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Reggie White Messianic
of Torah Today
Based on Torah Rediscovered by Ariel and
First and foremost, the Torah is "God's teaching." This is
the primary meaning of the Hebrew word Torah. The word does not mean
"law". Torah refers to the first 5 books of scripture,
commonly called the Pentateuch.
Torah is a document in which God has revealed Himself to mankind. In
the Torah, one can learn much about sin, sacrifice, sanctification,
salvation, and even about the Savior Himself-Yeshua!
To determine who, if any believer, should follow the Torah is a major
undertaking. It is controversial and there are many viewpoints. Our
goal is to understand the differing views on following Torah. It is up
to the individual believer to decide which view to follow.
Imperative - We must understand that the purpose of Torah is not (nor
ever was) gain justification before God.
Most Believers agree with the 10 commandments, but even if you do not,
Scripture (ACTS 15) clearly lists 4 commands to be followed by
ACTs 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from
pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled,
and from blood.
View 1: Torah
Should Not Be Followed
There are well-meaning believers who suggest that the Torah is an
antiquated document, that its precepts were for a particular
people-the Israelites-and for a particular time frame, the age or
dispensation of law. Therefore, they say, the Torah should no longer
Not for Salvation
This is based on assumptions about the nature and purposes of Torah.
Obedience to the Torah of Moshe was never intended to provide or
maintain salvation. It simply is not a salvation document. One can,
through a proper understanding of the Torah, learn about entering a
relationship with the Lord by His grace through faith. But God never
gave the document to be obeyed for the purpose of granting salvation
through its obedience.
Verses like Hebrews 8:7 ("For if the first covenant had been
faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a
second.") Verse 13 continues this argument: "When He said,
'A new covenant,' He has made the first one obsolete. But whatever is
becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."
At face value, the teaching of these verses would appear to be
devastating to any who hold that the Torah should be followed in this
day and age. However, closer examination may reveal a different
First note the context: This passage is couched right in the middle of
a section of Hebrews discussing the sacrificial/priestly system.
Central to the covenant with Moshe was the system of atonement, which
involved the use of sacrificial animals and a special class of workers
called priests. The Book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers to
show them that this one aspect of that covenant was in the process of
changing. Its glaring message is that Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah,
is the end or culmination of that particular system. His death was the
final, once-for-all atonement for sin, through His blood, which He
offered on the altar in the heavenly mishkan (the tabernacle).
A second observation concerns itself with the words, "But
whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to
disappear." When the Book of Hebrews was written, there were
Jewish priestly systems in operation. The best known of these was in
Jerusalem, centered around the Second Temple, and maintained by the
Sadducees. This sacrificial system was alive and well in the early
first century CE and during the time when Hebrews was written.
Things changed drastically when Yeshua died. The gospels attest that
upon His death, the veil separating the holy place from the Holy of
Holies in the Second Temple was ripped in half (Matthew 27:51). This
was an obvious indication from G-d that no matter what sacrifices were
offered in the temple, they would be rendered redundant because the
real sacrifice took place in the death of Yeshua.
However God did not destroy the temple. Its sacrifices continued for
about another 40 years after Yeshua returned to heaven. It continued
until the First Jewish Revolt (68-73 AD/CE), which indicates that this
system was still in operation at the time the Jewish believers were
reading the Book of Hebrews. It can be said, therefore, that because
the vestiges of the older covenant were still functioning they were
not finished. Instead, they were "becoming obsolete and growing
old." But only the sacrificial system! In other words, this verse
says very little about the whole of Torah, but much about the specific
instructions in Torah concerning the sacrifices.
View 2 - Only
Certain Parts of Torah Should Be Followed
Some would speak of Torah in terms of a threefold division: civil,
ceremonial and ethical. The civil sections of the Torah are those
dealing with governmental functions, such as the teachings concerning
capital punishment and other jurisprudence functions. The ceremonial
sections concern the sacrifices, the priesthood. The ethical laws are
those which govern how a person lives his everyday life in
relationship to his fellowman.
