Yeshua and the "Law"

by Chris Donald


A friend of mine has been asking questions about my beliefs and she sent me some scriptures that I guess she wanted an explanation on as to how they fit in the Messianic perspective.

My friend asked about the following scriptures...
Matthew 5: 17-20
Hebrews 8: 13
Colossians 2: 14-17
Galatians 3: 13
Romans 7: 1-6
Romans 8: 1-2
Here is my reply
I'm quoting the scriptures via a website . This website has a word search and a passage search for most of the popular translations of the Bible. I'm going to quote from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. I actually don't use that translation but the translation I use is not on the website. Also know that I am using the name Yeshua instead of Jesus, and I am inserting Torah instead of Law in my explanations because most of the time it is referring to Torah. However, sometimes it is also referring to the "law of sin and death" or the manmade traditions that were sometimes referred to as "law." Also keep in mind the context of Paul's letters and the audience he wrote them to, who were mostly Gentile believers (excluding Hebrews which was to Hebrews) who were going to the synagogues to learn Torah and were new to the concepts of Torah. This is why you see Paul struggling so much to explain the concepts of faith vs. works for righteousness, and always remember to keep John and James' teachings in mind when reading Paul because faith without works is dead.... 
Also understand that what I am explaining to you is my understanding of these scriptures, and I am certainly no scholar.
Matthew 5:17-20  I'm going to quote from verse 13 to the end of the chapter. Please ignore the little numbers...
13   "You are the salt of the earth; but (17) if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14   "You are (18) the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
15   (19) nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
16   "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may (20) see your good works, and (21) glorify your Father who is in heaven.
17   "Do not think that I came to abolish the (22) Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
18   "For truly I say to you, (23) until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
19   "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least (24) in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20   "For I say to you that unless your (25) righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21   "(26) You have heard that the ancients were told, '(27) YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be [2] liable to (28) the court.'
22   "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before (29) the court; and whoever says to his brother, '[3] You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before [4] (30) the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the [5] (31) fiery hell.
23   "Therefore if you are (32) presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,
24   leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be (33) reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
25   "(34) Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
26   "Truly I say to you, (35) you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last [6] cent.
27   "(36) You have heard that it was said, '(37) YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY';
28   but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (38) with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29   "(39) If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into (40) hell.
30   "(41) If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into (42) hell.
32   (44) but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33   "Again, (45) you have heard that the ancients were told, '(46) YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.'
34   "But I say to you, (47) make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is (48) the throne of God,
35   or by the earth, for it is the (49) footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is (50) THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
36   "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37   "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of (51) evil.
38   "(52) You have heard that it was said, '(53) AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.'
39   "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but (54) whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40   "If anyone wants to sue you and take your [7] shirt, let him have your [8] coat also.
41   "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
42   "(55) Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43   "(56) You have heard that it was said, '(57) YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (58) and hate your enemy.'
44   "But I say to you, (59) love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45   so that you may be (60) sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46   "For (61) if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47   "If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48   "Therefore (62) you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
These verses are part of Yeshua's sermon on the mount. It is impossible to fully understand the Messiah without understanding the context of the culture he was a part of, the people he was surrounded by and taught, and the religion he followed, which was Torah based. First we have to know who he was speaking to. This was the mount in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish culture, the location of the temple. Yeshua was teaching his disciples and a crowd of fellow Jews. Knowing this, we can deduct that the people he was speaking to had a knowledge of the Torah (referred to as "the Law" or "the Word").
