Are the Disciples of Jesus Obligated to Keep the Old Covenant (the Law or the Torah)?
This article is a companion of the article, 'Is 'Going to Church' Compatible with the Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth?. I also address objections to messianic-ism or Hebrewism based on some of Jesus' teaching in the article, 'Follow Jesus, Not Moses!' I will start this article with the same beginning paragraph I used in the previously referenced article.
For those who might be new in trying to follow Jesus of Nazareth (or those even understand what it means to follow Jesus), the answer to this question might be unclear. If you have been exposed to 'messianic' versions of bible-anity, which claims to represent 'Yahshua' of Nazareth, you have been taught that the essence of being a person who listens to messiah involves observing some parts of the torah, attending some 'messianic group or fellowship' and actively serving God through that group or organization. But is this what the Real Jesus of Nazareth teaches?
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John (the Baptist); since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." (Luke 16:16)
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
"And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'." (Luke 22:20)
And they said to him (Jesus), "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the religious leaders also do the same, but yours eat and drink." And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:33-39)
(For those still listening to 'the scripture' as authoritative)
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as he (Jesus) is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, Days Are Coming, Says The Lord, When I Will Effect A New Covenant With The House Of Israel And With The House Of Judah; Not Like The Covenant Which I Made With Their Fathers On The Day When I Took Them By The Hand To Lead Them Out Of The Land Of Egypt; For They Did Not Continue In My Covenant, And I Did Not Care For Them, Says The Lord. "For This Is The Covenant That I Will Make With The House Of Israel After Those Days, Says The Lord: I Will Put My Laws Into Their Minds, And I Will Write Them On Their Hearts. And I Will Be Their God, And They Shall Be My People. "And They Shall Not Teach Everyone His Fellow Citizen, And Everyone His Brother, Saying, 'Know The Lord,' For All Will Know Me, From The Least To The Greatest Of Them. "For I Will Be Merciful To Their Iniquities, And I Will Remember Their Sins No More." When he said, "A new covenant," he (Jesus) has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:6-13)
Perhaps a good place to start is to ask the question, in all of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, does he teach that his followers must keep/observe the old covenant, or even a part of the old covenant? This is a very important point, for we have many hundreds of teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the four gospels. He addresses how his followers are to live our lives quite clearly and comprehensively in those four books. As far as this author knows, there is no situation regarding how we are to relate to, speak to, and act towards the Father that he does not address. In like manner, as far as this author knows, there is no situation regarding how we are to relate to, speak to, and act towards others that he does not address. If this is true (and the reader should seek it out), then his NOT saying to his followers that they must keep the old covenant speaks quite loudly and clearly. And, as we shall see, he does in fact tell his followers that they are not bound by the OLD covenant which was made with Jacob/Israel and his descendants.
Are you, reader, trying to keep 'the law' of Moses (otherwise referred to as the Torah or the old covenant)? Before we even look at the teachings of Joshua above it is very important to ask the reader, if you are trying to keep the law, are you Jewish or Hebrew? In other words, were you raised in a natural family that was Hebrew by descent or a family who practiced Judaism? If the answer to that question is 'no', then the simple question you must consider is, why are you trying to be 'Jewish' or 'Hebrew-like' in your attempt to be accepted by, or pleasing to God?
The first part of the bible is the Jewish people's 'holy scripture'. It contains the writings of Jews and their thoughts about, and what they believe are their ancestor's experiences with, God. And if you believe those writings are accurate, those writings (which people label as "scripture") describes God's promises to the descendant's of Jacob or Israel - not to any other people. There were hundreds of other people groups on the earth at the time the Jewish scripture was written, and the Jewish or Hebrew scripture is THEIR scripture, and is not meant for any other people group.
A non-Jew can choose to read the Hebrew scripture and can choose to believe that the one true God choose to reveal Himself to those people or to work through that people group. A non-Jew can even believe that the Jewish scripture is 'God's Word'. But that does not make that non-Jew, a Jew; nor does it make that reader a recipient of the promises in the Hebrew scripture to the descendents of Israel; nor does that make the Jewish scripture "God's Word".
The simple truth is that the promises in the Jewish scripture are meant for Jews, period. Therefore, it is wrong for a non-Jew to take that scripture as their own, for it is not.
