How I Came To Abandon “Torah Keeping”

My journey as a believer has taken me through more than my share of denominations and movements. Five in all. They each had unique biblical insights and truths to offer, so each was a helpful step in my growth in understanding…until they no longer were. I typically moved on when the errors they taught became obvious and too overwhelming to put up with.

The particular phase I was in during in the early 2000’s goes by various names such as Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots, Two House and “Torah Keeping.” It involves keeping as much the 613 commandments in the Torah or five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) as one can. The mainstay of these commandments is the Sabbath and the biblical feasts of Leviticus 23 (popularly known mostly as the Jewish holidays) and avoiding unclean meats.

I’m glad I got into Torah keeping. Through it I came to understand a lot more of the Bible than I did before, especially in the area of Bible prophecy. Yet after a few years, diminishing returns set in and more errors came to light, just as I experienced in all other movements/denominations.

Most importantly, I found myself unable to accept that all the Torah were what that Jesus and others in the NT referred to as  the (universal) “commandments of God” (1Jo 5:2-3).

A few people have asked me lately how this came about. Here’s a brief summary:

1) I tried to practice it here in Costa Rica and saw not only was I unsure always on how to do it (calendar wars, Sabbath restriction debates, etc.), but even the ways I thought to try to keep the days God was not providing a way to do it. This seemed odd if I sincerely wanted to obey him and he wanted me to do it, that he was not blessing me with a way to do so.

Likewise, nobody else was really was “keeping Torah.” Instead of doing it all like Israel, they were all picking and choosing what parts God would hold them accountable to do. For example, I didn’t know anyone who went to Jerusalem for Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles as was required on all men. “Oh, well we can’t afford to do that, so God must wink at that one…”

2) I kept studying and seeing many verses that contradicted the Torah keeping premise. Timothy was circumcised not because “it was required on all” but to “please the Jews there.” Acts 15 was getting harder and harder to twist from its more plain reading (see http://www.gci.org/acts/decree1 http://www.gci.org/acts/decree2 ). Galatians was also hard to keep explaining away.

3) I finally learned about the rule of audience and saw how much Christian and Messianic exegesis depends on ignoring the specific audience spoken to and lifting it and making it universal. The audience of Torah was ancient Israel under Moses. You have to prove it is for someone else, not assume it is. (This audience point is a real bombshell because it destroys most of Christian doctrine based on NT passages to specific audiences, like the Great Commission given to the apostles.)

Once I stopped focusing on attempting to do something that was impossible for me to do, an interesting thing happened. While reading the Gospels, I began to notice what Jesus had been wanting for us all along. He never once told people to “keep Torah” (as Torah teachers claim) or defined the Torah as the “commandments of God” that are referenced in the NT (1Jo 5:2-3)  He instead told people to trust God and to love your neighbor as yourself as the universal commandments of God. By loving your neighbor because it’s God’s will, you are obeying and loving God. He said that living that way fulfilled the Torah and the Prophets (the entire Hebrew Bible) and gave you eternal life.

Hebrew Roots had failed to explain what Jesus wanted for us to do, just as all the other denominations I had been in did. It did not put the emphasis on “doing for others what you would want done for you,” as Jesus did (Mt 7:12).

These days I just seek to fulfill the will of God for all men as Jesus himself expressed it. To be sure, loving your neighbor is not as stimulating or interesting as Torah keeping is, so it’s not likely to catch on. It even seems too simple to be correct coming from a 613 commandment Torah-keeping view. But when you make loving God and your neighbor your focus, you find it’s not so easy as it simple. It’s even more challenging than Torah keeping was.

12 thoughts on “How I Came To Abandon “Torah Keeping””

  1. I have seen much of the same impossibility to keep most of the law, and how we would be forced to choose which laws to keep and which to not keep. The commands of Jesus (Matthew 5,6,7) are all we need. The primary covenant that all Gentiles are under is the Noahic covenant, which seems to be what was the basis of the decision in Acts 15.
    I think Hebrew Roots has its benefits at an introductory level, but beyond that it quickly becomes out of bounds with the teaching of the Messiah.

  2. Tim,

    May God forgive me, but it is harder to love your neighbor sometimes, than to keep the 613 commandments! It’s so true what Jesus says in that it’s easy to love those who love you, but to love your enemy, now that’s hard. Again, I pray that everyday I can be closer to loving my neighbor as God would have me.

  3. God does not have to forgive you for admitting you are not great at loving. It is written, “the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jer 17:9). God knew this and is not expecting perfection or it to be easy. He’s very pleased at our intent and attempts.

