Law vs. Spirit
In this newsletter we want to look at the law verses the Spirit. To begin, we have to understand what is meant by the term law. So we are going to take a closer look at what is meant by the law and how it has an impact on our lives.
The law, or the correct name “Torah,” in Hebrew means “teaching” or “instruction.” The Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible which were written by Moses. The Torah consists of 613 commands. There are 248 yes-do commands such as pray or honor your father and your mother and 365 do-not-do commands such as do not steal or kill. There are Levitical laws which are the laws concerning the priesthood and the Temple, and there are civil laws which are laws concerning the nation of Israel and many of which our laws are based on. There are laws concerning the people and their relationship to God and neighbor. For this newsletter, we want to look only at the keeping of the law that pertained to our relationship with God and neighbor.
God’s Word is who He is. It was by His Word that He created and His Word is His revelation to us of who He is and that is what He gave His people on Mount Sinai. But before the giving of the Torah at Sinai, God had given many of these commands even as far back as Adam because His Word is eternal. Over and over again God said to the people that they should be careful to keep all the words written in the Book of the Law (Torah). This is God’s command from the time it was given all throughout; we even see this in Yeshua’s ministry.
Yeshua and the Law
Matthew records that Yeshua, when speaking to the crowd on the mountain during what we call the Sermon on the Mount, tells the people right up front that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. If you put this in Hebrew, the words in bold which are in question, Yeshua was telling the people that He was not going to abolish the law by teaching it incorrectly but that He was going to fulfill it by correctly teaching it. Who better to teach torah than Yeshua, who is the embodiment of the Torah? We see time after time that Yeshua says, “It is written,” referring to the Scriptures, or, “It is said,” referring to the oral Torah (which is the verbal part of the Torah that God spoke to Moses and was not written down), “But I say,” and Yeshua will expound on a commandment, never nullifying it, but only teaching it correctly in its full meaning. So Yeshua loved the law.
Yeshua told the Parable of the Sower, He said that when the torah is received and understood that it would then bear fruit. Yeshua was more or less saying that when you receive Me, the living Torah, and you understand My ways and who I am, then you will bear fruit. When explaining the parable, He began by saying, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom . . . “. He then proceeded to tell other parables about the kingdom referring to it as seed, leaven, hidden treasure, a costly pearl, and a great dragnet cast into the sea gathering fish of every kind. Yeshua was talking about the Word of God, the Torah, God’s teaching and revelation of Himself. It is the seed to be planted in the garden of our hearts, it is the leaven that grows, it is the hidden treasure that’s worth selling everything for to get it, and it is the pearl of great value. Yeshua tells the people, “If you love Me you will keep My commands.” At the time of Yeshua, the only commands that were written were those in the Book of the Law, the Torah; and basically they are the same commands even today because Yeshua is the Word made flesh and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yeshua was all for the Torah because that is who He is, the living Torah.
Paul and the Law
The thinking in the church over the centuries has been that Paul was against the Law. But if you study the Scriptures, you will see just the opposite. Of course, this makes perfect sense being that Yeshua was not against the law; why should His followers be? Paul tells the Romans that the law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. He says that without the law he would not have known sin. He tells the Galatians that the law is our tutor leading us to Messiah. Paul tells the Philippians that he was circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee. As you can see, Paul did not say that he was a Pharisee but that he is a Pharisee. Paul tells the Corinthians to celebrate the Feast of Passover not with the leaven of malice and wickedness (this is because leaven represents sin), but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. So Paul, even though he was a believer in Yeshua, still lived and practiced the law as a Pharisee.
We recently celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. On the first Pentecost, God gave the people of Israel the Torah. The Scripture records it this way in Exodus 19:4-6: God calls Moses up the mountain of Sinai and says to him, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the people, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you are to speak to the sons of Israel.” Exodus 19:7 records Moses going to the people and telling them all that God spoke to him and in verse 8 the people reply, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” So Moses goes up to the mountain and brings back the words of God, but when he gets back there are the people dancing around a golden calf worshiping it as their god. We see all through the Hebrew Scriptures that the people fall repeatedly into sin and God has to even exile them from the land. So the question is, why? Paul talks about the law being weak, and yet he concludes that the law is holy and righteous. So why could they not keep the law? Did they not love God?
