A Messianic/Hebrew Roots Perspective of “The New Legalism”
Here is a response to some of the statements made in Dean VanDruff’s article “The New Legalism” that was posted on the Hebrew4Christians web site. I appreciate his kind disclaimer that “not all ‘Messianics’ are guilty of ‘the new legalism,’” however, many of his points are a misunderstanding of scripture and the Messianic movement in general. VanDruff does not have a corner on the market as far as these misunderstandings. I will refer to his article “The New Legalism” and will quote some of it for illustration and rebuttal or clarification. However, this is not to single him out, but to use his article as a spring-board for understanding. Many share his confusion.
Torah Observance is on the Rise
It is noted that Torah Observance is on the rise. VanDruff characterizes it as ‘popular’ and even an ‘epidemic.’ Apparently many are asking: “Is God calling us back to Torah?” Before we dismiss this phenomenon as some kind of fad or passing trend, might it be exactly that? Could it be a revival that is animated by the movement of the Holy Spirit among believers? Are we sure we are sure about all of the doctrines we have been taught when we consider the following verse?
Jer 16:19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.’
The question of Torah-observance for everyone is a paradigm shift for all Christian believers, just as recognizing Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah is a paradigm shift for those that grew up in Judaism. What if both religious systems have adopted error? Since VanDruff’s ‘The New Legalism’ questions if there exists any commonality between Christianity and Judaism, specifically the Torah, some misconceptions should be examined.
Is the Torah Divided?
VanDruff writes that the scripture divides the law into two ‘fairly clear-cut’ components: the shadow law’ and the ‘moral law.’ Neither term appears in scripture, nor does this seem ‘clear-cut’ if scripture is used to define the terms. Instead of letting the Word of God define itself, VanDruff incorrectly interprets some verses to illustrate his use of the term ‘shadow law.’ He makes no attempt to define ‘moral law,’ but instead states that commands to not kill or commit adultery fall into the category of a ‘moral law.’ Apparently he understands morality to be self-evident.
Dividing Torah like this is placing a man-made definition upon the Laws given by the Creator. We may clarify that not every Torah law is applicable to every person (as some are written only for women, some only for children, or only for Levites, etc.), but not that there are some laws that are ‘moral’ and others ‘shadow.’
VanDruff uses the book of Hebrews to illustrate his point that the ‘regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary’ (Hebrews 9: 1, 10) are but ‘shadow laws’ that were only to be observed until the Messiah came. He is correct that the resurrection of our Messiah has resulted in Him being our High Priest and advocate in the heavenly Temple. The covenant in His blood surpasses anything that can be achieved on earth! But he lumps anything that is not a ‘moral’ law into his term ‘shadow law.’ He then suggests that all laws that are not ‘moral laws’ are no longer to be observed. He includes the Feasts of YHVH, Sabbath observance, and dietary laws in these ‘shadow laws.’
Here are two quotes from the article ‘The New Legalism’
“So what we are talking about in the “New Legalism” is the shadow law. It could also be called the symbolic law, or the typological law, or the ceremonial law, or the old covenant law, or the regulation-for-worship law, or the religious law. But for our purposes let us use the term shadow law (Col 2:17, Heb 10:1, Heb 8:5).”
“The shadow law has to do with the feasts, the sabbath[sic], the sacrificial systems, the priesthood, the temple, the rituals, the observances, and the like. This is dispatched with, in its fulfillment in Yeshua.”
These are in error because they conflate the Temple Service ‘shadows,’ that are now being handled by Yeshua in the Heavenly Temple, and the ‘shadows’ that are in place to help us understand the prophecies yet to be completed.
Not all prophecy has been fulfilled! YHVH gave us shadow-pictures of things He would bring to pass. Some have been accomplished, but many foretell of good things to come. The Feasts, Sabbaths and many other instructions were given with the injunction that they were to be a statute forever. Should we lump the Feasts of YHVH and the Sabbaths into the ‘abolished’ category now that Yeshua is risen?
Is it somehow ‘immoral’ to celebrate His Feasts, Sabbaths or Tithe? Has time run out on following Torah?
One reference that is used to ‘define’ the so-called ‘shadow law’ is Colossians 2:16-17. VanDruff uses the NAS translation. Here he runs amok on what the ‘shadows’ are really speaking about. Consulting a different translation found in The Scriptures 1998 will help to clarify this confusion.
