Question: You say you believe in Jesus, but you’re still Jewish. If you’re still Jewish, do you carry out the Law of Moses?
Answer: Some of us carry out various parts of the law and others do not, just as in the larger Jewish community, where some are more observant than others. The major difference is that when we as Jewish believers try to observe some, of the precepts of Torah, we do so to identify with our heritage, not to gain merit with God. We recognize that the Law of Moses is no longer binding as such upon Israel, and is certainly not binding upon Jewish believers, who are justified by faith, not by works (Romans 3:28), the same as Gentile believers.
It was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-32 that a day would come when God would …make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which, my covenant, they broke, although I was an husband unto them.”
Many people do not realize, however, that even the Law of Moses was not an unchanging monolith. For instance, some of the regulations given in the book of Leviticus applied to the wilderness wanderings and were modified in the book of Deuteronomy, so that they could find application in the settled life of Canaan. We find an example of this in Leviticus 17:3-7, where animals killed to provide meat were required first to be brought to the tabernacle, probably in order that they would not be used in the worship of pagan goat demons. Later, in Deuteronomy 12:15 and 21, allowance was made for such animals to be killed at home, as the distance to the central sanctuary was often too great. This shows how God’s requirements and commandments sometimes changed depending on the situation in which Israel found herself.
Again in modern times, the situation is quite different than it was in ancient Israel. The Jewish people are no longer a theocracy, nor do we have a king. Our Temple and priesthood are gone. Much of the Law of Moses no longer seems applicable to modern Jewish life. The Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism speak of modifying and adapting the ancient laws to make them more applicable to contemporary Jewish life; nevertheless, as believers in Yeshua and the authority of the Scriptures, we maintain that any changes or modifications in the Law must come from God himself, not from the decisions of the rabbis.
We also maintain that such a change was in fact indicated by God in the portion of Jeremiah quoted above. The content of the new covenant is spelled out in the Book of the New Covenant, otherwise known as the New Testament. There, as well as in the writings of the prophets, we learn of God’s provision for this day and age in which the Temple no longer stands, the priesthood is gone and there is no provision for sacrifices for sin. God’s way is Yeshua, the Messiah, who himself came as our sacrifice. With his death, the new covenant was inaugurated.
Traditionally, Judaism has insisted that the Torah (Law of Moses) will never come to an end, despite the passage in Jeremiah 31. But the Encyclopaedia Judaica states that “in the Bible there is no text unanimously understood to affirm explicitly the eternity or non-abrogability of the Torah.”* In fact, the perpetuity of the Torah or the lack thereof has been an ongoing discussion in Jewish circles since medieval times. Again, the 9th article of Maimonides’ 13 Articles of Faith stresses the non-abrogability of the Torah. It is Maimonides, not the Bible, who has laid the basis for contemporary Orthodox Jewish views.
Yes, some of us who are believers might choose to keep some of the Law—the kosher laws, for example—to show respect for our heritage. But what of the other parts of the Law? Many injunctions pertaining to the Tabernacle or the Temple are no longer possible to observe even if one chose to do so. Likewise, who in our society would think of actually stoning someone who failed to keep the Sabbath? Yet that, too, is part of the Law. There are, however, other aspects of God’s Law that must remain unchanged. These are the moral imperatives of the Torah which are reflective of God’s unchanging character, and therefore are forever binding. It is especially in the area of these moral commandments that relate to our inward attitudes that we encounter a problem.
The problem is that it never was, and is not now, possible to keep the Law completely or perfectly. That’s why God instituted a sacrificial system in the first place so that we could find forgiveness when we failed to keep the rest of the Law. The questions that every Jew must ask are: Do I fail to do what God requires? And when I fail, what do I do to obtain God’s forgiveness? The only answers are the ones from the Scriptures: Yes, we all fail, and we must all put our trust in Jesus as our atonement
*Encyclopaedia Judaica 15:1244.