The New Covenant didn't officially begin until after Jesus' death and resurrection. The four Gospels were a transitional period, if you will. Let us dig into the Scriptures to see how this all played and plays out...
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." -Matthew 5:17-18
Jesus didn't come to destroy the Torah, but to fulfill it. This He did and will finish when He comes again. I will share a small sampling of Scriptures to show how Jesus fulfilled while He walked this earth as the Son of Man. But first... Some "Torah Observant Christians" are hung up on the next few verses, so let's clear those up before we continue. Jesus then said:
"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." -Matthew 5:19-20
Yes, if we break any of "these least commandments," meaning ANY of the Torah, and/or if we teach others to break the Torah, then he shall be "called least in the kingdom of heaven." This does not mean that breaking the Torah will keep a saved person out of heaven, but it does mean he loses some of the Kingdom Rewards. Yet, the next verse is KEY. It said that if a person's righteousness doesn't exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, then that person will not see the kingdom of heaven at all - in other words, they will not go to heaven, but are damned.
The first point - we are not to break any of the Torah commandments - Christians keep the spirit of the Torah, but are not bound by the letter, for they have been set free from the law via the death of their old person, and their spiritual resurrection unto a new life in Christ. This has been explained numerable times, with loads of Scripture to back it up in previous articles in this "Christians and the Torah" series. All of the articles in this series are in the left hand sidebar of this website, under the heading "Christians and the Torah." Christians keep the law via fulfilling it's true meaning and purpose through the Holy Spirit, which indwells all true believers.
The second point - our righteousness needs to exceed the righteousness of the religious authorities of Jesus' day. The only way that can occur is if we have the spilt blood of God's Passover Lamb over us - Jesus Christ. NO ONE is good enough to go to heaven, because we all have messed up multiple times in our lives. We can only have pure and perfect righteousness if we have Jesus Christ as our mediator and Saviour. THAT is how our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus taught the spirit of the law right there in the Gospels:
The spirit of the law of "thou shalt not kill:"
"Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." -Matthew 5:21-22
Compare this with:
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." -1 John 3:15
The spirit of the law of "thou shalt not commit adultery:"
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." -Matthew 5:27-28
The spirit of the law of the "bill of divorcement:"
"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." -Matthew 5:31-32
The bill of divorcement is taught in the Torah:
"When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house." -Deuteronomy 24:1
Under the spirit of the law, divorce can only happen for two reasons - 1) if the spouse commits adultery, or 2) if the spouse in an unbeliever, and leaves:
"And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace." -1 Corinthians 7:13-15
The spirit of the law of "oaths:"
"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." -Matthew 5:33-37
Compare this with:
"But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." -James 5:12
The spirit of the law of "eye for eye:"
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." -Matthew 5:38-39
The eye for eye law is taken from Exodus 21:24. However, the spirit of the law calls us to forgive, and to love all, even our enemies. When a Christian does this, s/he fulfills ALL of the law:
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." -Romans 13:8
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." -Romans 13:10
"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." -Galatians 5:14
The spirit of the law of "love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy:"
This law is in the Torah and Writings at Leviticus 19:18 and Psalm 41:10.
But Jesus says:
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" -Matthew 5:43-44
In fact, under the spirit of the law, we are called to be perfect.
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." -Matthew 5:48
Jesus has asked the impossible with us, but:
"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.: -Luke 18:27
Jesus tells us how to be perfect, and keeping the law isn't it:
"And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." -Matthew 19:16-29
A rich man came up to Jesus, asking what he must DO to inherit eternal life. Notice that tiny, little word - "do." We can't receive eternal life by anything we do, unless we do the law, and keep it perfectly. However, Jesus listed some of the Ten Commandments. Notice, that every time Jesus lists some of the Ten Commandments in the Bible, He consistently leaves the Sabbath commandment out. We'll get into why, later in this article, keep this in mind.
