Torah: A covenant or a curse?
Understanding "under law." Is the Torah God's vehicle of punishment for His beloved, or is it His book of love for them? I guess it depends on how you see the Father, His goals, and His heart. Let's sift through to see what we really think of the One we call the Lifter of our heads. #cullendertime If you are looking for a quick and short study for new people on this topic, you may find this one I wrote helpful. Today we shall examine a commonly misunderstood and often inaccurately taught collection of passages from Romans. “Because law brings wrath." (Romans 4:15) Most people teach that since the Bible says “the law brings wrath,” the law itself is evil. They might not come out and actually say that, even to themselves, but the nuts and bolts of the premise they stand on by protecting dispensationalism builds this as the outcome of thought. Despite the inarguable fact that YHWH continuously declares that the law is truth which brings prosperity, joy, liberty, life and harmony, this notion of the law being the problem rather than the actions of the people violating it being the problem prevails over a large portion of mainstream Christian doctrinal positions. We delight in His kindness, while explaining His impossible standards as an effective shaming technique? For if God is for us, then who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). On the same token, entertaining a dispensational position conjures the following implicating inquiry; If God is against us, then who can be for us? If your answer to that is the Messiah, you are missing the unity of Father and Son...and you are entertaining a question that makes as much sense as; "If all cats are dogs, then what are dogs?" First let’s get some basic context. For one, the law does not bring wrath to the Earth as a burden, it brings wrath only to the debtor who behaved lawlessly. In addition to being a covenant, by the wisdom within it, it serves as a warning of consequences and a deterrent to lawlessness. For example, the Torah laws forbidding rape do not bring wrath to those who are not raping. They bring wrath to those who ARE raping. The laws forbidding rape bring liberty to the community in that a woman or child is supposed to be able to walk the street without fear of being assaulted. Many people only consider certain laws when defining what the Torah is in their view. They generally focus on the Sabbath or Dietary laws, (not rape, theft, or gossipping), while the Torah itself, as well as God’s commentary on the Torah, fails to make any distinction between laws in the Torah regarding relevance to any timeframe in history. To rape now is as sinful as it was to rape “then” because God’s love and protection of women, and standard of behavior for men concerning women, has not changed with the passage of Earthly time. Furthermore, the Creator is not bound to Earthly time, and thus remains He Who is I Am for eternity (which is in front of us and even "behind" us as it has no end). Who He is includes what He hates, finds repulsive, loves, and delights in. He is Who He is. Period. This Divine continuity extends to the eating of unclean items and keeping the Sabbath, though most have been taught that these laws have been modified or replaced with different standards or expectations, while other laws remain. Secondly, (though we won’t discuss this at length in this piece) disobedience to the Father represents a lack of trust, honor, and faithfulness to Him. Disobedience is going against the covenant He made with His own. It is important always to keep in the forefront of our minds the relational aspect of the precious Word. His Word bonds us to Him. His Word is His bond. His Word is not bondage. Getting that straight and in context is vital in walking in this beautiful, mysterious connection we have with the Creator. Let’s continue reading this passage; “…because the law brings wrath. Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15) Here you can see that if there was no law, there could be no sin, as the law is clearly the definer of sin as the permanent standard of measurement. This again makes sense since the Most High has taught us His ways and, according to Him, He does not change. (Am I being redundant on this point? I hope so.) Notice something further. I believe that the imposed punctuation of a period rather than a comma here confuses the matter. I suggest it should read; “Because the law brings wrath, where there is no law there is no transgression.” This sentence is one single thought, not two separate ones. (Remember that there is no punctuation in the original text.) The idea that the blood of the Messiah causes transgressions not to have occurred is far different than acknowledging that His sacrifice was to pay the penalty of violation/transgression. He endured the penalty because we violated the standards, not to erase the standards of what is considered a violation. To suggest that “justice” is served when rape is no longer considered a sin because of the Messiah's work on the cross is to pervert the biblical concept of justice entirely. Collectively, we have all fallen short, so everyone deserves wrath. This isn’t saying that once the penalty is paid that the law is taken away, though this is what many are teaching. The common interpretation of this passage is that to remove sin, you must remove the standard of measurement. This is as rational as, in the effort to improve education, teachers reducing the difficulty of tests so that the student scores are “higher.” This maneuver does not improve education; it simply lowers the standards, which actually degrades education. If test scores become the measurement standard rather than the student’s grasp of the information, we have idolized the reputations of schools and