How can learning about the law benefit me? Let me answer your question with another question. How could we understand the value of Jesus placing his blood on the mercy seat unless we first know that a mercy seat existed? Where do we find our information on the mercy seat? In the law.
Taking the mystery out of The Law
Matthew 5:17-20 (Jesus himself said), "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. NKJV
Jesus demonstrates very clearly here that he is not wanting to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
If Jesus is so clear here, why do we have so many mixed messages about the law in the Word? In some Bible verses, the law is portrayed as bad, in some verses it is portrayed as good, in other verses it talks about the bondage of the law and in others it speaks of the law as bringing freedom.
Why is this?????
In English we have one word for snow. Eskimo’s have nine words. In the same way, there are many types of law discussed in the Bible, yet our English translations only give us one definition of the word law.
Here is a list of the different Hebrew words for law…
1. Torah = Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (The Books of Moses)
2. 613 Mitzvot (God’s specific Biblical Laws found within the Torah – first five books of the Bible)
3. Tanakh (What Christians call the Old Testament)
a. Torah = Genesis - Deuteronomy
b. Nevi’im = Prophets (Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah….)
c. Ketuvim = Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes….)
4. Oral Torah = the Talmud (Contains doctrinal dissertation of scholars. The Oral Torah shows how God’s law/Torah was to be interpreted and applied for everyday living.)
a. Babylonian Talmud
b. Jerusalem Talmud
5. Seyag = fence laws. Extra manmade laws which were created like a fence around God’s law, so that people would not risk breaking one of God’s laws. This is where legalism entered in and where you see extreme behaviors, such as unscrewing a lightbulb in the refrigerator each Sabbath so as not to kindle a fire. (A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays, Robin Sampson & Linda Pierce)
6. When the New Testament was written there was no word for legalism, so Paul used the term “under the law”. The word legalism was not invented until approximately 1840 AD (Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, David Stern PhD).
The Pharisee’s were the experts on the Oral Torah / Talmud. They often gave man-made laws a higher spiritual authority than the God ordained laws of the Torah. They also used the law to serve themselves rather than serve others.
The legalistic error of the Judaizers was that they insisted that obedience to the law of Moses was necessary to be saved. The law was never designed to save, just as baptism and communion are not designed to save. Only Jesus saves. Does this mean that baptism or communion are not valuable? Of course not!
The same goes for the law. It was not built to save, but that does not mean that it is not important or that we should not be familiar with it. If we truly want to know our Lord Jesus, we will have a much more accurate understanding of who he is if we seek to learn Him in the context of who he is as outlined in the law (Torah and Tanakh).
We have been learning some of the basics of the law. What does this have to do with grace? How can we see the law and grace working together?
The Relationship between Law and Grace
Think of the relationship between law and grace as you would a cup filled with refreshing cool water. The law is like a container for God’s grace through Christ. The law provides a structural framework to hold the water of life, but in itself it cannot produce life. A cup will do you no good in the desert unless it is filled with water. You can clutch the cup all day long, but until it is filled with water your thirst will not be satisfied. Jesus is the water of life. He is the substance inside of the cup. The corruption of the Pharisees dirtied the cup of the law making whatever life God tried to pour into it undrinkable. God’s desire was not to destroy the cup (law), but to clean it and fill it with the life of Christ so it could be used for drinking by all. You may ask, why do we need the cup if we have the water? Do you remember when the dams broke with Katrina? New Orleans had been a beautiful city, but when the levee's gave way the gorgeous waterways became destructive. In the same way, teaching only grace without the structure of the law can be destructive as well. You may say that the law is dead and gone, but if you think it is wrong to lie, steal or kill the law is functioning within you. The law is like money. It is valuable, but it can be used for good or for evil just like a cup can hold water or poison. The law can be used to serve God and others or it can be used selfishly as in the case of the corrupt Pharisees. The healthy boundaries of the law are good when they are used to hold the water of life and to serve others, but they are not good when they are turned into a prison of bondage.
Matt 23:25-26 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. NKJV
Col 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. NKJV
The heart of Jesus was to reform the corrupt legalistic system that had been developed around God’s beautiful, holy law which gives freedom.
Read the CJB translation…
Matthew 5:17 – Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, that so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah until everything that must happen has happened.
The Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible. It's content includes the Feasts, the Tabernacle, the Mitzvot, etc. The prophets are found in the Tanakh (rest of the OT).
Earlier in this article, the different types of Hebrew law were laid out. See the difference this understanding makes in your Bible reading.
Galatians 2: 19 (New King James) For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
What type of sense does that make? Through the law I died to the law?
Now read the same scripture again with the law being represented with its correct context.
Galatians 2:19 (Complete Jewish Bible) For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation so that I might live in direct relation to God.
Remember, the Torah is the first five books of the Bible. The legalistic interpretations are the man-made laws around the Torah. All law is not the same. All law is not bad! Legalism is the problem, not the law of God.
James 1:25 (New King James) But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty…will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25 (Complete Jewish Bible) But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom… he will be blessed in what he does.
God’s heart is to see his people living free.
Exodus 20:2 declares, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”. (NKJ)
The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means “house of bondage”. During Passover, God’s people were set free from the house of bondage when the angel of death passed over the homes who had the blood of the lamb on their door posts.
In John 8:34,36 (NKJV) 34 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin... 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
Passover, outlined in the Torah, is a type and shadow of our Messiah, who set us free from the slavery of sin, by His blood. This is a perfect case in point of the law (Torah) outlining freedom. It is also clear to see how Jesus fulfills this aspect of the law by being our Passover Lamb. This is just one example out of many that can be found when connecting the law with Christ. The Feasts are overflowing with insights on Christ and his fulfillment of the law.
Luke 24:27- Then, starting with Moses and all of the prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them the things that can be found throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) concerning himself. Luke 24:44-49 continues…”Jesus said to them, “This is what I meant when I was still with you and told you that everything written about me in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms has to be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds, so that they could understand the Tanakh (Old Testament scriptures).
As I started studying the feasts, the law and Christ's fulfillment of it, it was a very eye opening experience! It was mind blowing to see how God took care of every little detail in the law through Christ. After I saw how meticulously God laid out the plan of salvation, I knew that I could never worry again. He has all things covered! I have no doubt that you will also be blessed and strengthened in your faith as you pursue learning Christ from Genesis to Revelation. As you open your heart to learn about the Jewishness of your Messiah and the amazing part that plays in your inheritance, you will find an empty place in your heart being filled... for you serve the one who fulfills!!