When I say Torah, I am talking about the first 5 books in the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These contain the history of the Most High's creation and mankind specifically. However, they also contain the teachings, rulings, statutes and impressions that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob gave to Israel as a covenant. This covenant was given to the 12 tribes (or 13 if you count the 2 "half tribes" of Ephraim and Manasseh as a whole tribe each) that descended from Jacob who descended from Abraham. This covenant was given to this group of people so that they could be a light to the world, to show the peoples of the nations that Yahweh, God of Abrahaam, Isaac, and Jacob, was a wise and caring God who was not far away from them, but rather very close and cared for them very much. The Torah was given as a system of blessings and curses. It was a blessing to those who followed it, and a curse to those who did not. This is explaned in the prophecy of Deuteronomy 28. As of today, Israel has experienced many if not all of these curses upon them for disobedience and not only have the 10 "lost" tribes been scattered, but also the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi who are collectively known as "Jews". However, as referred to in Deuteronomy 30 and many of the Prophet books, these tribes are being gathered back to Israel, the Land that Yahweh promised to his people. This is a huge sign post that we are living in what is generally known as "the end times". The Torah is explained in most churches today as a strict, rigid set of rules set down by a harsh God to a stubborn people, and the general consensus among the churches is that it is "done away with" as their interpretations of Paul's writings would indicate. As you know, I don't buy that.
Back to Yeshua's teaching. He begins by saying making analogies of what the Jewish people should be to the nations (verses 13-16). Salt of the earth, city on the hill, light to the world. How were they to be this? Verse 16 says they were to show their "good works" to men that they might glorify Yahweh. What were the good works? Where were they defined for the people by the Lord? The Torah. The Torah is a set of instructions that shows us how to truly show our love for Yahweh, and at the same time show our love for our neighbor (see Matt 22:36-40, also 1 John 2:1-8). In this way, the people were to be a light to the Gentiles around them. Loving our neighbors is not just a warm fuzzy feeling, being nice to them, or giving them a hug when we see them. If it is not physically manifest, in other words if we do not show our love through charity and good deeds as outlined in the Torah, it is not real and it is dead. See James 2:8-20.
It was interesting that you quoted Matt 5:17-20 because that is often a passage that I quote to prove my point. He says not to think that he came to abolish the Law (Torah) and the Prophets, but to know that he came to fulfill. Abolish and fulfill were two examples of Hebrew idioms. Just like we have different figures of speech in our culture that may not make sense to people outside of our culture, so did the Hebrews of Yeshua's time. The term abolish was used to say that someone was misinterpreting or teaching a certain scripture in an incorrect context, stretching the fabric of the text to fit a certain agenda or teaching. The term fulfill was the opposite. Fulfill meant to rightly interpret, to cause to stand up, to bring to fullness the meaning of a particular scripture. What I believe Yeshua was trying to say here was that he came to correctly interpret the law and not to misinterpret it. He then says that until heaven and earth pass, not one letter of the Torah will pass. The Torah will always be the instruction book for living a life pleasing to the Most High as long as we are on this earth. He follows that by saying that whoever annuls one of the least of the commandments (referring to the Torah) and teaches another to do so will be seen as least in his Kingdom, while the one who keeps them will be called great. Unfortunately, the great majority of the church is teaching that a great majority of these commandments have been annulled. Yeshua continues in verses 21 on to reveal deeper understanding on Torah commandments. He raised the bar on these commandments, saying not only not to murder, but to make an effort to iron out any differences between yourself and another person, not only to not commit adultery, but also to not even think of committing it or lust after a woman besides your wife. Why did he address these problems? Because these are the problems that were occurring in the body of Hebrews in that day. Yeshua was setting what was called fences. If you keep yourself from lusting after a married woman, chances are you will keep yourself from going another step and committing physical adultery with her. This was a fulfillment of the Torah commandment. Bringing the hidden meanings to the surface. The hidden meaning: to be a loving community that would be an example to the whole world of Yahweh's righteousness and love. These were things that Israel should have been keeping from day 1, but did not see until the living Torah, the living Word, Yeshua the Messiah pointed it out to them.
For other references by Yeshua to Torah (and the lack thereof, aka lawlessness, iniquity, or Torah-lessness) see the following.... Matt 7:12, in which Yeshua explains one of the greater meanings of the whole Torah, Matt 7:21-23, in which Yeshua explains what will be said to those who claim to be of him but do not keep Torah, and finally Matt 11:29 in conjunction with 1 John 5:3 and Deuteronomy 30:9-13 to show exactly what this unburdensome yoke is that Messiah speaks of.
Hebrews 8:13  I'm going to use Hebrews 8:6-13
6   But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the (14) mediator of (15) a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

