Zach & The Law (Pt. 2)
Welcome to part two of my critique of the video “Moral Laws & The Covenant” by Zach Bauer. Bauer is a charming fellow who preaches a new belief system called Torahism which holds that Christians are supposed to return to keeping the Torah of the Old Testament because we are believed to still be under the Law of Moses.
In this video, Bauer is answering a question he received from a viewer about Jesus’ fulfillment of the covenant and the idea that the moral laws are still to be followed but the ritualistic laws are not. In part one of this article, I dealt with Bauer’s erroneous interpretation of the word fulfill in Matthew 5:17; a misinterpretation which subsequently opens the door to one of the major errors found in Torahism. But there’s a lot more to be said about this video. Here in part two, I will examine Bauer’s comments about the existence of
The Bible Doesn’t Say “Moral Law”
At about six minutes into this video, Bauer takes on a common objection he encounters, telling us, “People will often come to me and say, ‘Well, Zach, you’re following the ceremonial laws but it’s only the moral laws that need to be followed today.’” His response to this objection is to claim that the phrases “moral law” and “ceremonial law” are nowhere to be found in the Bible. And he’s right. However, it does not logically follow that because a particular word or phrase is not found in the Bible, the concept that it describes is not found in the Bible either.
For example, we can talk about God’s omnipotence, His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His divinity despite none of those words appearing in the Bible. And then there’s incarnation, atheism, monotheism, transfiguration, and Bible. None of these words appear in Scripture either, but all of the concepts that they describe do. So the question isn’t whether or not the Bible contains the phrase “moral law,” but rather does it contain the concept described by that phrase. In other words, does the Bible contain a set of laws that are moral in nature?
Bauer goes on to allege that Christianity has conveniently divided the Law into different, extra-biblical categories so that Christians can pick and choose which rules we want to follow. And he provides some scriptural examples, starting with Leviticus 18:22, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Christian denominations, Zach explains, are quick to tell us that homosexuality is wrong based on the verse above. But then in the next chapter of the same book, we find a commandment that Christian churches do not teach. Namely, Leviticus 19:30, “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.”
Bauer claims that modern Christians say we don’t have to keep the Sabbath because “Jesus is our rest now”. He continues, “Jesus also says He is the Bread of Life. Do you not eat bread anymore
There are several issues with Zach’s line of reasoning that need to be addressed. Let’s start with the easiest one first.
Metaphors vs. Theological Concepts
When Jesus said He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) He was clearly speaking metaphorically, not literally. We know this because Jesus was not actually made of bread. And Jesus never said, “I am the Living Water”. (Perhaps Bauer was thinking of John 4:10 where He said He will give us living water?) But even if you want to refer to Jeremiah 2:13 and 17:13 where the prophet describes God as “the spring of living water,” we know this is metaphorical language as well because God is not actually water.
Over against those metaphors we have the theological concept that Jesus is now our Sabbath rest. This idea ideally requires a level of detail that is out of scope for this article, but let me try to provide a short explanation. A careful study of Genesis 2:1-3 in its original language reveals that the true Sabbath is not the keeping of a special day but rather the ending of a specific effort. That is what
This brings us to the issue of Christians “picking and choosing” the laws they want to follow. Bauer gave us that example of modern Christians agreeing that homosexuality is a sin, but disagreeing about the keeping of the weekly Sabbath. And he’s right about that. But he glosses over the reason Christians follow the one and not the other. Instead, he simply claims that the reason is “so Christians can pick and choose the ones they want to follow”, with no evidence offered to support his allegation.
The New Testament repeats the Old Covenant commandments about homosexuality but treats the Sabbath in a whole different way. In the New Testament, we read many accounts of Jesus challenging the Jews about the heart of Sabbath and even bringing a new meaning to it. (Matt 12:1-12, Mark 2:27-28, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:1-11, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 14:1-6, John 5:16-18, John 7:21-24, John 9:13-17) Bear in mind that at the time Jesus spoke these words, the old covenant was still in effect. But Jesus spoke them knowing that shortly, upon His resurrection, that covenant would become obsolete and the New Covenant would begin. And at that time Jesus would become our Sabbath rest in the original Hebrew sense of “the ending of a specific effort”.
