What should we be following, “Torah” or “The Way”?
Are Torah and The Way both the same thing in the Word of God? Some people think so, but I’m not so sure. So I’d like to closely examine this subject and hopefully come to the right conclusion.
No, please, we’re not going to start a “war” over this issue. I have the “nuclear option” at my fingertips, so those seeking to disrupt the discussion with stubborn, unbiblical, unscholarly input will be “nuked” – in agape love, of course! 🙂
For the record: I am not slamming Torah or anyone who teaches Torah or who practices Torah. I firmly believe that Torah has its very essential place in the ecclesia and in the Kingdom. The purpose of this chapter is to sort out, through careful examination, exactly what that place is to be in a ecclesia community. Nothing more, nothing less. Please, let us examine these things in a spirit to unite us in Yeshua, and not to divide ourselves according to “our own understanding.”
Also, please remember this very humbling fact: When Yeshua visited Israel, most of the religious folk didn’t recognize Him. Think about that! Look at the facts: the religious people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the masters of the synagogues, etc, didn’t know Him. They had the Scriptures in their own original native language. They lived in the Promised land. They were the descendants of those who escaped Egypt and crossed the Jordan and battled Nephilim. But they knew not the hour of His visitation and they were unable to receive His message.
For this reason, please take no offense as I dissect this issue. It has been 2000 years since His visitation. We are (mostly) not of the direct lineage of the original Israelites. Over time, much truth has been buried or “adjusted” to suit the needs of the powerful. There are thousands of denominations and even more viewpoints on how we should perceive and practice the Word of YHWH. We are in need, whether we care to admit it or not. I include myself in this admonishment.
Please remember this as we continue: “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In ALL your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
What justifies us? I ask this because it is the most important conversation that we can have. How do we qualify as Saints? How do we overcome? How do we gain the distinction of being named a manifest Son or Daughter of YHWH?
Paul wrote: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Ez. 18:24, Romans 6:13
And also: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Yeshua ha Messiach. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”
So, we know that there are rules. Are these rules Torah? And how does Torah compare with righteousness? Let’s continue with a quote:
“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with (the) faith in those who heard it.”
Ok. First, who was the writer of Hebrews referring to when he wrote of “them”? Let’s take a look:
“Since therefore it remains that some must enter it (the rest), and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.”
Interesting. The writer of Hebrews designates first, David, and that is important in its own context, but what I’d like to point out is that the writer moves on to mention Joshua along with “them.”
Why Joshua and not Moses? Didn’t YHWH use Moses to give them the Law? Yes. But Moses himself could not enter into the promised land as a result of disobedience. Joshua did obey and led Israel in to the promised land. So, from the context, “them” were those who Joshua led into the promised land.
To me, this seems simple enough. But I have concerns, namely that there are folks who are totally dependent on Torah, or The Law, who are not mixing it with The Way. Again, please don’t be offended. I’m trying to take a clean, objective look at this because the Law (“Torah”) which they heard did not profit them. Why not? Because it was not mixed with the faith, The Way.
“The Law is good when used lawfully.” Again, when “mixed,” or “blended” with the faith, The Way, the Law is good.
There can be no doubt that when the New Testament writers are writing about the law and The Way, they are writing about two different subjects. Again, let’s take a look:
“But before (the) faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.”
Now, for clarification, the faith and the Way are the same thing. This is also clear throughout the Word. (“According to this Way, which they call heresy, so do I worship the God of my fathers as written in the Law and the Prophets.”)
So, should those who are in The Way practice Torah? No problem – as long as they do it lawfully and remember the lesson of “them” who it did not profit.
Please have mercy on me, by the way. This is difficult to disseminate and explain. I have a real appreciation for how the writers of the NT must have struggled when writing these things down!
Here are some examples of the points that I’m trying to bring forth for consideration:
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all… Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”
There is a simplicity that is in Yeshua ha Messiach. Are we following this simplicity, or are we complicating it (as the Pharisees did) with legalism? This is a very important question.
