Lawlessness and Apostasy

Defining Rebellion Against Yahuwah

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Written 1991

Published: 2002

2nd Edition: 2007

Table of Contents

The Jerusalem Council

Lawlessness and Apostasy

Lawlessness and Apostasy in the Old Testament

Lawlessness and Apostasy in New Testament Times

The Attitude of Yahusha Toward Lawlessness

 


The work of Satan whose aim is to introduce his man of lawlessness had already begun when the New Testament was being written. Paul explained to the Thessalonians that "the secret power of lawlessness is already at work" (2 Thessalonians 2:7).  The "secret power of lawlessness" or "mystery of lawlessness" as the king jimmy version renders it, is the end time movement engineered by Satan to enthrone the lawless one in the place of Elohim ("God").  This scheme has nearly reached its climax in our times.  But amazingly, most believers in the Bible do not even recognize the subtleties of lawlessness at work in the church, but have been deceived by their own ministers regarding its operation.

According to the Scriptures, the condition of the world in the last days is characterized by the term "lawlessness." Yahusha spoke of the "increase of lawlessness" (Matthew 24:12).  And Paul wrote about the man of lawlessness and the secret power of lawlessness.  Lawlessness may be defined as an action or way of life "not regulated by or based on law." (Webster's Dictionary, p.678)The law of the Scriptures is the Torah - the instructions re-introduced to Israel by Moses at Sinai.  Therefore, "lawlessness" as used by Yahusha and Paul is a reference to a way of life not in submission to the Torah, or Law of Elohim.

The 21st century Christian Church does not believe that the Torah of Elohim is relevant for the "New Testament" believer.  They have rejected the Law, or Torah of Elohim.  They are unsuspecting participants in the fulfillment of Yahusha's word that lawlessness would be epidemic in the last days.  The very people who call themselves by His name are the ones who promote lawlessness or Torah-lessness as the proper lifestyle of the Christian!  But the apostle John says that "everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4).  Thus, breaking the Torah is sin, and habitual and sustained disregard for the Torah is Lawlessness.  So, because the Christian Church does not even attempt to keep the Torah, and because they teach others not to keep it, the lawlessness or "breaking the Torah" as predicted by Yahusha and the apostle Paul is prevalent in nearly every Christian Church in the land.

Daniel the prophet says that the lawless one "will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws" (7:25). The laws which will be "changed" in the last days is, of course, Elohim's laws as set forth in the Torah. Speaking of the false teachers who are to arise in the last days, Peter tells us that "many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute" (2 Peter 2:2).  The Torah, according to the Psalms, is the way of truth.  Thus, Peter is predicting just what we see happening in the church today - the rejection of Elohim's Torah as the standard of conduct for the believer, and its replacement by another standard of living.  The law of Elohim which Paul describes as "holy, righteous and good" has indeed fallen into a state of disrepute, and the Christian Church is the institution found guilty of doing this!

As we discussed at length in The Abiding Validity of the Old Testament Law, Yahusha had a very high regard for the Law.  He said that the Torah would remain valid in every detail until heaven and earth disappeared.  Paul, James and John, likewise, had such a high view of Elohim's Torah.  But many sincere (though misinformed) believers in Yahusha do not so highly regard Elohim's Torah.  Many, for sure, not only reject Yahuwah's instructions for themselves, but also are scornful of those who desire to honor Elohim by obeying all of His Torah.  Some Christians consider those who preach and teach obedience to the Old Testament moral law code to be legalists and heretics and have "fallen from grace."  And this, in spite of Yahusha himself saying that "whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).

The Jerusalem Council

One reason for such contempt for the Old Testament law by modern day Bible believers is that the findings of the apostolic Jerusalem Council have been grossly misinterpreted.  Theologians have been teaching for a long time that the apostles at the Jerusalem Council came to an agreement that the Gentile believers do not have to obey the law of Moses.  But as some recent studies have shown, a careful examination of that council's conclusions will reveal that the apostles did not dismiss the applicability of the Torah for the New Testament church.

The Jerusalem Council, as the reader may recall, is that assembly of apostles and elders to consider whether or not the new Gentile converts to Christianity were required to follow the Jewish custom of circumcision in order to be accepted in the assembly. It was decided that the Gentiles "must abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood" (Acts 15:20). The point of debate is whether these four commands for the Gentiles constitute a decision forcing the Gentiles to keep the whole Torah of Moses or that these are merely a concession to keep the Gentiles from offending the Jews.

