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Among the many rich and accurate teachings of the Church there lies an insidious teaching about the Law of Moses. The Church has, for many centuries, taught that the Torah (the Law of Moses), does not apply to the Christian. 'Jesus did away with it', is a common understanding among Christians of all denominations.
This teaching has done much to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews and that is the reason I call it insidious. It is not of God, it is of the Devil and his associates as the prophet Daniel tells us:
'And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time' (Dan. 7:25)
The 'times' relates to the observance of God's holy times like Sabbath and Passover (Lev. 23). And the 'laws' relates to the Law in general. Obviously, the invalidation of the Law of Moses by the Catholic Church did not take God by surprise. It is the Catholic Church that has 'worn out the saints' with its false doctrines and ceremonies. It's unfortunate that at the time of the Reformation and thereafter, the Reformers took some of the doctrines of the Catholic Church with them (e.g. that the Law was done away with).
One of the places that the Church points to, to corroborate their theological stance on the Law is Matthew 5:17-18. In it we find the Lord Yeshua (Jesus), telling us that He came to fulfill the Law, and that it won't depart 'until all is accomplished':
'Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.'
'For truly I say to you, until Heaven and Earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.'
The Church explains to us that the meaning of 'fulfill' is that Jesus did away with the Law by His Sacrifice and the establishing of 'love' as the criteria for His Kingdom. They juxtapose 'love' vs. 'law'. There is even some Scripture that would seem, at first glance, to support their interpretation:
'Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law' (Rom. 13:10).
'Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ' (Gal. 6:2).
Was Paul showing us 'a new way' when he spoke of 'fulfill'? Hardly. To summarize the Commandments into a single concept was not new among the Jewish people. In the Talmud, in Makkot 23b-24a we read of a number of such summarizations from the Bible:
'Rabbi Simlai said, Six hundred and thirteen Commandments were given to Moses' (a traditional 'count' of the number of Commandments in the Law). 'David came and reduced them to eleven' (Psalm 15). 'Then Isaiah reduced them to six' (Is. 33:15-16), 'Micah to three' (Micah 6:8), 'and Isaiah again to two, as it is said, 'Keep judgment and do righteousness' (Is. 66:1). 'Then Amos reduced them to one, 'Seek Me and live' (Amos 5:4). 'Or one could say Habakkuk: 'the righteous shall live by his faith' (Hab. 2:4).1
These 'reductions' or summarizations of the Law in no way did away with any of the other Commandments. They presented 'a rallying point' around which people could focus themselves. Paul did the same thing in Rom. 13:10 and Gal. 6:2. In a well known story that goes back a generation before Yeshua, it's said that,
'A pagan came before Shammai (a famous rabbi), and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte but on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot!' Shammai drove him off with the builder's measuring rod which he had in his hand. When he appeared before' (another famous rabbi) 'Hillel,' he 'told him, 'What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.' Now go 'and learn it!' 2
Obviously, neither Rabbis Simlai, Shammai or Hillel would have thought that they were 'doing away with the Law' by summarizing it. Can 'fulfill' then, in Matt. 5:17, be honestly interpreted to do away with the Law of Moses, especially when Yeshua has just stated in the same breath in v. 17, that He didn't come to destroy the Law?
In verse 18, Yeshua again speaks of fulfill, this time in relation to the Law remaining till 'all is accomplished.' Here too the Church takes a stand and says that 'all was accomplished' at the crucifixion. That the Work that Yeshua came to do, the giving of His life in Sacrifice for all mankind, was accomplished at the crucifixion, is above argument. In His Death we find Life. In His Death we are able to die to self and attain a new nature; His. In His Death we have access to the Spirit of God dwelling within us. 'All was accomplished' concerning the redemption of Israel. But did that redemption mean that the Law is no longer valid?
Interestingly enough, in the very same verse, Yeshua speaks of the Heavens and the Earth departing FIRST, before any letter of the Law is nullified. As the Heavens and the Earth are still with us, and won't be gone until the Day of Judgment, it's fair to say that not one letter of the Law is invalid. The need for the Law of Moses will be no more after Judgment Day, when we are 'like Him', as the Law will be written on our heart and soul (Jer. 31:31-34).
This is further affirmed in the next verse:
'Whoever then annuls one of the least of these Commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven' (Matt. 5:19).
The Kingdom of Heaven didn't officially begin until after the Sacrifice and Resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. His reference to it in Matt. 5:19 can only mean that in His Kingdom, the Law of Moses is still valid. In Yeshua's Kingdom, where He is King, those who break the least of the Commandments, obviously of Moses as that is what this section is about (Matt. 5:17-19), will be called least in His Kingdom. And conversely, those who keep the least of the Commandments of the Law, will be called great in the Kingdom of Yeshua. The choice is yours to make. And this, from the very mouth of our Lord and Savior. Don't let others deceive you. You have a Bible. Read it. And ask Yeshua to show you His Truth in all this.