What is the simplicity and what is the potential complication? Please allow me an example: “Prayer Warriors.” Sorry, folks. I have to ask where this term came from and whether it is based in the Scriptures. And I have to ask because I’ve seen an awful lot of unscriptural behavior from some (not all) self-proclaimed prayer warriors.
Can a person really biblically pronounce themselves to be a “prayer warrior”? What are the scriptural qualifications? Did YHWH proclaim in some manner that any individual is a “prayer warrior? Are you seeing my point? We’re ALL called to “pray without ceasing.” How should much diligent prayer set us apart from any other believer?
Some people like to say that they are a “prophet.” Kinda the same thing. I have to admit that I have wondered at times if YHWH made me a “latter day prophet” or a “watchman.” After all, He gave me some understanding of His Scriptures. But does this make me a prophet? Well honestly, when I look at his prophets, especially John the Baptist and Isaiah and Jeremiah and the rest of them, I realize that I fall really short. Having knowledge from YHWH does not make one a Prophet. Such knowledge plus a clean record of unwavering righteousness, however, may qualify a person as a prophet of YHWH. I fail in this respect. Having said, in the New Testament the role of the prophet is to exhort the ecclesia to the truth. This I strongly desire to do, though I feel that I fall short in my qualifications. As I struggle with this fact, I must remember, and cling to, these words:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
I too, along with many others, am in the process of working out my salvation with fear and trembling. And I must overcome my own weaknesses lest, after having preached The Way, I myself should become disqualified. I too must bring my body completely into subjection. What, then, will be my guide?
So I must propose the question: Are we inventing spiritual names and situations for ourselves because we’re falling short of listening to the son of YWHW? Are we like little children, pretending to be spiritual “superheroes” without having the actual power of a superhero? Or without having the qualifications?
We are exhorted to “study to show ourselves approved.” How can we therefore demonstrate that we are “approved” without diligent study?
And let’s remember Paul’s words to Timothy:
“Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in (agape) love, in spirit, in faith, in purity…give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”
Moving forward, let’s put all this to the test of the Scriptures and the New Testament.
“Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.”
““‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
“Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of ha Messiach who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of ha Messiach and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us (the Apostles) they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you (the ecclesia) through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”
There’s VERY deep stuff in those few verses. The angels desire to look into these things! The Prophets were ministering to the Apostles with the LAW to show us the two chief commandments (which later became One commandment because in keeping it both were fulfilled) by which we must live. This is about law written not on stone, but on hearts. This is about fulfilling the Law by operating under the Spirit of Agape’.
“Love (agape) does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love (agape) is the fulfillment of the law.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Yeshua ha Messiach has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Folks, what was the fruit of the Law?
Sin and Death.
What is the fruit of agape (the law of the Spirit of life in Yeshua ha Messiach)?
Do you see? Let’s dig deeper.
“…But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.”
Are people who do such things in the list above walking according to the Spirit of Life or according to the Law of sin and death? We MUST all examine ourselves with a humble and contrite heart if we are to effectively walk in His Truth.
Am I bringing this stuff up to condemn? Absolutely not. Not my job. Instead, I’m preparing ground, digging a little, turning the soil, removing some weeds and rocks, for what follows. This will (hopefully) be a deep examination.
Leviticus vs Deuteronomy: The Law without the Way (it did not profit them) and the Law with the Way (“We will not walk in it and we will not listen”):
Ok – first let’s examine the verses in Leviticus that speak of the “way”:
Ummm….it’s not there. Hmmm. So let’s take a look at Deuteronomy:
(Too many to list here so I picked some out….)
“You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
““Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you brought out of Egypt have acted corruptly; they have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them; they have made themselves a molded image.’”
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,…”
“For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him—…”
“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”
“Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice.”
“The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways.”
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”
“For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”
“He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.”
Given that the Way of the Lord is not even mentioned in Leviticus but is written throughout Deuteronomy, there remains a puzzling question: why? We’ll approach that question later in this study.