Col 2:16 Let no one therefore judge you in eating or in drinking, or in respect of a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths –
Col 2:17 which are a shadow of what is to come – but the Body of the Messiah.
Paul is telling the Colossians that they should not be swayed by their friends that were still engaged in paganism when they (the Pagans) ‘judged’ new believers for following the Feasts of YHVH, marking the Biblical calendar by the sighting of the new moon, or their newly-adopted observance of the Sabbath. Only the ‘Body of the Messiah’ (i.e. fellow believers) should be allowed to instruct them in these matters! He assured them that following the Feasts, Sabbath and dietary laws they were learning from the Torah were important as they taught them (via shadow-pictures) how to understand the things that would be fulfilled in the future. (Just as the Passover was, and is, a remembrance and rehearsal of the exodus from Egypt and the work done on the cross.)
Clearly the ‘shadow of what is to come’ is a parenthetical to define the importance of YHVH’s festivals, new moons and Sabbaths.
Paul writes to a new body of believers from among the Gentiles; what is often called a ‘New Testament Church.” All of the Torah, including the Feasts, the Sabbaths, and sacrificial system, etc., points to the Messiah. The shadow-pictures inform us about Him and prophecy. There are many prophetic words that point to His return as the conquering King, and they are yet to be fulfilled. Only an incomplete understanding of the significance of all the shadow-pictures would dictate that all observances that are not ‘moral law’ are to be ‘dispatched.’
Can the Law of YHVH be ‘Weak and Beggardly?
It is a confusion of Paul’s writings to think that anything that isn’t a ‘moral law’ is a ‘shadow-law’ that ended at the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Did Paul speak against Torah observance?
The most egregious error is to equate Torah with Paul’s terms describing paganism. When Paul uses forceful terms like ‘weak and beggardly elements’ or ‘bondage’ he is not speaking of the Torah given to us and written by the very finger of YHVH! God forbid!
Paul’s letter to the Galatians provides a treasure trove of confusion for those who begin at the New Testament and do not understand Torah. Let’s look at Gal 4:9-11, as it is often used to ‘prove’ the Law ended at the cross of Calvary. To place it in context, I have included verse 8 as well.
Gal 4:8 But then, indeed, not knowing Elohim, you served those which by nature are not mighty ones.
Gal 4:9 But now after you have known Elohim, or rather are known by Elohim, how do you turn again to the weak and poor elementary matters,1 to which you wish to be enslaved again? Footnote: 1See v.3, Col. 2:8 & 20.
Gal 4:10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
Gal 4:11 I fear for you, lest by any means I have labored for you in vain.
And the accompanying verses:
Col 2:8 See to it that no one makes a prey of you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary matters of the world,1 and not according to Messiah.
Col 2:20 If, then, you died with Messiah from the elementary matters1 of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations: Footnote: 1See v. 8, and Gal. 4:3 & 9.
Col 2:21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle” –
Col 2:22 which are all to perish with use – according to the commands and teachings of men?1 Footnote: 1Note: commands and teachings of men, not of Elohim.
Why is it that whenever there is a mention of feasts, the Sabbath or the like, the assumption is that Paul is disparaging the Feasts instituted by YHVH? Is it too difficult to imagine that the Gentiles Paul went to evangelize participated in their own brand of ‘holidays,’ feasts and pagan worship days?
Any who were leaving paganism to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would be learning the Feasts, Sabbaths and Statutes of Torah, all of which Paul was eminently qualified to teach! A quick study will show that most, if not all, of the Gentiles were involved with Earth-worship, Sun-god worship, or other pagan practices. They had their own sets of religious rules to follow. Paul was telling them to abandon those (pagan) ‘weak and beggardly,’ or ‘elementary matters,’ and embrace the rules and statutes instituted by YHVH in His Torah.
If Paul is Confusing, What Did Yeshua Say?
Many use Paul’s words to shore up arguments that he opposed Torah observance. We are warned that he might be difficult to understand!
2 Peter 3:16 He [Paul] speaks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in them are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.
If Paul is being confusing, what if we consider the words spoken by our Messiah?
Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who keeps saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom from heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’
Mat 7:23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!'” [some translations say ‘who practice lawlessness’ or ‘Torah-lessness’]
Mat 7:24 “Therefore, everyone who listens to these messages of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.
Mat 7:25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation was on the rock.
Mat 7:26 “Everyone who keeps on hearing these messages of mine and never puts them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
Mat 7:27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and battered that house, and it collapsed, and its collapse was total.”
Even more compelling is this:
Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I didn’t come to destroy them, but to fulfill them,
Mat 5:18 because I tell you with certainty that until heaven and earth disappear, not one letter or one stroke of a letter will disappear from the Law until everything has been accomplished.
Mat 5:19 So whoever sets aside one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom from heaven. But whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom from heaven
Mat 5:20 because I tell you, unless your righteousness greatly exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom from heaven!”
What did he mean when he said ‘fulfill?’ And has heaven and earth disappeared yet? What if ‘fulfill’ doesn’t mean what we have been taught it means?
G4137 in Strong’s pleroo
From G4134; to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: – accomplish, X after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.
What if He came to ‘fully preach’ or ‘level up’ the Torah that, over time, had been corrupted by the religious leaders? Most understand that we are to walk as He walked. He literally showed us how to live in the way Torah instructs us to go. He was a Torah-observant, Sabbath Keeping Hebrew from the tribe of Judah! He showed us the Way of His Father, and admonished us “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Who is the Schoolmaster and why should I listen to him?
Who or what is the ‘schoolmaster’ written about in the book of Galatians? Is the schoolmaster a person or a lesson? If it is a person, who is the schoolmaster and what do we learn from him?
Clarifying the subject Paul is addressing in his ‘schoolmaster’ teaching will help to understand the gist of his midrash. It is generally understood that the ‘schoolmaster’ is the Torah. If the schoolmaster is the Torah, what does that say to us? The author of the article, ‘The New Legalism,’ would have us believe that that when Paul writes about the schoolmaster (Gal 3:24-5) it is like a sixth-grade class that is fine when we are twelve but is wrong as an adult. To this I would pose the question: Are the lessons learned in elementary school subsequently forgotten, or is it the ground-work for further study and understanding? Do we learn any fundamental truths under our ‘elementary’ schoolmaster, or is it an exercise in busy-work?
Once we learn our A-B-Cs by heart, we do not forget or abolish them! Indeed, we know them so well that we can write a sentence and read a word without considering every letter. It takes no thought or struggle. Isn’t this what YHVH wanted for us all; to write His Law on our Hearts? Torah is our schoolmaster, indeed, but once we have learned the lessons, we can walk in the fullness of understanding. Following His instructions is second-nature and we no longer require the ‘letter’ of the Law because it is learned ‘by heart.’ And what a wealth of meaning that evokes! We learn it by heart because our heart is to please Him who first loved us.
Believers (even some un-believers!) do not need to carry around a copy of the Ten Commandments in order to understand they should not kill or commit adultery or steal. They have ‘learned them by heart.’ What is it that makes keeping them important? Do we refrain from murder, adultery or theft because it is the law, or because we know in our heart it is wrong? Didn’t we learn this understanding as little children? Do we have to carry around a rule-book to make sure we don’t forget these precepts?
To abandon the schoolmaster (Torah) is to toss out the foundation of our faith.
Where did we get the Torah? Can we trust it?
In addition to the Torah being described as the schoolmaster, the apostles and Yeshua taught from these writings. The entirety of the gospel message is contained in the Tanakh! Yeshua and the first century believers learned the gospel from what is now termed the ‘Old Testament.’
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2Ti 3:17so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good action.
The New Testament writings were not considered ‘scripture’ until several decades after the events they chronicle. Yeshua and the apostles all taught from the scriptures that were read in the synagogues, namely the Tanakh (The Hebrew canon).
We should consider some of the proofs from the Tanakh.
Psa 19:7 The Law of the LORD is perfect, restoring life. The testimony of the LORD is steadfast, making foolish people wise.
Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is an alphabetically organized rhapsody written by David about the Torah. David is described as a ‘man after God’s heart.’ This Psalm, more than any single chapter in the Bible, gives a description from “A to Z” of the Torah. I recommend reading it in its entirety. It describes the ‘Law’ (Torah) and also our Savior.