There is merit to this point of view. No matter how we understand
certain passages in the Book of Hebrews, it is clear that the book
singles out at least one separate category of Torah, the
"ceremonial." In addition, there are also specific parts of
the Torah which are applicable only to those who live in the land of
View 3 - All of
Torah Is To Be Followed-But Not Necessarily by Physical Israel
Some theologians say that all of the Torah should be obeyed. But the
ones who are to do it are the Church, which has theologically replaced
Israel. Of course, in regard to the teachings concerning the
sacrifices, they recognize that in Messiah these came to completion.
However, they say, it is incumbent upon believers to follow the rest
By suggesting that the Church has replaced Israel, adherents to this
viewpoint have revealed their basic method of hermeneutics:
spiritualization. They have given up the fundamental, literal
interpretation of the Bible in lieu of a symbolic, spiritual or
allegorical one. This viewpoint has characterized most of the Church
since the middle of the second century, and continues to plague a good
portion of it-even some of the believing, evangelical Church-to this
Those who subscribe to this viewpoint are consistent: just as they
transform literal physical Israel into the Church, so also do they
spiritualize many of the specific teachings of the Torah. For example,
we have yet to meet one who wears fringes according to Numbers 15.
Moreover, we have not met one who faithfully keeps the Holy Day cycle
of Leviticus 23. Somehow, these parts of Torah are spiritualized to
mean something else and, therefore, not followed.
This method of interpretation is not consistent with the proper
exegesis of the Scriptures. Specifically, Romans 11 makes a clear
distinction between non-Jewish believers in Yeshua and physical
Israel. It clearly asserts that there is still a future plan for
physical Israel. Yes, there are allegories and spiritualization within
the Bible, but the use of such figurative language must be governed by
recognizing its proper place within the literal, grammatical,
historical method of interpretation. Hence, through consistent use of
a literal method of Scripture interpretation, we can easily lay to
rest such theories as the replacement of Israel by the Church.
View 4 - Torah Is Applicable
Today to Israel and All Who Are So Inclined
Torah is to be followed by believers-especially Jewish believers in
Yeshua-in this day and age.
First and Foremost, the Remnant
Torah has a unique relationship to the physical nation of Israel. The
Torah is Israel's national constitution, sacred marriage ketubah, and
its solemn covenant with God. There is no indication in the Scriptures
that this special relationship has ended. The establishment of the
Brit Hadasha, like the addition of the other covenants, did not
abrogate its predecessors; it only affirmed, strengthened, and
complemented them. This is the thrust of Sha'ul's (Pauls) argument in
Galatians 3, especially when he asks, "Is the Torah then contrary
to the promises of God? May it never be!" (Galatians 3:21)
In Acts 21 when Sha'ul was confronted by the Jerusalem leadership over
rumors he was “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to
forsake Moshe, telling them not to circumcise their children, nor to
walk according to the customs." (Acts 21:21). The elders asked
Sha’ul to disprove the allegations by paying for four of their
number who had taken the Nazirite vow as described in Numbers 6. Not
only was he to pay their expenses, but also to go through a
purification immersion along with them. Much to the shame of many a
modern-day evangelical theologian, he did just as he was asked (verse
What Sha'ul had done was to make a statement which should have been
echoed throughout the centuries: "Torah is for today! Jewish
believers should be taught and encouraged to follow the Torah of
Moshe!" Many may not appreciate this conclusion, but the Greek in
verse 20 tells us that there were tens of thousands of Messianic
Jewish people in Jerusalem "who have believed, and they are all
zealous for the Torah."
