Alrighty, today we’re gonna tackle that million dollar and probably the number one most controversial question that has ever faced the body of believers.
Where does the gentile believer in Yeshua stand today in terms of Torah observance?
We’ve been talking about the “foreigner” or “stranger” (GER in Hebrew) who resided in Israel and in my last post I ended by explaining that the Torah laws were divided into two basic groups: the civil laws and the religious laws.
I then went on to say that both the GER (foreigner or stranger) and the native-born Hebrew were on 100% equal footing when it came to the civil laws and that’s where my post ended.
Now I’d like to shift focus to the religious law.
In order to properly answer the question of whether or not the GER had to obey the Torah’s religious instructions, one has to understand that in Torah, the religious laws have also been divided into two categories as follows:
NEGATIVE COMMANDMENTS: Instructions that prohibit doing some type of action
POSITIVE COMMANDMENTS: Instructions that demand an action be performed
Now here’s what you’ve got to understand.
As a general rule, the GER was obligated to obey the negative religious commandments but was given leeway when it came to the positive religious commandments.
For example, in ancient Israel, the GER was NOT required to observe any of the Biblical Feasts.
I said it.
Before you start losing your mind and labeling me a heretic, understand that I’m talking about a GER, a person who maintained his foreign identity while living in the land of Israel among the Hebrews.
The GER wasn’t necessarily a full-blown convert to Judaism.
If he was, he would have been circumcised and then required to obey all the religious Torah commands.
Having said all that, the GER was perfectly welcome to join the Hebrews in observing the Biblical Feasts but there was one important caveat.
If he joined in, HE HAD TO OBSERVE THE FEASTS PROPERLY!
No eating ham sandwiches or bacon cheeseburgers at these festivals were allowed or making things up as he pleased.
Now if you’re a Hebrew Rooter, I think I know what you’re going to say next.
You’re going to throw the following Scripture verses at me, right?
“You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.”-Leviticus 24:22
“The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”-Exodus 12:49
Okay, here’s where we separate the rookie theologians from the big boys.
In the Torah, whenever you come across statements that say “There shall be one law for you and for the foreigner“, it is referring only to the law or instruction within the context of those verses.
That’s right man.
They are NOT and I repeat NOT general statements referring to all the laws of the Torah.
I’ll admit in my early immature days (well, I’m actually still pretty immature) I interpreted such statements as meaning that ALL the Torah laws applied to both the GER and the native-born Hebrew.
That’s simply not true and the voluminous writings of the Jewish sages bear this out.
So understand that when a particular commandment is given followed immediately by the phrase “there shall be one law for the native-born and the GER“, it is referring ONLY TO THAT commandment and not the whole body of Torah as a general statement.
Let’s move on now and answer that million dollar question concerning where a gentile believer in Yeshua stands in terms of Torah observance?
So we now understand that in ancient Israel, a GER was somewhat of a second class citizen who although was required to obey the negative commandments wasn’t obligated to obey the positive commands (I’m talking as a general rule here) of the religious law.
Well, instead of me answering the million dollar question, let’s have somebody much, much more learned than me answer that question.
I’m taking about Rabbi Shaul or the Apostle Paul as he is known in gentile circles.
Let’s take a look at the following excerpt from the book of Ephesians.
“Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth — called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised — at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra’el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God.
But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity.
Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby, news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family. You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself. In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord. Yes, in union with him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!”-Ephesians 2:11-22
What Rabbi Shaul is saying here is awesome.
Basically, what he’s saying is that in Yeshua, the GER is no longer a GER!
Look at the wording.
In reference to the gentiles, he’s saying they were strangers and foreigners EXCLUDED from the national life of Israel but through faith in Yeshua they have now become fellow citizens with that body of believers Paul calls the “true Israel“.
In other words, Paul is talking about a conversion process that’s as powerful and valid as any that could be had at any orthodox synagogue at the time.
And remember, the messianic faith was simply another form of Judaism before it evolved into the lawless religion we know as Christianity today.
Now if you’re a gentile believer who through faith in Yeshua has been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, let me ask you this.
If you have been grafted into the covenants that God only made with Israel and as a result have become one with people of Israel, don’t you think you’re obligated to obey the terms, conditions, instructions and commandments of those very covenants you’ve been grafted into?
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Do we, then,
nullify the law by this faith?
Not at all!
Rather, we uphold the law.”
“And then will I declare to them,
‘I never knew you;
depart from me,
you workers of lawlessness.’”
“This calls for patient endurance
on the part of the people of God
who keep his commands
and remain faithful to Yeshua.”
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.”