Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Taking a Deeper Look at Torah and Grace | Part One

Taking a Deeper Look at Torah and Grace | Part One
Shabbat | 2 May 2015 | 13 Iyyar 5775
28th Day of the Omer 
Well, you will notice right off that you're not seeing what you normally would when you bring up this blog. A word of explanation if I may. For you who have been with us for any period of time and read the weekly introduction you’ll know that the Torah is divided into roughly fifty-two weekly portions. Thus in a year’s time the entirety of the first five books of our Bible—or Torah—are covered, give or take, depending on the Jewish calendar for that particular year. While the corresponding Haftarah portions are consistent from year to year as chosen by the Jewish sages the B’rit Chadashah will vary depending on who may be doing the choosing of that corresponding portion at any given time. 
Thus we have each year fifty-two, give or take, independent projects to individually research, jointly hash out, write on, then edit and format for the blog—all before you hit the search button on your computer and and take a look at what has been done. As you might guess this all takes a bit of time. But this is our labor of love. It is what we believe to be  Adonai’s number one project for us at this phase of our lives. And we continue to be excited about it.
We started this weekly production in 2011. Needless to say what with all that life brings - and that by God’s hand we trust - we have not finished each of the fifty-two weekly offerings. And when a previously done portion comes up in the rotation it always gets reworked and upgraded, sometimes almost completely. So we’re still plugging away at it. By our last count we are shy about sixteen portions, but that also includes the weeks with “double portions.” So, a word of thanks to those of you who have faithfully hung in there with us as we have pressed forward to the finish line. Ah, and when might that line be reached, you ask? Well, only the Master knows.
This week and perhaps the following will be one of those times when the usual format will not appear. As it happens, and by Divine appointment we trust, our scheduling has been reworked. However, I can promise you that the Lord willing, all will return to normal soon.
But for now, and not to leave you empty handed, I thought you might like to look at the subject of, “Transition.” 

It was only two or so days ago that my dear wife Sarah said to me, “I’m surprised the deprogrammers haven’t come to our door yet to get you away and remove this Torah thinking you have running around in your head.” You may wonder what she meant by that. Let me explain.

It was in September of 1964 that Jesus of Nazareth became my Lord and Savior. I soon  affiliated with a fundamental, Bible believing church, later obtained a four year Bible college degree (BS) in Bible and a three year seminary degree (M. Div.) in theology. This was followed by a number of years pastoring in two conservative churches and ministering as a Reserve Navy Chaplain. There were some good years of service to our Lord, but unfortunately many bad years lived outside of His will as well.     

However, throughout that entire time, these past fifty years of being a believer, through the good and the bad this among other things had always been a constant in my belief system: Christ through His death did away with the Law. And that annulment of the Law radically changed every believer’s position before His Maker, from one of “bondage” under the Law, to one of “freedom” outside of the Law.

Now, moving on with the story, Sarah and I met many years down the road and after some time married. Just celebrated our fifth anniversary by the way. They have been good years of personal and joint growth in our Lord. As well and not unlike other folks we have had our difficult moments to navigate.  One has been finding a church that we both could feel comfortable in. This would get almost embarrassing at times. For example, I once found myself actually saying to the pastor, “But I don’t believe like she does.” Yes, I have apologized to her and never made that mistake again. You see we skipped that section of Pre-Marital 101 that dealt with your future spouse's theological nuances. 

As it turned out Sarah has always had a consistent walk with the Lord. And having served in a Jewish ministry for over twenty years, I assumed that she would naturally hold a view of a believer’s present day relationship to the Law that would be similar to mine. Sarah on the other hand had assumed my position on the believer’s present relationship to the Law to at least be close to hers since I was living a turned around life, obedient to the Word, and  its Author. Some may see this as a case of us both just plain stuck on “dumb.” Hopefully you can downgrade it to “naivety.” For the Lord, however, I think it was “divine orchestration.”

One of the many things that drew us together was our love for writing, writing of Him and His Word. And when we discussed the concept of a fresh approach to handling the weekly Torah portion, it resonated immediately with both of us. So every week as the next portion was unpacked and written on we batted the Law-Grace thing back and forth. 

