Law in the New Testament

Law in the New Testament

an article by Joel Allen

There seems to be a huge misconception with what the New Testament has to say about LAW or more correctly said, Torah. What about the Apostles and early believers in the Messiah? Did they follow the Torah? Yes! They were Jewish apostles (sent ones) that were obedient to the Torah or the instructions of God. They did not see the Law or Torah as burdensome or bondage but a way of life that was pleasing before the Lord.

Let’s take a look at some New Testament (Brit Chadasha) references to the Law or Torah:

Mat 5:17 KJV – Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

Mat 5:18 KJV – For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Mat 5:19 KJV – Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Yeshua states in Matt. 5:17/ Luke 16:17 that He did not come to “destroy or abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill.” Many erroneous teachings state that the word “fulfill” means to end or abolish in the sense of it not being needed anymore. Fulfill does not mean to destroy or abolish as it would contradict what the Messiah already said that He didn’t come to do. The word fulfill in the Greek, PLEROO means, “to fill up full of meaning or to render perfect.” In fact, the Greek word for destroy that is used in this passage, KATALUO, translates as meaning “to dissolve or disunite what was already put together.” This shows us the great error of dividing our modern day understanding of the Bible into an “Old Testament and New Testament” way of thinking. What the Messiah came to do was recorded by men and their accounts or Gospels were compiled into the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The rest were letters and accounts written by early Apostles recording the activities and struggles of the early assemblies. Somehow the modern day understanding of the Bible has led many into thinking that the Messiah came to do a “New Thing” and that these Gospel accounts and letters somehow became the sole basis of doctrine and the origination of faith. Messiah makes it very clear that He was not going to bring disunity, separate or do some “new thing” but rather bring unity, perfect and fill up the Torah and the Prophets full of meaning.

Mat 5:17 KJV – Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

Mat 5:18 KJV – For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Mat 5:19 KJV – Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Law inthe New Testament Let me ask you a question. Go outside and look up in the sky, is there clouds, stars, sun and moon? Is there dirt and grass on the ground and trees and plants and animals? If you answered yes then it would be safe to say that the Torah has not been done away with either. “Till heaven and earth pass,” Yeshua stated. This is solid evidence that the Torah and all of its details (jots and tittles) are still in effect and significant in the new covenant believer’s life. Let’s look at some more examples in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament).

Stephen was a Messianic Jewish Martyr recorded in the book of Acts. Stephen was a faithful servant of YHVH and performed many miracles as a result of his obedience and strong devotion to Him. A group of the Pharisees who did not believe in Yeshua the Messiah wanted to silence Stephen and his message so they brought up FALSE accusations against Stephen to the Sanhedrin council who according to this false testimony ordered his death sentence by stoning. You need to take careful note as what this FALSE accusation was to truly get a picture as to what Stephen believed and taught.

Acts 6:12-14 And they (the Pharisees) stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place (the temple), and the law (Torah): For we have heard him say, that this Yeshua of Nazareth shall destroy this place (the temple), and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us (Torah).

Now can we assume that anyone that teaches today that Yeshua of Nazareth came to destroy the temple and temple service and to do away with the Law and customs of Moses are indeed FALSE witnesses and according to the Torah and the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 and verse 28, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:” These are very scary accusations and one should feel fearful to tread on such doctrine. Teaching and making doctrines that say that the Torah is legalism and bondage is no different than the FALSE reports of the FALSE witnesses. These teachers, pastors, priests, rabbis today that teach such nonsense are indeed false witnesses and false teachers and we have to be ready to defend our faith just as Stephen had done, as he was being stoned to death for standing on his faith which included the testimony of Yeshua and keeping the commandments of God. This will also be the last generation spoken of in HIT’GALUT (Revelation).

Rev 12:17 KJV – And the dragon (HaSatan) was wroth with the woman (Eve), and went to make war with the remnant of her seed (the Bride of Messiah), which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Yeshua Messiah.

Peter also wrote of these false teachers and false prophets that they would lead people to deny Yeshua and to go away from the “way of truth,” which we learned earlier is Torah (Psalm 119:142).

2Pe 2:1-2 KJV – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them (Yeshua), and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth (Torah) shall be evil spoken of.

The Apostle Paul was by his own admission a Hebrew among Hebrews and studied under the great Torah scholar and teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In a letter to the believers in Philippi, Paul boasts of his background and lineage but to emphasize the point that it means nothing without faith in the Messiah.

Phil 3:5- 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;

Paul was not ashamed of being a Pharisee or teacher of the Torah. He was in fact Zealous for the Law and in His writings confirmed this very devotion to keeping and living the Torah.

