There is SO MUCH to be said about Paul’s teaching regarding Torah. Many scholars see him as ambivalent about it – sometimes endorsing it, other times dismissing it. In our studies to date, however, we have found nothing of Paul’s teaching that we can consider dismissive of Torah. This little essay only begins to cover it all, but it is a start. Just for starters, Paul says: For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified… (Rom 2:13)
However, Moses told us plainly that Torah is not too difficult to keep. (Deut 30:11) Right away we should realize that either Moses was lying, or we are misunderstanding Paul’s statements.
Torah is not really all that complex (there are only 613 instructions – while the NT has 1,050!), and we should also keep in mind that when YHVH gave us Torah, He knew that we could not keep it perfectly. That is why He provided the atoning sacrifices with their accompanying forgiveness (Leviticus 5 and 6 are full of forgiveness!). Forgiveness and Grace are built right into Torah!
The way that YHVH determines righteousness has never changed. In both the OT and the NT, we are instructed to:
We Cannot Be Justified Simply By Obeying Torah!
A primary topic of Paul’s letter to the Romans is whether or not an individual can be ‘justified’ simply by knowing and observing Torah.
In Romans, Chapter 2, Paul is explaining to us that just knowing and following Torah does not justify us before YHVH. Paul is adamant that salvation is by faith through Grace. (And we agree with him 100%!) However, as he develops his topic, he explains (especially in Chapters 7 and 8) that while our faith is the true basis of salvation, it is our committed obedience to Torah which reveals our faith to the Holy Spirit, who then witnesses in Heaven on our behalf. (We must always remember that in the Hebrew mind, faith is a physical activity, not mere mental assent.)
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled [Greek pleroo: accomplished, performed] in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. … The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: (Romans 8:4, 16)
Paul is writing to believers who apparently feel strongly that they know and follow Torah and therefore they are qualified to judge others when others do not follow Torah. Paul cautions them that their attitude is dangerous:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Rom 2:1)
These people are Torah-observers themselves and feel they have a duty and obligation to call others to Torah-observance. The underlying message to them, as always in Paul’s letters, seems to be that we have been forgiven much and must learn to forbear with others in return.
Paul’s ‘Talking Torah’ to These Folks
How do we know that these people are judging others according to their obedience to Torah? It is obvious, because throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul’s statements continually bring us back to ‘the Law’ (Greek: nomos, the Greek term for Torah). The people he is writing to are all worked up about obedience to Torah, so Paul is trying to show them how Torah-observance fits into their walk as disciples of Messiah.
The Gentile Situation….
The Jewish believers in Rome have been watching the Gentile believers and are concerned that they are really ‘messed up.’ New Gentile converts simply have not had the time to learn Torah – I can testify that after 5 years as a Messianic, I am STILL learning how to live Torah in my daily walk. There are new things to learn that take time, since I was not raised from childhood in observance.
The Roman Torah-observers watched people like me and shook their heads, thinking that we would lose our places in the Kingdom.
Paul tells the Roman believers to relax – that even Gentiles who have no specific knowledge of Torah laws, but who still live by its principles, demonstrate to YHVH that their hearts are aligned with His, whereby they are justified.
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts… (Rom 2:14-15a)
This verse tells us plainly that Paul believes adherence to “the requirements of the law” to be decisive for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
Paul says that, For as many as have sinned [sin is the transgression of Torah, 1John 3:4] without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.
In other words, there is ONE standard of judgment (Torah) by which ALL will be judged. If a Gentile sins (transgresses Torah), even though he may never have heard of Torah (because he is “without the law”), he will perish, because ‘the wages of sin [transgression of Torah] is death.’ (Rom 6:23) The ignorant Gentile is still answerable for his sin because the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)
Leviticus tells us the same thing: And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of YHVH; though he wist [knows] it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 5:17)
On the other hand, Paul says that the Gentile who is ignorant of the specifics of Torah but whose life displays a sincere desire to be aligned with YHVH’s character will be justified. Then he reminds those Jewish brethren in Rome that a ‘Jewish’ believer who knows Torah and yet habitually and willfully transgresses it (or obeys it apart from the underlying principle of Love) will find his bloodline and knowledge of no use to him when he stands before the judgment seat. Each will be ‘repaid’ according to his actions.
This why Paul quotes Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12 when he says (Rom 2:6): God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”
We Are Not Ignorant!
What we need to remember is this: If we have read our Bibles, WE ARE NOT IGNORANT OF TORAH. Y’shua expects us to obey YHVH’s commands, just as Y’shua Himself did.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. John 15:10
Where does Faith fit in?
Of course the immediate question that comes to the Christian mind is, “What about Faith? Aren’t we saved by faith and not by works? Paul anticipates this question and asks (and answers) the question for us:
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31)
That word ‘establish’ is the Greek word ἵστημι (histēmi: Strong’s no. G2476) which means “to establish a thing, cause it to stand; to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything”, etc.
Obedience Brings Faith out of imagination and into the Real World
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews was attempting to convey this concept when he wrote: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) As mentioned before, in the Hebrew mindset, faith is not an emotion or a mental conviction; faith is an action.
In fact, the Hebrew word for faith (emunah) has nothing about ‘belief’ to it at all – emunah is fidelity, steadfastness, reliability. When Paul and the other NT Hebraic-minded writers quote Hab 2:4 which says, but the just shall live by his faith, they understood that it is actually saying, “the lawful man shall live by his steadfast obedience“!
YHVH can depend on the loyalty of the man of emunah – and loyalty (fidelity) is an action. Just try to convince a friend of your loyalty without doing something to show it!