Before the death and resurrection of Yeshua, He tells His disciples that He was going back to the One who sent Him. He goes on to say that it was for their advantage that He goes and that He was going to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He tells them that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, would come and guide them in all truth. When He was about to ascend back to heaven He tells His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promised Holy Spirit who would empower them to be witnesses in Jerusalem and around the world. Now, in ten days it would be the Feast of Shavuot, or as we call it, Pentecost, both meaning fifty. The disciples would have been counting the Omer up to Pentecost and according to the torah it would have been required of all the men to go up to Jerusalem for this particular feast. So they gather in the upper room, about 120 followers of Yeshua, and pray for the promise. Now on the day of Pentecost, they were gathered in one place (and that place would have been the temple), when suddenly, a noise like a violent rushing wind came and filled the whole house (temple) and fiery tongues appeared upon each one of them and they were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other tongues.
Now, other than the filling of the Holy Spirit, this account was very close to the first Pentecost and the giving of the Law. But there were two different reactions. The first time, the people tell Moses to have God stop speaking to them lest they die, but this time, the apostles start speaking in tongues and Peter gets up and gives a long speech and thousands believe in the Messiah of God.
Death to the Law
Paul tells the Romans that we are to die to the Law through the body of Messiah, that we may be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God. He goes on to say, 1. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit to death; 2. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. So is Paul, who called the Law holy and righteous, contradicting himself by saying that we are no longer under the law? NO! Let’s take a closer look.
Paul speaks in Romans 5 about the sin of Adam. He says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned. For until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” He goes on to say that through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many were made righteous. And the Law came in that transgressions might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Yeshua our Messiah and Lord.
He goes on in Romans 6, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” He goes on to say that we were baptized into Yeshua and into His death so that we may be raised from death to glory in the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. He says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin . . . Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Paul tells the Colossians, “Set your mind on things above not on things that are on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God . . . Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead . . . “. Paul tells us continually to crucify the flesh, to put to death the flesh, that through Yeshua’s death we too can now put to death sin in our flesh. Now remember, the Law was equated with the knowledge of sin. So Paul is not telling us to do away with the Torah, but to do away with the sin that the Torah has revealed to us, those deeds that lead to sin. Before the death of Yeshua, the people could not have this victory over sin, so sin ruled in their flesh and they had no strength in themselves to gain the victory.
Paul tells the Corinthians that their lives are like letters written in their hearts which were read by all men, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. He tells them that we are now servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. Now again, Paul is not saying that the Torah should no longer be kept because the letter kills, but the sin that the Torah exposes is what kills and brings death, for the wages of sin is death but the Spirit brings life and only if we walk by the Spirit will we not carry out the desire of the flesh. Paul goes on in Galatians, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for this opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Why? Because you are not letting your flesh commit the sin that the Torah exposes. Paul goes on to tell about the fruit of the flesh that leads to death and then tells of the fruit of the Spirit which leads to life. He says against such things there is no law because we have crucified our flesh with its passions and desires. So if we live by the Spirit, we ought to walk by the Spirit.
We see then that when we crucify the flesh and put to death our members to sin and begin to walk in the Spirit, then we are born again, born to newness of life and walking in the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) which is now the Law written on our hearts and not on tablets of stone. The people before the crucifixion had no way of keeping the law even though many of them did keep it to the best of their ability; but after the death of Yeshua, we all can be set free from the slavery of sin to be slaves of righteousness; and what is righteous? Paul tells us that it is the Torah. Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 tell us that the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than fine gold; sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
What’s the difference between Moses’ Pentecost and Yeshua’s, the Law of Moses and the New Covenant? Nothing is different but the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who gives us strength to crucify the flesh and live by His Spirit.