teachers, while ignoring (and even thwarting) the purpose of schools and teaching. Most don’t realize that is what they are really thinking about the commandments until it is pointed out to them in another form, as I am doing now. The “good news” is NOT that the holy law of the Most High has been altered, removed, or no longer to be practiced literally. The good news is that the Messiah died to pay our penalty for the debt we have accrued! He didn’t change the quality He expects. He gave us quality blood for when we stumble and fall below expectations. In doing so He has upheld justice, and in His grace gone straight to mercy. Justice was upheld by the required payment, but mercy was administered by Who paid it. Justice will never change, and mercy is an astounding reality we cannot fully grasp. By suggesting that the standards have changed, we are diminishing what was accomplished on the cross, not elevating it. Indeed, if the Messiah died so that the holy words of instruction spoken to us by the Most High were to be contradicted, that would NOT be good news at all. That would be anarchy. Ultimately, this is what is implied; “Sir, you have been found guilty for your crime. Happily, for you, your debt has been paid by someone else. Do you accept that as your payment? Yes? Good. You are free to go. Oh, and one more thing. Now that your debt has been paid we can see how unfair that law you broke was (even though we judged you should be penalized for breaking it) so you are free to engage in that behavior anytime you wish. As of this day forward, that action will no longer be a crime. The penalty has been paid once and for all.” The laws were never given so that one day in the future people could“violate them with faith that there is no more violation.” They are His unchanging ways, given for our good and for His delight. Our violations of them are not to be celebrated because they are cleansed. The One WHO CLEANSES US is to be celebrated, while the violations are to be continued to be hated. Violating His law unrestrained while “resting in the pardon” is NOT the true test of Messianic faith. On the contrary, it is a perversion of it, though this view is often being promoted by the Western church. Resting in the pardon is not an alternative to obeying His ways. We are sanctified by His word…set apart. We are to trust His Word to be what sanctifies us (His commandments), and to trust His atonement for what justifies us (His blood). People who have not learned the difference between justification and sanctification confuse this. These are not interchangeable words or concepts. Sanctification sets us apart from profane behaviors (the default result of obedience), while justification atones us from deserved wrath and cutting off. the test of faith in trusting the JUSTIFICATION He provided, but this rest is not Remember what the serpent suggested to Adam’s wife? “Hey, that restriction wasn’t for your good…it limited you! If you disobey Him, you will actually be CLOSER to Him. You’ll be like Him!” “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 6:25) The Messiah died because of our transgressions of the law, when we failed to meet the holy standard, not to uphold these transgressions or to render these condemned behaviors as no longer transgressions. Nowhere in the scriptures will you find that the Messiah died because the law was unfair, unrighteous, or harmful to our well-being. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15) Definitions are important. When we don’t know them, we insert our own opinions and create our own religion. In so doing we become our own gods. Let’s back up and be accurate with our meanings of words. Definitions: Being “under law” means “found guilty and scheduled for wrath/penalty.” Being "under grace" means, “found guilty but not scheduled for wrath/penalty because the Messiah, who suffered the ultimate penalty, has taken your penalty out of the way.” Sin means to transgress the law, thus incurring penalty. (See 1 John 3:4) “No longer under law” does not mean we are no longer accountable to the standard of law (His ways), but that we are no longer accountable to the penalty the law brings for breaking it. The law brings wrath, yes. It does not bring unfair standards or expectations. Using these accurate law definitions in Romans 6:15 will help people who have been taught that, despite the repetitive instruction throughout the Bible that the Messiah came to take away our sin, the erroneous suggestion that He actually changed what righteousness behavior looked like was what mercy was. On the contrary; He did NOT come, nor was it prophesied that He would come, to alter Yah’s standards, change the definition of sin, nor to place suspicion on the truth or practical application of the instructions of the Old Testament. People misunderstanding Paul in Romans in this way are ultimately saying that the Messiah made obedience to the Torah a crime against Him. Let that sink in. In summation, let's plug in the definitions of the words for clarity of what this passage is actually saying. "What then? Shall we transgress the law and incur penalty because we are no longer scheduled to pay the penalty but have had our penalty taken away by the Messiah? By no means!" (Romans 6:15) This statement is cohesive and seamless with the rest of the Bible, including the Prophets and the Psalms. This statement even jives with the rest of Romans, if, as Paul asserts in Romans 7:1, you KNOW the law. If you don’t know the law, you are not qualified to interpret this letter to the Romans according to Paul. I pray that is short teaching was beneficial to you and brings you comfort. Shalom! **More on this topic of what Paul was saying here is available in my BEKY Book titled; “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible.”