What is a Torah Observant Christian? The first five books of Moses is sometimes called “the Pentateuch,” which means five books, or the Torah, which means teaching or law. So a Torah Observant Christian is a Christian who observes the Old Mosaic law.
Wikipedia says, “There is a variety of practice within Messianic Judaism regarding the strictness of Torah observance. Generally, Torah observant congregations observe Jewish prayers, biblical feasts, and Sabbath. While most traditional Christians deny that the ritual laws and specific civil laws of the Torah apply to Gentiles, certain passages regarding Torah observance in the New Testament are cited by some Messianic believers as proof that Torah was not abolished for Jews. They point out that in Acts 21, Jewish believers in Jerusalem are described as ‘zealous for the Law’.”
I have also read online some saying that Christ kept and taught Torah. Of course He did! This was before He nailed the law to His cross! Others have said that all throughout the Bible Gentiles who decided to follow God were expected to keep the Torah given to Israel. They were expected to keep Passover (Numbers 9:14), Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:19), Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:29), Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:14), etc. And one even said that Paul implicitly instructed Gentile Christians in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 NOT to eat unclean animals but to receive food that is sanctified by the Word of God. (The Word of God sanctifies only clean animals.) That is not what that verse says at all! (We’re going to get to that.)
Of course, what is the underlying problem with their thinking? They fail to – what? Rightly Divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Why is this important? Because if you’re a believing Christian, and you’re observing the Torah, you’ve fallen from grace. You’re out of the will of God, and you are putting others under bondage for which Christ had died to make us free!
Why Should We Rightly Divide the Word of Truth?
Because there are three important principles when it comes to exegesis of Scriptures: context, context, and context. Right division is about context, and you must understand the context of the OT and the context of the Gospels.
After the fall in the garden, God promised a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15). Later, when God created the nation of Israel through Abraham, He promised a land (Gen. 12:1-2; Heb. 11:8-16). And God promised to David a future kingdom here on earth (Psa. 2:7-8; Jer. 23:5; Isa. 42:4). Christ, the Messiah of Israel, would come into the world through the line of David and establish His kingdom here on Earth (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Matt. 1:23). He’ll reign out of Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3; 24:23; Jer. 3:17). His reign will extend over the entire Earth. “Yea,” David wrote, “all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” (Psa. 72:11). “Yea,” Zechariah wrote, “many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. 8:22). There were many other prophecies, too. All of Israel’s sufferings and sorrows would be gone (Isa. 35:10; 40:2; 61:3). The governments will be purified. Isaiah would proclaim that all war and bloodshed will be abolished (Isa. 2:4; 9:6), that health and long life will be restored to the human race (Isa. 35:5,6; 65:20), that the animal creation will be tamed (Isa. 11:6-9), and the sin curse will be removed from the Earth (Isa. 35:1,2,6,7). And on and on the prophesies went about Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.
God also proclaimed through Moses that Israel would be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exo. 19:6). They would be priests in a thousand-year kingdom (Rev. 20:4-7) in which they’ve inherited the uttermost parts of the earth (Psa. 2:8), in which the Lord would sit upon David’s throne (Jer. 23:5-8), and Israel would be the instrument of His blessings to the whole world about their Messiah. Zechariah would proclaim, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).
So when the Lord came and everyone proclaimed that the “kingdom is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7), what did they mean? They were saying that the Messiah had come, that the prophesied earthly kingdom with Jehovah sitting upon David’s throne had finally arrived, and the time was now for Israel to become God’s kingdom of priests to bless the whole world about their Messiah. Imagine the shockwaves in Israel when news spread that the kingdom was at hand!
The Son of God arrived in the flesh to fulfill all the promises made to the fathers of Israel about their kingdom on Earth. All of Israel needed to receive their Messiah by faith, be baptized of water, Spirit, and fire, to become that nation of priests God had always intended so that they may bless the whole world about Christ in His kingdom. Through the priests of Israel, the world would find salvation in Christ. What this means is that the Lord’s words during His earthly ministry were not meant for the Gentiles, which is why the Lord said in John 4:22, “Salvation is of the Jews.”
What did the Lord say in Matt. 10:5-7? He said, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Is this what we do today? Do we avoid preaching to the gentiles? Do we preach in our churches to Jews only that the kingdom is “at hand”? And are we to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead? When was the last time you raised someone from the dead? How about this verse. Mat_5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. So if I asked you to give me all the money you have, are you going to obey this verse and send it all to me? You might think, sure, I’ll do that. And after I send the money, I’m going to ask you to send it back! But then you’d be disobeying Luk_6:30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. If you’re observing the words of the Lord, then you must send me all your money.