The good news is that the One whom the Jew's were looking forward to coming, came, and he invited all people - Jew and non-Jew - to become children of God. He calls all people to himself, not just Jews, and makes superior promises to those which exist in the Jewish scripture. Yes, the One who calls himself many things, like, 'the Light', 'the Way, Truth and Life', the 'Son of Man', the 'Son of God', the 'Good Shepherd', and several other things - was born to Jewish parents. But those who should have submitted to him as 'his people' - the Jews, the descendants of Jacob - instead rejected him. This saying of John is true, "He (Jesus) came to his own (the Jews), and those who were his own did not receive him. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name"" (John 1:11-12)
If you, reader, claim to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, does he teach that you must be like a Jew, Hebrew-like, or observe Moses' laws in order to please his Father? This author understands your confusion regarding 'the bible' and bible-based religion. You might be surprised to come to know that Jesus of Nazareth does not say you must be, act, or sound, Jewish-Hebrew in order to be pleasing to God. Nor does he teach that you must follow Moses in order to be received by his Father. In truth, he does not, for then he would be the 'Son of Israel' and not the 'Son of Man', his favorite title for himself.
The man who came through the Jewish people, transcended the flesh of that lineage and spoke as the Model for all mankind.
As such, he plainly pointed AWAY from the Jewish scripture and instead pointed to himself in the most comprehensive way possible - "I am the Way, Truth and Life". Contrary to what most bible/scripture people believe, Jesus never taught that his followers were to look to the Jewish scriptures in order to understand his Father. In fact, he plainly taught what people ought to do to understand and know his Father:
"He who sees me sees the One who sent me." (John 12:45)
Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His works." (John 14:9-10)
"So Jesus answered them and said, 'My teaching is not mine, but His who sent me'." (John 7:16)
"I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world." (John 8:26)
"And He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:29)
"For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak." (John 12:49)
"He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." (John 14:24)
Jesus of Nazareth plainly says that to know HIM is to know the One who sent him, and to know them is eternal life.
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Messiah Joshua whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
Unfortunately, for most people caught up in the messianic versions of bible/scripture-anity, they twist Messiah's words here and have him saying...
'This is eternal life, that they may keep Moses' commands as well as admire Messiah'.
Messiah NEVER says that his followers ought to look to the Jewish scripture to know him or his Father's will. Jesus did refer to the Jewish scripture while he was with the Jews and talking to Jews, for the Jew's held their scripture very highly in terms of trying to understanding their God. But if you look at all of Jesus' references to the Jewish scripture, what you will find is he almost always used the Jewish scripture to first and foremost, point to himself as the Messiah of Israel so that the people would listen to him. The vast majority of the time that Jesus refers to the Jewish scripture is to either say he is fulfilling it as their Messiah, or rebuking the religious leaders for their lack of understanding their own scripture.
Here are all of Jesus' sayings regarding the Jewish scripture.
"Have you not even read this Scripture: 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone'" (Mark 12:10)
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; THIS CAME ABOUT FROM THE LORD, AND IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES'?" (Matthew 21:42)
And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:21)
"He who believes in me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:38)
Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law*, 'I SAID, YOU ARE GODS'? "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me; but if I do them, though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:34-38)
* Please note the phrase, 'your law' that messiah uses referring to a direct quote of the Jewish scripture. It is strange indeed for Messiah to refer to his Father's Words as 'your law' if they are his Father's words.
"I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.' (John 13:18)
"While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled." (John 17:12)
But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)
Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 12:24)
"How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?" (Matthew 26:54)
"But all this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures of the prophets." Then all the disciples left him and fled." (Matthew 26:56)
"Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures." (Mark 14:49)
"You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal Life; it is these that testify about me; and you are unwilling to come to me so that you may have Life." (John 5:38-40)
As you can see, Jesus NEVER says anything to the effect of, 'Read and seek to understand the (Jewish) scripture in order to know and understand me or my Father'. In fact, in the last saying above (John 5:38-40) regarding the (Jewish) scripture, he says that their possessing and seeking to find eternal life through 'the scriptures' ("search the scriptures", and "in them [that is the scripture] you have eternal life") was a mistake. He says the Jewish scriptures testified about him, yet they did not even listen to their scripture, and thus they rejected their Messiah.