Is it accurate to believe that Paul took every opportunity to ‘forcefully repudiate’ the Tanakh? Surely not the Perfect Law of the LORD!
Challenge yourself to find evidence of the Messiah in the pages of the Old Testament. The entire salvation plan of YHVH may be found in its pages! Do you believe it?
Is Paul teaching Circumcision or Grace?
The article, ‘The New Legalism,’ highlights the Jerusalem council discussion and quotes Acts 15:10-30. The apostles are having issues with the ‘circumcision party’ (a sect of religious Judaism) that were interjecting their opinions and religious doctrine on the Gentiles who were ‘turning to God.’ These legalists were the ones who followed the ‘traditions of men.’ They taught statutes and extra-Biblical rules and regulations (sometimes called the Oral Law) as a means of salvation. The ‘circumcision party’ wanted to put the cart before the horse.
Before I go on, let me clarify where Christians and Messianics agree! Salvation is only through the Messiah! We are not saved by a physical sign either in our flesh or by our works (lest any should boast they can save themselves!). And, the ‘circumcision’ disagreement in no way negates this concept. Again, Paul is misunderstood.
Salvation hinges upon faith and trust. However, once we believe and accept the offered free gift of salvation, the natural tendency is to enter into that covenant with an understanding of His instructions and a desire to walk in them. It is a covenant relationship.
Therefore, belief and trust comes before walking in His statutes, laws and appointed times. Put another way, circumcision of the heart (belief and trust) comes first, followed by the outward manifestation of that belief (Torah observance). Whether it is circumcision, keeping the Sabbaths, Feasts or following the dietary guidelines found in the Torah, these observances are the result and demonstration of our faith. As taught by Brad Scott, it is the principle of the Seed. The Seed (Faith) is planted and Fruit (Obedience) results.
In the case of the circumcision dust-up, the Jerusalem council decided to emphasize the minimum requirements for Gentiles to follow while they were learning Torah. In other words, they gave them a portion of the Torah that would allow them to enter the synagogues so they could hear the rest of the story and make an informed decision.
Act 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
Act 15:19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
Act 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.
Act 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.
Don’t skip Acts 15:21! The Gentiles that were willing to meet the minimum requirements were allowed to enter with the assembly on the Sabbath where they would learn the rest of the scriptures written by Moses. Presumably, all of the new believers would then grow up in understanding and adopt the remaining commandments, or fall away if they didn’t have the heart to fully commit to His way. See the parable of the Seed (Matthew Chapter 13).
Did Yeshua (Jesus) Teach the Torah?
Not only did Yeshua read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue, every lesson he taught to the multitudes and his disciples can be found in the Tanakh! Yeshua taught the Torah! He taught every day! Not only with words, but in the very way He conducted himself. He was a living example of the Torah in action. He Walked the Walk of the Way.
Anytime He spoke harshly, it was to correct the religious leaders of the day that had corrupted the pure word given in the Torah. He rejected the man-made doctrines because they had added to or diminished from the Torah. Can we hear His statement of where His words came from?
John 12:48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has something to judge him: The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day,
John 12:49 because I have not spoken on my own authority. Instead, the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what to say and how to speak.
John 12:50 And I know that what he commands brings eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
Mat_11:29 Place my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls,
Mat_11:30 because my yoke is pleasant, and my burden is light.”
In the face of these words spoken by our Messiah, it is impossible to accept the point of view that any of the words delivered by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could be a burden, or in any minute fashion ‘weak and beggardly’ since what he commands brings eternal life (John 12:50).
What is ‘shadowy’ about the Ten Commandments? We stumble into error when we confuse Paul’s diatribes on the ‘law of sin and death’ with the Perfect Law of the LORD. It has always been the contrast of the laws and traditions of men verses the perfect Law of YHVH. Yeshua did not come to start a new religion; he came to restore His Torah!
What do we renounce if we are Anti-Torah?
The author of “The New Legalism” asks why there are strident verses and warnings concerning the Law? He even goes so far as to suggest that it might be a renunciation of grace to focus on the Law! Most shocking of all he asks: “Is shadow Torah observance growing in Messiah, or rather spitting in His face?”
