January 2014 Yavoh
I recently had a conversation with a Christian believer who knew that I was Messianic. While asserting that he believed in “Jesus,” he also wanted to make sure that I knew he was a “Gentile” and didn’t believe in, nor did he do, that “Jewish stuff in the Old Testament Law.” His directness opened the door for a conversation. I then began to question him as to what he meant. (Questions draw a person, and their own answers can many times lead them to a different conclusion.)
I began to ask him how he came to believe in “Jesus” and why he believed He was the Messiah (the Christ). His answers were not intentionally evasive, but he struggled with the question. He kept referring to other religious denominations, mostly finding fault with them. I kept trying to get him to speak for himself, not refer to others, but, you could tell that his past conversations about his faith and religion were generally about others. Finally, I just looked at him directly and asked, “Why do YOU believe in Jesus?”
In an effort to coach him a little and lessen his concern in answering, I shared with him that I too believed that Yeshua of Nazareth was the promised Messiah (Jesus the Christ). I explained a little of my own journey of how my maternal grandmother told me about Jesus when I was just seven years old. If you would have asked me then if I believed in Jesus, I would have said “Yes.” The reason was that my grandmother told me so, and she loved me and only spoke the truth to me. I then explained to him that as I grew to the age of twelve, I needed a better reason than “My grandmother told me so.” So, I sat myself down and made a decision to go ahead and believe in Jesus and the “Christian things” like church, Bible, and doing good deeds. But by the age of twenty, I knew that I had just presumed those things to be true and I had nothing more than an opinion about Him. By that time, I had come to understand that everyone has opinions, and having an opinion is not the definition of the truth. If I was going to believe in Jesus, I needed something more than what I had heard or seen before.
You could see in his eyes that my testimony was causing him to look back into his own past. He responded, “Both of my parents were Christians and I grew up here in America.”
“And if you had grown up in Afghanistan, you and your parents would have been Muslims, right?” I asked.
I reiterated my question. “When did you first come to believe in Him, and why did you believe in Him?”
He then said that he had called upon the name of Jesus to save him in a religious service.
I said that was good. I shared with him that I too had asked for God’s forgiveness and His free gift of salvation and eternal life.
At this point, my friend became emboldened and began to assert that he believed in grace rather than law and that he had the Holy Spirit, which the Old Testament saints did not have. After a few more questions and a series of brash statements, it became clear to me that he viewed the grace of God, and the Holy Spirit in particular, as something separate and apart from the Law of Moses. I came away from the conversation thinking that he has some “unlearning” to do for him to progress in his faith. Then I also began to wonder about some of my own Messianic brethren, about their prior spiritual instruction, particularly about the Holy Spirit and the Law of Moses.
Many Messianic brethren come from the varied backgrounds of church. Some were Baptists like me, but many have come from charismatic backgrounds where the Holy Spirit played a dominant role in worship and the daily walk. Some have an emphasis on the “gifts of the Spirit,” including words of prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing. Many charismatic brethren use these “signs and wonders” of the faith (whether genuine or otherwise) as a barometer on whether they are believers and part of His kingdom.
However, I am reminded of how Yeshua said that “signs and wonders” are not the determinants of who will enter the kingdom. “Signs and wonders” can actually be part of the testimony of those who do NOT know God and will NOT be part of His kingdom!
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness [without the Torah].” Matthew 7:21-23
This warning is similar to the one Moses himself gave about teachings that are different from what he taught.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Moses went on to say that false prophets and teachers are sometimes able to do signs and wonders and mislead others by them. Therefore, signs and wonders are not the determinants of what is true and what is not. He taught that a true teacher must teach the same things that he (Moses) had taught concerning the Lord. In fact, he called this entire exercise a simple test from God to see if we would love God with all of our hearts and souls, or be seduced by other spiritual forces. This is how Moses justified the judgment upon false prophets and false teachers.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.
According to Moses, if you finding a spiritual teacher who performs signs and wonders as a part of his ministry and he leads you away from the teaching Moses and the commandments of God, then he is false despite his signs and wonders. According to Yeshua, if the people who follow this spiritual teacher even go out and do many good deeds in the name of God and demonstrate the same kind of signs and wonders, they will not be part of His kingdom because they have walked away from the commandments of the Lord.
Are we saying that you must keep the Law to be saved? Of course not. We are talking about those who think they believe, act religious (even doing signs and wonders), and are not believers in God. The Apostle John said it this way.
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 1 John 2:4
This is part of the reason that we Messianics teach the Torah, to balance our walk with Spirit and Truth.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24
But to make sure no one reading this is confused, let’s be clear about a couple of things. The doctrine of salvation is simple and straightforward in the Scripture. It is the same from the Old Testament as it is from the New Testament. There is only one salvation in the whole Bible and it has been taught consistently throughout. Noah was saved by grace in the flood. Abraham believed the promises of God, and his faith was counted for righteousness. Abraham taught his son Isaac that God Himself would provide the Lamb for the sacrifice in that place. Jacob believed that his Redeemer lived in his day. Moses taught that the Law reveals sin and that the judgment of sin was death. Moses also told us of God’s promise that He (the Lord) would raise up One like the Lord among us. Moses taught that no sacrifice brought by a man would be an acceptable substitute for “willful, defiant” sins against God—that we must have a sacrifice brought by God Himself to be acceptable to Him. Yeshua was first introduced as being that Lamb of God sacrifice and willingly offered up His own life for our sins. Paul taught that faith comes from hearing what God has said and that we are saved by God’s grace (Himself) through faith. It is not by works of righteousness or in the keeping of laws; it is a gift from God.