I. Howard Marshall holds to the latter view along with a majority of scholars because

God is doing something new in raising up the church; it is an event of the last days, and therefore the old rules of the Jewish religion no longer apply: God is making a people out of the nations and nothing in the text suggests that they are to become Jews in order to become God's people. So there are no entrance 'conditions' to be imposed upon them. (The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: The Acts of the Apostles, Eerdman's: Grand Rapids, 1984, p.253)

It is true that the Gentiles do not have to "become Jews" to be a part of Elohim's people. And Marshall is quite correct to say that there are no "entrance conditions" except to have faith in the Lord Jesus. But this does not mean that the "old rules" are no longer applicable as the proper way to walk for the community of believers.

The Scriptures are very explicit regarding how one may receive salvation. Salvation can not be earned by any human merit, achievement or good works. It is a gift received when a person believes and trusts Messiah to be singular path to salvation. No works of man can commend him to Elohim. Forgiveness of sins is given to any and all who, from a willing heart, ask him for it. There are no "entrance conditions" to become a part of the family of Elohim. Gentiles do not have to become Jewish (i.e. through circumcision).

However, when a person becomes a believer, the Scriptures say he will manifest the good works of Elohim in his life. If the good works are absent, there is reason to question the authenticity of his salvation experience. So, although there are no conditions to be met for salvation, there are rules governing the behavior of the members of the church, and this is precisely what the Jerusalem Council is all about.

Gentiles do not have to undergo the Jewish ritual of circumcision, but when they become members of Elohim's household, they must obey the rules which govern his household - the commandments of Elohim. Paul makes this clear distinction between the Rabbinic custom of circumcision and the commandments when he instructed the Corinthians that "circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping Elohim's commands is what counts" (7:19). Obedience to the commandments of Elohim is an essential part of man's relationship with Elohim, whether he is under the Abrahamic, the Old or the New Covenant.

The fact of the matter is that those "old rules" do indeed need to be followed. This is precisely the point the elders intended to make when they cited four specific rules the Gentiles must obey. Those four commands are taken directly from the Levitical Law of Holiness which the Council thereby implies the Gentiles must keep. Samuele Bacchiocchi keenly observes this point, noting that

the very provisions proposed by James and adopted by the Council indicate that the Gentiles were not granted indiscriminate freedom from the law. Of the four precepts of the decree, in fact, one is moral (abstention from "unchastity") and three are ceremonial (abstention "from pollution of idols and from what is strangled and from blood"--v.20) (From Sabbath To Sunday, p.146)

Whereas, some would argue that the Gentiles were not to be burdened with the requirement that they obey the Torah of Moses, these four precepts imply just the opposite. No one would seriously contend, for example, that the Gentiles no longer needed to be concerned with such commandments as 'do not steel,' 'do not covet,' 'honor your father and your mother,' etc. And yet, these basic moral principles were not mentioned in the apostles' decision. Obviously, the need for the Gentiles to adhere to the moral aspects of the Old Testament ethical code was taken for granted.

The point in dispute, then, is not whether the Gentiles must live by the moral standard of the Scriptures, but whether they needed to also adhere to the so-called "ceremonial" requirements of the Torah. The fact that the apostles cited three specific ceremonial statutes which the Gentiles were required to keep strongly implies that the Levitical Law(s) of Holiness as a whole needed to be followed. The real point of contention between the Jews and the apostles was over the issue of the Jewish custom of circumcision, to which, it was decided, the Gentiles did not need to submit. But the ceremonial laws were required because those laws pertain to the physical well-being of every believer, and as such, were properly designated "The Laws of Holiness."

That the ceremonial laws as a whole was implied by the Council's decision is confirmed by a number of other New Testament passages which call the church to obedience to the Laws of Holiness. Paul, for example, quotes Isaiah 52:11 in 2 Corinthians 6:17, "Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." Then he invites those Gentile believers to live a life of separation unto Elohim: "let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God" (2 Corinthians 7:1). "Purify," "body," "holiness" and "reverence" are important catchwords which reflect the basic content of Leviticus17-19, and therefore imply the need for believers to live by that code of ethics.

Paul again alludes to this Holiness Code in 1 Thessalonians 4, where he hints at no less than four specific principles to which the Israelite and now the Christian community must adhere. First, Paul writes, "It is God's will that you should be holy...for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life" (4:3,7), which echoes Leviticus19:2, "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." Second, the apostle instructs the church "that you should abstain from immorality" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). This single statement summarizes Leviticus18 which lists at least 18 examples of immoral sexual situations to avoid.