If we correctly understand that the Messiah came to establish His Torah that had been altered and made burdensome by the religious leaders of the day, making such a disturbing statement would be unthinkable!
John 1:1 tells us that in the beginning was the word and the word was God. Therefore, taking a stance that is anti-Torah is actually speaking against the Word of God! How can belief in His Word be construed as ‘spitting in His face?’ God forbid!
Abraham is the patriarch of our faith. He had a relationship with the Father and was blessed. All this happened long before Moses received the Law at Mt. Sinai. Was Abraham out of grace? How do we understand the following verses?
Gen 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Gen 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. [emphasis mine]
Abraham obeyed His commandments, statues and laws. Since this happened before the Law was given to Moses, it implies that our Eternal God has an Eternal Law that He shared with Abraham. James writes:
Jas 2:19 You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! Even the demons believe that and tremble with fear.
Jas 2:20 Do you want proof, you foolish person, that faith without actions is worthless?
Jas 2:21 Our ancestor Abraham was justified by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar, wasn’t he?
Jas 2:22 You see that his faith worked together with what he did, and by his actions his faith was made complete.
Jas 2:23 And so the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” And so he was called God’s friend.
Jas 2:24 You observe that a person is justified through actions and not through faith alone.
Consider how Abraham’s faith was manifest and made ‘perfect!’ He believed God! He didn’t believe in God, but believed that God’s promises would happen. He had so much faith and trust in the Word of God that he was willing to offer up his own son as a sacrifice! He trusted and He obeyed! That isn’t worthless ‘faith!’ (Jas 2:20) That is complete, obedient, righteous faith!
We don’t have a written document that tells us what it was that God shared with Abraham as far as what ‘commandments, statues and charges’ he spoke to Abraham about. But, if we believe we have an eternal and righteous Father, why would we expect His Law would change? Why would Abraham offer his son as a sacrifice if he had no instruction on how to do it? For that matter, how did Noah and Abel know how to make offerings to God?
Are we in error to believe that the Law was a brief instruction that only applied to a certain people at a certain time in history? How does that equate to an eternal God?
Yeshua Is the WORD
John chapter one aside, are there other scriptures that confirm the concept that Yeshua is the Word? Let’s consider the following:
Joh 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Joh 14:7 If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.”
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
Psa_119:32 I eagerly race along the WAY of your commands, for you enable me to do so.
Psa_119:33 Teach me, LORD, about the WAY of your statutes, and I will observe them without fail.
Psa_119:160 The sum of your word is TRUTH, and each righteous ordinance of yours is everlasting.
Psa_119:1 How blessed are those whose LIFE is blameless, who walk in the Law of the LORD!
Psa_119:35 Help me live my LIFE by your commands, because my joy is in them.
Do you think that Yeshua knew Psalms 119 when he made his statement defining himself as the Way, Truth and Life? He is also known as the Light of the World. See Psalm 119 for more on this description of the Torah and our Messiah (as the Word made flesh.)
The same terms used to describe the Torah are the very descriptors Yeshua uses to describe himself! It makes a perfect loop: Yeshua=Life=Way=Truth=Torah=Yeshua.
Can God Change His Mind?
Even more absurd is a statement by VanDruff in his article “The New Legalism!” He uses sarcasm to express a false premise when he writes, “Why, it would be scandalous to assert that God has changed his mind just because Jesus died and rose again.”
Let us consider which is the more scandalous? Shall we imply that the resurrection has no significance? Or shall we suggest that God ‘changed his mind?’
No one in the Messianic movement wishes to diminish the profound significance of the Messiah’s death and resurrection! But, God is not a man that he would change His mind! (1 Sam 15:29) Consider these verses!
Malachi 3:6 says: “Because I the LORD don’t change; therefore you children of Jacob, aren’t destroyed.”
Rom 11:29 For God’s gifts and calling never change.
Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. How can any of us follow in the footsteps of Abraham’s faith if we cannot believe God? If He changes, none of us have any hope of salvation. He could always change his mind!
Psa 102:25 You established the earth long ago; the heavens are the work of your hands.
Psa 102:26 They will perish, but you will remain; and they all will become worn out, like a garment. You will change them like clothing, and they will pass away.
Psa 102:27 But you remain the same; your years never end.