Four Centuries Later
Because of their trust in Yeshua, they suffered persecution at the
hands of traditional Jews. But because of their adherence to the
covenant of Sinai, they would also eventually suffer persecution from
other believers in Yeshua. After what is generally referred to as the
Second Jewish Revolt (the actual second revolt took place in
Alexandria, Cyremaica and Cyprus) against Rome failed miserably in 135
CE, many Church leaders and preachers made a concentrated effort to
rid the Church of any Jewish trappings. Needless to say, it was the
Messianic Jewish observance of Torah that brought the persecution from
Non-Jewish person's relationship to
the Torah - Divine Permission
Two qualifying statements:
1. The motivations of the individual in following the Torah. Plainly
stated, no one, Jewish or non-Jewish, may earn, merit, or keep his
eternal salvation by following the Torah.
2. In discussions of Non-Jewish person's relationship to the Torah, we
have purposely avoided the words "must" and
"should," as the use of these words tends to cloud the
issues at hand no matter to whom we are referring.
The relationship of the non-Jewish
person to the Torah is one of permission and encouragement.
Abraham was not a Jewish person. He lived several hundred years before
one of his descendants, Moshe, would receive the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Yet the Lord said of him, "Abraham heard My voice and guarded My
commandments, My statutes, and My Torah." (Genesis 26:5)
Actually, the Hebrew is even more emphatic: "Abraham heard My
voice and guarded My protective guards, My commandments, My statutes,
and My Torah."
How did Abraham do this before the Torah, the mitzvot, and the chukim
were revealed to Moshe? How did he come to call upon the name of the
Lord? How did he know, as his ancestor Noach knew, that to relate
properly to the Lord required a blood sacrifice? Could it be that the
Lord Himself somehow revealed to these non-Jewish men of God portions
of His holy Torah, in the expectation that they would receive this
teaching as His Word to them?
Furthermore, the Holy One provided Israel with the Torah. This body of
writing contained provisions and instructions for relating properly to
God, living peacefully with others, and finding prosperity in the
Land. If Israel had made the Torah their national lifestyle in the way
God intended, all nations of the earth would have discovered this life
and flocked to Israel's God-the one true God.
Suppose, for a moment, that it had worked! Suppose some Gentile people
groups had observed the wisdom of Israel's God as expressed through
their living out of the Torah. And that, provoked to jealousy, they
chose to embrace the God of Israel. What then? Would Israel have said
to these non-Jews, "You may have our God, but not our
Torah?" That would be ludicrous! The text in Genesis clearly
implies that to accept Israel's God also meant to live by the revealed
wisdom of His Torah.
The Prophets Made Provision for
In the late 600s or early 700s BC/CE. When Isaiah, one of Israel's
greatest prophets, wrote his book, he did so with the intention of
admonishing Israel and Judah to forsake their sins and to live by the
Covenant of the Torah.
Chapter 56 of Isaiah opens up with an encouragement to the remnant of
Israel to continue following the Covenant of Torah. The prophet calls
upon them to "maintain justice and do what is right" as well
as to "keep the Shabbat." These are words which we might
expect a prophet of Israel or Judah to speak to the Jewish people.
Notice, however, who Isaiah is addressing in verses 3 and 6. He speaks
about "the foreigner"-but not just any foreigner. These are
foreigners who have bound themselves to the Lord. In other words, the
prophet has some important things to say to non-Jewish believers.
First, Isaiah tells these non-Israelites (non-Jewish believers) that
the Lord Himself will make certain to include them with the remnant of
His people among Israel. This is the thrust of 56:3.
Second, presumably because these Gentile believers share a portion
with Israel, Isaiah reminds them that the Lord will grant them access
to "My holy mountain" and that He will accept their
offerings at the Temple, because "My house shall be called a
house of prayer for all nations." (In the Hebrew, the word
translated "nations" is amim-literally,
"peoples.") In other words, God was doing all He could to
assure these non-Israelite believers that they were on equal footing
with Israel, the people of the covenant. Yet He refers to them not as
Israel, but as "foreigners!"