A third allusion to the Law of Holiness in 1 Thessalonians states "that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him" (1 Thessalonians 4:6), which resembles Leviticus19:13, "Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him." And fourth, that New Testament author addresses his constituents, "Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other" (1 Thessalonians 4:9). This saying imitates Leviticus19:18, which reminds us to "love your neighbor as yourself." Besides these clear allusions to the Law of Holiness, other statements vaguely hint that Paul's instruction is based on the Old Testament law. He mentions the practice of the heathen (1 Thessalonians 4:5; cf.Leviticus18:3,24) and the punishment for such sins (1 Thessalonians 4:6; cf.Leviticus18:29; 20:10,11).

Even more striking is James' use of the Levitical Law of Holiness in his epistle. Besides the obvious allusion to the moral code of the Ten Commandments James makes in 2:11, which, he insists, the believer must obey lest he be found to be a transgressor, this epistle is saturated with other applications of the holiness code which pertain to the life of the community of New Testament believers. Like Paul, James calls the believer to a life of holiness: "just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy" (1:15,16; cf.Leviticus19:2).

Second, James insists that Christians should "love your neighbor as yourself" (2:8; cf.Leviticus19:18). Third, he urges them to stop showing favoritism on the basis of social status (2:1-4), which Leviticus19:15 also forbids: "Do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." Fourth, James writes, "Brothers, do not slander one another" (4:11), which reproduces Leviticus19:16: "Do not go about spreading slander among your people." Fifth, Leviticus19:13, "Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight" corresponds to James' warning not to hoard money: "Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you" (5:4).

A sixth parallel between James and Leviticus is about swearing. Leviticus19:12 commands its readers to "not swear falsely by my name." James, after his Lord, interprets this to mean "do not swear - not by heaven or by earth or by anything else" (5:12). And seventh, "Rebuke your neighbor frankly" (Leviticus19:17) finds its counterpart in James 5:19,20: "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins." Walter C. Kaiser Jr. notes that these commands James gives to the church are taken

from what is generally called the "Law of Holiness" (Leviticus18-20). Thus, from the heart of what many would regard as the ceremonial law comes the basis for the practical, ethical, and moral nurturing of NT believers! (Uses of the Old Testament in the New, p.222.) 

In his first epistle, Peter also alludes to the applicability of the Levitical Law of Holiness to the life of the church where he quotes that phrase frequently repeated in the holiness code, "be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:15). Other parallels include the following: Leviticus 18 lists unlawful sexual relationships for the community of believers, and Peter summarizes these is 2:11: "Dear friends, I urge you...to abstain from sinful desires." Leviticus 18:3 instructs the Israelites, "You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live...do not follow their practices," and Peter passes on these instructions to the Messianic community: "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance" (1:14).

Leviticus19:18b: "Love your neighbor as yourself," is transmitted by Peter as "love one another deeply, from the heart" (1:22). And Leviticus19:18a, "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor...," is echoed by Peter in 3:9, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing." In view then of these verbal parallels between the Law of Holiness and Peter's exhortations to the church, it is quite evident that Peter held out this code of conduct as that which pertains to the life of the New Testament Gentile church.

Because of these intentional applications of the precepts of the Law of Holiness by James, Peter and Paul to the life of the church, we conclude that the proposal made by the Jerusalem Council was intended to convey to the Christian church that the Gentile converts were not free from the Torah, but, on the contrary, that as members of the believing community, they must obey the precepts of Elohim's Torah, even the "ceremonial" portions which pertain to the physical health and well-being of the Christian.

This conclusion is further supported by the Council's justification for their judgment in this matter. James explains, "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath" (15:21). This explanation is understood by different expositors in different ways. (For a summary of these different views, see Bacchiocchi, From Sabbath , pp.147,148)  But the best way to interpret it is probably to understand it as saying that since the Gentiles are already familiar with the Mosaic regulations (since they are taught every Sabbath, locally), then they may obtain further details of the expected behavior of believers by paying attention to this Levitical Law of Holiness. But regardless of which position one takes, as Bacchiocchi puts it,

they all recognize that both in his proposal and in its justification James reaffirms the binding nature of the Mosaic law which was customarily preached and read every Sabbath in the synagogues. (From Sabbath , pp.147,148)

Lawlessness and Apostasy

Since the apostles and elders of the infant church taught Jewish and Gentile believers to obey the Torah (even though keeping the Torah is not a condition of salvation, but rather, it is an appropriate lifestyle change in keeping with one's salvation experience), we would expect to find biblical evidence that the New Testament believers did, indeed, keep the Torah. Acts 21 presents evidence that this is the case. And it is certainly ironic that this account also provides us with some important insights into what the inspired writer Luke understood by the term apostasy.