Maybe these verses come closest to describing what God’s salvation really is.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:16-18
Now that we are agreed on what salvation is, let us go back and resolve how the Holy Spirit and the Law of Moses are vital parts of our faith. As I said before, there is a prevailing thought that the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant is somehow separate or different from the Law of Moses. As a result, some Messianic brethren who come from a charismatic background struggle to pull it altogether. That is, they see that the Father and Yeshua were at Mount Sinai giving the Law, but they also have come to see that Yeshua the Messiah is definitely part of the Law of Moses and that He did not come to replace, do away with, or abolish it. They endorse the commandments, but then what do they do with the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit fit into the Law?
Paul makes some very interesting “contrasting” statements about the Law and the Spirit, and they need to be addressed.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Romans 7:6
For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2
...so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4
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 hearing with faith? Galatians 3:2
So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Galatians 3:5
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
If a person’s spiritual instruction and doctrine is limited to the letters of Paul and his faith consists only of the New Covenant teachings, then he could easily conclude that the Holy Spirit and the Law of Moses are opposites. He could be easily led to believe that he is only to follow the Holy Spirit and not to include the Law (keeping commandments). He could conclude that doing so would lead to “falling from grace” and jeopardizing his faith in Yeshua. This is utterly contradictory to think that obeying God (loving Him with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself) is somehow at odds with the Holy Spirit and faith in the Messiah. But some Christians think and teach this! This is the basis for conflict for many Messianic teachings.
Before I offer some simple explanations for Paul’s statements, let’s address some Biblical facts about the Holy Spirit.
First, the Law says the Holy Spirit was present at the creation.
The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2
The Holy Spirit was upon Moses (the giver of the Law), and he wanted all of God’s people to receive the Holy Spirit.
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” Numbers 11:29
The same Holy Spirit put upon Moses was also put upon the seventy elders serving with him.
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him [Moses]; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him [Moses] and placed Him [the Holy Spirit] upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again. Numbers 11:25
The Holy Spirit was put upon Joshua by Moses.
Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. Deuteronomy 34:9
The Holy Spirit was in the camp of the children of Israel.
…Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Isaiah 63:11
The Judges of Israel, including Othniel, Deborah, Gideon, and Samson, had the Holy Spirit.
The Prophets of Israel spoke by the Holy Spirit.
...which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; ... Zechariah 7:12
...for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
2 Peter 1:21
The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to bear witness of the Messiah, to work with the commandments of the Lord to reveal and convict us of sin, to guide us in the ways of God and to help us worship and glorify God. Here is the explanation from the Messiah Himself.
When the Helper [the Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,… John 15:26
8And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged… 13But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14He will glorify Me; for He will take of Mine, and will disclose it to you. John 16:8-11, 13-14
Here is the bottom line. There is no teaching in the Scripture claiming that the Holy Spirit is one thing and the Word of God (the Law of Moses) is something else. Both are to be part of a believer’s walk and life, not one to the exclusion of the other.
So why do Christians think that the gift of the Holy Spirit has replaced the Torah and the instructions in righteousness? Maybe it is because they are rebellious and want to give God merely “lip service” and not actually obey. Maybe it’s because they flaunt the grace of God as a cover for their own willful ignorance of God’s instructions (the commandments). It seems that they are thinking, “Since we are saved, let’s ignore everything else and say Jesus did it all.” And maybe some are misled by preachers who have “signs and wonders” and quote Paul, twisting his words to their own judgment.
So, let’s go back to what Paul said in Romans when he said we are “not under the law” and “we have been released from the law.”
Paul’s instruction is trying to explain that the Messiah’s work of redemption has released us from the penalty of the Law. If you violate a law, then you are under that law, but if the penalty has been satisfied, then you have been released and are not under the law. Here is a simple example I heard recently.
Let’s say that you are driving your car at an excessive rate of speed and are stopped by an officer of the law. He writes you a ticket. You are at that moment under the law and subject to its penalties and fines. But then let’s say another person steps in and pays your fine. At that moment, you have been released by the law and are no longer subject to its penalties and fines. In a way, it is like the law no longer has an effect on you. But did paying the penalty abolish or annul the law? Absolutely not. If you continue to violate the law, you will make yourself subject to its penalties again.
Therefore, the Messiah’s work of redemption has brought us forgiveness and the penalty has been paid by His life for us. But the Law has not gone away! It is still there to set the standard for righteousness (clean and unclean, holy and profane, pure and impure). Paul then argues that we should in no way exploit His forgiveness and flaunt grace over the law. Those who argue that grace should be used in this way are in fact saying they are “above the law.” Paul says, “God forbid!” that God’s grace would be used as a license to sin (transgress His commandments).
