On Being Generous with Grace

The Midrash Key examines selected portions from the Gospel of Matthew and demonstrates that they are expositions or applications of First Testament (Old Testament) texts. But there is no way to address all of Jesus’ teachings in a single volume. As John noted in writing his Gospel, processing the words of Jesus is a major undertaking. John 21:25 reads, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

So we have to deal with a portion at a time, here a little, there a little. The focus here is on some of Jesus’ more famous words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-42. The text reads as follows:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you….

The theme of this section is “being generous with grace.” The guiding principle in being generous with grace is the idea of “walking the extra mile.”

The extra mile

As we examine the Savior’s words, please first note the moderate nature of walking the extra mile. If we are struck on the cheek, we turn the other cheek. Yet the matter ends there: we do not turn the other cheek again without limit. If someone is attempting to sue us and demands our tunic for compensation, we grant him our tunic and another garment in addition. We do not grant him our entire wardrobe, the lease to our house, or all our worldly possessions.

Roman law demanded that non-Romans could be forced to carry a soldier’s gear for one mile. Jesus’ disciples are to go beyond the requirement of the law and carry the gear two miles. Not three miles, not twenty miles, but two.

The context

Second, let’s note the context of this passage. I have pointed out frequently that the text from the Sermon on the Mount takes about eleven minutes to read, but we can assume Christ spoke for at least two hours and probably three or four. What we have are summary statements and partial quotations. Jesus is probably commenting (via Midrash) upon a variety of passages from the Torah, such as Exodus 21:23-25. The more immediate context addresses avoiding litigation. Matthew 5:25 offers a good summary of the context:

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison….

These verse deal with the litigation debates of the day, and the disciples’ willingness to suffer a moderate amount of loss in an attempt to be at shalom (peace) with others. The concept is addressed from a different angle by Paul in Romans 12:18a: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Jewish debates

Third, let me call your attention to the Jewish debates about these issues at the time of Jesus. When we talk about the “eye for eye” commands, how did the Rabbis understand this demand? David Daube, in his work The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (Hendrickson, pp. 254-65), devotes a chapter (titled “Eye for Eye”) to discussing the Jewish understanding of Talion (the law of retribution), that is, their understanding of the “Eye for Eye” command.

To the first century Jew, the expression was more or less synonymous with the idea of financial compensation and litigation. In other words, the Rabbis in Jesus’ day took the command to mean, “compensate an eye for what an eye is worth, a tooth for what the court determines a tooth is worth.” Whether this is the original intent of Moses’ command may be a matter of debate, but this was apparently the understanding in Jesus’ day.

Jesus, on the other hand, is encouraging his disciples to avoid court, when possible. Rather than taking advantage of every infraction with a lawsuit (the attitude of “eye for eye”), we need to hold off. Just because a disciple can take someone to court does not mean that he should. This hesitancy toward litigation applies even toward an evil person.

Yet we need to be careful not to extend Jesus’ words to limitless proportions. We must remember His moderate examples. We need to remind ourselves that we have eleven minutes of summary from sermon several hours long.

In many cultures, a “slap in the face” is considered a form of insult. The Jews in Jesus’ day were debating how much one should be compensated for insult. The Mishnah (Bara Kama 8:1) documents a firm ruling: “If anyone wounds his fellow, he becomes liable to compensate the injured party for five different aspects of the injury: damage, pain, healing, loss of time from work, and insult….”

And Bara Kama 8:6 reads, “Does he give him a blow upon the cheek? Let him give two hundred zuzees; if with the other hand, let him give four hundred….”

How Jesus applies the principle

Fourth, note how Jesus applies the principle to other situations. Rather than go through the bitter relational damage of a lawsuit, we are to suffer some loss, if necessary, to maintain peace and preserve relationships. If someone feels we have wronged him and he demands a tunic for compensation, we grant his demand and go beyond, throwing in a coat. Such an extravagant gesture of goodwill goes beyond merely keeping the peace.

In 1 Corinthians 6:7, Paul applies the principle Jesus taught: “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?”

Church leaders are to handle disputes within the church family (1 Cor. 6:1-8), but the ideal is to de-escalate the dispute by suffering moderate loss, if necessary. The same is true with society at large. Although we should take great pains to avoid litigation, this does not mean Christians should never go to court, file a lawsuit, or resist a lawsuit. Some situations are more than moderate in implications and may affect innocent parties (e.g., custody of children in a divorce settlement).