    If you are seeing the need to love your neighbor as yourself above following anything else you read in the Bible, you are light years ahead of 99% of Christians and Messianics.

    Go and do likewise…

  4. I am a Torah keeper, and I love Torah (Yeshua IS Torah) with all my heart.I do not seek to do ALL the law or to please men… ALL Torah does not apply to anyone.I had been in a congregation that was harsh, then I was “Unchurched” for seven years, and without fellowship. I learned that loving YHWH means that you walk your walk regardless of your circumstances, THAT is the Bible that others can read, and it provokes them to seek the Lord. I will keep Torah because I grew to love it and because I CHOOSE obedience, and can’t WAIT to live in the city of God’s rule with no more sin.YHWH chose me, I chose Torah life.Now I attend an ACTS2 type church with no legalism.It’s a beautiful life!

  5. RJ, Torah is for a nation to keep, not scattered individuals picking and choosing what they wish to try to keep (such as *not* flying to Jerusalem 3x a year) with the excuse that the things that don’t apply to them can be ignored. Any king of Israel and Judah telling God that would have been…well look at the story of David and numbering the people ignoring the Torah command.

    P.S. Yeshua is not the Torah! He is the entire Word of God made flesh. Torah is just a part of the Word of God.

    If we listen to what Yeshua said rather than what we think he is, we find he never said to “do Torah” but instead said to observe six things to enter the kingdom which fulfill all the Torah (Mt 19:17-19=Mt 22:40). The separation of the sheep and goats story is very telling (Mt 25:35). The goats are not those who “did not do Torah” but those who did not love their neighbor as themselves.

  6. Tim you make some points. The Hebraism in Matthew 22: 39-40 is taken from Exodus 20:1-17.

    The very first half is describing how to love God, and the second half is loving your neighbor.

    These are not commands, but sovereign statements. They are a matter of fact.

    One can see this by dissecting each word using the complete word study series in the old testament and new testament, edited by Spiros Zodhiates. They are in two (2) set volumes.

    Both books can be purchased through christian book store.

    Check it out and be blessed.

    Ps. Heaven and Earth have not passed away and neither has the instructions of God.

  7. James, it’s actually a myth that the first half of the ten commandments are love god and the second half is about loving neighbor.

    There are about six commandments in the Torah for loving your neighbor and Jesus quoted these in Mt 19:17-19 as the key to salvation.

    When you do ANY of those commands or ANY of the 607 other commandments in the Torah because you believe it to be God’s will and you want to please him, then you are loving God (“If you love me, keep my commandments”).

    Whether they are sovereign statements or not does not change the fact that 607 of those commandments can only be known through revelation from God that only Israel received.

    The six commandments unto salvation we can discover without the law as Paul said in Romans 2:14. They are universal making salvation universal and available to all men of all time including before the Torah even came.

    The fact that the Torah has not passed away is because it is prophetic and unfulfilled as yet…and this still does not mean people who it was not given to and who do not understand it must (somehow) do it.

  8. If Torah is not important then why is not having it associated with iniquity (grk. anomia) in Matt. 24? Also Moses prophesied to the Israelites that when they returned to Torah, He would regather them from amongst the nations.(Deut. 30) It is becoming more obvious who the remnants of these tribes are today. It is us. Those who want to be engrafted in, follow the same rules. It is one law for Jew and Gentile. Just my thoughts….

    • Who says Torah is not important? It is so important it will not pass away until all of its prophetic statements are fulfilled. But as far as people keeping it, only one ancient people had a covenant requiring they do it and they broke that covenant and were then exiled.

      Therefore, even Israel’s descendants today do not have to keep it, nor can they anyway (Judah stopped being able to keep it in AD 70). That’s why no prophet has been sent to Israel’s descendants since the time of the kings telling them to “return to Torah.” That’s not the plan anymore, not until the New Covenant in the Millennium.

      Mt 24 talks about lawlessness, not “torahlessness.” Plus, it can only be referring to a law that applies to all men, not a law given only to one ancient people. The universal law of God that Jesus said determines who can enter the kingdom (Mt 19:17-19) only requires you love thy neighbor as yourself in the love of God. It’s for salvation. The Law of Moses repeated this universal law and added a bunch of other non-salvation commandments pertaining to Israel living in Canaan. Once they broke that law they lost the right to live in Canaan.

      The “one law for Israel and gentile” did not mean Torah was a universal law for all nations the earth. If you go back to that passage you will see it has to do with foreigners living in Israel. It simply means they had to keep the law of the land, even though they were not Israelite.

      The grafting in that Paul talks about is not into the “Israel tree.” It’s to the “righteous tree” that Israel was in and removed from. This previous blog post covers that.

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