Christianity today is in a tremendous flux, and has been so since the last apostle John died in the late first century of the Common Era.
Paganism and heathenism remained strong adversaries of the true Faith and despite common 21st century belief in the overwhelming popularity of first-century Christianity, history strongly suggests that the Faith once delivered was rather small in terms of the number of people actually claiming an affiliation with it. Judaism, after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in 68 of the common era (experts have recently adjusted the date of the fall and destruction Jerusalem from 70 to 68 C.E.), Judaism took its side next to Christianity as a persecuted and outlawed faith as Jews scattered and hid themselves throughout the Roman Empire.
A semblance of the original Faith remains today.
Well, it appears pretty evident from the pages of our Bible, specifically in the Renewed Covenant (or the New Testament as popularly titled), that the original Faith delivered to the first-century saints by the Master, Jesus Christ, is not the same Christianity that we find throughout the world today.
Despite some variances in the practice and support issues like circumcision and other less weightier matters of the Law (or Torah) that formed the absolute foundation of the Faith once delivered, the tenets and belief system of the original Faith was homogeneous and true to the original teachings of Jesus and His disciples; and this ran throughout the empire and in every home and synagogue (yes, synagogue) of the general eklessia.
But something changed.
The challenges to the original Faith were more subversive than overt and the resultant changes occurred over the course of many years, decades and ultimately centuries. However, as early as the 60’s of the Common Era, the original Faith was slowly infiltrated by individuals with questionable and even unsavory agendas and dispositions. Jude, the brother of our Master, Jesus Christ, recognized this and announced his concern to the general ekklesia as such: For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jud 1:4 KJV).
The first three to four centuries of the church’s existence is hailed as somewhat of the golden years where millions flooded the pews and understanding of God, the Son, and the faith gradually solidified. Scholars go further to describe the foundational changes our Faith underwent as it morphed and took shape during these first three centuries in terms of a “progressive revelation.” By the tail-end of the third and into the first quarter of the fourth-century, the administration of our faith was overseen and controlled by the Universal Church or the Roman Catholic Church which seized complete interpretative and authoritative control of the faith.
(… it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jud 1:3 KJV)). (I contend that it is high time that this remnant come out of hiding and blow this great commission out of the water as the Master commanded.)
No well knowing scholar or teacher of the Bible can ever truly compare the nascent church heading in to the 2nd century (i.e., the church as it existed before the death of the last apostle) and say (1) that Christianity today is the faith that was taught to and practiced by the first century saints as evident in the content of the apostolic epistles of the renewed covenant; and (2) that Christianity today is how the Master envisioned and intended that it would be just prior to His ascension to heaven from the Mount of Olives. From the death and resurrection of Messiah to the death of the Apostle John, it appears from the book of Acts and apostolic epistle accounts that the faith was uniform in its appeal and doctrinal make-up as evident by Paul’s statement to the Ephesian ekklesia: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4:4-6 KJV)”
Today, depending on what source you tap, our faith has fractured into some 20,000 to 30,000 denominations.
Many will contend that the fragmentation was part and parcel of the so-called progressive revelation movement that the universal church contends took hold of the church from the second-century to today. But is this in fact the case? Is or was there a “progressive revelation” that occurred or is occurring; and is this progressive revelation a true movement of the Holy Spirit?
When it comes to such weighty matters as our eternal destiny and our daily walk with the Master, we cannot fall into the trap of “group think.” According to Wikipedia, Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. A true disciple of Jesus Christ must be a “freethinker,” bold and willing to stand up for what he or she knows is of God and against what he or she knows is not of God.
We are compelled to follow the teachings of the Master, not the teachings and doctrines of denominations. And the teachings of the Master are contained in our Bibles.
We are commanded to follow Father and follow Father alone through Jesus our Lord. We are to follow no man. Jesus made it abundantly clear as to whom we must follow: 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. (Joh 12:26 KJV) Thus, when we follow Jesus, and Jesus alone, it is then that the Father honors us in this life and the life to come.
One of the things that I’ve come across in my studies is a change in how we perceived and understood the Law or Torah as believers of the true faith spoken of by Jude. There is sizable evidence that the first century church actually obeyed Torah, despite orthodox christianity’s teachings to the contrary. A simple read of the entire book of Acts is proof enough that the first century, nascent church, observed Torah without exception. The apostles, even Paul, were staunch proponents of Torah keeping by the believer of Christ; again, despite teachings to the contrary. Even gentile congregations were Torah observing.
Why then would the church abruptly discard the Law at some point soon after the death of the last apostle and then teach a faith that anathematizes the law?
