A Case For Following Torah
Torah in Hebrew literally means “instruction”.
From that base meaning flow other more specific aspects of God’s instruction. God has given us this instruction partly for our benefit and partly because it reflects His character. (Deut. 5:16,33; 6:2) Obeying the law has, among others, two benefits: (1) Obeying God’s law keeps us from sin, both the punishment and the consequences of sin. (Ps. 119:1-9); (2) Following God’s instruction gives us the best life possible. So, by following the ways God has set forth in Scripture, we are kept from the negatives of sin and are given the possitives of an abundant life. In the Torah, we also find the heart of God. When we follow His ways, we are following the heart of God.
The Law was given by God through Moses to Israel.
Since it was given by God, only God Himself could authorize its abrogation. It was to be kept throughout all their generations or forever in other passages. (Ex. 12:42 for the Passover) The clause “throughout their/your generations” is used quite frequently, showing that the Torah was to be following by more than just the generation to which it was given. The passage in Deut. 6:4-9 known as the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”) explicitly states that the commandments should be passed down through the children.
And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
It can be argued that “olam” does not always mean forever, and this is true. Therefore, we must see if there are any other references to God’s Law using different, more specific language to see what duration is meant.
The Law was given as a whole.
It is indivisible; there are no divisions in the Law. We cannot pick and choose which laws are binding today and which ones are not. After the death of Moses, speaking about the first five books of the Bible, Joshua gave this admonishment to Israel:
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.(Josh. 1:8)
The Law was confirmed by the Prophets.
Jeremiah 33:20-21 clarifies what is meant by “olam” in Deuteronomy:
Thus says the Lord, ’If you can break My covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and withthe Levitical priests, My ministers.’
God then reiterates this in verses 25-26:
Thus says the Lord, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’
In this passage, God has given a simple test for the perpetuity of the Law: Is there day and night? If so, then the God’s Law is still in force. The passage actually speaks directly of the Davidic and Levitical covenants. However, the fact that the Levitical priests would be ministering, necessitates the Law being followed by Israel and further supports the position that the Law has not ceased to be God’s plan for Israel.
Christ confirmed the Law and the Prophets.
In fact, He advocated following and teaching others to follow the Law and pronounced harsh penalties for those who teach others to break even the smallest commandments.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Verse 17 is frequently quoted in an attempt to show that the Law has been esentially finished in Christ, meaning that He obeyed it fully, therefore we do not have to. Those promoting this view run into trouble reconciling what Christ says next since verses 18 and 19 clearly invalidate that position. Another point of view, one that is consistent with the rest of scripture, is that Christ was using an idoimatic expression commonly used at that time. In fact, the two Greek words pleroo and kataluo are found throughout first century Rabbincal writings. If two rabbis disagreed with each another, the first would say that the second was destroying (kataluo’ing) the Law, but that he himself was uplifting (pleroo’ing) the Law. There was much disagreement over which laws should be followed, further compounded by the fact that many of the rabbinical traditions had been elevated to the same level as the written Torah.
We read in scripture that Yayshua was often criticized for not following the Law. (Matt. 15:1-3) However, to which law were they referring? Men’s tradition or God’s Law. Certainly, if Christ had broken even one of God’s Laws, He would not have been the perfect sacrifice needed to atone for our sin.
Christ commanded His disciples to teach the Law to others.
Besides His strong statements in Matthew 5:17-19, in Matthew 23:2-3 Christ instructs His followers to do what the Pharisees say to do, siding with them verses the Saddeusees.
The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.
Then, in Matthew 28, in the passage known as the Great Commission, He gives His disciples orders to teach these things to the nations:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’
The image of Christ that we see in the Gospels is one that is very Torah-observant, and based on His statements it is apparent that He wanted others to follow His example and teachings.
The elder in the congegration of Jerusalem, Ya’akov (James), supports following the commandments.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of thw word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a miror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But on who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
The Apostle John wrote Jesus’ words concerning following the commandments.
He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.
Moses records God’s words concerning adding to or taking away from the commandments.
Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.