It was fun then, though now I see some of my writing as theologically inconsistent. Thus I have a little rewriting ahead of me as we review weekly portions already done.

But what of “divine orchestration?” Well, after a long distance move and much church hunting we thought we had found a traditional congregation I could be happy in and Sarah could love because of the Pastor’s respect and handling of the Law issues. The crazy thing for me however was the excellent teaching the Pastor was doing out of Psalm 119. Though this was not his intent I’m sure, I began to see things much differently. 

This, with five years now of Law-Grace discussion between Sarah and myself, and my further independent study, simply raised too many questions that didn’t produce acceptable answers. All of this was nothing short of the orchestration of the Divine.

After discussion with Sarah, we decided that we should take a break from church, “traditional church,” and just be fully immersed in studying out this issue. After all I was now at a place where I had to have Adonai’s answer to this Law-Grace issue. At my request the Pastor and I sat down and I laid out what had been going on. I told him Sarah and I would be leaving for a while, perhaps permanently, in an effort for me to settle on the truth. Ever gracious he told me he understood, and gave me some guidance, which I both appreciated and followed, in how to conduct this search. He also told me that for him the issue of Christ’s death bringing an end to the Law had been resolved in the book of Galatians.

Subsequent to that meeting and many hours of prayerful study, I now rest in what I believe is my Maker’s answer to me. Christ’s death did NOT do away with the New Testament believer’s responsibility to be obedient to the Old Covenant or Mosaic Law as delivered at Sinai. 

Rather, it's the New Testament believer’s privilege to have the 613 commandments* found throughout the Law (as they may apply today) to live by. 

These, in addition to the 1,050 commands found in our New Testament are our guidelines for walking the path of a godly life. 

I am still, as I have always been, a sinner saved by grace through faith in the once for all work of Christ’s death on the cross for me, and the whole of humanity. 
My salvation, as is yours, and the rest of humanity, is dependent entirely apart from any work or merit I might add to it. 
And as well, I am humbled beyond any possible expression at YHVH (our God) extending such grace in both the time of the Old Covenant and the New that we might have His Word, His WHOLE Word to live by. 

And, guess what as well. I can now look with understanding at Sarah and I - once two polar opposites on the Law-Grace issue—meeting, marrying, and writing, as nothing short of the divine orchestration of our Heavenly Father. Thank you, Lord.

I am so anxious to share with you what I have learned in this five year walk to my new view on the Law. And Lord willing, I will. There will be weeks when for reasons mentioned above you’ll not find the usual presentation. Those will be the times that I will say more on this. And perhaps as He allows, even in addition to, “the usual.” And we will be getting into Galatians to see how the Law perspective might just really make sense in this Law-Grace issue. But for now may I just leave you with this?

When giving the Great Commission our Lord Jesus (Yeshua) said this, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18b-20

Question? What had He commanded them?
Answer? Much, and it included the Mosaic Law.
Ask yourself: By what authority?
And: Who had the authority to change that?

Read Matthew 23:1-3:
         “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the  
          Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they 
         tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say
         things and do not do them.'”

Conclusion? While the scribes and Pharisees did not live the Law, they taught it. That which they taught, the disciples were to DO. 

The word “do” is an “imperative” in the original language. No options, no choices, just do it, this is a command. And what was part of the command of the Great Commission?

Not just disciple, but teach the discipled, the Law.

More...when we return to this subject in more depth, and begin unpacking many of the difficult passages that cause Christians to believe that the Torah, "the Law," is not for today... 

Until then, may the LORD bless you richly!
Michael Showalter

*The identification and categories leading to the traditional view that there are 613 commandments contained in the Torah is attributed to early Jewish sages. The bulk of Torah commandments were applicable only to the priesthood and could only be performed when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, therefore, we are not allowed to perform those commandments today. In essence, we are being obedient by NOT doing much of what was written, as it would be considered "strange fire." If one is thoughtful and prayerful in reading through the foundational Scriptures, this becomes apparent.