15 April 2019

The Duration of the Torah

Ten Commandments by clipart.christiansunite.com
The book of Hebrews cites Jeremiah 31:31-34 to argue that God’s previous covenant proved inadequate, otherwise there would have been no need for a new and better one. This logic also indicates the temporary jurisdiction of Torah or the legislation delivered to Moses by angels at Sinai (Hebrews 2:5; 8:7-12). The very need for a new covenant demonstrates that the former covenant was not “faultless.”
     Because Israel sinned, the Levitical rites established by the Torah were unable to achieve “the purification of sins.” The old system was inherently inadequate (Exodus 24:1-8; Hebrews 1:3-4).  (Hebrews 8:13) – “In saying, ‘Of a new sort’, he has made obsolete the first.”
     For this reason, God promised a new covenant, one not “according to the covenant” that He made at Sinai. It would not be a renewal, reinstatement or reaffirmation of the old rites but something quite different, a covenant based on “better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). It was inaugurated by the death of Jesus (Hebrews 7:22; 8:6; 9:15-20; 10:29; 12:24), which means the old covenant is now “obsolete” and “vanishing away” (Hebrews 8:13). Implicit in such statements is that Torah is no longer in force.
     The Apostle Paul was more explicit (Galatians 3:14-19). He responded to claims that Gentiles must be circumcised and keep at least some of the “works of the Law,” at a minimum, Sabbath-keeping and other holy day observations (4:10). Writing to the Galatians, Paul always referred to the “law,” singular, specifically to the legislation given at Sinai (Galatians 3:103:194:4-54:24).
    Paul uses the phrase, “works of the law,” not for good works in general but for the specific requirements of Torah, including circumcision and Sabbath-keeping. At issue is whether believers are acquitted before God “on the basis of the works of the Law” or “on the basis of the faith of Jesus Christ” (2:15-21).
     Paul appeals to the Galatians' common experience of the Spirit (Galatians 3:1-5).  Did they receive the Spirit in response to a hearing of faith or “from the works of the Torah?”  Having begun in the Spirit, why do they now seek “to complete” their faith on the basis of “the flesh,” in this case, circumcision? He cites the example of Abraham who was reckoned righteous on the basis of his faith, not his circumcision (Galatians 3:6-9).
     Paul argues that those “from the works of the Law are under a curse” because the Law itself attests that “cursed is every one who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law” (Galatians 3:10Deuteronomy 27:26). Had not Israel committed to everything that Yahweh commanded (Exodus 24:3? Jesus came to redeem us from the “curse of the Law” by becoming a curse on our behalf. This was so the “blessing of Abraham,” the “promise of the Spirit,” might come upon Gentiles in Christ Jesus through faith.
     Paul describes the custom that “a man’s confirmed covenant” cannot afterward be altered (Galatians 3:15-19). So also the “promise” made to Abraham and to “his seed” identified as Christ.  The covenant was confirmed by God Himself 430 years before the Law at Sinai, therefore the Mosaic legislation does not add to or subtract from the original promise.  The covenant made with Abraham takes precedence.  Abraham’s inheritance is based on the previous “promise,” not on the Law.
     The Law was supplemental, added as an interim stage to deal with “transgressions, until the seed should come” to whom the promise was made.  The Law is incapable of “making alive,” otherwise “righteousness would have been in law.”  The Law “confined all things under sin that the promise might come on the basis of the faith of Jesus Christ,” given to all who respond to Him in faith.
     Before the arrival of faith, Torah was Israel’s custodian “unto Christ” (Galatians 3:23-24). But Christ, having come, “no longer are we under a custodian”; the custodianship of the Law has ceased. Therefore no longer can there be “Jew or Greek, bond or free, male and female”; all who are “in Christ are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs,” and this regardless of ethnicity, gender or social status (3:26-29). The social divisions inherent in the Law no longer apply. But a return to “the works of the Law” will certainly rebuild those same barriers.
     Paul provides a similar contrast in Galatians 4:1-6. While still a minor the intended heir is “under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of by his father.”  Likewise, prior to the arrival of the seed “we were infants, in servitude under the elementary principles of the world until the fullness of time,” at which point Jesus came to “redeem them who were under Law, that we might receive the adoption.”  Therefore no longer are we servants but sons and heirs.
     In each case, Paul argues based on his understanding that the jurisdiction of Torah ended with the arrival of the promised “seed,” that is, Jesus Christ.  If the Mosaic legislation is still in force, and if obedience to it remains mandatory for right-standing before God, then Paul’s whole line of argument falls apart.
    Put another way, if we are at this time “under the Law,” then we are NOT heirs according to the promise and remain under servitude to the “elementary principles of the world” (Romans 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”). The old covenant is still in force; the new one has yet to be inaugurated, and we are all still dead in our sins.
    Anyone who puts him or herself under the Mosaic Law will experience servitude, not liberty. A return to the jurisdiction of the Torah is the abandonment of the “faith of Jesus Christ” and renders his death pointless; trespass and blasphemy of the worst order.

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