For those with eyes to see, Jesus of Nazareth tried to use the Jewish scripture to turn people to his Father by having them receive him as their Messiah, the Anointed one of God. He told the Jews that he was fulfilling the Messianic portions of their scripture, and he did this so that they might believe. Again, Messiah himself NEVER said that his followers were to read, study, learn, or look to 'the scripture' as the source for knowing God or knowing His will. In contrast, he says that his followers are to look to HIM as the ONLY authority for knowing his Father and his Father's will.
Please, reader, understand the distinction between Jesus pointing out to the Jews he encountered during his first visit, that he was fulfilling the Messianic portions of their scripture VERSUS his telling his follower to look back at that OLD covenant scripture in order to understand and know his Father and himself.
The former (pointing out his fulfilling portions of their scripture) he did.
The latter (telling those who follow him to look to the Jewish scripture to understand and know himself and his Father), he most certainly did not.
And yet, so many who claim to be followers of the Light look to the Jewish scripture to understand God and even to understand the Light of the world! Sadly, people will almost always do ANYTHING but look to the LIGHT to understand and to get to know God. It is much easier to look to Moses or the prophets to try and find how to live one's life, than it is to look at the one who says...
"Whoever seeks to keep his life, will lose it, but whomever loses his life for my sake, will find Life Everlasting".
Truly, it is easier to abstain from eating pork, or to rest on Saturday, than it is to lose our life - the former will profit us nothing - the latter will gain us Life everlasting.
Not only does Messiah NOT teach that his followers are to look to the Jewish scripture to understand and know his Father and himself, but he also says that for his followers, the Jewish scripture SHOULD NOT BE LOOKED TO in order to understand or know his Father or himself. The following sayings of the Light, which are quoted above, will bear the latter truth above, out.
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." (Luke 16:16)
Here, Jesus says that the law and the prophets have ceased to be proclaimed, and that something new is happening-that he is instead preaching "the kingdom of God". Thus, the law and prophets have been replaced by the message of the kingdom of God. John the Baptist was the last voice of the old covenant. The Messiah had come, and was preaching something new and different than the law and prophets-he was preaching that the kingdom of God had come, that he was the Appointed King, and he was the Way for a person to enter the kingdom of God. The heavenly Father's use of Moses' law and the prophets to try and bring people to himself was over, done, finished. It had to be finished since it was imperfect, as the Light plainly showed in Matthew chapters five through 7 (please see, "Follow Jesus, Not Moses")...the Perfect One came, and thus the end of the imperfect words of Moses.
If these things be so, then why, dear reader, would you reject Messiah's words on this matter, and instead still turn to that which has passed away, especially if you were never a recipient of the promises in the first place???
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
So, what does the new King want his subjects to do? He graciously refers to the old in order to help us understand the new. The King wants his subjects to love other people-to treat them the same way that WE want to be treated. In fact, that simple command - to "treat people the same way you want them to treat you", sums up, or is the heart of, what God was trying to get through to people by using Moses to write Moses' law.
No more thousands of words-rules in the Torah. Rather, and in contrast, simply, "treat people the same way you want them to treat you".
No more religious rituals. Rather, and in contrast, simply, "treat people the same way you want them to treat you".
Messiah makes this simply truth plain in his teachings given in Matt. 5-7. Please do read those marvelous words and see if they will support Hebrew-OT religion. If you have eyes to see, you will see that they do not support all the old stuff in the Torah, but instead support a simple love of other people-how to live our lives to love others and thus please the King whom we are supposed to love supremely.
Please don't deceive yourself by saying, 'oh, but to obey moses' teachings will lead to loving others'. That is certainly selective thinking and filtering out that which does not support your belief. Here are a few of Moses' laws:
"You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother." (Exodus 23:19)
"You shall take the ram of ordination and boil its flesh in a holy place." (Exodus 29:31)
"Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD'S vengeance on Midian." (Numbers 31:1-18)
"Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. "But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves." (Numbers 31:1-18)
There are hundreds of other such rules, laws and ordinances of Moses - in truth, Mosaic religion. And for a person to argue that keeping Moses' teachings, like the examples above, lead to loving one another, is to be badly deceived.