The Church's interpretation of Matthew 5:17-19 is wrong, as well as their theology that the Law of Moses has been done away with. So what does 'fulfill' mean?
Here are seven ways in which the word fulfill can and should be interpreted without destroying the English language, or the Law of Moses:
- Yeshua came to fulfill the Promise of Yahveh, to Adam and Eve, that Yahveh would send a Redeemer:
Our need for a Redeemer is first mentioned in Gen. 3:15, where God speaks of the hatred between the Seed of the woman and the Snake. That Seed of the woman is Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua's Sacrifice 'accomplished' and 'fulfilled' this.
- Yahveh promised that He would be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob AND their descendants. And that Israel would be Yahveh's people. Yeshua came to fulfill this part of the Law by bringing Israel closer to her God. Yeshua's Sacrifice 'accomplished' and 'fulfilled' this. It made the way possible for Israel to truly be God's people.
With the giving of the holy Torah (Law) to Israel, we find that Israel was not able to keep God's Way. Israel went more the way of the Snake than the Way of God. It wasn't the fault of the Torah, but of the heart of the Israeli. God speaks of circumcising the Israeli heart, to follow Him, in Deut. 30:6. And in Ezekiel 36:24-27, He speaks of cleansing Israel's heart and giving Israel His Spirit, so that Israel can walk in God's Torah. God speaks of giving Israel a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34), so they could walk in His Law. It was the giving of the Spirit and the Blood to transform the nature of the Israeli that allows him to walk in God's holy Torah. This is one major way Yeshua 'fulfills' the Torah and the Prophets. God promised Man and Israel a Savior and Yeshua came in direct response to that need.
As part of that fulfillment, the Messiah would suffer and die for the sins of Israel (Is. 52:13-53:12). He would take their place and suffer the just requirements or punishment of all who broke God's Law (Deut. 27:26; Ezk. 18:4, Gen. 2:17, etc.).
Yeshua was pierced through and crushed in our place (Is. 53:5). He died for all the times we wanted to be holy and weren't. And all the times in our lives where we have rebelled against God and told Him, either verbally or unconsciously, that we would not follow and submit to Him, that we would do what we wanted. Yeshua was crushed for perverse hearts. And so He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law which says that those who sin (grievously against God), must die. And that only the High Priest, once a year, could come into the very Presence of Yahveh. Yeshua has made a way for us to be with Yahveh eternally, by giving to us the righteousness of Yahveh (Jer. 23:5-6). This is His very nature. This too is part of the promise. God has promised Israel a new heart (Ezk. 36:26).
The Anointed One would be crucified (Psalm 22), etc. Yeshua has 'fulfilled' all those prophecies about Him and this would have nothing to do with casting away God's holy Law.
- The Redeemer would be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:18). He would be anointed above his brothers, and so would be called 'the Messiah' or 'the Anointed One'.
The Torah speaks of 'one being like Moses' in that Moses not only saw God face to face, but God 'put the words' into Moses' mouth that Moses gave to Israel. In John, many times Yeshua speaks of 'being sent by the Father' and the words that He spoke were not His, but the Father's (John 14:24, etc.). This is a direct reference back to Deut. 18:18 and His coming to fulfill the Law.
- The Mosaic Sacrifices, with their substitutionary animals that died in place of the Israeli, were a picture of Messiah taking the punishment of death for all those that sinned in Israel, who would believe. Yeshua's Sacrifice epitomized the essence of all the Mosaic Sacrifices. Yeshua's Sacrifice 'fulfilled' this. As for the sacrifices still being valid among believers, please see Acts 21:20-24, where the whole believing community continues to practice not only the Law of Moses, but sacrifice as well.
- Yeshua also shows us another meaning of fulfill as He fulfills the Torah by showing us what it means to love God with all our heart and our soul and our strength, and our neighbor as ourself. He lays His life down, for us, because of His Love for us. He is the Example par excellence of God's Love, found in the Law of Moses.
- Yeshua is the ideal Israeli who both is fully devoted to God His Father and is fully devoted to, and identifies, with us. We needed a High Priest, a heavenly intercessor for us, and in this sense, Yeshua fulfills that position as is stated in passages like Psalm 110:4 where God calls Messiah a (High) Priest forever, after the type or order of Melchizedek. And Yeshua also fulfills the concept of the King and High Priest being 'one' in Zechariah 6:12-13 where the High Priest-King builds the Temple or dwelling place of Yahveh (the Body of Messiah). Yeshua fulfills our need for an eternal High Priest and King, something that is seen in the Law and the Prophets.
- Yeshua explains the deeper foundational meanings of the Torah as the rest of chapter five in Matthew tells us. He states, 'You have heard that you must not murder, but I say to you that you must not hate your brother.' The Rabbis of old said that, 'When Messiah comes, He will tell us the deeper meanings of Torah.' Yeshua reveals the essence of the Commandments but this hardly could do away with the actual Commandment itself. For instance, with the illustration of murder being linked to hatred, Yeshua in no way invalidates the Commandment 'not to murder' any more, but brings us all under conviction. For who among us has not hated at least once in our lifetime?