A New Covenant

7   For (16) if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
8   For finding fault with them, He says,
          FOR (23) ALL WILL KNOW ME,
13   When He said, "(26) A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. (27) But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
In these verses, the Apostle Paul is referencing Jeremiah 31 particularly verses 31-34. This chapter he is referencing is a prophecy regarding Israel (aka Ephraim and the other 9 "lost" tribes, or can sometimes be used to represent ALL 12 tribes) and Judah (representing the other 3 tribes currently known as Jews). First we need to understand what a covenant was in Hebrew culture. A covenant was like a contract between two or more parties. A covenant was not to be broken. However, a covenant could be changed, or renewed. Yahweh does not break a covenant, even when His people fail to keep their end of the bargain. He has, however, renewed our covenant. What are the features of this renewed covenant? If you'll notice, in Hebrews 8:10, which quotes Jeremiah 31:33, it is written that "I will put my laws into their minds, I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people". (Also check out Deuteronomy 30:1-10 particularly verse 6. Circumcision of the heart is an analogy for writing the Torah upon our hearts) What is the law He will put in our minds? What are these commandments He will be writing upon our hearts? Torah! Yahweh is going to write it on our hearts and put in us a desire to walk out his Torah in spirit and truth, whereas before we were constantly at war with our selfishness and our desire to do our own thing instead of the things that the Most High has asked of us. I believe that we are just seeing the fruitation of this prophecy. It was began about 2000 years ago when Yeshua made an ultimate sacrifice for us. He was the ultimate sin sacrifice, the ultimate fulfillment of Passover, his blood on us representing the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites in the original Passover (Exodus 12). I believe that the Messianic movement, at least that part of it that is teaching Torah, is a large part of that fulfillment. Do not get me wrong though, throughout history there has always been a remnant of believers who kept the Torah and also believed in Messiah Yeshua. Notice that in verse 13, Paul says that the first covenant is becoming obsolete and may disappear. He does not say that it has disappeared, for we have not seen the total fruitation of our renewed covenant. Even when we do, the Torah will not have passed away. The Torah will be written on our hearts, and we will be empowered to walk it out in a way that some of our ancestors could not. Will we be the first to have it written on our hearts? Certainly not! There have been many people throughout history who have had the Torah written on their hearts. Yeshua was the greatest of these, but even before he set the example for us there were men and women with the Torah on their hearts.
Colossians 2:14-17  I'm going to quote 13 thru the rest of the chapter...
13   When you were (32) dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He (33) made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14   having canceled out (34) the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and (35) He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
15   When He had (36) disarmed the (37) rulers and authorities, He (38) made a public display of them, having (39) triumphed over them through Him.
16   Therefore no one is to (40) act as your judge in regard to (41) food or (42) drink or in respect to a (43) festival or a (44) new moon or a (45) Sabbath day--
17   things which are (46) a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
18   Let no one keep (47) defrauding you of your prize by (48) delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, (49) inflated without cause by his (50) fleshly mind,
19   and not holding fast to (51) the head, from whom (52) the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.
20   (53) If you have died with Christ to the (54) elementary principles of the world, (55) why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to (56) decrees, such as,
21   "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!"
22   (which all refer (57) to things destined to perish with use)--in accordance with the (58) commandments and teachings of men?
23   These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in (59) self-made religion and self-abasement and (60) severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against (61) fleshly indulgence.
First, "the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us" is not the Torah. The Torah is the guideline between right and wrong. Our debt was our sin. Transgression of the Torah is sin (Romans 5:15-6:2), and sin is what Yeshua nailed to the tree. I've heard it preached from a pulpit many times that "the Law was nailed to the cross!" and I've come to find that to be a gross error. Verse 16 speaks of not letting people judge how one keeps the Sabbath and the new moons, what they eat and drink. However, reading on to Verses 22-23, it is clarified that what Paul is referring to are manmade commandments and teachings. There were many, many commandments that were added to the commandments of Yahweh by the sages (Torah teachers) over the years. Some were good and some were bad, but they became so numerous that they were burdensome. See Matthew 15:1-11 where Yeshua dealt with a similar situation. These traditions are what Paul was referring to in verse 16 when he told the Colossians not to allow themselves to be judged by others in how they celebrate the festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths and in what they eat and drink. This was not to give them the okay to ignore the regulations in the Torah regarding the Appointed Times and clean/unclean animals for eating.
An interesting thing to note is that whereas in Yeshua's time traditions had made the commandments so numerous as to become burdensome, today's Christian tradition has made it so there are very few commandments and right and wrong are so blurred that it's hard to see. The only one's that most of the Christian churches will support are the 10 commandments. Why do they choose to do those and ignore the other 603 commandments? Where is it written that we shall keep these and ignore the rest? How hard is it not to kill? How hard is it not to steal? How hard not to sleep with someone else's wife or not to cheat on your own? And yet, we have even failed in those! Also, pagan festivals and traditions have found their way into our worship and culture in the guise of Christmas, Easter, Lent, St. Valentine's, and Halloween and have replaced the one's that Yahweh put his name on.
By the way, the questions I listed above aren't directed at you, they are just rhetorical to prove my point :p
Galatians 3:13  I'll quote verses 1-14....
1   You foolish (1) Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ (2) was publicly portrayed as crucified?
2   This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by (3) hearing with faith?
3   Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
4   Did you suffer so many things in vain--(4) if indeed it was in vain?
5   So then, does He who (5) provides you with the Spirit and (6) works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by (7) hearing with faith?
7   Therefore, be sure that (10) it is those who are of faith who are (11) sons of Abraham.
8   The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "(12) ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."
9   So then (13) those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
10   For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "(14) CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."
11   Now that (15) no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "(16) THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
12   However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "(17) HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM."
13   Christ (18) redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "(19) CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON (20) A TREE"--
14   in order that (21) in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we (22) would receive (23) the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Verse 13 states that Yeshua's sacrifice redeemed us from the curse of the Torah. What is the curse of the Torah? Our transgression of it, our sin. The marks against us. What stands between us and what Yahweh desires of us. That is the curse of the Torah. It comes from our disobedience. The Torah itself is not a curse. Why would Yahweh our Redeemer desire to put evil in our lives? Isn't evil what he calls us away from?
Romans 7:1-6 and 8:1-2  I'll quote all of 7 and part of 8...
Romans 7