In contrast to suing a brother for every possible infringement, Christ is saying, “give people space.” That is the message of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount. In my view, Jesus is saying, “Put up with insult and even a moderate amount of abuse before you take someone to court. Let people have space to be human, to err. Do not take the attitude of an opportunist, perched to exploit every infraction.”

A disciple who is ready to take advantage of others, to control others or to intimidate others is not very Christ-like. Such withholders of grace disgrace the God of grace. On the other hand, a disciple who walks extra miles without limit is an enabler of abuse and wrong. Between those two is the disciple who gives people space to err, but knows when enough is enough.

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Ed Vasicek's picture

B L Wilkins wrote:
I agree with your above post. On more than one occasion, in fact, the Apostle Paul voiced concerns that we would say at least border on our concept or present usage of worry. My only point was that "take no thought" has more the idea of anxiety and worry, as especially seen in Phil. 4:6 and that idea, in principle, fits very well in the context of the Sermon where the same termonology is used. I don't think the idea of "don't think about it at all" or "don't bother with it at all" really can be born out from the word or context. One can say that and still believe the SOM has relation to the coming Kingdom (in what way exactly can be and is debated among even Dispensationalists) by interpretation and still have relevance and application to our day today. The hour is late so I better stop typing lest I really start to ramble. Anyway, thanks again for the article.

I agree with you. I think something like Phil. 4:6 is more about limiting worry, containing it. When I have needed Philippians 4:4-8 most, I have found that I have to keep returning in prayer for more doses of peace. It is not so much a cure as a treatment that can be repeated time and time again.

I think the sad part about relegating the SOM to the Millennium -- however, even if we draw applications -- is that the true interpretation is lost. You are not going to probe into a text as deeply if you believe its main use is for believers perhaps yet to be born. Those who interpret as non-midrash end up substituting application for interpretation, or view the ethical issues involved as the averaging out of positions, with Jesus being on one extreme and either the OT or Paul on the other. What I have tried to do in my book is demonstrate that if we study Jesus' words in the context of the OT verses he is elaborating upon, we find they harmonize beautifully with both the Old Testament and Paul.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
I think the sad part about relegating the SOM to the Millennium -- however, even if we draw applications -- is that the true interpretation is lost. You are not going to probe into a text as deeply if you believe its main use is for believers perhaps yet to be born.

Ed, the words spoken by the Lord Jesus were spoken to Jews and none but Jews. These principles were addressed to Jews who lived under the Law. The following words were addressed to the same Jews who lived under the Law:

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:18-20).

Here the Lord Jesus ties the "righteousness" which is needed to enter the kingdom to the Law. And the reason that the righteousness of those who will enter the kingdom will exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is because they will be supernaturally empowered to keep the Law:

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ez.36:26-27).

If His words apply to us then we must somehow place ourselves under the law even though the Gentiles were never given the Law:

"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Ro.2:14).

If the principles contained in the sermon were for the time then present or for the time in which we now live then why would the Lord Jesus Himself not follow the following commandment which He gave in that sermon?:

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Mt.5:39).

Here is how the Lord reacted when He was struck:

"And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?" (Jn.18:22-23).

The Lord Jesus certainly did not turn the other cheek.

Daniel's picture

I hope you all don't mind me just skipping the bulk of the posts to ask my question.

Ed, I am a little confused. Are you saying Jesus was teaching you have to go an extra mile, but only 1 extra mile? Or was it more of, I will go a mile and however farther I feel appropriate? In other words, was it about taking the law just another step (or hedge) or was it more of grace? Am I making sense? Did I misunderstand you?

Jay's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
I am of the opinion that there is such a thing as holy worry. The command to be anxious about nothing is a principle, an axiom that must sometimes be weighed against other axioms, not a complete teaching. Sometimes I think I wrote my book, The Midrash Key, just so I could copy and paste stuff on SI Smile But here goes:
Quote:
The reader must remember that Jesus is reducing detailed teaching down to general, "hands on" principles. He is demonstrating how Torah passages could be expanded and applied to life in his day. These condensed, black and white generalities provide a starting point, not necessarily an ending point. They are not complete treatises, but wise sayings which sometimes must be weighed against other wise sayings.