Is the Torah obsolete?
VanDruff writes: “The title of “the new legalism” is meant to be ironic. There is no “new legalism.” There is only the old. Whether legalism fronts itself with circumcision or sabbaths or food (Mark 7:14-19, 1Tim 4:1-6, Col 2:20-21) or whatever… it is the same old leaven. Beware. It is a real temptation and a real danger.”
The irony of this ‘irony’ is that he calls the Perfect Law of our LORD ‘old leaven’ when ‘new legalism’ is what he himself is preaching! He establishes a new legal paradigm which clings to man-made traditions, man-made understandings, and man-defined commentary on the Torah, instead of returning to the pure un-leavened Word of YHVH. When he suggests we should not be tempted to embrace an obsolete religious law the irony is complete! In this remark he is absolutely correct, however he has turned our understanding of the Torah on its head! The Torah is indeed ancient! It is from the beginning, but when did the Torah become a ‘religious law?’ Religious laws are the purview of religious men, like the Pharisees.
The Bible tells us that a little leaven will spoil the whole loaf. Isn’t this another way of emphasizing that we should not add to nor subtract from His Law? The Pharisees, as the religious leaders of today, each bring their own leaven to the Word of God. When we substitute Sunday for the 7th Day Sabbath, or an ‘Easter’ festival instead of the Passover seder, or when we replace the commandments for YHVH’s appointed times (mo’edim) with man-made doctrines and traditions of men, we alter His Law. I cannot find a single scripture that says any of His Feasts or Sabbaths or commands are now, or ever have been, abolished. Nor can I find where Christmas, Easter or Halloween are codified as ‘new’ observances we should adhere to.
On the contrary, YHVH was very clear about not mixing the holy with the profane. We were admonished not to learn the ways of the ‘nations’ (gentiles, pagans) and say we were going to celebrate them in His Name. He considers them an abomination!
Deu 18:9 “When you enter the land that the LORD your God is about to give you, don’t learn the detestable practices of those nations there.
The book of the Tanakh that was most often quoted by Yeshua was Deuteronomy. If he thought it was a book of good instruction, why do men think we can ignore this admonition?
The Torah is not obsolete, but the man-made religious doctrines that kill are alive and well. Should we be tempted to embrace the Torah or the doctrines, religious laws, and misunderstandings of men? Should we seek the un-leavened bread of life found in Torah, or the ‘old legalism’ that says man can re-interpret and add to or subtract from the Eternal Law of our Creator? Shall we believe God or man?
How then shall we Live?
Finally, the author of ‘The New Legalism’ asks a great question! “How then should we live before the Lord, and also in regards to our influence and interaction with His other children?” To this I would say: Let us not re-invent the wheel. Our Father provided us with His instructions on how to live. It is contained in the pages of the Torah.
Mat 24:35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
Psa 119:89 Your word is forever, LORD; it is firmly established in heaven.
Psa 119:90 Your faithfulness continues from generation to generation. You established the earth, and it stands firm.
Psa 119:91 To this day they stand by means of your rulings, for all things serve you.
Psa 119:92 Had your instruction not been my pleasure, I would have died in my affliction.
Psa 119:93 I will never forget your precepts, for you have revived me with them.
WHAT ARE THE GREATEST COMMANDMENTS?
Yeshua answered this question for us in Matthew chapter 22:
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Some think this is a ‘new’ commandment, but it is not. The questioner in Matthew’s epistle would have understood Yeshua’s response was from the Scriptures (Old Testament) for they heard the Torah read every Sabbath. Yeshua says that these are the two greatest commandments, yet they are not spelled out this way in the Ten Commandments! The text seems to imply that Yeshua is pronouncing something new, and at the same time, he says they are the basis for ‘all the law and the prophets.’
The first mention of these ‘great’ commandments is found here:
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
Lev 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
So, if all the Law and the Prophets ‘hang’ (i.e. are suspended from) the commandments to Love God and Love our Neighbor, then all of the commandments are guided by and embody love. Those in the first century would have been familiar with the Law of Moses, and they would have understood this summary of the commandments.
To sum it all up, to walk according to the Torah is Yeshua’s definition of Love of God and Love of Neighbor.
What is the confusion of Grace and Works?
