On the rare occasion that I’m asked what my religion is, I reply with the answer “I am Torah Observant”. To this response, I am usually faced with a blank expression as though I’m speaking in a foreign language, or I just asked a complex maths equation. Those words aren't uttered in everyday life and especially outside of Torah observant circles. I’m aware of how fringe this subject is to many people Torah Keepers are somewhat of an echo chamber. It's an obscure subject in the believing and the secular. Hence the odd expressions I receive. After the initial confusion fades from their faces, I’m often asked a series of questions. In this Torah series, I plan to answer these questions to the best of my ability. I’m no expert, just a fellow brother in the faith that is trying my best to fulfil the scripture that is written in 1 Peter 3:15. I believe we should all have a response ready for when we are questioned about our faith and the following is mine:
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15
Torah observance is not what many people think. Usually, their minds wander to things like “Isn’t that a Jew thing?”, or “Didn’t Jesus nail it all to the cross?”, or even “what is the Torah?" and those are perfectly normal responses. It’s not the average believers fault the church has done a terrible job of educating the body about the Torah and what it actually is. Simply put, it is the first five books of the Bible in which God's laws are contained. The word Torah is a Hebrew word that means instruction. A good way to look at it would be God's instruction manual for life. The dos and don’ts of walking according to God’s will.
The Torah has been an elephant in the room for centuries. Some see it and ask questions only to get insufficient answers, so they either choose to ignore it or find the answers themselves, and some are happy with the answers their religious leader or teacher gives them, others are fine to blissfully go on with their religious life without ever questioning why there is a huge mammal sitting there that no-one seems to be talking about. Others actively rail against the Torah as though its some evil that God accidentally burdened us with. Could God makes mistakes like that? You could be asking yourself is the Torah even that big of a deal? After all, that’s Old Testament stuff, right?
It’s on every page of your scriptures and in every action of the people we admire in our Bibles, including our Messiah and the apostles. It’s all over the New Testament, and the Old Testament is rife with it. God is obsessed with His people keeping it. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was divorced and thrown into exile because of disobeying it. Our Messiah was put on the cross because of it (bold statement I know but hear me out), and the Apostles kept it till their dying breath. The Torah is one of, if not the most, central theme in all of scripture. So why is it largely ignored by the Christian world?
"I was blind but now I see!" John 9:15
I believe there has been spiritual blindness going on. A veil over the eyes of honest God-fearing people, and God himself put it there.
“And for this, cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” 2 Thessalonians 2:11
God is the one who lets us wander off into error because we are so unwilling to hear the truth. It doesn’t help that there has been a narrative of “the law has been done away with” going on for nearly 2000 years. We have been told "we are no longer under the law", leading many to believe that Paul taught we no longer have to obey God’s commands. Paul himself said the complete opposite,
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” Romans 6 1-2
The tragic irony is that people use Paul to justify lawlessness. After all, sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). So if sinning means breaking the Torah and Paul says we cannot sin even though we have grace, the logical conclusion must be that the law must still be kept. Well, you would think people would see the simple logic in that, but they rarely ever do.
The question that usually follows now is, “but salvation is through faith alone and not works?”. And yes, I 100% agree with you, our salvation is through Messiah alone, keeping the Torah will not save you. Yes, we are no longer under the punishment of the law which is laid out in Deuteronomy 28:15-68. We have been set free from that through the blood of Messiah. He took that punishment for us, but that does not give us a licence to sin. Would you say to someone that now they are free from the law it is okay for them to commit murder or adultery? Obviously not, so even though we are saved through grace we still have to keep the law. Otherwise, we are sinning with a high hand.
The law cannot save you, only Messiah can. But we are supposed to go through sanctification. This is the process of purifying ourselves by conforming our hearts, minds, and actions to God's standards so that we can be found as a spotless bride on the day of visitation. This is done through obedience to God's laws. An analogy I like is to look at it like marriage vows. When my wife and I got married we swore vows to each other, which were written down in a ketubah, much like the commandments were written on the tablets we wrote out vows listing promises to each other - things that we would and would not do. If we are supposed to be the bride of Christ and the covenant is our marriage vows then we should keep what is written in them. How would like it if your spouse decided to not celebrate your anniversary? You wouldn't be too happy about it, right? How do you think God feels when we are not willing to keep His feast days which are part of our vows to Him?
Remember, our Messiah said this:
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." John 14:15
Obeying God's Torah is how we show our love for our Messiah. Unfortunately, many believe that being obedient to the Torah is seeking your own salvation, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
Even now you are probably thinking I’m in error and mentally fighting against me. And that's fine, realising Torah is still to be kept by believers today is a hard thing to grasp for many. There is a cognitive dissonance involved. Questions come flooding to mind, “But how could so many people have been wrong for all these years?”, "Why didn't some of the greatest theologians in history see this?". The reality is that there has been a remnant of Torah-keeping Christians all throughout history, in various parts of the world over the last 2000 years (maybe I’ll cover that more in depth in another post). Yes, these are tough realisations that may dawn on you, it almost seems impossible that the larger body missed it. Like I said previously, God has given us over to our own delusions. There has been a veil over the eyes of the believing world. Once that veil is lifted and the blindness subsides you can’t unsee it. It’s everywhere, certain passages in scripture that seem to point to Torah obedience being paramount in a believers life seem so obvious, they jump right off the page, slap you round the face and shout “how could you have missed this!?” and that’s a good question - how could we have missed it? Well, I think I have an idea.
From the early 2nd century the Christian church started to back away from all things Torah. Labelling it as Jewish and twisting Paul's writings to say what it doesn’t say, something which Peter warned us of in advance (Peter 3:16). They labelled God’s laws as Jewish laws. Declaring God’s feasts as Jewish feasts despite God Himself declaring them to be His laws and His feasts.
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them:' These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” Leviticus 23:2
He gave His law to Israel long before the religion of the Jews was ever created, back when Judah was just a tribe, one tribe among a mixed multitude of many. God told those who follow Him to keep His Torah, and from the very beggining we have been disobedient. So why would today be any different?
Think of it like building a house, even if the foundation and the cornerstone are perfect but the first brick laid down is crooked then the whole structure will fail. Think of the Torah as the foundation and Messiah as the cornerstone, and each brick laid is another error introduced to the house of God. This becomes substantially worse when the first brick completely contradicts everything that the foundation and cornerstone laid down for us. This has certainly not helped the body. Starting off in error 2000 years ago has led to us building error upon error to the point we are so far from the faith that the apostles had 2000 years ago that it has become practically unrecognisable.
I will end it here. In the following parts of this series, I aim to answer all the questions that arise when people are faced with this subject and go deeper into some of the topics that I have briefly mentioned here. I don’t have all the answers, I can only speak from what God has shown me and how Torah observance has changed my life. I hope you stick around and go on this journey with me. It should be exciting and challenging but hopefully, by the end, we will all be better followers of our Messiah and stronger in our faith for it.