Third, notice how Isaiah describes the lifestyle of these Gentile
believers. He characterizes them in verse 6 as people "who keep
the Shabbat without desecrating it and who hold fast to My
covenant." This is an utterly remarkable statement to make about
believers not born physically into the nation of Israel. It implies
that although they cannot be called "Jews" because of their
birth, yet because of their relationship with the Lord they are
entitled to follow Torah-and even encouraged in their observance! In
addition, they are described as participants in "the
Finally, in verse 8, Isaiah prophesies about the generations to come.
He looks beyond his present situation and says, "The Sovereign
Lord declares-He who gathers the exiles of Israel: I will gather still
others to them besides those already gathered." At the very
least, the Lord was promising that many from among the nations would
believe in Him, thereby becoming a part of
"them"-Israel-which would include living by the Torah! When
would this happen? The natural answer to this would be at the
ingathering of the Gentiles described in the book of Acts.
Yeshua Propagates the Torah to the
Just before He went back to His Father's throne, the Messiah gave
careful instructions for his talmidim (disciples) to follow. He told
them in Matthew 28:19-20: "As you are going, make disciples from
all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son,
and of the Spirit of God."
This passage, often referred to as the "great commission" by
many believers, contains several points frequently overlooked by
sincere Bible teachers in the churches. The first is the nature of the
material Yeshua's followers were to teach to the potential believers
from the Gentiles. Yeshua refers to this material as "My
commandments." The vast bulk of His teaching consisted of
explicit Torah passages and Torah-based instruction. Moreover, since
He was most likely speaking Hebrew to His Hebrew-speaking followers,
He would have used the word "mitzvot," which we have
translated "commandments." Mitzvot were part of the
instructions of the Torah. In other words, it is not difficult to see
that Yeshua would have been instructing His followers to teach the
Torah (the teaching on God's righteousness) to those from among the
Gentiles who would believe. This would have been perfectly consistent
with the prophecy of Isaiah 56 which we have examined above.
Introducing the Gentile to the Torah
Acts 15 contains a record of how the Gentile believers were received
by the early Jewish followers of Yeshua. There are several things we
can learn from this passage about how Gentile believers may relate to
The first point Acts 15 makes is to underscore the fact that no one
may follow Torah in order to achieve justification. Concerning this
salvation, the leaders confirmed that "God made no distinction
between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith"
(verse 9). Having stated this truth, however, the chapter tells us
that the Jewish leadership definitely had the Torah in the forefront
of their minds. In verses 19-21, we see the leaders concluding that
the new Gentile believers had a very definite relationship to the
It is at this point that many otherwise careful commentators fall into
a trap. They assume that the Jewish leadership was requiring the
Gentiles to follow something similar to the famous "Noachide
Laws"-a set of rules developed by the rabbis for Gentiles to
follow in order to be considered righteous. It is true that the four
requirements recorded in Acts 15 are very similar to these Noahide
Many teachers feel that since the rabbis required Gentiles to adhere
to the Noahide Laws, the Jewish leadership here is simply following
suit, albeit on a somewhat limited basis. That may be true. However,
there is a second, more probable explanation: the Jewish elders in
Jerusalem were doing all they could to demonstrate grace, patience,
and kindness to the Torah-illiterate Gentile believers. The Jewish
believers had grown up with the Torah. But to the Gentiles the Torah
was a strange book. Many had never even been exposed to it before
Sha'ul and other faithful followers of Yeshua brought them the message
of Messiah. The Jerusalem elders knew this. They also knew that the
only existing body of teaching for believers, Jewish or Gentile, was
the Torah. However, the elders could not demand that the Gentile
believers follow the Torah with the same intensity that they did.
Therefore, by delineating the four Torah-based instructions for table
fellowship in Acts 15:19-20, the wise and loving elders were
communicating to the Gentiles this message: "You are equal to us
in the Body of Messiah. Our teachings are your teachings. But it will
take you a while before you can understand the Holy Book, the Torah.
Thus, for now, only learn what will best facilitate fellowship between
you and your Jewish brothers and sisters. You will gradually learn
more of what it means to walk with God as time goes by.