Not long after the Council meeting of the elders and apostles at Jerusalem, the apostle Paul was compelled by the Holy Spirit to return there. There were some unbelieving Jews who desired to kill Paul because of the work he had accomplished for the cause of Christ. When Paul arrived, the elders of the church told him,

You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs... (Acts 21:20-21).

Their advise to Paul was to undergo a ritual of purification with some other men so that "everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law" (Acts 21:24).

Two key principles may be deduced from this text. The first is that faith in Christ does not abrogate one's responsibility to obey the Torah, nor should conversion chill the believer's attitude toward the Torah. On the contrary, faith in Christ enhances the desire of the believer to obey Elohim's Torah. The conversion of those "many thousand Jews" heightened their enthusiasm for keeping the commandments which were written down by Moses. All of them were "zealous for the law." As we mentioned before, the Torah is not oppressive. It is a law code which grants freedom to those who live by it. Those sincere converts were delighted to obey the Torah because they now knew in a personal way the author of that Torah and his loving intention for giving them his Torah.

Furthermore, Paul himself was living in obedience to the Torah. The rumors being spread about him, that he taught Jews to turn away from Moses, were simply not true. Paul had a great respect for the Torah as we have already discussed in detail, and he taught Jews and Gentiles alike to conform to the rules of the faith. The elders testify here that Paul was not guilty of breaking the Torah as his adversaries had accused him. Likewise, many Christians today hold to the view that Paul endorses the believer's freedom from obedience to the Torah. But to take such a distorted view is to willingly ignore a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

And the second principle we wish to draw out of Acts 21 is that to fall away from obedience to the Torah is to commit apostasy. Paul's enemies were saying that Paul was teaching "all the Jews...to turn away from Moses" (v.21). The Greek word here translated to turn away is apostasia, which means "apostasy." This word occurs twice in the New Testament. In its only other occurrence in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul relates that before Christ will return to gather his church, an apostasy will occur and the man of lawlessness will be revealed. Apostasy, as we discovered above, is a "turning away" or "falling away" from the faith. Thus, Paul's adversaries were actually accusing him of apostasy because he had allegedly "fallen away" from the Torah of Moses.

More to the point, just as the "apostasy from Moses" which Paul was accused of is directly related to breaking the Torah, the apostasy of the last days is also directly related to breaking the Torah (i.e. "lawlessness"). Could it be that the apostasy of the end times is a change of the believer's attitude toward the Torah of Elohim? After all, the prophet Daniel did say that the latter day king would "attempt to change the set times and the laws" (7:25). Just as apostasy from Moses meant to abandon his Torah, so apostasy in the last days is the abandoning of Elohim's Torah.

How frightening that we see just this in the "Bible-believing" churches across America. No one, it seems, is willing to keep Elohim's Torah! And nobody wants anyone else to think he is keeping it! Why is the holy, righteous and spiritual Torah of Elohim so scorned by people who call themselves "Christians"? The only reason conceivable is that Satan has lured the Christian Church into the apostasy of the last days! And the sting of this deception is that almost no one is wise to what Satan has done. Believers in Christ actually don't know that they are presently caught up in the devil's snare. They have drifted away from Elohim's good and acceptable and perfect will for them by turning a deaf ear to his commandments which are delineated in specific terms in the Old Testament.

Lawlessness and Apostasy in the Old Testament

A peek at the record of Israel's apostasy from Elohim in the Old Testament will provide valuable insights for us into the apostasy predicted for the last days just before Christ's parousia. The Old Testament prophets had much to say about the apostasy of Israel from Elohim. Whenever Israel turned away from Elohim, it was evident by the attitude they subsequently took toward his Torah. Isaiah explained that the Lord's anger is against his people because "they have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel" (5:24). Hosea also proclaimed the Lord's judgment on lawless Israel "because you have ignored the law of your God" (4:6).