Unclean Foods, Sabbath, the Feasts, and the Whole of the Law
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
It’s going to get touchy here. But please examine these things in the Scriptures and the NT and in the Spirit of Truth to see what are the correct answers for us to live individually and corporately.
“I won’t eat pork or shrimp. God forbade it.” Good for you!
“I keep the Sabbath because God said that it would never change.” Good for you!
“I don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter because they are pagan. Instead, I keep the Feasts as written in Torah.” Good for you!
“I financially support the newlywed couples in my community of believers for one year because this is what God commands in His Torah.”
So let’s get this right. If we don’t eat pork or shellfish, and we keep the Sabbath, and we celebrate only the Feasts, but we then neglect to start the marriage of others correctly, then have we stumbled on one point? And what does James write above concerning the result of this behavior and the correct way to deal with it?
Yeshua said, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.””
What does this verse and the one above from James have in common?
I don’t eat pork. Why? I’ll tell you that it isn’t necessarily because of the Law, though the Law had its impact on me as a teacher. The real answer to why I don’t eat pork is because God said not to and He must have had His reasons. In other words, I trust the judgment of YHWH. If I may say so, this may be an example of following the Spirit and fulfilling the Law.
So, one night I’ve been invited to the house of an acquaintance of humble means. They have not yet committed to the Way, but they are “Christians” and they say that they love God and that they want to learn more. I get to their house and the supper table is set. They ask me to sit down and join them. I sit down, and before you know it I have a thick slab of ribs on a plate set down in front of me. OMG!!! So, as a good Torah-keeper I ask, “Are these PORK ribs? Oh, they are? I’m sorry – I can’t accept your gracious hospitality because you are heathen pork-eaters and I am better than that because I follow Torah and, by the way, you’re all going to burn in hell for not keeping Torah.”
“But thanks for the offer. And I’m really sorry for your loss.”
Ok. We don’t want to either disobey YHWH or defile our bodies. I get that. But what does the Word tell us that our correct answer should be?
I believe that the Word tells us to “just eat it and shut up.” These people are seeking and we must show them mercy (and we must repent because, truth told, we really enjoyed those ribs!)
But let’s look at the Word:
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them.”
“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them”.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that 1) in latter times some will depart from the faith, 2) giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 3)speaking lies in hypocrisy, 4)having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 5)forbidding to marry, and 6) commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 7) For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
Now let’s take a real close look at 6 and 7. The Spirit expressly said that those who depart from the faith (The Way) will command to abstain from foods which God created and that every creature of God is good and NOTHING is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.
How can this be?
“Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them.”
Grace to Grace
“Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ (YHWH manifested Himself to Noah on the mountain.) Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”
And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
There are basically four ways to look at things:
- There is nothing that I can do so I won’t even try (lack of the faith; have not received the love of the truth)
- I have “grace” so I won’t worry about it (What happened to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling?”)
- I must keep the whole of the Law or I will be guilty of unlawfulness (That’s been attempted – it didn’t work out too well)
- I can do all things through ha Messiach which strengthens me.
So, where does “grace to grace” enter into the equation? Well, let’s first define “grace”:
“The manifestation of the power of the presence of God.”
No, you won’t find that quote in the Word of God. But Scripture defines Scripture, and the true definition of “grace” (which is a poor English language substitute) is throughout the entire Word. You can find this definition through study, prayer, and most importantly, through asking YHWH to open your understanding of the Scriptures.
Allow me to give a couple of examples:
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”
““I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.”
““I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.”
Remember that to be made manifest is the same thing as to be revealed. YHWH reveals, or, manifests Himself among those who steadfastly obey Him according to His Spirit.
Yes, this is a lot to take in and process. There may be more questions than answers right now. But we’re going to carefully dissect all of this and examine it closely as we continue.
As we move forward, we’ll be taking a close look at righteousness, unrighteousness, the Spirit of Agape’, the mercy of Torah, and how these all tie together in The Way.
Shalom, my friends!