What about Paul’s instruction in Galatians? The context of Galatians is well known. The Galatian believers were first led to the Lord, but then some of the Pharisaic Jews began to lead them astray, telling them to keep the commandments according to their traditions and precepts. They essentially walked away from the Messiah and the Holy Spirit! So Paul is arguing against the Pharisaic understanding of the Law, not the actual teaching of Moses nor the Prophets. The Pharisees had set up additional commandments (they call it the fence of the Torah – the Oral Law) with specific do’s and don’ts. For example, the Oral Law teaches 1,583 specific commandments just for Sabbath.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Galatians 5:16-18
The flesh Paul is referring to are lusts and wants contrary to the commandments. Again, the reference to “under the Law” is about the penalty of the Law. He makes this same argument in to the Colossians.
If you have died with Messiah to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using) -- in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? COL 2:20-22
The prophets of Israel spoke into their future saying that God would write the Law into our hearts and give us His Spirit in our hearts. That future became the present when the Messiah inaugurated the New Covenant. Therefore, if you believe you have been given the Holy Spirit upon believing Yeshua as the Messiah, then you must also accept the fact that He has written the Law into your heart as well. They work together and are not at odds.
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:33
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
The historical fact is that prior to the Messiah’s gift of the Holy Spirit to all believers, the Lord poured out the Holy Spirit on those who served Him directly such as Moses, the Judges, the kings, and the prophets. But now, all believers can receive the Holy Spirit, and it is how we worship and walk out our faith today. This is what Yeshua spoke of while He ministered.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:23-24
Yeshua spoke of worshiping in spirit and truth. This is a powerful expression used in Scripture. It is the expression of both being led in the Spirit and walking in the commandments (the Law). The Scripture identifies the truth as the Law and at the same time the Spirit.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. Psalm 119:142
It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth. 1 John 5:6
In fact, the Spirit is also referred to as the Sword of Truth, and that work accomplished for the kingdom must be done by the Spirit.
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6
This is true both for confessing and believing in the Messiah as well as for keeping the Law.
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Yeshua answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-17
The Father revealed it to Peter by His Spirit. ...and keeping the commandments is also by the Spirit.
...so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4
When a man dons Tefillin (phylacteries) in Jewish tradition, he binds the straps around his left arm leading down to the covenant finger (the left ring finger). A small box of selected Scriptures is suspended at his side as close to the heart as possible. A final strap is put on his head with the same Scriptures in another small box to serve as “frontlets” for his eyes. These symbols represent the truth of Torah (God’s Law), to love the Lord (from the heart), and bind oneself to the truth and the Torah. When a man is anointed with oil, the anointing is done on his right side. Oil is applied to his right ear lobe, right thumb, right big toe, and then upon his head. If he is in Tefillin and anointed at the same time, you look upon him and see the symbols of the truth on his left side and the symbols of the Spirit on his right side. He literally stands and walks in Spirit and in Truth.
Just as the right side of a body has no conflict with the left side or vice a versa, the body works well when both sides work together. The same is true of us spiritually. The Holy Spirit works together with the Law and there is no conflict. The Holy Spirit enables us to believe and worship the Lord. The Holy Spirit teaches us the commandments of the Lord and how to keep them, not in a legalistic manner, but rather from the heart (truly loving God and our neighbor). The Law does not forbid the Spirit, nor does the Spirit exclude or forbid the Law.
The Law says that God’s intent with Abraham was to see all the families of the earth blessed. The Holy Spirit is the actual gift the world receives from the Messiah who was the promised “seed” of Abraham for all peoples, tribes, and tongues.
...in order that in Messiah Yeshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:14
This was God’s intent from the very beginning, and Yeshua fulfilled the purposes of His Father. He didn’t come to do a new thing and try to do something different from the Law. Paul summarized this work of the Messiah and the Holy Spirit this way.
18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ...5so that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:5
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,
1 Corinthians 2:10-12
If any person says to you that they have the Holy Spirit and they deny God’s commandments, then that person is not speaking with the Holy Spirit. It is another spirit, the same deceiving spirit that can do “signs and wonders” and yet deny the Word of God. That person is failing the test to show that they love the Lord with all his heart, all of his might, and with all of his soul.
The young man I mentioned at the beginning is a product of his religious teaching and experience in various American churches. And yet, he senses that his church experience is lacking. Like most Christians who have come into the Messianic movement, they are looking for a walk with God that is full and complete with both spirit and truth. They want to know God and understand the persons of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and how they are part of the Biblical account beginning with the creation all the way to the future kingdom. They know that the Father and the Law work together, and as Messianics, they are learning that the Messiah and the Law work together. But they need to know that the Holy Spirit and the Law work together as well.
Let us walk before Him in Spirit and in Truth, saved by His grace through our faith.
Or, in other words, let us walk before the Lord our God with the aid of the Holy Spirit and the instructions in His Torah, saved by the Messiah through the same faith we share with Abraham to believe His promises.