Fulfill cannot mean to do away with the Law, as the Church has proclaimed for 1,900 years. It could only begin to propagate this false theology around 100 A.D., when all the Apostles were dead. Before that, if any Apostle would have heard it, they would have soundly condemned such heresy. Paul speaks of false doctrines arising and this is exactly what happened:
'But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth' (1st Tim. 4:1-3)
The Catholic Church, taking its priesthood from paganism (see The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop), tells its priests that they cannot marry. And what 'good Catholic' doesn't know that eating meat on Friday is forbidden? That it cannot refer to the dietary laws of Moses (Lev. 11), is clearly seen in my paper on the web site: Law 102.
In places where love is said to fulfill the Law, like Rom. 13:10, love is seen as the ultimate or central motivation for relationship, either with God or man. But this cannot mean that the Law of Moses is annulled, for the core of the Law is love of God (Deut. 6:4-5), and love of man (Lev. 19:18). The other Commandments of the Law are God's way of defining just what love of God and love of man is. These two great Commandments of the Law are affirmed by the Lord Yeshua Himself in Matt. 22:40 as the foundation or tree from which all the other Commandments spring:
'On these two Commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.'
In other words, every Commandment has its foundation or reason for existence in love (of God or man). For instance, if God were a Tree with two branches and much fruit on the two branches, the two branches would be love of God and love of Man. The fruit would be all the other Commandments that tell us how to love God and Man.
For the Church to juxtapose love against God's Law is an artificial theological perversion. The Law of Moses is a reflection of Yahveh and His holy character. The Law of Moses is God's holy Word to Israel as to what was sin and what was pleasing to Him. The only way that we know another's will is by their word. If a mother tells her son to take the garbage out, the son knows the will of his mother by her words. And Israel, both Gentile and Jew, knows the will of their God by His Words, commonly called Commandments. Yeshua's 'adding' of 'love one another as I have loved you,' is only a refining of the Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). Man was never loved by the Messiah in the flesh. Now the Apostles were. And they were to love one another as they had been loved by Yeshua.
The Law remains God's way of specifically showing us what is sin and what is pleasing to God; what is right and what is wrong, in God's Eyes. The Law has not been 'done away with'. It remains the Standard of holiness that it was for Yeshua and the Apostles and will remain with us till there are no more Heavens and Earth as we know them:
'Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law' (Rom 3:31).
'What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You must not covet.' 'So then, the Law is holy, and the Commandment is holy and righteous and good.' 'For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin' (Rom. 7:7, 12, 14).
'When He said, 'A New Covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear', (Heb. 8:13).
But note well the wording: it isn't obsolete yet, but is only 'becoming obsolete'. Nor has it disappeared if it's only 'ready to disappear.' And this in the book of Hebrews that was written more than thirty years after the Resurrection.3 Surely if the Law had been done away with at the death of Christ, as the Church contends, it would have been enough time for the writer to assimilate this concept. But the writer doesn't see the Law (embodied in the Old Covenant) as having ended, yet. He didn't use words in the past tense, saying, 'the Covenant IS obsolete' and 'IS old', 'and HAS disappeared'. He didn't use the past tense because He knew full well that the Law was still valid BUT, when Judgement Day comes, the Mosaic Law (the Old Covenant), will not be needed any longer as all of us will have the Law written on our hearts (Jer. 31:31-34), and be one with Yeshua.
In other words, the Law (literally, teaching or instruction) of God, will never pass away as we will have it within us always. But the written words of the law will no longer be needed because we will know them (Him), forever. We will be 'one' with God's Word or Law, He having created us in the Image of His Son, who is the Living Word (Law) of God.
Now, with His Spirit and Blood of forgiveness and cleansing, we can walk the way He walked when He was in Israel. He followed all the Commandments that applied to Him and we should strive in Him to do the same, by the power of the Holy Spirit within, loving God and man, and keeping God's holy Commandments. For God's Law is wisdom and blessing for us (Deut. 4:5-8).
'Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until Heaven and Earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these Commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven' (Matt. 5:17-19).
Yeshua certainly fulfilled the Law by living as a holy Israeli, by expounding on the meaning of the Law of Moses and at His crucifixion. But none of these nullifies the Law of Moses for every believer today. Yeshua fulfilling the Law only enhances it and makes it possible for us to walk as He did; in the Law of Moses.
'But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the holy Scriptures (the Old Testament), which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yeshua. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work' (2nd Tim. 3:13-17).
'By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His Commandments. 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. But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked' (1st John 2:3-6)
Didn't Yeshua keep all the Commandments of Moses that pertained to Him? Shouldn't we walk as He walked? Why should we think we are exempt?