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This is not going to be a scholarly treatise on the differences in the Greek words used for “law”, or that Torah means “teaching”, or anything that involves anything more than just some common sense and a basic understanding of God’s plan of salvation.
So let’s start with how God’s plan of salvation works. It’s really quite simple: God gave the Torah through the Jewish people to all people so that we would know two things, and just two things. They are:
- How to worship God; and
- How to treat each other.
When we do as God tells us we should be doing, we are living in accordance to His will and thereby not sinning. When we do that which God says we should not do, then we are rejecting God’s commandments, which is called “sinning.” When we sin, that sin separates us from God and if we die in our sin we cannot be with Him throughout eternity. Salvation is available to those that ask for it and do not die in their sin.
Salvation starts with the Torah, which tells us how to not die in our sin by staying within God’s will. The problem we run into is that no one is able to live in accordance with Torah, so we all will die in our sin, unless we happen to die as we are exiting the Temple in Jerusalem right after performing a sin sacrifice.
Oh, wait a minute! The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed! That’s OK because God has us covered for that one; again, all part of the plan.
Right from the start, even before God gave us Torah, He knew this would all happen so He had a back-up plan. That plan is called Messiah. The Messiah would present Himself as a sin sacrifice for all people, and through His sacrifice we would be able to atone for our sin, even though the Temple is no longer available to us. Messiah’s sacrificed “trumped” the animal sacrificial system that was what we needed before Messiah came.
Today we try to live our lives as God told us we should (Torah) and when we fail to do that we ask for forgiveness, which we can receive as a result of our T’shuvah (repentance) and by means of the substitutionary sacrifice of Yeshua haMashiach.
That’s it! God gave the world the Torah (through the Jewish people) and because we couldn’t obey the Torah as we should, He sent Messiah Yeshua (again, through the Jewish people) to suffer the penalty we all (Jew and Gentile) deserve so that we can overcome sin and be in God’s presence for all eternity.
Now that we have a basic understanding of how salvation works, the next step is to understand the difference between being under the law and obedience to the law.
Under the law is a term used in the New Covenant writings to describe a system that understands salvation to be a result exclusively from obedience to rules and regulations. It doesn’t account for a desire to obey as a result of love for God. Faith is not needed in this system because salvation is only possible through performance.
Obedience to the law means that we choose to obey the rules and regulations that God gave us as a means of proving our T’shuvah (repentance) and comes from a desire to please God. It is not a means to gain salvation. Salvation is only possible through faith; we obey because we love God and show that by obedience to His word.
The Torah is the User Manual for staying in God’s will. We obey the Torah because we want to show God that we fear Him (as in honor and respect) and to show others how God wants them to act. We should obey Torah as a love response to God’s kindness, His sovereignty and His authority.
When we are obedient to Torah we are not doing so to “get into heaven”, but because we want to do as God says and because we respect and honor Him.
Obedience to Torah is not a means to be saved, it is a way to show God how much you love Him. In John 14:15 Yeshua told His Talmudim (disciples) that if they loved Him, they would obey Him: everything He taught was directly from the Torah, so to love Yeshua means to obey the Torah.
Can you see the difference now? Obedience to the law is all about faith and desire to please God, whereas under the law is nothing more than a means to an end.
And since no one can be perfectly under the law, those means lead to only one end- damnation.
Many people say they love Jesus, they love the Lord, they love, love, love…but do they ever even try to love God the way He asks them to? No- they excuse and rationalize disobedience to the Torah.
Do you love God? Do you love Yeshua? If so, do you prove it by living the way God says you should, or are you living the way you want to?
Which one do you think God will accept?