It’s evident that Christians have not determined which laws are to be followed based on cherry-picking or personal preference, but rather through a careful reading of the whole of Scripture. Which brings us to our main point, the existence of a moral law.
That Pesky Moral Law
What exactly are Christian theologians talking about when they use the term “moral law”? To understand that we need to understand a bit about the law of Moses. The Torah contains a collection of commandments that God revealed to Moses as recorded in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). Jewish tradition holds that there are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah. These commandments cover a wide range of topics from clothing, to food, to sex, to sacrifice, to religious observances, and so on.
The law of Moses was given as part of God’s covenant with Israel made on Mount Sinai. In his video, Bauer nicely sums what happened to this agreement, saying, “The group that signed the original covenant? They were cast out because of their disobedience. And now there’s a new covenant.” Jesus brought us a new covenant. In fact, He is the New Covenant. And as you might expect, the New Testament is replete with passages concerning the relationship between the Old and New Covenants, some of which I’ve discussed in past articles, including here and here.
So what’s different about the New Covenant? Bauer points out one significant difference: whereas the Old Covenant only included Jews, the New Covenant is open to anyone who believes in Jesus, Jew or Gentile (Rom 10:12-13; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11). Another big difference is that the animal sacrifices required under the law of Moses are no longer necessary because Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all (Mark 10:45, John 1:29, Rom 3:25, 1 John 2:2, Heb 10:8-10). And herein lies the rub.
Of the 613 commandments in the Torah, about 150 deal with sacrifices, which were to be continually repeated on an annual basis. And when Jesus’ resurrection ushered in the New Covenant all those sacrificial commandments (nearly 25% of the law of Moses) became obsolete (Heb 8:13). The sacrificial commandments in the Torah were shadows that pointed to the real thing (Heb 10:1, Col 2:17), and the Real Thing had arrived and provided the final sacrifice for all. Those laws were not abolished or done away with, but rather brought to completion by Jesus (Matt 5:17-20, John 19:30, Rom 3:24-25). The Law was never able to make us perfect or holy:
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship”Hebrews 10:1
This means that, contrary to what Torahism teaches, the terms of the New Covenant are different than the terms of the Old Covenant. They are different by at least 150 commandments. Which naturally makes one wonder. Are there are any other commandments of the Torah that were satisfied by the work of Jesus? Are there any commandments that still remain valid? Have any new commandments been added by Jesus?
A careful reading of the New Testament reveals that a great many commandments from the Mosaic Law were specifically endorsed and upheld by Jesus and the New Testament authors (Matthew 15:18-20, Matt 19:4-6, Romans 1:26-27). Other commandments were not mentioned in the New Testament.
And we also find that Jesus has given us a number of new commandments which are not found in the Torah in either word or meaning, including Matt 4:19, Matt 5:23-24, Matt 5:34, Matt 5:44, Mark 16:15, and John 13:34. This fact alone is a game-changer! The Torahist cannot follow the Torah as it was given to Moses and follow Yeshua (Jesus). Torahists are operating under the old Law and they do not believe in the deity of Yeshua. So in their worldview, Yeshua could not have added anything to the Torah or He wouldn’t be the Messiah. So what will they do with this contradiction? We’ll have to see.
Where Does This Leave Us?
We followers of Jesus ultimately find ourselves with a collection of commandments that are substantially different than the collection that made up the Torah. And interestingly, the New Covenant commandments are all concerned with issues of morality, hence the moniker “moral law”. This makes perfect sense because, unlike the commandments that dealt with sacrificial and ceremonial issues, these moral commandments are rooted in God’s unchanging nature as holy and morally perfect. And they can be summed in the two greatest moral statements of all time; love God and love people. (Matthew 22:36-40) I personally love the fact that these two greatest commandments both come from the Torah because it underscores the beautiful truth that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. What an amazing God we serve!