This is an interesting point, and I think you're right, Ed, especially in light of all the passages that talk about having 'the fear of the Lord'. It's not fear per se, but a right understanding of God and a desire to relate to Him in the way(s) that we should as created beings.

I don't have a ton of time, but did notice that Wikipedia has a whole listing of passages that discuss this (I was looking for Matthew 10:28 and the link got my attention)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_of_God_%28religion%29

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ed Vasicek's picture

Daniel wrote:
I hope you all don't mind me just skipping the bulk of the posts to ask my question.

Ed, I am a little confused. Are you saying Jesus was teaching you have to go an extra mile, but only 1 extra mile? Or was it more of, I will go a mile and however farther I feel appropriate? In other words, was it about taking the law just another step (or hedge) or was it more of grace? Am I making sense? Did I misunderstand you?

No, I am not saying an extra mile is exactly one mile, but rather that we go beyond the minimum, but that we can also discern when enough is enough. Sometimes it may seem like we go an extra two miles! I was calling attention to the moderation, good-faith concept of walking the extra mile or giving a cloak and not just the tunic. Jesus did not say "70 times 7," as he did in regard to forgiveness precluded by repentance in Luke 17.

"The Midrash Detective"

Daniel's picture

Ok, to me at least, it seemed as if you were saying just do 2 miles.

Quote:
Roman law demanded that non-Romans could be forced to carry a soldier’s gear for one mile. Jesus’ disciples are to go beyond the requirement of the law and carry the gear two miles. Not three miles, not twenty miles, but two.

Anyways, just wanted to clarify.
Thanks

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jack, almost all the words Jesus spoke were spoken to Jews, including John 14:6. The apostles were and remained Jews, as was Paul. Christianity was (and is, IMO), a "sect of the Jews," even though gentile believers are grafted into the body as equals.

There is nothing in the text that tells us to distinguish what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount from his other public teachings. The Great Commission teaches us to observe ALL that he taught us, not just part (Matthew 28:20). This is the most NATURAL understanding, IMO. Trying to force a dividing screen of sorts of these texts seems strained at best.

As far as Matthew 5:18-20 goes, you have some good points. I do agree that the SOM is addressed completely toward Messianic Jews (early Jewish believers) and mostly to gentile believers as well. This explains why it is included in the Gospels in such great detail. Some aspects are uniquely Jewish (such as leaving your gifts at the altar), but most aspects are ethical and deal with anyone who would consider himself a disciple. The whole idea of being a disciple is to learn (by heart) the teachings of one's rabbi and then to put it into practice. To say that Jesus' followers should not obey his teachings but only those of the apostles or a few of Jesus' teachings is to say that we are therefor not his disciples.

As far as justification/salvation, it sounds like you may not believe that salvation has always been and always will be by grace alone through faith alone. Because of your view (if I am correct in assessing it), you can divert some texts (like the Law, many of Jesus' teachings -- like the Matt.5 passage) and relegate them to a different dispensation. I am not sure that this is where you are coming from, but I am assuming it.

However, this does not offer an escape from the issue of apparent salvation by works. You still, however, need to deal with similar verses, like Romans 2:13-16 or Galatians 6:9. From the Midrash Key:

Quote:
The Scriptures do maintain that our works are correlated with regeneration, even though they do not cause it. Good works are the sure evidence of New Birth. Obedience to God's commands express the regenerate life within, but such obedience cannot create that life...

From a footnote in the same book:

Quote:
➢ Many of us in the evangelical camp might ask, "Why didn't Jesus simply say one could not be saved (inherit eternal life) by law-keeping? After all, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone." The answer is that Jesus (and sometimes Paul, Peter, or John) does not distinguish between cause and correlation. Since loving God and others is the result and evidence of regeneration, there is no attempt made to distinguish the fruit from the tree that produces the fruit. This is a frustration to modern, western logic, but we must recognize that there is more than one way to reason. We have seen similar cases already in this book, for example Deuteronomy 5:29, 10:12-17, 11:13, and 30:6. Whose responsibility is what? The best reconciliation is that those whom God regenerates are guaranteed to exemplify the fruit He demands.

