I don’t know where to start on this one, or where it may end. I could probably write a book about this (hmmmm??), but I want to keep it simple, so here I go…
As I have said often, eating ham will not send me to Sheol (the Hebrew word for Hell), and not eating ham will not guarantee me a place in heaven. My sins are forgiven by the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua, so the Torah, which tells me what is a sin and what isn’t a sin (Shaul says in the book of Romans that the Torah actually created sin, in that it defined it) helps me to act in ways that please God, but no longer really keeps me from death because my sins have been, and will continually be, forgiven through Yeshua. Therefore, there is an argument that can be made that it is no longer absolutely necessary to keep the Torah.
BUT…just because we can make an argument doesn’t mean that the argument we make is valid.
The Torah is composed of many things: it has historical information, it has constitutional regulations, it establishes a system of societal laws and statutes that include torts resolution and a penal code, it outlines a health code, it is a marriage certificate between Jews and God, and it also outlines the procedures for how we are supposed to worship God. These laws, statutes, and regulations are commandments, not suggestions- they are direct and absolute requirements.
The justification (this term means, specifically, being forgiven of our sins) we receive through the sacrificial system defined in the Torah is no different that the justification we receive through the sacrifice of Yeshua. The process is still the same: sin, recognize and accept your sin, do T’shuvah (repentance), present your sacrifice to God and God will accept the blood of the innocent sacrifice (remember that the life is in the blood) as a substitution for your lifeblood. That is the process outlined in Torah, and never, ever did anyone think or say that because we could always sacrifice to be forgiven that the Torah isn’t that important. Never has any Jew ever thought that.
Yeshua’s sacrifice did not do away with the sacrificial system, He only replaced the part where we have to bring the sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. Everything else is the same- we sin, we own up to our sin, we repent, we sacrifice (this is the part Yeshua has provided for us) and then we ask God to forgive us by means of substituting the sacrifice’s blood for our own.
So where did someone come up with the idea that because Yeshua’s sacrifice is the only sacrifice we need that we can now do away with Torah? God never said that we could do away with Torah, and Yeshua never said we could do away with Torah, and Shaul (Paul) never said we should do away with Torah. The sacrificial system that provides salvation from sin is no different after Yeshua than it was before Him- it’s just that Yeshua is the substitute we can use instead of bringing a lamb or pigeon to the Temple. No difference otherwise, so what was valid as the way to live before Yeshua came, died and was resurrected, is still valid as the way to live
Oh wait a minute!! Shaul certainly sounded like Torah wasn’t important. I believe that this is where the ‘No Need For Torah” idea started, as a misinterpretation of Shaul’s letters to (mostly) Gentile communities of Believers (there were no churches as we know them today in the First Century.) Shaul never once thought that Torah was unimportant, and he lived it as best as any human could his entire lifetime. Despite what humans have entitled “Paul converts on the road to Damascus” that you read as the chapter title to Acts 9, Shaul never converted to anything. When you read his letters you see he did, in fact, go to synagogues. he did talk to Jews, but he made it his main ministry to go to the Gentiles. He established Gentile filled Messianic communities, and what he taught was what is in Torah. The misinterpretation is rooted in the fact that his main argument was never against observance of the Torah, it was against observance of the P’shat, the literal meaning of the words, in order to achieve salvation. Shaul was not against Torah, he was against the teaching that a legalistic observance would save one’s soul. That was what the Pharisees and most of the Jewish training and understanding of the Torah was at that time- if you do what it says in the Torah, just going through the motions (so to speak) then you can be saved. In fact, if we could perform all the laws and commandments in the Torah (as Yeshua did) then we would be saved: through perfect performance we can find salvation in Torah alone.
The problem is we can’t perform Torah perfectly, so to observe Torah as the means of our salvation, is a lost cause. That is the message Shaul was relating to the Gentiles who were under stress from their old life (to remain pagans) and also from their new life, from Jews who wanted them to do everything in the Torah because if they didn’t they couldn’t be saved.
This is the same drek I get today as a Messianic Jew: Christians who have been taught Torah isn’t needed now that they have Jesus tell me if I still live as a Jew I am not really saved because I am not “under the blood”, and Jews tell me if I believe in Jesus (their understanding is that I must have converted to Christianity) then I am not a Jew anymore. Both of these teachings are absolutely wrong- as a Jewish man who believes Yeshua is my Messiah, the one God promised my people since the beginning, then I am not a Christian, and I am more than just a Jew- I am a completed Jew, in that I have come full circle, from innocence in Eden to sinfulness in the world to Messianic forgiveness through Messiah, and thereby able to commune with God, again and forever more.
So, nu? What do we have? What we have is what we were given from the start- the Torah. The Torah is how God tells us to live, and defines right from wrong, righteousness from sinfulness, and provides the means by which we can be absolved of our sins in order to come into the presence of God. Yeshua is the Messiah God sent so that we can still find forgiveness after the Temple, which is where the Torah said we had to ask for forgiveness, was destroyed. No Temple, no forgiveness, but Yeshua took care of that by becoming the Temple, Himself,and providing the innocent blood (His own blood) for us. So, Torah is still valid, Torah is still necessary, and Torah is still God’s commandment to us all.
We should all try to follow Torah: not in order to be saved, but because it is what God tells us to do. We will receive blessings for obedience and we will not be blessed if we don’t (Deuteronomy 28.) If we ignore Torah, we are ignoring God- like it or not, that is the truth. Do we need Torah to be saved- no. Do we need to obey Torah to be saved- no. Should we try to obey Torah, anyway- yes, absolutely. Why? Because it is what God tells us to do.
If God tells you do to something, what other reason do you need to do it?