How do you explain these verses? There’s only one answer. We must do as Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 2:15 and rightly divide the Word of Truth. We must make a straight cut between what is spoken to us and what isn’t, between God’s program with Israel and God’s program with the church today, the Body of Christ. A change took place after the cross and after Pentecost.
Paul came onto the scene revealing what he proclaimed a mystery, hid from ages and generations, and what Paul teaches alone is the doctrine and destiny of the church today. Paul is our apostle for today. If you’ve never heard this before, I beg you. Prayerfully consider that what the Lord revealed to us through Paul was different than what had been taught before him, which is why Paul three times talks about “my gospel” (Rom. 2:16; 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8), because his good news was different than the good news of the kingdom being “at hand.” This is why Paul three times under inspiration of the Holy Spirit tells us to “be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 11:1; Php. 3:17), because he is our apostle for today and because Paul’s conversion by simple grace through faith was to be a “pattern” to all of us who “should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1:16). He is a pattern because we are in a new “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2), an interruption in the prophetic program in which God is now dispensing His grace to all, both Jew and Gentile, who come to Him by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son as a payment for all our sins.
We are, therefore, careful to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). We must make a straight cut in the Bible between what is spoken to us and what isn’t, between God’s program for Israel and His program for us, the church today, the Body of Christ. While all the Bible is written for us, not all is written to us.
In the Gospels, Jesus made clear that forgiving others was a requirement to receive forgiveness from God the Father. The Lord said in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Paul says we’ve already been forgiven! Colossians 2:13 tells us, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you ALL trespasses.”
Israel was promised an earthly inheritance. They were told again and again that they shall inherit the Earth. As David wrote, “I shall give Thee… the uttermost parts of the Earth for Thy possession”. Eph. 2:6 tells us that God has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
And yes, the Lord obeyed the laws of Moses and told everyone to obey the law. But after the cross. After Pentecost. After Paul came on the scene. What did Paul tell us? He said in Col. 2:14 that Christ took “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;” and tells us we’re “not under the law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14-15).
In the Israeli program, many meats were forbidden such as we might find in Lev. 11:7-8. “The swine is unclean to you… of their flesh ye shall not eat and… not touch.” Paul tells us that every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4). What does he say in this verse? 1 Tim. 4:4 For every creature of God is good [That is: Every creature which God has made is good for the purpose of consumptions, and in case you doubted that Paul adds], and nothing to be refused [in 1 Tim. 4, Paul that abstaining from meats was part of the APOSTASY, because the APOSTASY we live in is all about legalism. So Paul says nothing to be refused], if it be received with thanksgiving [the only thing asked of us in this age of grace is to be thankful for all that God has given]: 1 Tim. 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
How is it that the meat from every creature of God is sanctified, or set apart for us, by the Word of God and prayer? Does this mean that if we thank God in prayer for our meat that it’ll always nourish us? If that meat is contaminated, will we not get sick? What this means is that His Word sanctioned the consumption of every creature for food, and we’re to thank Him for that because we’re given this liberty because of His grace! We thank God for the meat because we know from His Word that those meats have been sanctified by God or set apart for our good use because of His grace today.
Do you think that observing the law will make you somehow more accepted of God when He has already accepted you into the beloved because of your faith? When He has already made you complete in Him the moment you believed? When He has already forgiven you all trespasses? How can God love you anymore than He already does after sending His Son to die for you just so you could be FREE FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW!
If the Apostle Paul were alive right now, this is what he’d have to say about you observing the law:
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
I’ve heard popular preachers on the radio say too often that the Mosaic law is a moral guidepost for the Christian today. Balderdash! How can the law be a guidepost for Christians today when Paul told us in 1 Tim. 1:9 “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners..?” Rom_3:19-21 “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets…” Then he says in Rom_6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” What was the point of the law? The law existed to condemn you for your sins to bring you to Christ who fulfilled the law by His all-sufficient atonement for your sins on the cross!
Why should we need the law to keep us from sinning when we have already been freed from the dominion of sin by virtue of what God has made us in Christ? The point of Paul telling us that we are not under the law but under grace is because we’ve been freed from sin’s dominion and we’ve been freed from the condemnation that comes by living under the law.
The law is dead and buried. Christ took that Mosaic law, and all 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. My favorite verse about the law is Gal. 3:24. O’Hair quoted this often. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” That’s all it was. A schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It taught us our unworthiness. It taught us that we’re all sinners. It taught us that we cannot achieve righteousness on our own. It taught us our need for Christ. And now that we have been brought to Christ who fulfilled the law, we are sanctified in Him by faith alone. We’re identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We’re baptized into Christ and we have put on Christ. We are new creatures – all things new – separated from our old sin nature and given a new spiritual life, the impartation of God’s spiritual life to us. Whereas the law is dead and buried, Christ is alive and risen & He’s our life now. Whereas the OT saints were consumed about the law, we’re now to be consumed about Christ.