As more and more gentiles came in to the Christian Faith, and as persecutions and challenges battered the ekklesia, anti-Semitism slipped in and forced the church to move away from anything having to do with the Hebrew roots of the Faith. As hatred towards the Jews grew and spread throughout the Roman Empire and ultimately within the ekklesia, it stands to reason that those who came in to the church with unsavory intentions were successful in convincing the ekklesia to abandon the Torah/Law.
I submit to you that the post apostolic church (i.e., the ekklesia after the death of the Apostle John) gradually replaced the Hebrew foundations of the original Faith with Greek religious principles (e.g., the introduction of life after death and the believer’s spirit going to heaven and the non-believer going to hell at the time of death; the Trinitarian concept; the belief that Jesus was God come down to earth in the flesh; and other infused teachings and principles). By the fourth-century, the universal church, headed by Roman Emperor Constantine, had all but transitioned Christianity from its original Eastern/Palestinian/Hebraic/Apostolic construct to that of a Western/Paulinized/Greek construct.
When one asks a Christian on the street what role the Law or Torah plays or should play in their Christian life, the often terse reply that one receives is that “the Law was nailed to the cross of Christ” and thus we are no longer under the curse of the law–as if the law was a terrible thing that was placed upon those poor, unsuspecting Israelites.
Indeed, the denominations have done a great job of indoctrinating its people in an anti-Torah doctrine and mindset. I would submit that the denominations haven’t had to do too much convincing of their members of the “grace for law” exchange that has occurred in Christianity over the last 2000-years. Sadly, the problem seems to fall mainly at the Apostle Paul’s feet as this great man’s writings seem to have done a splendid job creating doubt in the minds of the faithful regarding the applicability of the Torah/the Law to the lives of believers.
Indeed, Paul was probably one of the most brilliant minds of his day and of His Judaic culture. Luke records the words of Paul, who summarized his background as follows: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city and trained at the feet of Gamli’el in every detail of the Torah of our forefathers. I was a zealot for God, as all of you are today.” (Act 22:3 CJB)
One of the primary Pauline epistles that seems to have caused the greatest confusion around the relevance and applicability of the Law/Torah in regards to the Believers is found in Colossians 2. Paul writes: And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (Col 2:13-14 KJV)
I use two very simple study techniques to get clearer understanding of what certain passages and phrases might mean: (1) after reading the entire chapter or even the chapter before to gain a better understanding of the context in which the passage is being written, I break down the verse and examine the words as they are literally translated from Greek to English–or Hebrew to English; and (2) check out other translation renderings. What I have found is that translators have from time-to-time opted to use certain phraseology and words to explain or define a passage in order to provide the reader with their personal understanding of what the author was trying to get across. One must bear in mind, however, that the translator, in his or her translation efforts, may be leaning to their own denominational understanding and biases of the passage and may be missing the true intent of the author altogether. Sometimes this error is seen (such as clearly seen in such passages as Mark 7:19 where the context of the Master addressing the manmade traditions of Judaism has nothing to do with the parenthetical insertion of (Thus He declared all foods clean.) (Mar 7:19 NAS)
But going back to Paul’s writing to the Colossae ekklesia: In this particular instance, the term ordinances implies some type of written decree. Eh, not really hitting the mark of actually meaning Torah or the Law, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it could mean law and let’s then proceed. When the phrase “handwritten decree” is then connected to the passage, it now reads something to the effect, “blotting out the handwritten decree that was against us…” From what we know of the Law, the Law was never formulated and given to Israel as an instrument against the nation’s well-being. In fact, it served as a means to protect the Israelites FROM curses. Additionally, the Law/Torah has never been referred to as a decree. Wouldn’t it have been much easier for Paul to have simply written, “blotting out the Law of God that was once against us, He nailed it to the cross?” Now, I’ve heard throughout my Christian life a lot of vehemence against Jews and the Law, and how the Law is a curse. If one were then to hold such vehemence against the Law and the people of the Law, it wouldn’t be too difficult for that person to simply force the term ordinance to mean the Law/Torah. But again, is this truly what this verse and phrase is referring to? Let’s look at another translation of the exact same verse which reads: He wiped away the bill of charges against us. Because of the regulations, it stood as a testimony against us; but he removed it by nailing it to the execution-stake. (Col 2:14 CJB)
Ordinances in this translation mysteriously changes to that of a “bill of charges against us.” Understanding the context in which the passage was written becomes crucial to understanding the phrase “handwritten decree/ordinances against us.” One would learn from a study of the Hebraic roots of our faith that a handwritten ordinance or decree was simply a bill, a document that stipulated a debt that one owed to the holder of the note or decree. The terms of the debt was stipulated in the decree or ordinance and the debtor was expected to uphold the tenets of the ordinance and pay the debt. Obviously, we see this principle displayed today with our mortgages, car notes, and other credit card purchases
For what one earns from sin is death; but eternal life is what one receives as a free gift from God, in union with the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. (Rom 6:23 CJB). God requires holiness in order to establish a relationship with man.
