Five Reasons Christians Should Read Torah

-excellent article from David Wilber examining why Christians should study Torah. You can read more of David's great thought-provoking articles here.
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The Bible records for us that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), but many Christians today have forgotten some very important parts of Scripture—namely, the “instructions” of God, or in Hebrew, Torah.

So, how much do you know about Torah? If you’re a Bible-believing Christian, you might be surprised to discover that you actually already believe in keeping Torah to some degree. Indeed, the Torah (often translated as “Law” in English) is found in the first five books of the Bible and is comprised of God’s instructions to His people. These instructions include commandments such as take care of the poor and love your enemies; don’t lie, steal, commit adultery, etc. Most Christians would agree with those commandments. However, the Torah also contains several commandments that are generally ignored by many Christians today, such as keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), keep the Biblical Feast days (Leviticus 23), and don’t eat unclean animals (Leviticus 11). The following is a list of five reasons Christians should revisit these parts of Scripture.

1) Torah is all about Jesus.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for He wrote of me. But if you do not believe His writings, how will you believe my words? (John 5:46-47)

Moses was the one who wrote down God’s instructions contained in the Torah. Throughout his writings there are prophetic hints about the Messiah who is later revealed in the New Testament asYeshua (Jesus). In fact, the Messiah’s very name is mentioned in the Torah:

The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. (Exodus 15:2)

The word salvation in this verse is the Hebrew word Yeshua. Indeed, Yeshua’s name means “salvation.” This is just one of hundreds of references to Yeshua in the Torah. As the New Testament states, Moses wrote about Yeshua. Therefore, if we believe the words of Moses, we will believe the words of Yeshua. Stated more negatively, if we reject the words of Moses, we are, in a way, rejecting the words of Yeshua.

Did you know that the Sabbath and Biblical Feast Days actually serve as prophetic foreshadows of Yeshua? Consider the Sabbath: We are commanded to completely rest in God’s provision on the seventh day. In other words, we don’t do on the Sabbath the things we normally do during the rest of the week for self-provision (i.e., your normal paid job). This is because the Sabbath day is a picture of our ultimate rest in Christ. We can’t “work” for our Salvation; we can only trust in God’s provision through His Messiah. Therefore, every time we rest on the Sabbath, we are affirming the Gospel message. In the same way, each of the seven Biblical Feast days tells the story of the death, resurrection, and second coming of Christ.

2) Jesus kept and taught Torah.

Most biblical scholars and historians agree that Yeshua lived His life as a Torah-observant Jew. His followers called him “Rabbi.” He attended Synagogue every Sabbath. He celebrated Passover and all of the other Biblical Feasts. Furthermore, the original Messianic movement that emerged out of His teachings continued to keep Torah throughout the first century (we’ll discuss that later in this article). Professor of Biblical Literature, Dr. Brad Young, Ph.D., puts it best:

“We too often view Jesus in a historical vacuum with the result that we transpose our twenty-first century Western values and concerns onto him. We tend to make him into a good Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, or whatever denominational orientation we may be. The historical Jesus remains a Jew. His faith and obedience to his Father in heaven had at its center the precious gift given at Mount Sinai: Torah.”

Yeshua Himself told us not to even think that He came to abolish the Torah. He further states that nothing from the Torah will pass away until heaven and earth pass away (Matthew 5:17-19). Interestingly, according to Scripture, our current heaven and earth will someday pass away and a new heaven and earth will be established: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (see Revelation 21:1-4). This event occurs after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth and will include a complete end to death, mourning, crying, and pain (verse 4). Since death, mourning, crying, and pain still exist in our world today, it follows logically that nothing from the Torah has passed away yet.

It’s also interesting to note that the word Christian literally means “Follower of Christ.” Indeed, we as Christians are told to walk as Yeshua walked. Since Yeshua kept and taught Torah, I believe it’s appropriate for Christians to do the same.

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:6)

3) The Apostles kept and taught Torah.

Just like their Rabbi Yeshua, the Apostles all kept Torah. Commandments like the Sabbath, Feasts, and dietary instructions remained central practices of their faith long after the resurrection of their Lord. In fact, Yeshua’s instructions to His disciples just prior to His ascension were to make disciples of “all the nations” and teach them all that He had commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20). “All” that He commanded them obviously would have included Torah.

Even the Apostle Paul agreed with Yeshua that the Torah is not abolished; he exhorted Christians to uphold the Torah by faith in Christ (Romans 3:31). He even instructs Gentile Christians at the church of Corinth to observe the Feast of Passover:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Furthermore, we know that the disciples celebrated the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), which is when they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). Acts 17:1-2 tells us that Paul’s custom was to attend Synagogue services every Sabbath, and on numerous occasions we see that Paul defended himself against false accusations that he taught against Torah (Acts 21:20-24 & 24:14). Also, Paul implicitly instructed Christians in 1 Timothy 4:4-5 not to eat unclean animals but to receive food that is sanctified by the Word of God. (The Word of God sanctifies only clean animals.)

Many times throughout the New Testament we are told to imitate the Apostles (see 1 Corinthians 4:16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). Therefore, shouldn’t we imitate them in keeping Torah?

4) The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to keep Torah.

According to Paul, our basic human nature tends not to agree with God. However, the good news is that we have help from the Holy Spirit to walk in God’s ways. Paul discusses this in-depth in the eighth chapter of Romans. He says that our flesh (our basic human nature) is hostile to God and does not submit to His Torah:

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:7)

This is because the Torah is “Spiritual” (Romans 7:14), and our flesh is concerned only with fleshly things. Paul says that only those who live according to the Spirit are concerned with Spiritual things, which would include the Torah:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)

As Christians, we are to walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh. The flesh is weak and cannot submit to Torah. However, the Holy Spirit is given to empower Christians to keep the Torah:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

5) Keeping Torah is a blessing.

Many Christians misunderstand what the New Testament teaches about the Torah and therefore consider it to be a burden, but that is not how the Biblical authors felt about it. The only way the Torah could be a burden is if a person misunderstands it and tries to earn salvation by keeping it. That is what the false teachers that Paul addressed in the book of Galatians believed. They taught that the Gentiles could be saved only if they first got circumcised according to the law. This issue is also addressed in Acts 15:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)

The Apostles taught that salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ, not by getting circumcised:

We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. (Acts 15:11)

Indeed, our obedience to Torah is simply the result of a transformed life in Christ. We don’t keep Torah to be saved; we keep it because we’re saved!

When we correctly understand the place of Torah in our lives, it is a source of blessing. In fact, the longest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 119) is devoted to proclaiming the joy of Torah. In that Psalm, King David expresses the love for Torah that all Believers should have.

For example: When we consider the vanishingly small percentage of families that still eat dinner together in our age, we can see how keeping Torah is a blessing. Torah serves to bless families by bringing them together once a week on Shabbat (Sabbath). I’ve heard countless testimonies from Christian families who have committed to keeping the Sabbath every week, and in every case it has brought them closer together and has even restored broken relationships.

Furthermore, modern science is finally catching up with God’s Word as studies have presented conclusive evidence revealing the serious health risks associated with going outside of God’s dietary boundaries. It has been proven that most unclean animals carry parasites, disease, and are extremely high in toxicity. Therefore, Torah blesses our health by giving us good guidelines for healthy eating.

Those are just a couple of examples of how Torah is a blessing. It’s no wonder that Moses stated he was setting before us blessings and curses, life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Just like God’s Word says, we are blessed when we keep Torah.

What about you?

I hope that this short list gave you something to think about! Prayerfully consider joining the Christians around the world who are returning to the roots of their faith and enjoying the blessings of keeping Torah.

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