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Lawful use of the Law


Torah Portion: Parashat Yitro ("Jethro")

Shabbat: Feb. 11, 2023 / Shevat 20, 5783

Torah: Exod. 18:1-20:23

Prophets: Isa. 6:1-7:6; Isa. 9:5-6

New Covenant: Matt. 8:5-20


Paul’s prayer in Colossians

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins”. Colossians 1:9-14


"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God" (Rom. 8:14). Are you led by the Spirit of God in your daily life, in the midst of your joys, sorrows, and tribulations? This is essential, after all. Do you live in the freedom of Messiah? If you are led by the Spirit, you no longer labor under the law of sin and death but you are set free to experience a new order of reality (Rom. 8:2). The law is holy, righteous, and good, of course, but it also reveals our lethal spiritual condition (Rom. 7:7-25) and therefore it reveals our great need for a Savior, the Messiah who is the end (τέλος) of the law (Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:21-24, 4:4-5). Those who advocate "Torah observance" do not understand the divine purpose of the law itself (1 Tim. 1:7), and those who teach the law as the means of finding life "frustrate the grace of God" (Gal. 2:19-21). The "lawful use of the law" demonstrates the holiness of God and serves as a mirror of our sinful condition, but the "unlawful use of the law" seeks righteousness apart from the saving agency of Messiah who (alone) is the "righteousness of God." The end of the commandment is "love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 2:5). And just as Yeshua came not for the righteous but for sinners (Mark 2:17), so the law was not given for the righteous, but for those who know they need deliverance from the power of indwelling sin (Rom. 3:20, 7:7). "Know this: the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to life-giving doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:9-10). The Apostle Paul wrote that the lawcode reveals our sinful condition: "for from the law comes the knowledge of sin" (διὰ γὰρ νόμου ἐπίγνωσις ἁμαρτίας). "But now the righteousness of God (צִדְקַת אֱלהִים) apart from the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets" (Rom. 3:20-21, see also Gal. 3:19). The phrase "apart from the law" means from an entirely different sphere from that which says, "do this and live." It is the "righteousness" (δικαιοσύνη) that comes from God, not from man.... Yeshua is Adonai Tzidkenu - the LORD our Righteousness. But what about the statement that the LORD would write the Torah upon our hearts? Does not the New Covenant state: "I will put my law (תּוֹרָה) within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (Jer. 31:31-33)? Yes, it surely does, but it is vital to understand that the Torah referred to here is the Torah of the New Covenant, not the Torah of the Old Covenant (2 Cor. 3:14). Surely the "ministry of death (θάνατος), carved in letters on stone, which is being brought to an end" was not to be written on our hearts! No, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. The "ministry of condemnation" (i.e., κατάκρισις, judgment) is contrasted with the "ministry of righteousness" (i.e., δικαιοσύνη) and far exceeds it in glory and value (2 Cor. 3:6-9). Again, as Paul plainly stated: "The law is good if it is used lawfully," understanding that the lawcode speaks to those who are lawbreakers - to the lawless and disobedient, to adulterers, murderers, and so on (1 Tim. 1:8-10). In other words, the law functions as a sort of "cage" intended to restrain the evil impulses of the heart. The problem is not with the law, but rather with the underlying condition of the heart.... What we need is not more laws, but transformation of heart - and that is precisely what the New Covenant is all about: The miracle of spiritual rebirth, a new "heart of flesh," and God-given power to walk in love and thereby transcend the law and its requirements... As you consider these matters, be careful to distinguish between the general idea of Torah (תּוֹרָה) with the more specific idea of covenant (בְּרִית), since these are different (though related) ideas. The Hebrew word "Torah" is a general word that means "instruction" or "teaching," whereas the word "covenant" refers to a specific agreement made between God and man. In order to avoid confusion between the Torah of Moses (תּוֹרַת משֶׁה) and the Torah of Yeshua (תּוֹרַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ), we must keep in mind that Torah is always a function of the underlying covenant (בְּרִית, "cut") of which it is part. This implies that if the covenant were to change, so would our responsibility (i.e., Torah), as is stated in the Book of Hebrews (e.g., Heb. 7:12). Followers of Yeshua have Torah, of course, though it is based on the New Covenant of God, not on the promise to obey the terms of the covenant given at Sinai. We must exercise care here, since the failure to make this distinction leads to exegetical errors and invalid doctrines. For more on this important subject, please see Why then the Law? The Torah of the New Covenant centers on walking in the Spirit. Regarding the middot ha-lev (qualities of heart) that are to mark the follower of Yeshua, the Apostle Paul wrote, "the fruit of the Spirit (פְּרִי הָרוּחַ) is love, joy, peace; long-suffering, generosity, acts of kindness; faithfulness, humility, and modesty – against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). Notice that while there is "one fruit" of the Spirit (i.e., "fruit" [καρπὸς] is singular), the expression of the "inner seed" produces a manifold yield, just as the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) produces twelve different kinds of fruit, one for each month of the Jewish year (see Rev. 22:1-2).

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