"And in the same way he (Jesus) took the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood'." (Luke 22:20)
Simply support of Luke 16:16. A new covenant was established by Jesus, and all his followers are bound only by the new covenant, not the old. New means, new! What is the NEW covenant? It is to trust in, and submit to, the new King and what HE SAYS only! Which brings us to the next truth:
And they said to him, "The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Jewish religious leaders also do the same, but yours eat and drink." And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? "But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days." And He was also telling them a parable: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. "And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. "But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. "And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough.'" (Luke 5:33-39)
The context could not be clearer. The narrator, Luke, starts this passage with the Jewish religious leaders observing a contrast between two sets of people under the OLD covenant versus those people under the New - John the Baptist's followers and the main Hebrew religious sect's followers versus the disciples of Jesus. And the contrast was John the baptist's followers as well as the religious leader's followers all fasting, while the disciples of Jesus were not fasting. Fasting was, and is, a main component of Jewish-Hebrew religion. Jesus' followers were not observing the Jewish fasts because the King was there and he was saying it was not necessary to keep the fasts in order to please his Father. And so, the question was asked, and the King answered. But lest they not understand the bride and bridegroom illustration, the King took a step back and addressed the question at a level deeper. He addressed the entire old covenant versus new covenant issue that his Father was doing with this teaching.
The two illustrations he gives are clothes and wine. He says that no one uses new cloth to patch an old cloth garment. Furthermore, he says if one tries to do that, both will be ruined. In like manner, so it is with wine and the wine container of that time. He says that no one puts new wine into an old wineskin for if one does, both the new wine will be ruined as well as the old wine skin. This teaching of the Light followed right on the heels of the religious leaders and their followers questioning why Jesus and his disciples did not keep the fasting ordinances of the old covenant like they and John's disciples did. Again, his answer is plain for those with ears to hear. He even finishes the teaching by saying that those people who have drank the old wine will not care for the new wine-they will reject the new for the old.
Thus, so it was at that time, and so it is today with the Jews. But how strange that those who are not Jews also reject the new for the old, for they were never actually partakers of the old! In other words, how foolish that non-Jews prefer the Jewish way of Moses and the prophets when they are not partakers of the promises of Moses and the prophets! Most messianic bible people will respond to that truth by saying that they BOTH follow Messiah as well as obey 'God's commands' in the old covenant. However, Messiah plainly says in the passage above that to try and do that "ruins" both.
What about the term "ruins" does the reader not understand?
Sadly, it is hard for all of us to overcome the things of the flesh-that is things that have no bearing on our faithfulness to the King except to serve as hindrances. There is one fruit of the flesh of the messianic-moses-hebrew religionists that should not go unmentioned in this article. That practice-belief is to think that pronouncing one's words - especially religious words - in a Hebrew way is somehow commendable to God. That practice is based on people who believe that being Hebrew-like is commendable towards God. For people who are supposed to be listening to Messiah, that is indeed strange, for Messiah never comes close to even suggesting such a thing.
All of the arguments that this author has heard for that practice have no basis in Messiah's teachings, but rather have their basis in the flesh ... 'Messiah spoke that way...', 'the Hebrew language...', 'We should talk like Messiah talked...". It is sad indeed that people - especially non-Jews! - think that that type of stuff somehow commends them to their heavenly Father. It is no different than any truly racist group thinking that their language or speech mannerisms are superior to others or are pleasing to God, while other people's language or speech customs are inferior or speech mannerisms are displeasing to God. To think that pronouncing one's words in a Hebrew-like manner is pleasing to the Father is to have a serious lack of knowing the Father in that area. What kind of God cares about how one pronounces a word if the person who utters it is sincerely trying their best with what they know? Sadly, the sacred name messianic thing is 'good' for another few hundred sects, as each disagree with each other's spellings and pronunciations! (Please see the article, "Another Foolish Reason to Divide" regarding Messiah's name)
Please, dear reader, turn away from thinking that you are to listen to Moses AND Messiah and yet still be able to have Messiah as your Master. You may deny that Moses is a master of your spiritual life, but in as much as you try to listen to both Messiah and Moses, you do in fact have at least two masters (and for most religious people, self is the one and only Master). And Messiah says that to have him as one's Master, is to have only ONE Master.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24)
May we focus on the Light, and thus be set free!
"If you continue in MY word (NOT Moses' or any others!!!), then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32)
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