Acts 24:14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

Acts 28:23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into [his] lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Yeshua, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

Romans 2:17-18 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Romans 7:25 I thank God through Yeshua the Messiah. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God;

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Romans 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Romans 10:4 For Messiah is the end (Greek word TELOS which means the aim or purpose) of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.

law in the new testamentThis is just to mention a few examples of Paul’s writings that advocated the Torah even after the work of the Messiah. Many false teachers today say that Paul advocated the Torah being abolished through the atonement of Yeshua Messiah but it is abundantly clear that he emphatically supported the Torah and customs of Moses while adhering to his faith in Yeshua as the Lamb of God. There were other “New Testament believers” that kept the commandments of God while having the testimony of Yeshua. Let’s just take a look at a few examples:

Acts 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

Acts 22:12 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there,

Act 18:24-25,28 KJV – And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Yeshua was Messiah.

2Tim 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

2 Timothy 3:8 is in a letter from Paul to his student in the faith, Timothy, warning him of what to expect in the last days. He likens those that live in the last days as to Jannes and Jambres so that he could understand and get a clear picture as to what Paul is talking about. They “withstood Moses” Shaul states in his epistle and they resist the truth (Torah). Jannes and Jambres historically were looked at as the magicians of Egypt that conjured up similar tricks to defy the signs of YHVH before Pharoah (Exodus 7:10-12). According to the Jewish traditions in the Targums, Jannes and Jambres supposedly left Egypt with the Israelites in the Exodus and very likely perished along the way in the wilderness as tares among the wheat. Now according to Paul those that resist the truth (Torah/Psalm 119:142) have corrupt minds and are reprobate concerning the faith. Clearly he is not advocating the rejection of Torah and even goes as far as warning Timothy to stay clear of those that fall into this mold. Paul goes on in his epistle to Timothy to further warn him of such tares among the wheat:

2Tim 3:13-17 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures (the Tanakh), which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. All scripture (the Tanakh) is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect (spiritually mature), throughly furnished unto all good works.

We cannot hope to attain spiritual maturity, build sound doctrine or hope to bring correction to a lost and dying world without a balanced walk with our God. For some, the Torah was taught as far back as you could remember and the message of the Messiah offered a completed picture. For others, like myself, we have stumbled through snippets of scripture and half-truths trying to see the whole picture and desperate to find our roots. The Door is open. The Way has never been clearer. According to Paul, Timothy grew up reading and knowing the scriptures making him “wise unto salvation.” The New Testament did not exist yet so the scriptures that Paul is referring to is the Tanakh or Old Testament consisting of the Torah and the Prophets. Tanakh is a Jewish acronym which stands for:

T= Torah / The five books of Moses

N= Neviim/ The books of the Prophets

K= Ketuvim/ The other writings (Proverbs, Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, etc.)

It is through the scriptures (Tanakh) that the disciples were able to confirm that Yeshua was indeed the promised Messiah.

Jhn 1:45 KJV – Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

Yeshua himself used the Tanakh after He arose from the dead when the two men were walking to Emmaus, troubled at the death of the one they thought was a great prophet. He did not reveal Himself directly to them as the Messiah but instead opened up their understanding with the Torah and the Prophets, making them wise unto salvation.

Luk 24:25,27 KJV – …O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

The fascinating thing is that the two men already announced to Yeshua that they knew the Messiah had died and that they saw the tomb empty and knew of the reports of angels present at the tomb and that the Messiah was to be risen on the third day. For many new covenant brethren that is the entirety of the “gospel.” But Yeshua called them fools and slow of heart and used the Tanakh to add a richness and fullness to the gospel that they had received. It is through His teaching (Messianic Teaching) of the Tanakh that made them wise unto salvation and the fiery law burned in them as they listened to Yeshua.

Luk 24:31-32 KJV – Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the scriptures (Tanakh) to us?”

These two men ran back to Jerusalem and announced to the 11 Disciples what they just experienced and Yeshua shows up in the midst of them and does the same thing to them.

Luk 24:44-45 KJV – Then He said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the scriptures (Tanakh).”

You can see here very clearly the breakdown of Torah, Prophets and other writings.

It is very clear both in the words of Yeshua and the teachings of Paul that the New Testament or Brit Chadasha does not teach against the observance of Torah but reaffirms the understanding of the Patriarchs and Prophets that the Torah was and is life giving instruction from the Father. This instruction pointed to the Messiah and that is how the Disciples knew Him and how the Apostles preached the Gospel to Jerusalem and the nations. It is through the Jewish Tanakh (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) that doctrine, instruction and correction and be attained according to Paul, a Torah observant Jew.