VanDruff’s arguments in ‘The New Legalism’ are most properly understood as misunderstandings. He rejects scriptural evidence in trying to re-define the Law (Torah) as a ‘shadow law,’ and then confuses what the ‘shadows’ are intended to foreshadow. Is Torah a burden, or is it the Heart of our Father? Is it a shadow that cannot inform us anymore, or is it a lamp to our feet? Were people in the ‘Old Testament’ operating without ‘grace?’
Noah found grace in the eyes of God. How did he do it?
Gen_6:22 Noah did all of this, precisely as God had commanded.
Gen_7:1 Then the LORD told Noah, “Come—you and all your household—into the ark, because I’ve seen that you alone are righteous in this generation.
Gen_7:5 Noah did everything that the LORD commanded.
By doing a search for the word grace in the Bible, it indicates that grace is the action of withholding death from being meted out. If we accept this definition, then every man since Adam has been afforded ‘grace.’ It certainly is not a new concept that was instituted by Yeshua or the so-called ‘New Testament Church.’
When we consider that the Torah is Life, it also fits this definition of Grace.
The ultimate gift of grace has been the same since the beginning. YHVH loves us enough to give us His Heart (His Torah) so that we know what He considers holy and unholy and how to walk as He intends for us to walk both in our relationship with Him and our relationship with our brothers and sisters. We would do well to accept His instructions and not add to or diminish from them.
In Torah is Life, and in transgression of the Torah (Sin) is death. That is the true understanding of what it means to be ‘under the Law.’ We transgress His Law and we are Worthy of Death! And even though Yeshua paid our death penalty for us, he did not abolish the Law of His father. But, praise Him, He has sent us His Holy Spirit to help us to keep His commands!
What is Sin?
The definition of Sin is found in 1 John. Read the entire book for more insight in matters of faith, works, sin and the law. To be concise:
1John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Our Father was clear about His Torah.
Deu_4:2 Do not add or subtract a thing to what I’m commanding you. Observe the commands of the LORD your God.
Deu 12:32 Now as to everything I’m commanding you, you must be careful to observe it. Don’t add to or subtract from it.”
Rom_6:15 What, then, does this mean? Should we go on sinning because we are not under Law but under grace? Of course not!
If the only definition of sin is found by means of the Law, then does abolishing the law thereby abolish sin as well? Do we still have sin in the world? If we reject His definition of Sin, then we have a distorted understanding. I haven’t found anyone who thinks evil has gone from the world, so apparently sin is still with us today. The question is: By whose definition?
Who or what is a Judaiser?
The article “The New Legalism” by VanDruff also wanders off into questions concerning ‘Judaisers’ without making any attempt to understand or define the term. This is an important concept that has to be addressed. It is such a large can of worms that I will address it in a separate response. (You can find it here.) Space prohibits a complete rebuttal, and VanDruff is one of many voices that use this term. It requires a separate and thorough response.
‘Judaiser’ labels aside, the important thing is for us all to understand what motivated Yeshua’s condemnation when he had personal encounters with the religious leaders of His day. He was not speaking against His Law, but against the Takanot (man-made statutes, regulations and laws) of the Pharisees. In a nutshell, it seems that Yeshua had the most difficulty in accepting the burdensome requirements and judgmental attitudes of the religious leaders! It is dangerous to conflate man’s corruption of the Word of YHVH with a condemnation of His Word itself.
Consider the following scripture. I will place in capitals the important bit. Any oral laws or traditions that were added to YHVH’s Torah are properly called ‘Jewish myths’ (Takanot) in these verses.
Tit 1:13 That statement is true. For this reason, refute them sharply so that they may become healthy in the faith
Tit 1:14 and not pay attention to Jewish myths or COMMANDS GIVEN BY PEOPLE who reject the truth.
To paraphrase verse 14 from Titus Chapter 1: Do not pay attention to the Takanot of the Pharisees (religious leaders), because they are man-made laws that have corrupted the truth given to us by YHVH in His Torah.
Today we have many who wish to diminish the Torah by removing ‘shadow laws’ that include the Feasts, Sabbaths and instructions given to mankind by YHVH himself. Beware lest we fall into ‘Christian myths’ that corrupt His Word (Torah) by the commandments, or misunderstandings, of men!