1   Or do you not know, (1) brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives?
2   For (2) the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.
3   So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
4   Therefore, my brethren, you also were (3) made to die (4) to the Law (5) through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
5   For while we were (6) in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were (7) aroused by the Law, were at work (8) in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.
6   But now we have been (9) released from the Law, having (10) died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in (11) newness of (12) the [1] Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
7   (13) What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? (14) May it never be! On the contrary, (15) I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "(16) YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
8   But sin, (17) taking opportunity (18) through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for (19) apart from the Law sin is dead.
9   I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;
10   and this commandment, which was (20) to result in life, proved to result in death for me;
11   for sin, (21) taking an opportunity (22) through the commandment, (23) deceived me and through it killed me.
12   (24) So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13   Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? (25) May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
14   For we know that the Law is (26) spiritual, but I am (27) of flesh, (28) sold (29) into bondage to sin.
15   For what I am doing, (30) I do not understand; for I am not practicing (31) what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16   But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with (32) the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17   So now, (33) no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18   For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my (34) flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19   For (35) the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
20   But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, (36) I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
21   I find then (37) the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
22   For I joyfully concur with the law of God in (38) the inner man,
23   but I see (39) a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the (40) law of my mind and making me a prisoner of (41) the law of sin which is in my members.
24   Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from (42) the body of this (43) death?
25   (44) Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh (45) the law of sin.

Romans 8

1   Therefore there is now no (46) condemnation for those who are (47) in (48) Christ Jesus.
2   For (49) the law of the Spirit of life in (50) Christ Jesus (51) has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
3   For (52) what the Law could not do, (53) weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in (54) the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
4   so that the (55) requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who (56) do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5   For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on (57) the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, (58) the things of the Spirit.
6   (59) For the mind set on the flesh is (60) death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
7   because the mind set on the flesh is (61) hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
8   and those who are (62) in the flesh cannot please God.

This is one of the most confusing passages in scripture.
The copies of the letters that we have from which the New Testament is derived are written in Greek. In Greek, the word for law is gnomos. Unfortunately this makes it hard to differentiate between Paul's references to Torah and/or another "law."   In these verses, Paul is talking about at least 2 different "laws" (Romans 7:22-23).  One is the Law, the Torah, of the Most High. It is also referred to as walking in the Spirit. What does he say of it? That it is not sin, but that it educates us as to what sin IS (Verse 7), it is to result in life but results in death because of our sin nature (Verse 10-11 and see also Verse 13), it is holy, righteous and good (Verse 12), it is spiritual as opposed to our sinful flesh nature (Verse 14), that Paul joyfully concurs with the Torah of Yahweh in his inner man (Verse 22), and that it is the "law" of the Spirit of life that dwelled in Yeshua the Messiah that set us free from the other law (Verse 8:2). What is this other law? The law of sin and death, the law of flesh, of condemnation. It is the same as the "curse of the Law" that Paul referred to in Galatians. What does he say of this law? That we died to it through Messiah so we could bear fruit (Verse 7:4), that sinful passions are aroused by this law (Verse 5), that we are released from this law and are no longer bound to it (Verse 6), it is the thing he hates and yet he practices it because of his nature (Verse 15), that no longer is it he doing the sinning, but the law of sin and death which resides within him (Verse 17 and also 21 and 23), that it makes war with the law of his mind, which is Torah, (Verse 23 again), and finally that while his mind serves Torah, his flesh serves the law of sin and death (Verse 25). He continues to say that a person with their mind set on flesh cannot please the Most High (8:5-8). So we see there are two conflicting laws within Paul. The Torah is the good one which he delights in, but he is freed from the evil one through the sacrifice of Messiah. Did Paul keep the Torah? See Acts 18:18 and 21:19-24 in light of Numbers 6