Faith (emunah) expresses in real-world, tangible behavior (substance) one’s otherwise invisible confidence in YHVH. The author of Hebrews illustrates his point by relating that Abel offered the correct, God-ordained sacrifice; Noah built the ark as commanded; Abraham pulled up stakes and left for parts unknown as commanded; etc – each person demonstrated his faith through his obedience to YHVH’s commands. Each person’s otherwise invisible faith was given substance by his actions.
Paul is trying to help his readers understand how righteousness is achieved through both faith and works – that works reveal faith. (in Hebraic terms, ‘works’ always means ‘the things Torah instructs us to do.’) (James expends quite a bit of effort illustrating the same concept in his letter.)
New Testament Terms are Defined by the Tanakh
As is only to be expected, Paul works within the parameters of definitions already given in scripture.
- Moses tells us (Deut 6:25): And it shall be our righteousness,  if we observe to do all these commandments before YHVH our God, as he hath commanded us.
- John confirms this to be the early Christian understanding when he gives us the ‘flip side of the coin’ in 1 John3:4, where he tells us that ‘sin [the opposite of righteousness] is the transgression of the law.’
Paul endeavors to explain to us that our job as believers is to show our love for Messiah and His ways by walking righteously in His Ways, known as Torah, knowing that we will never be perfect, but also knowing that we can be assured of our ultimate salvation because of our (demonstrated) faith in Y’shua and His victorious work on the cross.
ROMANS 6 – (6) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin [the flesh] might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin [i.e., we should no longer transgress Torah – 1John 3:4]. … (12) Let not sin [transgression of Torah] therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. (13) Neither yield ye your members [arms, legs, hands, feet] as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin [transgression of Torah]: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness [obedience of Torah] unto God. … (22) But now being made free from sin [transgression of Torah], and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. [Ref: Lev 19:2 – Ye shall be holy: for I YHVH your God am holy. By obeying Torah, we become holy (set apart) to YHVH.]
ROMANS 7 – (12) Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (13) Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin [transgression of Torah], that it might appear sin [that sin might be given substance as we transgress Torah in our actions], working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. [When we compare our natural behavior to that defined by Torah, we see how sinful we really are!] (14) For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. [Paul is poetically referring to his condition prior to his salvation through Y’shua.] … (22) For I delight in the law of God [Torah] after the inward man [in my heart and mind]: (23) But I see another law [‘the law of sin and death’]  in my members [my body; my flesh], warring against the law of [Torah in] my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin [that ‘other law’] which is in my members. … (25) I thank God through Y’shua Messiah our Master. So then with the mind I myself serve the law [Torah] of God; but with the flesh [I cannot help but serve] the [other] law of sin.  [Paul then asks, “Who will rescue me” from this dilemma, and goes on in Chapter 8 to explain that YHVH has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to deny the flesh and walk in righteousness, which is true obedience to True Torah.]
ROMANS 8 – (4) That the righteousness of the law [Torah] might be fulfilled [Greek plēroō: carried into effect; performed] in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. … (6) For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (7) Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law [Torah] of God, neither indeed can be. [Paul has already told us that ‘the law is spiritual.’ Thus, to be spiritually minded is to be subject to the Torah of YHVH.]
In Romans 8, Paul shows how Y’shua’s work on the cross defeated the power of the flesh and the ‘Law of Sin and Death,’ so that now there is no death sentence for those in Messiah  – instead, we have received power (through the Holy Spirit) to live righteously, That the righteousness of the law [Torah] might be fulfilled [Greek plēroō: carried into effect; performed] in us.
Paul has much more to say about this topic in Romans and in some of his other letters. Paul was a profound thinker and a man of deep spiritual understanding, but he was not a great writer. Because much of what he wrote is difficult to follow, teachers have been able to twist his statements around to support the doctrine of Torah having been ‘done away with,’ but that is not Paul’s intent – he was, in fact, Torah-observant himself, as the Acts and Epistles clearly reveal.
Peter reminds us:
He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless [Greek: anesthemos – Torahless] and fall from your secure position. 2 Peter3:16-17 NIV
The scriptures we have mentioned here are only a very few of the passages that we could have discussed, but from just these few passages, it seems pretty apparent that Paul did not dismiss Torah, but rather saw Torah as the guide for all believers.
We hope that this quick little essay will pique your interest to consider that the topic is worth your further investigation.
So what do YOU think? Has Torah been done away with?
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:160
© John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, 2014. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Lamb’s Servant Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to John and Sue Wyatt and The Lamb’s Servant Blog, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 If Torah HAS ‘passed away,’ all of this is useless to us. Without Torah, there is no sin, because Torah defines sin – sin is the transgression of Torah. (1John 3:4) Without sin there is no need for Y’shua’s sacrifice, and YHVH is obligated to welcome every human into His Kingdom, because there is NO basis for determining ‘wheat from the tares.’
 According to scripture, to be righteous is to live in defiance of one’s sinful (flesh) nature, being submitted instead, as Moses and Paul said, to God’s law – His Torah. (Deut 6:25, Rom 8:7-10) For a more thorough discussion of this concept, please see our article, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘RIGHTEOUS’?
 The ‘law of sin and death’ is the law that says: The wages of sin is death, a law which Paul first mentions in Chapter 6 of Romans. (Romans 6:23) Paul refers to this law several times in Chapter 8 of Romans. He rejoices that this law has become ineffective through the work of Y’shua on the cross (which has activated the Law of the Spirit of Life in Y’shua Messiah – Rom 8:2), and that “Therefore there is now no condemnation [no death sentence] for those in Messiah Y’shua!” (Romans 8:1)
 The ‘law of sin and death’ is the law that says: The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) If we employ sin, we must pay its wages.