Apologetics Hebrew Roots Theology
R. L. Solberg  

Under The Law?

A friend of mine recently posted something on social media that, at first glance, struck me as heretical. He and his wife are old friends who have renounced Christianity as a “Roman religion” and have begun to practice Torah. We’ve recently interacted on whether or not we are required to keep the Mosaic Law from the Old Testament. So I decided to respond to his latest post and delve a little deeper. I was surprised that what I found was, in fact, heresy.

A series of articles inspired by actual theological debates and discussions that I have with fellow Believers. When I hear theological ideas or theories that seem questionable to me, they way I form my opinion of them is by comparing them to Scripture, my ultimate authority, to see how they stack up. These articles are basically documentation of my discovery process and the research that I do as I study and learn.

I decided to memorialize our conversation here on my blog because I think it is instructive to know that this strain of non-Biblical thought exists and how we as Christians might respond to it. For purposes of this article, I’ve changed my friend’s name and cleaned up his grammatical errors.

Justin’s Original Post

Can someone explain to me, when the rich ruler asked, “Yeshua, what must I do to have eternal life?” why didn’t Yeshua tell him, “Just repeat this prayer after me, Dear Jesus, come into my heart and be my savior, Amen.”? Look at Yeshua’s answer for what he must do to have eternal life and be prepared to have your Christian doctrine ROCKED:

“Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.”

Wait a min….. WHHAAAAAAAT???

I replied:

Interesting, but Matthews’s description doesn’t stop there. The way you chose to post only those two verses makes it seem like you’re asserting that salvation is achieved by keeping the Mosaic law, which it most definitely is not.

In that passage in Matthew, the rich young man goes on to ask which commandments Jesus is talking about. And Jesus, knowing the rich man’s heart, lists six commandments, which the rich man says he has kept since his youth. So Jesus adds even more requirements that are not in the Mosaic Law, telling him he needs to sell everything he owns, give to the poor, and follow Him. This is apparently too much for the rich young man who walks away sad and unwilling to obey.

Right after that event, Jesus explains the point of their conversation:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23-26)

The point of the conversation was to show us that the bar of perfection is so high that it’s impossible for anyone to become right with God under their own power. Our only hope comes from God Himself. We can be made righteous only through faith in Jesus, not through following the Law.

This is exactly what Peter was talking about at the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 when he addressed his fellow Jews about trying to require Gentiles to follow the Mosaic Law:

“Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:10-11)

And it’s what Paul was talking about in Romans 7 where he tells us that the law may be good, perfect and holy but it cannot help us be good, perfect or holy. The Law functioned in God’s purpose as a temporary covenant from Moses until John the Baptist announced Christ. (See Galatians 3:16-19, Matthew 11:12-13, and Luke 16:16)

If we have to keep the Law in order to be saved, then the work that Jesus did for us on the cross was pointless.

Justin said:

If you want to believe in the demonic doctrine that the church teaches about imputed righteousness—and by that I mean believing that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you will be saved, and every time God looks at you He doesn’t see your sin, all he sees is Jesus’s righteousness—then that’s on you, brother. I cannot control what you are going to believe. But 1 John 3:7 is very clear and even starts out calling us “little children” because little children are easily deceived:

Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Christ is righteous. (1 John 3:7)

Does that sound like you can be righteous just because Yeshua lived a perfect life? No! Otherwise, it would have said, “Jesus did righteousness, therefore I impute his righteousness on you and you don’t have to live righteously.” But it didn’t say that. It says, those that do righteousness, that means we ourselves have to DO IT, then and only then, will it be counted unto us as righteousness. And it goes onto say you will be righteous as Christ was. You aren’t righteous just because Christ is righteous. That my friend is a TWISTING of the scriptures that the church does all so well.

I replied:

I love you, Justin, but saying we need to earn our own salvation or that we are required to keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved is a dangerous distortion of Scripture. As your brother I would urge you to spend more time in Scripture with an open heart, letting it tell you what it says, rather than looking for proof texts that support what you already think.

Technically I agree with you that we aren’t righteous just because Christ is righteous. It takes more than that; we have to believe in Christ in order for our scarlet sins to be made white as snow. But you can’t build an accurate theology on one or two verses. We have to survey Scripture as a whole so that we can then read all the various passages in context and in harmony. While I admire your passion, you’re in very dangerous waters if you’re preaching that there is any way for any person to earn or work his way into salvation.

In light of the whole teaching of Scripture, the passage you brought up (1 John 3:7) does not ultimately teach that we are made righteous (right with God / saved) through our own efforts. The New Testament clearly describes the method of man’s salvation as the “righteousness of God” (John 3:16-17, Rom 3:21-22, Rom 10:3, Philippians 3:9) and specifically, the righteousness of Yeshua (1 Cor 1:30 and also 2 Cor 5:21).

Salvation by grace through faith is not a “demonic twisting” of Scripture. I would be very interested to see on what you are basing that accusation. Ephesians 2 couldn’t be more clear:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Same with Galatians 2:

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

Or Romans 3:22, “…righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…”

The “good works” we are to do are the fruit of our salvation, not a pre-condition for it. Consider Abraham, as described in Genesis, and again in Romans 4:

“If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:2-5, emphasis mine.)

And again in Galatians 3:

“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:5-7, emphasis mine)

Romans 5 explains that God provided His righteousness apart from works because Christ died for us before we even did anything righteous:

“…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

There are a host of other Scriptures that carry this same theme:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 5:24

Justin said:

Okay, well first off, your response sounds like you are trying to put words in my mouth. In my original post, all I did was quote what Yeshua said. He said if you want eternal life, keep the commandments. Should we just cross that scripture out?

I believe that there is a difference between redemption and salvation and I believe the church preaches them as the same thing when they aren’t the same thing. Here is the definition of both words:

noun 1. The action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

Redemption is something Yeshua (Jesus) did when he died for humanity. He cleared a debt but that isn’t the same thing as salvation.

1. Preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.

Obeying the Torah (Gods instructions) will keep you safe and deliver you from harm, ruin, and loss.

Redemption comes through Yeshua dying on the cross. Salvation comes through obedience to the Torah. Once you accept Yeshua as the sacrifice for your “redemption,” then the Bible talks about working out your soul “salvation” with fear and trembling.

I replied:

Hey Justin! I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth. Sorry if it came across that way! And I certainly am not saying we should cross any scripture out. I’m saying we shouldn’t interpret single verses or passages in a vacuum.

According to Dictionary.com, “redemption” and “salvation”, when used in the theological sense, are in fact the same thing:

The New Testament, when taken as a whole, clearly describes our salvation/redemption as coming through faith in Yeshua, not through works or the Law. (See the previous verses I provided, especially Ephesians 2:8-9.)

I have to disagree that obeying the Torah will keep us safe and deliver us from harm, ruin, and loss. Why? Because of all the people in the Bible who obeyed the Torah and suffered harm, ruin and/or loss: Abraham, Moses, David, Noah, Job, John The Baptist, Paul, etc. What is your Scriptural basis for this claim?

I also completely disagree that salvation comes through obedience to the Torah because the Bible disagrees with that statement. What is your Scriptural basis for this claim?

As of the posting of this blog, Justin has not replied.

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