The rich man said he did and does follow those six commands, but he still knows that something is lacking, so he says "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" - Ah, so the man wants the real deal. Jesus gives it to him straight up - "if thou wilt be PERFECT", and in order to be perfect, you have to be willing to forsake ALL that you have, and follow Jesus, and He alone. Are you willing to lose all relationships with everyone important to you? Are you willing to give up your home, car, money, and all possessions to follow Christ? If not, then you are not worthy of Him, and you are not perfect. COMPLETE trust in Christ is what makes us "perfect." If we are trusting in Christ and what our church teaches, then we are not trusting perfectly in Christ. If we are trusting in Christ, but we don't openly share our Christianity, then we are not trusting in Christ alone. If we are trusting in Christ, but we keep our mouths shut about him in the presence of certain people, because we fear it will strain that relationship, then we are not trusting in Christ alone. Christ ALONE gets us into heaven, and we must put our trust in HIM.
Perhaps you have been called to cover your head, but you fear the way some people will treat you because of it? Perhaps you don't share the Gospel, because you are shy or scared, or you don't want people to think ill of you? FORSAKE all, and follow Christ. Trust HIM:
"For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels." -Luke 9:26
Being perfect in Christ doesn't necessarily happen at once. It takes growth as you walk in the Spirit:
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." -1 Peter 2:1-3
We see that Jesus kept the Torah, via fulfilling its true purpose. Now, what of the Sabbath? Let us see what Jesus taught about that rest:
"And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." -Mark 2:23-28
The above was just one of many of Jesus' claims to deity. He told them that the Sabbath rest was made for man, and not the other way around. The Sabbath was a gift of rest. He went further to inform them that He is the Lord, even of the Sabbath day.
In fact, Jesus IS our Sabbath rest - HE is the fulfillment and the Rest:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30
"Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works." -Hebrews 4:1-4
The Gospel was preached to the Israelites in the wilderness, as they were journeying to the Promised Land. The Israelites chose not to believe, and therefore never entered the true Rest - Jesus Christ. The Scriptures tell us that the people of the Old Testament also had the Gospel preached to them, of their Messiah who would die to pay for their sins, but those who didn't believe were instead under the bondage of the law. To understand this further, please see my articles on the "Tour Through Galatians" parts one and two. These articles are under the "Christians and the Torah" heading in the left hand side bar.
The wandering Israelites had the chance to receive their Messiah, but they refused Him, and therefore didn't enter into the true Sabbath rest. All born again Christians are keeping the Sabbath via their faith in Christ. Everyday is Sabbath, because everyday the Christian rests in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.
Moving on... If the Torah is supposed to be kept still, then why did the New Testament put in such distinctions as the following:
"Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand." - John 7:2
Obviously, if we are supposed to keep the Torah, then we are also supposed to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, as commanded in Leviticus 23:34. Yet, that little word is in the above verse - "Jew's." If we are still under the law, then we would not need that word, for the Feast of Tabernacles would be well known, and kept by all, not just the Jews. Ponder this. EVERY word in the Bible counts - every word is from the Lord Himself, and His Word is preserved from error:
"The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." -Psalm 12:6-7
If your Bible changes the words in the above, such that the promise of God preserving His Words for ever is not in your Bible, then you are not reading a pure Bible, but one that Satan has corrupted, via his same old tactic - "Yea hath God said?" of Genesis 3. Liberal Textual Criticism will insert notes trying to explain away why they changed verse 7 above, and the explanation is pure hogwash, originally designed by the Enemy, to try to get you to doubt God's Word.
Moving on... (Almost done)
The spirit of the law of stoning adulteresses:
The Torah says:
"And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." -Leviticus 20:10
However, Jesus taught the spirit of that law:
"They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." -John 8:4-11
According to the Scriptures:
"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." -Galatians 3:10
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." -James 2:10
"Torah Observant Christians" must keep ALL of the law. If they break even one law, then they are considered guilty as breaking all of the Torah laws. This means that if you consider yourself Torah Observant, then you'd better be going out and killing adulterers, via throwing rocks at them until they die, because if you are not, then you are guilty of breaking ALL of the Torah. However, Jesus released us from that letter of the law, and instead taught us the spirit of the law in the above Scripture quote from John 8:4-11. So please don't go out and kill people who commit adultery. It is in fact against the will of the Lord.