A well-meaning brother may say, “Joel, don’t you think we should at least obey the Ten Commandments?” Okay. How’s the fifth commandment working out for you? Observe the Sabbath. Do you observe the Sabbath every Saturday? If not, you’ve broken the Ten Commandments.
Well, he might say, “observing the Sabbath for us would mean going to church on Sundays.” No, observe the Sabbath means to observe the Sabbath just as it’s written. What does Paul tell us about the fifth commandment? Col 2:16. He said let no man judge you about observing sabbath days. I love that he wrote that. Paul tells us to outright ignore the fifth commandment and ignore anyone who tries to judge us according to the fifth commandment. So how are we to obey all ten commandments when Paul tells us to ignore the fifth one?
But let’s assume this brother is right. Let’s assume that the fifth commandment simply means that Christians today must go to church on Sundays. My question to this brother would be, “Have you gone to church every single Sunday? No? Then you’ve broken the law in the Ten Commandments, and you remember what Jas_2:10 says: ‘For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.’ So what do you do then when you’ve broken the law under the Ten Commandments and you’ve come under the full weight and condemnation of the entire Mosaic law? What then?” “Well, I’ll confess my sins.”
Then my question to you is – why did Christ die for you?
You’re living like the Jews in this vicious cycle of legalism, sin, and condemnation under the law when Christ died to free you from all of that. You’re freed from the law. You’re freed from the dominion of sin. You’ve been forgiven all trespasses. If you believe that you have to obey the Ten Commandments, then you are debtor to do the whole law, including observing the sabbath just as it’s written and thus, become a proselyte carefully observing all 630 Mosaic laws. “Well, brother, don’t you think you shouldn’t kill, steal, covet, commit adultery, etc., as mentioned in the Ten Commandments?” Yes, but not because we’re living under the law. If we are saved by His grace, regenerated through the baptism of the Spirit, living in His Word walking in the Spirit, we naturally fulfill the moral commandments of the law out of love and gratitude, not by obligation and fear of retribution.
Paul said in Rom 13:10, “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Living a life of grace rises way above the old Mosaic law. Grace gives away more than what the law seeks from us, and true love from a sincere heart does more than just keep us from killing and stealing. True love goes beyond the requirements of the law by letting the lost and the dying experience the love of Christ in us and draw them into a relationship with Him. Love is the ultimate fulfillment of the law. It is one thing to believe that you are under the laws and the Ten Commandment, which you must obey or else suffer the consequences, and it’s another to have all those consequences already paid for by the cross, which frees us from the law, and we naturally fulfill the law out of love and gratitude to Christ for setting us free from all that condemnation. The law isn’t your guidepost. Love and grace, the very nature and character of grace itself operating through you based upon His Word is your guidepost. Fred mentioned this afternoon faith which worketh, not by the law but, by love. The nature of love and grace itself guides us so that we do not steal, kill, etc.
If your pastor teaches you that you must obey the Ten Commandments, then you are a debtor to do the whole law. Paul said in Rom_6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
If your pastor teaches you that you are required to give 10% tithe every week, then you are a debtor to do the whole law. (And you are certainly going to the wrong church.) Paul said in 2Co_9:7, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
If your pastor teaches you that you must be water baptized, then you are a debtor to do the whole law. Eph 4:5. For there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism today, and that can only be the baptism of the Spirit the moment you believe. One means one.
And if your pastor puts you under any kind of ritual, ordinance, a type of asceticism, confession, pennants, etc., then you are fallen from His grace, because doing those things implies that Christ’s death on the cross was not all-sufficient. Your observation of those rituals and ordinances, etc., testifies through your actions that you don’t believe Christ’s payment on the cross was all-sufficient to transform you into the new creature He says you are. Christ is everything or nothing.
This is why Paul says in Gal 5:1 to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Because if you become entangled with a yoke of bondage, then ye are fallen from grace. This doesn’t mean you lost your salvation. It means you’re still saved but out of His will because you’re operating outside the framework of His grace. I loved how Paul told the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 8:7 “Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.” What does he mean by that? He’s saying “we came to Christ by His grace, we were saved by His grace; so now go live in His grace! Abound in His grace! Excel in His grace! God has made us abound in everything, all sufficient in all things; now go make the greatest use of those spiritual blessings He’s given you!”