In his great intercessory prayer on behalf of the nation in exile, the prophet Daniel links the rejection of Elohim's Torah (lawlessness) with apostasy: "...we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you" (Daniel 9:10,11). Moreover, not only is there a link between rejection of Elohim's Torah and apostasy (i.e. "turning away"), but the two are virtually inseparable. The very act of willful transgression of his Torah is a decision to turn away from Elohim. So, refusal of believers in Yahusha to submit to Elohim's Torah is apostasy.

The prophet Ezekiel also describes this same rejection of Elohim's Torah. This apostasy in Ezekiel is particularly associated with the transgression and rejection of the Lord's Sabbaths: "Yet the people of Israel rebelled against me in the desert. They did not follow by decrees but rejected my laws - although the man who obeys them will live by them - and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths" (20:13). The Sabbaths of the Lord were a kind of spiritual thermometer for Elohim's people. Whenever the nation turned away from Elohim, it first became evident by their rejection of the Sabbaths. For example, the Israelites rejected the Torah in the desert and "utterly desecrated my Sabbaths" (Ezekiel 20:13). Conversely, when the people returned to the Lord with their whole hearts, they began to zealously guard the Sabbaths. Such was the case during the revival in the time of Nehemiah. The Sabbath day was strictly enforced as Nehemiah ordered the wall and gates to be guarded against Sabbath infringements (see Nehemiah 13:15-22).

These Old Testament prophets are all in agreement about apostasy. The turning away from Elohim is always accompanied by, and made evident by a rejection of Elohim's Torah. And a sincere repentance and return to Elohim is accompanied by a zealous love for his Torah.

Lawlessness and Apostasy in New Testament Times

It is no secret that Israel was taken into captivity on account of her lawless activities which included worshipping idols, ignoring the Sabbaths, and the breaking of just about every other command of Elohim. What is not as well known is that the lawlessness and apostasy of the last days will take on the same characteristics as the lawlessness and apostasy which Israel exhibited in the Old Testament times. Like the Old Testament prophets, the New Testament writers equate apostasy with the rejection of Elohim's Torah, and sound doctrine with obedience to his Torah.

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructed his understudy about the relationship between the Torah and sound doctrine:

We know that the law is good if a man uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for good men but for the lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious...and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me (vss.8-11).

The man who uses the Torah properly is the one who obeys it. This is clearly Paul's intended meaning as indicated by the contrast he then goes on to make between the "man who uses it properly" and those disobedient ones whom he listed (i.e. "the lawbreakers"). The apostle proceeds to contrast ("is contrary to") the lawless ones with the "sound doctrine" which he preached as gospel.

These two comparisons made by Paul have the effect of equating the good use of the Torah with sound doctrine. Since the Torah is opposed to lawbreakers and since those lawless ones run contrary to Paul's sound doctrine, then keeping the Torah is synonymous with having sound doctrine.

Paul again discusses "sound doctrine" in his second letter to Timothy, but this time it is in the context of the last days. He encourages that young pastor to continue the work of the ministry in view of the coming time

when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (4:3,4).

So again there is an indication that in earth's final days there will be a turning away (apostasy) from the truth of sound doctrine which consists in the keeping of Elohim's Torah.

What Paul here calls "myths" he describes as doctrines of demons in 1 Timothy 4:1: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith (Gr. aposteesontai, "apostatize") and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Peter describes the same last days scenario: "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (i.e. myths)" (2 Peter 2:3). This apostasy or abandoning of the faith is when people turn away from the sound doctrine and truth of keeping Elohim's Torah and follow instead "easier" teachings which are really Satan's lies.

To elder Titus, Paul writes that he "teach what is in accord with sound doctrine" (2:1). He was to do this "while we wait for the blessed hope" - the coming of Yahusha, "who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness (Gr. anomia, 'lawlessness') and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (2:13,14). Yahusha died for us so that we could be free from all lawlessness. But if, having been cleansed, the believer continues to transgress the Torah of Elohim, then he isn't really free from all anomia. This is why the Christian must obey the commandments, because Christ redeemed us so that we would be pure, that is, free from lawlessness.