Not only do we see that we are released from the Torah law of stoning adulterers, but that they can be washed from their sins and forgiven by Jesus Christ. This is also another of Christ's claims to deity. The Bible is clear in both Testaments that only GOD can forgive sins, but here is Jesus - forgiving sins. This is because Christ IS God. This is why we read of instances in the Bible where the Pharisees see Jesus forgiving people's sins, and they attempt to stone him to death for blasphemy.
Here is another time Jesus claimed his deity:
"I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." -John 10:30-33
Remember, every Word of God is pure, and preserved, therefore every word is very important. Look at what Jesus said to the Jews:
"It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true." -John 8:17
This "your law" was in the Torah, at Deuteronomy 17:6.
Why didn't Jesus say "the law," or "our law?" Because Jesus was fulfilling the law, and only sinners need be under the law. Those who choose to be perfect, via forsaking all and following Christ are dead to the law. It is no longer their law, for they are no longer under it, yet they keep the spirit of it - through God's Holy Spirit. I explained this is detail in previous articles in this series, backed up with plenty of Scriptures.
John chapter 8 is packed full of more of Jesus' claims to deity, and of many more explanations of the Christian's relationship to the law. For example:
"They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." -John 8:39
Certainly the Jews speaking with Jesus were genetically the seed of Abraham, as Jesus concurred with in verse 37, but that does not count. The true seed of Abraham are those who do the works of Abraham. Abraham was not under the Torah, but under the promise. Abraham believed the Gospel, and those who also believe the Gospel are considered the true seed of Abraham, regardless of physical descent:
"He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." -Galatians 3:5-7
Jesus revealed to the Jews the very politically incorrect truth that anyone who is not of the seed of promise, are not children of God, and neither are considered the of seed of Abraham, but are instead children of the devil:
"Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." -John 8:41-47
John chapter 8 wraps up with yet another of Christ's claims to deity:
"Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." -John 8:58
What did the phrase "I Am" mean to the Jews standing there? Two things: First of all, Jesus is saying that He pre-existed Abraham, which is impossible if Jesus were merely a man, and two, Jesus said he is "I Am," which is a name of God:
"And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." -Exodus 3:14
The Jews understood this as a clear claim to deity, but since they didn't believe Jesus was/is God, they picked up stones to attempt to kill him for the crime of blasphemy:
"Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by." - verse 59
Their attempt at stoning Jesus was unsuccessful. It wasn't His time to die for the sins of the world yet, and He would only allow Himself to be killed when the right time came. Jesus/God hid Himself, and then walked away. They were not able to stone Him. Amazing.
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." -1 Timothy 3:16
Thank you Lord Jesus.
As we can conclude, Jesus kept/fulfilled the Torah, but He did it in the true sense. He did not keep the letter of the law, as we've seen with His actions on the Sabbath, and his teachings on keeping the spirit of the law. Jesus Himself told us that he came to fulfill the law, and that He did, and will finish at His second coming.
You can also see that I don't have to run to the writings of Paul to show that we are under the spirit of the law. I leaned on many of Paul's Epistles in some of the previous articles in this series, but most of the Scriptural evidence I've shown in this article is from the Gospels of Jesus Christ.
So, in conclusion, how is a Christian to keep the law? Jesus taught us how, and his lesson is echoed in the Epistles, not just of Paul, but also of John and others. Jesus said:
"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." -Matthew 22:35-40
HOW are we to "love the Lord thy God...?" It is via "That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ:"
"And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." -1 John 3:23-24
What are the commandments the Christian are to follow? As per the Scriptures they are:
1)That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ
2)love one another
Love is the fulfilling of the law. See Romans 13:8; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8, etc.
Next article in this series - "Jesus' Commandments vs. God's Commandments"