We find a confirmation of this interpretation in verse 21. After the
elders wrote the teachings in verses 19-20, they made this rather
cryptic statement to the Gentiles: "For Moses has been preached
in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on
every Shabbat." What is the meaning of this comment? It seems to
make very little sense-unless we understand it as the elders'
encouragement of the Gentile believers to continue in their study of
the Torah. And since Torah instruction was available in the local
synagogue of almost every city in the diaspora, this would not have
presented a problem! In other words, the Jewish elders were telling
the Gentile believers that if they wanted to grow in their
understanding of the Torah, they could learn how to do so-in the
Moreover, because most Gentile believers would have been worshipping
in the synagogues, the Jerusalem leadership knew that these new
believers would be hearing the Torah each week. In their wisdom, they
knew the reality of Yeshua's teaching that "the sheep know My
voice and follow Me." The Torah is the voice of Yeshua, and these
young lambs would hear and follow.
Gentiles Grafted In
The relationship between Gentile and Jewish believers in Yeshua. We
are referring to Romans 11:11-21. To be sure, this passage does not
speak about the Torah. However, it does teach that Gentile believers
have a significant relationship with Israel. It is only a matter of
reasoning that, since Gentile believers are closely connected to
Israel, then they must also have a close connection to the Torah-just
as Deuteronomy 4 implies.
In Romans 11:11-21, Shaul provides one of the most exciting truths in
the Brit Hadasha for Gentile believers. Elsewhere he had described
unbelieving Gentiles as those who were "uncircumcised, foreigners
to the covenants of the promise, without hope, far away"
(Ephesians 2:11-13), and pagan idol-worshipers (I Corinthians 12:2).
In contrast, because of what Messiah Yeshua did for these countless
numbers of non-Jewish people, they have now been brought near and
"grafted in" to Israel.
What then does it mean, in practical terms, for Gentiles to be
"grafted in" to the olive tree of Israel? It does not mean
that Gentile believers are now Jews. That is a matter of physical
descent. Rather, it is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy: Gentiles
can now benefit from the covenants, resulting in a living and active
relationship with the Torah.
Remember what Ephesians 2:11-13 says:
Remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth...you were
separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and
foreigners and strangers to the covenants of the promise.... But now
you have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.
An Inheritance with Israel
Ezekiel 47: Here the prophet looks far ahead of his own time, and even
of our present age. He prophesies concerning the coming Messianic Age,
when Yeshua will be seated on the throne of David in Jerusalem. This
will also be the time, according to Ezekiel, when the final land
inheritance is divided among the people of Israel.
However in verses 21-23 that there will be others desiring to live
among the people of Israel. These are Gentile believers. The Lord at
that time will instruct Israel with the following word regarding the
distribution of the inheritance:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the
tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves
and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children.
You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you
they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes in Israel. In
whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his
inheritance," declares the Sovereign Lord.”
What God is teaching here? He is instructing the Israelites regarding
their relationship with those who have come to live among them. They
are so grafted in that they are to be considered native-born
Israelites, with full rights of inheritance. One thing this implies
for our study is that if non-Jewish believers may be entitled a parcel
of land among the people of Israel in the Messianic kingdom, surely
they can be permitted to enjoy the blessings of the Torah among the
people of Israel right now!
Evidence supports this thesis: that non-Jewish believers in Yeshua
have a meaningful and significant relationship to the Torah of Moshe.
Through this relationship, God Himself instructs His children to
embrace the full revelation of His grace in their lives. That full
revelation consists of the whole of Scripture, including the Torah.
No one has to follow Torah (it does not save you), but you may choose
to follow Torah, out of Love & Adoration for Adonai.
Believing Israel in the first century was a mighty light to the
nations. As a result, many from those nations came to faith and were
"grafted in" to the holy community. May the holy community
(all believers Jew & Gentile) of this present generation also
become a light to the nations, bringing many into "the Way, the
Truth and the Life"-Yeshua Himself!
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