The Bible is sufficiently clear that rejection of the Torah of Elohim is equivalent to turning away from the faith. In the end times this apostasy from the true faith will become acute, lawlessness will increase, truth will be thrown down, and self-professed "Christians" will turn away from sound biblical doctrine and will follow the teaching and commandments of men instead. Sadly, this is the condition of the Christian church today. Concerning the rebellious nation of Elohim's Old Testament people, the prophet Hosea cries out,

Put the trumpet to your lips! An eagle is over the house of the LORD because the people have broken my covenant and rebelled against my law.  Israel cries out to me, 'O our God, we acknowledge you!'  But Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him (8:1-3, NAS)

The church in our day also cries out, "O our God, we acknowledge you." But they too, like ancient Israel, have been found wanting because of their guilt of rejecting Elohim's Torah, as epitomized by their snubbing of Elohim's holy Sabbath celebrations!

Most churches have flatly rejected the notion that the believer must obey the Torah of Elohim. In place of that definitive code of ethics which the Torah specifies, the modern church has adopted an ambiguous ethic that we should just "love" everybody, which means that the believer is to do whatever he feels good about. Consequently, the final authority for the conduct of the believer in the church has become the erratic and unrighteous set of rules and commandments laid down by men.

Why does the church have such a hang-up about the Torah? Is it really that offensive and embarrassing for believers to do what Elohim commands? Or is it just too ancient and outdated that we should submit to those "narrow" old commands? It is nothing less than extraordinary that those who profess to love Christ don't want to be "shackled" by the "oppressive" demands of Elohim's Torah, when it is not actually oppressive at all, but a Torah of love. Why not rather accept the righteous instruction of the Torah from a grateful heart and obey it? And if there are certain laws whose purpose we do not understand, why not rather believe it and obey anyway, as the song says, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me"?

Both the Old Testament and New Testament boldly declare that Elohim's Torah and testimony is the standard by which we are to know whether a teaching is true or not. The prophet Isaiah points us "to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn" (Is.8:20). And John the prophet declares that the remnant of the last days are "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17). Elohim's people should respond to his loving grace by willingly submitting themselves to his way of life which his Torah delineates, for Yahusha said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15).

The Attitude of Yahusha Toward Lawlessness

Yahusha confronted the Pharisees for their preoccupation with their own rules to the exclusion of Elohim's commands. When asked by them, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?," Yahusha responded, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:2,3). For the Pharisees had taken the commandment of Elohim to honor father and mother and had overruled it by their own command. Their motive was to get the people to take the money they should have used to take care of their parents (and thereby to "honor" them) and to give it to the temple fund instead. It was, of course, advantageous for the Pharisees to do this since they profited by the increased revenue of the temple. This command of men outwardly appeared righteous since it benefited the work of the temple, but the Pharisees were the beneficiaries of the contributions and Elohim's command was given a back seat by its enactment.

Yahusha therefore explained,

Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men" (Matthew 15:6-9).

So, although the Pharisees were very meticulous about keeping many of the details of the Torah of Moses, their worship of Elohim was "in vain" because they broke the commandments by twisting them to their advantage in the name of righteousness. They tried to justify their disobedience to Elohim's word by cloaking their actions under the guise of Elohim's work. Their own rules came to supersede Elohim's eternal Torah.

Later, Yahusha again rebuked these self-righteous ones in Matthew 23:28 by saying to them, "on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness (Gr. anomia, 'lawlessness')." Because they supplanted Elohim's commands with their own rules, Yahusha labeled them as "lawless." So, according to the authoritative word of Yahusha, anytime a commandment of Elohim is superseded by a rule or law of man, this constitutes lawlessness.

The Lord illustrated the serious consequences of lawlessness in his Sermon on the Mount:

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers' (Gr. "workers of lawlessness," Matthew 7:21-23).

The will of Elohim is expressed in the Torah of Elohim. Doing what is pleasing to Elohim can only be done by obedience to his commands, as the well-known text says, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice..." (1 Sam.15:22).

But those who will not follow the commands of Elohim ("evildoers") will be rejected in the judgment. Yahusha will say to them, "Away from me, you workers of lawlessness (anomia)." All who reject the Torah of Elohim will be rejected by Yahusha because they have not done the will of Elohim. The explanation given of the parable of the weeds is in harmony with this conclusion. Yahusha said, "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil" (Gr. "all who practice lawlessness," Matthew 13:41).

Let the assembly of Yahusha the Messiah take heed to the written word of the Yahuwah. Lawlessness is the catchword for the end times, and the rejection of Elohim's Torah will turn out to be the identifying characteristic of the lawless one when he is revealed. Believers need to avoid the attitude which Satan has toward Elohim's righteous Torah. The attitude of the one who loves Yahusha Messiah ought to be the same as the Psalmist who said, "Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!" (Psalm 119:115).

END