Nowhere in Colossians 2:13, 14, can one apply Torah as being the thing that was nailed to the cross.
I believe there is sufficient evidence in the Holy Writ to support the Law/Torah being a necessity in the believer’s life.
Look at seven (7) reasons why the Law is a necessity for believers to follow and observe. I will of course provide in the show notes what I believe to be supportive Biblical passages.
1. The Master Himself proclaimed that the Law would remain till all (heaven and earth) came to pass away–
• Mat 5:18; 22:36-40
2. The Master taught His disciples and followers directly from Torah–
• Mat 7:12
• Luk 10:26
• Joh 8:17
• John 10:34
In all His teaching, why didn’t Jesus disavow Torah? Many will confuse the Master’s challenges of the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes (Judaism) with the Torah/Law. But one has to always remember that the Pharisees adhered to the Talmud and not Torah. The Jewish nation practiced Judaism or Talmud which was designed by the rabbis to be a fence around Torah to prevent one from ever violating Torah. The problem with the Talmud? Although one might think that the rabbis were noble in their quest to make provision on behalf of the Jews so as to not violate Torah through a laundry list of rules and regulations, it became of such a burden to the Jewish people, that it was virtually impossible to keep. Thus, the misconception that Torah is impossible to keep. Secondly, the Father commanded that we not add to or subtract from the Law/Torah (reference Deu 4:2)
3. Torah or the Law was the basis for much of prophecy–
• Mat 11:13
• Luk 24:44
• Joh 15:25
• Heb 10:1
If a believer’s life is devoid of Torah/the Law, how then can he or she truly understand the true Faith once delivered?
4. John believed that Torah is an essential part of the believer’s life–
• Joh 1:17
Seems to me that the Master has provided us with a three fold formula for our life in Messiah: (1) Torah, (2) Grace, and (3) Truth.
• Rom 3:19-31; 4:13-16
• 1Jo 3:4
5. Christianity has been described as Pauline Christianity whereby the doctrines, beliefs, and teachings of most Christian denominations are based almost entirely upon the writings of the Apostle Paul. Denominational Christianity generally teaches that Paul taught a gospel that was anti-Law/Torah. I came across several verses in his body of work where he actually defends the Law/Torah as being relevant to the Faith–
• Act 24:14; 25:8; 28:23
• 1Co 14:34
6. The Apostle Paul liked believers of Jesus Christ as spiritual Israel. If this analogy holds true, wouldn’t it be a fair assumption that the Law would apply to Christians?–
• Rom 11:17-24
• Num 15:15
In this last passage, we see clearly that the Father fully intended that His Law/His Torah apply to everyone, be it Israeli or Gentile. There isn’t much to debate here.
7. If a hand-picked, anointed Apostle of Jesus Christ revered the Torah, wouldn’t it stand to reason that all believers should equally revere the Law/Torah?–
• Jam 1:25; 2:9-12; 4:11
The Catholic Church early on asserted her authority to change the meaning of and the interpretation of scripture. According to http://www.catholicbasictraining.com/apologetics/coursetexts/6j.htm, “the Church is infallible in her teaching and in its role in interpreting scripture.” The article goes on to relate that the inapplicability of the Law/Torah was passed down to us by “Apostolic Succession over the past 2000-years.”
Following Jesus then requires that we do whatever He says do. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Everyone of Jesus’ commandments came from the Law with the exception of the one new commandment that He gave to His followers as recorded in John 13:34. If Jesus commands us to keep His commandments and Jesus’ commandments were from the Law, it would stand to reason that the Christian who elects to not keep the Law/Torah is not a true disciple of Jesus Christ. So strict was Jesus in His requirement that His followers obey the Law/Torah, that he posed the following warning: So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mat 5:19 CJB)
Churchianity, however, teaches that complete obedience to the Law/Torah is impossible. Well, that I have to say is a boldface lie. The Law/Torah requires that we not steal, lie, commit adultery, fornicate, murder, eat that which has been deemed unclean by the Almighty; and that we observe His holy days and love Him and love our neighbor. Granted, there are other commandments, but I think I hit upon the big ones.
So I ask you, what is the difficulty in keeping any of the above commandments? Oh, and if by chance we need assistance in meeting those standards, Father has made available to us a helper, the Holy Spirit. (John 14:16) If we desire to have that special relationship with the Father today, tomorrow, and throughout all eternity, we must conform to His standards and obey His laws and commandments. There are no free lunches in life; yes, even with God there are no free lunches.