Galatians and Obedience

Romans 10.4

I have been reading an online dialog among believers. Some of them follow Torah and some don't; each is trying to explain to the others why he walks as he does. In the minds of those who don't follow Torah, the discussion ultimately turns on the precise meaning of words written in Greek and upon syllogistic reasoning. Therein lies a trap and the basis of much of the error of the modern day church.

There are two questions here, the first is whether Paul's letters to the churches in Galatia and Rome free modern day believers from a requirement to follow the Torah. The second is why such fierce insistence that the church should have nothing to do with the Torah?

Restating the first question, does God care how we behave and, if so, does he provide precise instructions on how to behave properly? The answer to the first part of the question is clearly affirmative. Throughout both testaments we find an emphasis on obedience. The difference between the two lies in specificity. The Torah gives fairly detailed instructions on how to conduct commerce, how to protect life, how to deal with servants, how to handle marriage issues, etc. There are specific instructions or case studies that apply to every aspect of our lives. God clearly cares about the most minute details of our lives and gives us practical guidance for each and every one.

The NT is different, there the guidance is most often given in broad general terms; 'Love God and love your neighbor', 'Insofar as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone', 'Forgive your brother seventy times seven times', etc. One could fairly characterize the NT as reminders of principle. To Jews who know the Torah, it is easy to get caught up in the details and miss the big picture. Y'shua is constantly calling the religious leaders to task. He does not chastise their actions; in fact, he complements them. Rather his criticism is with their hearts.

So, if we take as a working hypothesis that the two testaments are one, the first giving details the second principles or policies1, where do Galatians and Romans fit into this pattern? Clearly two letters do not negate the lessons of obedience taught by the rest of the Bible and emphasized by the Messiah Himself. So how did we get to the point where much of the Body clings to these letters and throws out the whole Torah?

The answer lies in the difference between the Greek and the Hebrew ways of looking at things. The Greek way is that of intellect and logic. While Hebrews are neither stupid nor illogical, their perspective is obedience based and holistic. To the Greek if a thing is 'A' then it cannot also be 'not A'. Thus, if the Law is a curse, it cannot also be a blessing. To an Hebrew the Torah is a blessing and a curse, it is life and it is death, but always it is the teaching of a loving father who must be obeyed. As you walk in obedience, your understanding deepens. Study and intellect are important, but not so much so as obedience.

In the above-mentioned internet discussion, those who are not Torah observant always drive the discussion to logical examination of minutiae and careful parsing of Greek words. For example, they expended considerable bandwidth on Rom 10:4, 'For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.' The dispute was whether the word 'end' meant terminus or object. If the former, then the Law evaporated upon the death and resurrection of the Messiah. If the latter, then the Law simply pointed to Him and is still very much in effect.

While to an 'Hebrew', the whole debate misses the point, to a 'Greek' it is vital. In his mind if the proposition 'not A' can be demonstrated using one or more proof texts, then he has won the argument and need not further concern himself with the Torah. Since most 'Greek' believers would never murder, steal, bear false witness, etc., why such adamancy that the Torah is done away with?

There's a problem with Torah, it is written down and it is not subject to change. Since we know that our behavior often does not measure up to God's written standard, life is much more comfortable if we can substitute standards which cannot be measured such as 'Christian love' or the "Spirit's leading". This allows each to do 'what is right in his own eyes', comfortable in the belief that his motives are pure and any transgression will be covered over by God's mercy. If we look at the state of the Body of Christ today, we see the results of this shift from objective to subjective standards.

The Torah is still very much in force and the body of Messiah needs it now more than ever. It is life and health and peace, given to us by a loving father who very much wants us to succeed.

1This is clearly a simplification, the NT is much more, but it serves to illustrate the point.