This is a guest post by Levitt, and is Part Four of a series on Messianic Jews and Torah.
In Matthew 5, Yeshua starts to reveal something new and different from what has gone before: the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. This is a vast topic, and I write with a trepidation as I only understand a little of what the Kingdom is. I understand tiny parts, occasionally I get a glimpse of this glorious Kingdom, and I want to share some ideas with you. Perhaps you can help me to understand as well, and make suggestions.
The first thing about a Kingdom is it needs a King. The realm or sphere (Kingdom) in which one thing is dominant the (King). Well we know the King of this Kingdom is Yeshua. This Kingdom is some what different from the political or territorial units we see here on earth. It is eternal, heavenly and Godly. Yeshua starts his teaching about the Kingdom here, and it is entirely different from the kingdoms we see on earth. Those who are poor and meek will have the Kingdom, is a sharp contrast to today where the rich and strong have the Kingdom of this Earth (Matt 5:3-6). A kingdom needs a constitution, that is a set or rules for government and its structure. This often takes the form of a written document. Here Yeshua starts explain the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven with the statement “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….”.
When the nation of Israel was formed it to had a “constitution” that enumerated and limited the functions and powers of entities within, and gave laws to its subjects on how to live. For instance the Torah outlined the structure for worship and Levitical priesthood. The constitution of the Kingdom of Israel is the Law of Moses. But what is the name of the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven. Paul gives us an insight in Galatians 6:2, “The Law of Messiah”. So what is the Law of Messiah, and how does it contrast with Moses?
In Matthew 5 we see 6 units of teaching each introduced by the phrase “You have heard that it was said”. Some of these have additions. For instance the 6th commandment says “You shall not murder” and Yeshua adds “you shall not be angry”. The 7th commandment says “You shall not commit adultery” and Yeshua adds that “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And so I could go on – perhaps in a later post I will outline the Law of Messiah in more detail.
What is interesting is some of the omissions. Take Sabbath, throughout the Gospels there is a tension between Yeshua and the religious leaders regarding his approach to Sabbath. Perhaps a key verse is Matthew 12:8 where Yeshua states, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”. In this verse He puts himself above the Sabbath, and states that it is subject to Him. I can’t find any Gospel account where he instructs us to keep Sabbath. However Hebrews 4:4 talks about us entering in to His Sabbath rest , and the writer encourages us to be diligent and enter into the rest in Hebrews 4:11. In Colossians 2:16-17 we read “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Messiah”. I can’t find a direct New Testament command to keep Sabbath.
Yeshua never came to destroy the law, but to fulfill everyone of its requirements on our behalf, which He did through His redemptive work. The tension in this passage is He then says, that “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
So what is Yeshua referring to? And to which commandments: the Mosaic Law or the Law of Messiah? It’s unlikely to be Mosaic Law, as Gentiles would have to be circumcised, the Book of Galatians would be a book of heresy; Colossians would be most wrong on it’s Sabbath teaching, and the Book of Hebrews would be an extraordinary violation since it clearly states that the entire sacrificial system, temple worship and Levitical priesthood has been annulled (Hebrews 7:18).
In my previous blogs, I explained how the Levitical Priesthood had been replaced by the order of Melchizedek. Clearly then Yeshua must be referring to the commandments He then gives, starting with the 6 units beginning “You have heard that it was said”.
So where does this leave regarding with Torah observance?
The Apostle Paul, explained it well when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Messiah), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”.
Paul was happy to be Torah observant and Torah disobedient, but He was always Messiah’s-Law-observant! He didn’t observe Torah because he felt a duty or a compulsion. He did it to win souls in to the Kingdom of Heaven. We do God no favors in our Torah observance as our works are filthy rags. He wants us to be free. Free to be Torah observant and free to not be Torah observant. Yet we read in James 2:8-13 how we are compelled to obey the Law of Messiah, which is the Royal Law and the Law of Liberty as found in Leviticus 19:18: “ You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ”