September 2013 Yavoh

Messianic believers today believe that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God. As far as the world is concerned, Messianics are just like Christians. Yet, other Christians don’t see Messianics as Christians. Messianics believe in all of the Hebrew Scriptures, including the Torah, professing that all believers should keep the commandments of God, including the Law of Moses. Christians are perplexed by this. Christians have been told that the Law went away, that Jesus replaced it with something better—grace and forgiveness. As a result, there is a great difference between a Messianic believer and your standard Christian today.

It makes no difference whether the Messianic believer is a family member, a friend, or a former member at the same church, the Christian reaction to a Messianic expressing a positive attitude to the Law is generally a negative one. Churchmen have been indoctrinated that they should not and do not keep the commandments of the Lord.

In an effort to counter my positive testimony of the Torah, I have had many Christians say to me, “I don’t keep the Law; I believe in grace.” They make it sound like grace is the very opposite of keeping commandments. Some of them have even told me that keeping the commandments of the Law is tantamount to denying the Christ and trying to be saved by works.

I was recently given a copy of a book entitled Not Under the Law, by Harry Ramey. The subtitle of the book is “No Sabbaths, No Food Laws, Not Under the Ten Commandments.” [Harry Ramey, Not Under the Law, Fayetteville, NC, 2004]. I must confess that upon receiving the book I started laughing and thought some Christian guy has finally gotten his defiant act together and is saying what most Christians think. I happily reviewed the book, curious to see how he was going to substantiate the book’s title. By the way, you don’t need to get the book. I’ll tell you what he said and comment along the way. He writes in a folksy informal tone, so some of my comments are going to match his style.

In the introduction to his treatise he addresses the obvious conflict of his title with the statement of Yeshua:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. MAT 5:17-19

He then asks, “Does this passage tie us with a logging chain to the Law? Aren’t we bound by Jesus’ word here to keep even the least commandment of the Law?” [Ibid, pg 10]

Note: I’m sure he does not know what the least commandment of the Law is.

His answer stands out as one of the most profound answers I have ever heard given by any Christian to this question.

His answer is…

“Nah.” [Ibid, pg 10]

He then proceeds to reference another chapter that he has written later in the book to substantiate the “Nah.” I will get to that very soon.

I have never heard a brother give a more “nothing answer” to his own question before. My laughter is starting to wane at this point. I usually don’t laugh at people who cannot express themselves well.

He then suddenly jumps to the subject of keeping Sabbath, arguing that there are other Sabbaths besides the weekly one (he references the appointed times with its requirement for “high Sabbaths” for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles). I guess this revelation for Christians is supposed to scare them away from the weekly Sabbath since he assumes they don’t know about the Biblical Feasts. At this point he thinks he is on a roll, and he then shifts to another topic and question.

“Can we pie-graph the Law into three parts and keep only the moral law? Can we even agree what is the moral law is?” [Ibid, pg 10]

Obviously, this is very deep theological stuff. He uses this word picture to parse out the moral law, ceremonial law, etc. that others often do.

Finally, he makes a definitive statement as to what he believes and does not believe. His first statement is as follows:

“I insist the Law can’t be smorgasborded…” “Once you commit to keeping part of the Law you’ve got the whole enchilada!” [Ibid, pg 10]

Amazingly enough, I partly agree with these statements. His word picture is kind of strange though, but don’t be taken in by the morphing of words. He then impugns the Apostle Paul, claiming that he taught “misunderstanding your relationship with the Old Testament Law” puts “you into slavery.”

He then states the purpose of the book is to convince the reader of one thing. “The Law’s been changed.” …that “Christ re-gave it.” [Ibid, pg 10]

He concludes his introduction with:

“Do I keep the Ten Commandments? No. Do I keep the Sabbath? No. Do I keep the dietary law? Do I eat pork? (I’m a hog’s worst nightmare!)” [Ibid, pg 11]

Before he ends his introduction he again threatens the reader with slavery.

“If you try to obey the Old Testament Law to be right with God, you’re under a curse and in slavery.” [Ibid, pg 11]

Mr. Ramey uses his colloquial language to disarm and entreat the reader. By chuckling at his folksy verbiage, one somehow believes he must be making sense. It didn’t work with me. Instead, I detected sarcasm, mockery, haughtiness, and defiance toward God mixed with sheer lack of Biblical understanding.

It is truly sad. I am sure that Mr. Ramey wishes to please the Lord and do the right thing, but he has locked himself into a twisted mess. The very thing that he accuses Messianics of, he himself does. His statements have forced him to flatly ignore the words of the Messiah and to force fit new definitions for words and to develop understandings that are devoid of common sense or wisdom. Did the Messiah say that He had come to change (re-give) the Law?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! Listen to what the Messiah Himself said on that subject.

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. MAT 5:17

There is no alternate or hidden definition of the word fulfill that means “change it up” or “re-give it.” How can Mr. Ramey, or anyone else for that matter, say that the Messiah came to change the Law? Where is the verse? Is there a prophecy that says it? Remember, God (including the Messiah) spoke the Law from Mount Sinai. It was quite a spectacle when it happened. As the Lawgiver Himself, the Messiah came doing the Law. In fact, this the base definition for us to say that He was sinless –He kept the Law! There is no such teaching in Scripture that the Messiah will do anything less than teach the Torah! One of the greatest prophecies of the Messiah is that He will teach the Law to all nations and all peoples.

And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. ISA 2:3

Based on Mr. Ramey’s logic and statements, I don’t believe he even knows of this prophecy. But Mr. Ramey is only speaking what Christians have come to believe. They have been taught by churchmen that the Law has effectively been abolished, rendered null and void, and is of no value as instructions in righteousness any longer. By the way, the author’s argument in Chapter 7 addressing the issue of abolishing the Law is simply “Jesus didn’t abolish it.” So what is this confused soul trying to say? He lists several things in the Old Testament Scriptures that are still with us, including the prophecies of the second coming, but concludes, “As a covenant, the Old Testament is no longer in effect.” Here is the thrust of his argument.

In Matthew five Jesus is re-giving the Law. His is “customizing” if for the kingdom. He omits some laws and changes others. We are to keep the Law as he re-gave it and not willfully break the least commandment!

It is easy to prove that Jesus is talking about his own commandments. Simply go to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord will tell you he’s talking about his own laws.

‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.’ (Matt. 7:24)

“These words of mine,” include the changes he has just made in the Law. The Law is now in the form of “these words of mine.” Kingdom law! [Ibid, pg 57]

I have heard various arguments from Christian before, but this one was new for me. He gives the impression it is the truth simply because he said it. His argument is absurd. By the way, “replacement theology,” which is what he is saying, is nothing short of blasphemy according Moses.

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. DEU 13:1-5

Think about what Moses wrote. Even if the words of the prophet comes true, if he attempts to move you away from God, who gave us the instruction through Moses (even the idea that the Son of God is modifying what the Father said), then he is a false prophet. You shall NOT follow that teaching! If the prophet (or false Messiah) tries to seduce away you away from any commandment (the way we were commanded to walk) given in Torah, and has counseled you to rebel against the Lord, then he is worthy of death. Did Yeshua do that? Did He re-give the Law, drop a few commandments, modify others, or add a few to redefine the kingdom?

Mr. Ramey, like other Christians, believes that Jesus did miracles, fulfilled some prophecies, taught us not to be part of the temple service in Jerusalem, not to follow the Law of Moses, and not to follow the customs of Moses. Actually, these words (this very conclusion) are in the New Testament, but they are NOT the teaching of Yeshua or the Apostle Paul. The NEW TESTAMENT says they are the words of FALSE WITNESSES in an effort to bring about the death of a believer named Stephen.

And they put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” ACT 6:13-14

The Apostle Paul was present at this trial, and he admits that he cooperated with this unjust and illegal effort to bring about Stephen’s death. The Apostle Paul says these are false words!

It is bizarre to me that well-meaning, Bible-believing Christians can state a theological conclusion about the New Testament and the work of the Messiah that is virtually word for word the testimony of FALSE WITNESSES given in the New Testament and cannot logically process the obvious error.

I doubt that Mr. Ramey is familiar with Deuteronomy 18 or Acts 6 in this matter. Let’s cut through the confusion in his argument. Whether he admits it or not, he is claiming that Yeshua did abolish the Law of Moses, re-giving it when He came in the flesh. But what happened to the Law of Moses in this exchange? So, let’s find a word that does the same thing as “abolish.” How about the word “annul?” If Yeshua didn’t “abolish” the Law of Moses, then can we say that He “annulled” it? Or, better yet, let’s say that He just “tweaked” the Law by making a few precise changes so that church people would be more comfortable, like the comfort of padded pews instead of those “hard” seats that no one can sit on. Mr. Ramey impugns every person who would ever attempt to obey the Lord or keep any of His “hard” commandments. In fact, he uses the logic that no one obeys the commandments, mixing what the Lord commanded with ancient Pharisaic and Sadducean precepts, never mind what Moses or Yeshua actually taught. Here is an example of what I am referring to. He lists four commandments from the Law: putting a safety barrier on an accessible roof, not planting different seeds together, mixing wool and linen in a fabric, and making tzitits (tassels) on the corners of outer garments. He claims these are commandments are too numerous and difficult to keep up with.

Hey, those are just four laws. You’ve got 609 to go! And weak flesh isn’t capable of keeping the Law (Acts 15:10;Rom.8:2-4[sic]). To ask flesh to keep the law is like asking an oyster to run a marathon. [Ibid. pg 56]

But Mr. Ramey has bigger problems than misunderstanding the commandments. Ultimately, he will have to give an account for his teaching to the Messiah, the One Giver of the Law.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. MAT 5:19

By the way, Yeshua wasn’t referring to His “re-given law,” He was talking about the Law of Moses that He gave at Mount Sinai. According to Yeshua’s statement, Mr. Ramey and any other Christian teacher can annul commandments (even the little ones they think are of no consequence) and teach their version of the truth to others. It will not disqualify them from Yeshua’s redemption, but they will be least in the kingdom.

The book, Not Under the Law, is disorganized and full of scorn for those who would dare love the Lord (a commandment of the Law). His points of discussion and the logic of his arguments are sorely lacking. Reading his book and following his thinking reminds me of riding on the back the “ole buck board wagon.” Everything is bounced around and makes no sense whatsoever. His pronouncement begs even more questions.

You can tell that Mr. Ramey does not consider the teaching of Moses as being worthy of spiritual instruction. It appears that he does not believe that Moses can teach him anything nor does he believe anything Moses has to say. The real problem is that he won’t listen to Yeshua and Yeshua can’t teach him anything either. Yeshua stated very clearly that His teaching was the same as Moses, it was not different, hence when men differ with Moses, they also differ with Yeshua.

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" JOH 5:46-47

Mr. Ramey and other Christian leaders think that they understand correctly what Yeshua said and did. They are wrong. You must believe what Moses has written before you can understand properly or believe what Yeshua said. Many Christians have deceived themselves in making this mistake.

It gets worse. The author believes that the Apostle Paul taught the same error he is espousing. But consider this: Whose teaching takes precedence—Yeshua of Nazareth or the Apostle Paul? I submit that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Head of the whole congregation of believers. If Paul says anything contrary to Yeshua, it is an error on Paul’s part. Some Christians pit the Apostle Paul against Yeshua on matters of the Law and commandments. One example of this effort is Paul’s teaching in the Book of Romans, the title of Mr. Ramey’s book. Before I address that, remember what the Apostle Peter said about brethren who don’t understand Paul’s teaching correctly.

… and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2PET 3:15-16

Peter said that Paul wrote some things hard to understand. There is no question with me that some Christians find Romans Chapter 6 hard to understand. That is where the phrase “not under the law” comes from.

Romans chapter 6 begins with a question.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? ROM 6:1

The subject is about law and grace. Remember, sin is defined as the “transgression” of the Law. In other words, breaking the law is sin. Paul is asking, “Should we break the Law so that grace will increase?” I’ll give you the quick answer he gives – God forbid!

Paul teaches that the Law has exposed everyone in the world as sinners. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” As a result, we are also all under the penalty of death from the Law. We call it the law of “sin and death.” Paul concludes chapter 6 with these words.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord. ROM 6:23

Everyone has sinned and the penalty of sin is death; therefore, we are all under the Law. But wait, Paul says we are not under the Law because of our faith in the Messiah. That’s right! Because Yeshua paid the penalty of our sins; His atoning death has satisfied the requirements of God’s Holy Law, yet the Law stands. The grace of God (His sacrifice and payment of His life has satisfied the Law’s requirement of death) has given us a gift, eternal life.

So, did Yeshua change the Law? No, He didn’t. He satisfied the requirements of the Law concerning our personal sins, when we recognize our condition and accept Yeshua’s payment (which value of that payment was determined by God and written by Moses) on our behalf, but the Law remains as it was given by God. Is Paul teaching that the Law is no more? Not at all.

Paul’s real questions are these. Since we have been forgiven and the penalty of the Law is no longer in effect for us, does that give us a license to continue sinning (breaking the Law) or to flaunt the grace of God and His forgiveness? Paul’s answer is “God forbid!” Romans chapter 6 is not Paul’s argument to abolish or annul the Law. He is explaining how the Law and the Messiah work together at the same time.

But some Christians find what Paul has written as hard to understand. They hear Paul defining the Law and since they just want the part where they are free from the Law, they throw the Law out completely.

Yeshua’s words, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” are completely ignored. In the case of Mr. Ramey, they are completely twisted.

Selah. We better stop and think that through for a moment. If you truly believe that you are not to keep the Law, then you are not a believer in the God of Israel. If you do not believe in Him, then you do not believe in the King of Israel—Yeshua the Messiah. I often say, “Don’t tell me which God you believe in. Show me the commandments you keep and I will tell you which God you believe in.” The Apostle John spoke to this point.

And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 1JOH 2:3-4

As a believer in Yeshua, I repeat what Paul said in Romans Chapter 6: I am not under the law of sin and death. All of my sins and my curses have been crucified with the Messiah; He has paid the penalty for my sins demanded by God’s Law. The life I live now is one of being obedient to His commandments, keeping them by His grace and mercy.

Let me explain a bit more. I am a man, a husband, and a father. I keep those commandments which apply to me. I am not a woman, a priest, or the High Priest, so those commandments do not pertain to me. I do keep the Ten Commandments, which are applicable to everyone.

The truth is that those who twist Paul’s words in Romans chapter 6 and say “I am not under the Law” are really saying that they are “above the Law.” They are boldly claiming to be “Lawbreakers” and flaunt the fact that they transgress the commandments of the Lord. They do not understand correctly Paul’s teaching about the penalty of the Law. They actually are sinning to make the grace of God greater. This is exactly what Paul said NOT to do.

Instead of teaching what Paul taught in Romans chapter 6, Mr. Ramey has transformed the four words “not under the Law” into a justification to publically hold the Sabbath in disdain, eat the entire array of detestable things forbidden by Scripture, and refuse any form of Biblical feast, dismissing it as “Jewish custom.” If Paul could respond to this, he would say, “God forbid!”

Mr. Ramey is more than confused. He has twisted the words of Paul to his own destruction and is teaching others to annul the commandments of God. Tragically, he is not alone. Many of my Christian brethren have done the same. The only difference is that they haven’t opened their mouths and expressed this foolishness as Mr. Ramey has.

If you get past Mr. Ramey’s buckboard style of explaining his position, you will find that he issues inane excuses to discredit the word of God (Moses and the Prophets). For those of us who would dare obey the Lord and love Him by keeping His commandments, we are scorned as “Law cults.”

Let me conclude my review of his book by saying that Mr. Ramey has no authority to annul or change anything that Moses or the Prophets wrote. Instead, you should remember what the Apostle Paul said about the Torah and the other Scriptures.

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. 2TI 3:16-17

Paul wasn’t referring to the New Testament when he penned the words “all Scripture.” The New Testament didn’t exist yet! He was saying that all Scripture (the Law and the Prophets) was the proper instruction that we are to obey and follow today. If you run into a guy differing with what Paul said, suggesting that the Torah is not applicable for instruction, it means that guy is confused and is in need of much instruction.

I am pretty sure, though, that Moses will have a list of charges for Mr. Ramey to answer to when he gives an account of his teaching to the Lord. I also believe that Yeshua will not be standing in Mr. Ramey’s corner saying, “I re-gave the Law.” And as for the Apostle Paul, he will probably want to sit him down and explain that there are seven covenants that God made with mankind, not just an Old and a New one. He will want to explain to him how God made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham and the fathers, Moses and the children of Israel, King David, and now with the Messiah. At no time has one of the succeeding covenants been annulled or done away with any of the previous covenants. They all work together. Each succeeding covenant was not re-given.

If you are a Christian brother or sister who does not understand the commandments, you are not alone. But failing to understand something is not a valid reason for you to develop another teaching so you can ignore the commandments or to turn away from them. If there is anything in the Scriptures that you don’t understand, then ask for God’s help in learning it. But whatever you do, don’t believe anyone who says to you, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to us anymore. That was done away with. Jesus saved us from that.”

The fact is, these are tests from the Lord. Will we hold to His word and cling to Him and not let anyone tell us to NOT to obey the Lord? This is the same deception used by Satan in the garden story.

There are many more arguments thrown against the Law by Christians and there are other Mr. Rameys who will contend with you. You need to understand that pastors and preachers have to be opposed to the Law, because if they don't teach the church “party line” they will put their livelihood and paychecks in jeopardy. Other Christians have spent a large portion of their lives in one particular church or theology. If they investigate the truth of Torah, they will find their hearts pricked by the Holy Spirit. Yet many of them will resist the Spirit, preferring to keep their idols and sinful ways. They only want to have a form of religiosity, but they don’t want to mess up their fun with the truth.

I remind everyone going through the transition to the Torah that it takes time. There is a lot to unlearn and a lot to learn new. For me, it took me a couple of years for some of the concepts to be received in my heart. Today, praise God, I see many learning those very same concepts in a matter of months.

Christians have been told that God switched covenants, abandoned Israel, and started up the church. They have been told that the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant. They have made the subjects and topics in the Old Testament irrelevant to Christians today. When a Messianic believer suddenly talks of the Torah in excited terms, followed by keeping Sabbath and eating Kosher, his Christian world is shaken and begins to crumble. This is especially true in families and among good Christian friends. Torah commandments affect everything from keeping Passover to not keeping Christmas. Somewhere in the mix, pork bacon and every form of shrimp and lobster is suddenly banished. The fact is, our friends and family are ignorant of the Torah and the actual commandments of the Lord. What they do know is false information from those who oppose the Lord’s commandments.

But take heart, these same anti-Law brethren keep some of God’s commandments too. They know to love God and others. They just don’t know that those are the two greatest commandments and once you keep one, you are to keep them all.

It has been a joy for me to see many brethren learn the Torah. Once they see the Messiah in the Torah and at Mount Sinai, they build on a sure foundation of faith. Once they understand the promises God gave our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that  they are part of that family, the faith of Abraham—“believing the promises God”—takes shape in their hearts. Once they hear His voice at the base of Mount Sinai, they are transformed into new persons, free from the slavery of sin. The rule of Law is the definition of freedom! When the Law is not followed; no one is free. Once, they know what Moses wrote, they finally understand what Yeshua taught. The kingdom is Israel. Messiah Yeshua is the King of Israel and the Lord of the Sabbath. All of them will be in the future kingdom and be counted with the tribes of Israel. They will discover that there are no church gates into New Jerusalem. They will leave “church thinking” and become part of Israel.

I do hope that Brother Ramey, like many others, will one day open their hearts to the Lord and hear the voice from the mountain. Then they will discover what David said.

Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law. PSA 119:29