Understanding Covenants and the Two Aspects of Torah

Many people have read the Scriptures and they notice that certain things aren’t done anymore or they wonder if a covenant is “forever” even  if things change. So, in this article we are going to deal with that question and the question about the role of the Torah in the life of a believer. These two things are essential if you are going to understand the Scriptures. Let’s deal with the question of covenants. The covenants in the Scriptures are for the natural children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Gentiles were once “cut off” from these covenants (Eph 2.11-22), as Yeshua directed his earthly ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But, things were about to change (John 4.24). After the resurrection,  the Talmidim (Apostles) were directed to go to all nations and to br8ng the Basorah, the good news, that the Messiah had come. Gentiles are brought near to the covenants by emunah (faith) through the blood of Yeshua and are in union with believing Jews. But, didn’t Yeshua say in Matt 5.17-19 that he did not come to destroy (by misinterpretation) the Torah and the Prophets? Didn’t he say that not one jot (letter “yod” in Hebrew) or tittle (decorative crowns above certain letters) would disappear until everything was fulfilled by correct interpretation? And did he not say that anyone who annulled the least of these commandments would be least in the Kingdom? So, how can things change in the Scriptures? Here is what needs to be understood.

Laws are valid, but they can change in application and administration. Laws concerning the Temple, the priesthood and the sacrifices are valid but they can change in how they are applied. For instance, the High Priesthood went from the house of Eleazar, son of Aaron to the house of Ithamar. Eli was from Ithamar, but his house was cut off and it went to a dual high priesthood with Zadok and Abiathar, who were descended from Eleazar, then to just Zadok because he was faithful to Solomon when Adonijah rose up against him.  The Passover changed from the Egyptian to what they would do in the Temple once they were in the land. How can Yeshua be high priest and not from Levi? All meat was to be brought to the doorway of the Mishkan, but later to “your gates ” (Deut 20.20-26). The morning Tamid offering will be offered in Ezekiel’s Temple, but not the afternoon one. Ezekiel’s Temple will be different than the one given to David. Priests will no longer be able to marry a widow in Messianic Kingdom (Ezek 44.22). The Temple will not be in Jerusalem in the Kingdom (Ezek 48.1-8). Eventually, there will be no Temple at all.

The answer to all this is that laws are valid in purpose but they can change in application. The Torah is eternal as the whole, revealed Word of God and none of it will be discarded until all is fulfilled. But, some of it does change in how it is applied and administered. In Jer 31 we have the circumcision of the heart, which is done by God and it is the circumcision required in the “New” (chadash means repaired, renewed, rebuilt, reaffirmed) Covenant. Another thing to understand. Torah does not mean “law” but it means “teaching, guidance and instruction.” The Greek word “nomos” (meaning law) was used for Torah, but it is not an accurate meaning.  The Torah may not have to be “in force” at all to still be Torah. All it has to do is reveal the heart and character of God as a guide on how to think and act. The Torah also contained history, culture, genealogies and language. An eternal Torah would not require that there be a set of eternally binding or “in force” regulations. 

Now, there is another aspect to the Torah that we need to discuss so that you have a proper understanding of the Scriptures.  In Gal 3.24-25 the Torah was equated to a tutor. Then it says that now since faith has come, we are no longer under the care of the tutor. Many unlearned people have interpreted this to mean that now that we are saved, we are not under the law anymore. That is a gross misunderstanding of the concept that is being discussed here. 

The Torah plays two roles, one is educational and the other is judicial. The word for “tutor” in Galatians is the word “paidagogos” which means a guardian ,trustee or tutor over young children. When they reached maturity, they did not need the tutor anymore. Now, when we were unbelievers the Torah played a “judicial” or tutorial role in our lives. By demanding death for our sins, the Torah held us “under arrest” or “indictment” demanding punishment for our sins. The Torah has not been done away with, it is what every human being will be judged by if they do not repent. But, once faith comes and we are saved (maturity), the Torah as a “tutor” is no longer needed. The Torah does not demand our death anymore and it no longer identifies us as sinners because the record of our sins has been erased. The curse of the Torah (death) is gone (Gal 3.13).  Now the educational aspect of the Torah is in place and the Torah becomes our teacher and it reveals the way we should walk before the Lord. It reveals what the will of God is and what we should follow.  It has commandments, statutes and judgments but we can also glean instruction from the histories, narratives and genealogies. Looking at the Hebrew words and letters can give us more instruction. There is no end to what we can be guided by in the Torah. Understanding covenants and the two aspects of the Torah will help you have a clearer understanding of the Word of God and help you come to grips with some hard to understand concepts.

Posted in Articles, Prophecy/Eschatology, Questions, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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