at concerning the scripture above [4:8-11], which is another ‘proof text’ for many that the Torah is invalid, especially His Sabbath and the appointed times. First, the “you” in the first clause is explicitly GENTILES, GALATIANS, people who did not know G-d, but served IDOLS. They were NOT gods! The “weak and poor principles” he cites most assume to be the Mitzvot of the Torah. Really, we’re going to call the Mitzvot, the Commandments of G-d, like the “Ten Commandments”, weak and poor principles? REALLY? WHAT PROFANITY! [see that phrase’s many uses also in the book of Romans, and pay attention there] The Galatians could not possibly RETURN to Torah commands from being pagan! The BONDAGE of paganism was observance of ‘laws’ or ‘commands’ that did NOT come from G-d! So, EVEN IF he were addressing Jewish believers, this would STILL apply to them, as the command to be circumcised to be saved did NOT come from G-d! Circumcision was given to Avraham AFTER he was declared ‘righteous’. Circumcision of the heart is given to US after we are declared righteous, and we, Jew OR Gentile, become TRUE JEWS when our hearts are circumcised, [Rom 2:29], and circumcision of the heart is OBEDIENCE to His mitzvot! [Deut 10] The keeping of ‘days, months, times, and years’ was NOT exclusive to Judaism. The pagan rites of Greece and Rome had days of observance: Friday was their day of not eating meat; they had many days of fasting, and many other observances. Sha’ul doesn’t tell the reader what their ‘days’ and times they were worried about were, because THEY KNEW. But, he never once said, ‘do not observe the Sabbath’, which these Galatians did observe, even as he wrote them [Acts 13, 14, and 15:21].
The next passage of issue is: “Now these things are a symbol of the two covenants, the one from Har Sinai giving birth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is Har Sinai in Arav, and surrenders to Yerushalayim which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Because this does indeed refer to Har [Mt] Sinai, and to the Jewish people, readers ‘think’ that this bondage is The Torah. NO! WHAT PROFANITY! The bondage is SIN! Israel TODAY, just as then, is lost, and under SIN! And that sin is TRYING TO BE SAVED BY DOING TORAH, and NOT TRUSTING in Yeshua! THAT is what the “Judaizers” were teaching in Galatia. The Torah TELLS US what sin is, and points us to Yeshua! And we find excuses NOT to do what G-d says. Just as the Galatians were being told. “Trust is not enough, be circumcised and become Jewish.” NO! The Torah tells us not to do that! But MAN fails. That is the ‘weakness of the Torah’. It tells us what sin is, but does not cure us from sin. It gives us no power over sin. But Messiah DOES. Trust in Messiah IS the cure! But, through that trust, we are given the Ru’akh, so that we can OBEY GOD! Suddenly, keeping the Torah is not frightful, because we KNOW we have a propitiation for our failures!
The last thing we will look at is this: “For the flesh craves that which is harmful to HaRu’akh, and HaRu’akh opposes the things of the flesh; and the two are contrary to one another, so that you are unable to do whatever you please. But if you are led by HaRu’akh, you are not under the Torah. For the works of the flesh are well known, which are these: adultery, impurity, and lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, stubbornness, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and all such things; those who practice these things, as I have told you before and I say to you now, shall not inherit Malkhut HaElohim.”
People see the phrase ‘under the Torah’ and THINK it means to be doing the commandments. But, look closely. Being ‘under the Torah’ means to be BREAKING it. The ‘works’ he lists as deeds of the flesh are NOT “Remember the Sabbath” or “Observe Passover” or “Observe Matzot” or “Observe Yom HaKippurim”, etc. but the ‘works’ of the FLESH are adultery, idolatry, witchcraft, and a host of OTHER things the Torah says NOT TO DO! When one is practicing those things, ONE IS UNDER TORAH! One might say ‘how does the circumcision issue fall in this category?’ Well, Yeshua and the Nevi’im tell us that our doctrines are idolatry. MEN made up the notion that one must be circumcised to be saved. THAT was the Galatian issue. THAT is a manmade mitzvah, and that is idolatry, the worship of self. Putting trust in oneself and in his flesh to be saved by it. Sha’ul is showing us that the Torah is in line with the Ru’akh! In another book, he actually says that the Torah IS Spirit! [Rom 7:14] Any doctrine that does not agree with the Torah spoken on Har Sinai is NOT from G-d. His Breath spoke the Mitzvot. Yeshua spoke the Mitzvot to Moshe. Yeshua spoke the Mitzvot to Yisra’el, and expounded them, and expressly said that He did NOT come to abolish the Torah, but to confirm it. And he spends the next 2 & 1/2 chapters confirming the Torah [Matti 5-7].
Sha’ul overturned a manmade law in Galatia, and supported the Torah. Any other conclusion defies the Creator Himself.
I hope this is brief enough for someone…. Shalom!