The Jewish concept of "The Kingdom Of God" does not always refer to heaven. Sometimes it refers to the Millennium, and sometimes it refers to entering into a time of Torah Study. The Jewish rabbis (including Jesus), ranked commands (light vs. heavy) for a variety of reasons. For example, the Sabbath Command was no work. The Passover required a lot of work. What happens if the Passover falls on a Saturday? The rabbis ruled that then the Passover command took precedent. But sometimes they used "lighter" and "heavier" paradigm as an excuse from obeying the lighter commands, even when they were not in conflict with the heavier commands. We are catching a bit of the debate about this in Jesus' words.

i can tell that you can think, Jack, and I appreciate that. I would argue that Bible interpretation is a messy business, but whatever problems we have interpretationally in the SOM are found elsewhere.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Regarding the Jewish understanding of the Kingdom, here is yet one more quote from The Midrash Key:

Quote:
➢ The Torah and the Kingdom of Heaven (God)
Torah study was a privilege because when one studied, he “entered the Kingdom of Heaven,” “took the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” or came “under the wing of heaven." Note the words of Hillel and the Talmudic commentary that follow those words:
He [Hillel ] would stand at the gate of Jerusalem and meet people going to work. He questioned them, "How much will you make at work today?" One person would answer, "A denarius." Another replied, "Two denarii." Then he would ask them, "What will you do with your earnings?" They would reply, "We will buy what we need to live." Then he challenged them, "Why don't you come follow me and acquire knowledge of the Torah. Then you will receive life in this world as well as life in the future world?" In this way Hillel lived all his days and was able to bring many people under the wing of heaven.

Dr. David Flusser comments regarding the sages of Bet Hillel:

In their opinion, what mattered was not whether one accepted Roman rule or rejected it; for the Kingdom of Heaven could come about at any time, once the people repented and took upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven – and once that happened, no nation or tongue would hold sway over them. Only then would God fulfill his promise to rule over Israel…the kingdom of Rome would vanish once the people had taken upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven…The Sages believed that even when a man recites "Hear O Israel," he is taking upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven and is living under it…Jesus developed the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in a personal manner…It is reasonable to assume that…Jesus thought that he was not only at the center of this process, but that he was himself the Messiah, who was bringing the Kingdom of Heaven upon Israel."

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jack, almost all the words Jesus spoke were spoken to Jews, including John 14:6. The apostles were and remained Jews, as was Paul. Christianity was (and is, IMO), a "sect of the Jews," even though gentile believers are grafted into the body as equals.

Christians are a "sect of the Jews"? What verses from the Scriptures can you quote to support that idea?
Quote:
There is nothing in the text that tells us to distinguish what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount from his other public teachings. The Great Commission teaches us to observe ALL that he taught us, not just part (Matthew 28:20).

First of all, your idea is based on the assertion that the so-called "great commission" is for us today. And if we are to obey "all" the Lord Jesus taught while He walked the earth then we are supposed to obey those who sit in Moses' seat:

" Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not" (Mt.23:1-3).

According to your ideas and the way which you apply words which were meant for the Jews and Jews only then those in the Body of Christ should obey those who sit in Moses' seat. From your study of the Mishna you are fully aware that the reference to "Moses' seat" is in regard to the Law, specifically the third class of Halakhic ordinances. Therefore since you say that we are to observe ALL things that the Lord Jesus taught then the Gentile believers were commanded to obey those who sit in Moses' seat.

However, we know that the Gentile believers were never commanded to keep the Law but if we follow your train of thought they would be forced to keep it. And following your ideas then we should believe that what He said here is also applies to those in the Body of Christ:

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:18-19).

Quote:
This is the most NATURAL understanding, IMO. Trying to force a dividing screen of sorts of these texts seems strained at best.

According to your view nothing is strained if we can somehow delude our mind into believing that the Gentile believers were under the Law. But we both know that when some attempted to place them under the Law it was decided that the Gentile believers did not have to keep the Law. James said :

"Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment...For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well" (Acts 15:24,28-29).

Quote:
As far as Matthew 5:18-20 goes, you have some good points. I do agree that the SOM is addressed completely toward Messianic Jews (early Jewish believers) and mostly to gentile believers as well.

Mostly to Gentile believers as well? The only Gentile believers who might have heard the Sermon on the Mount would have been proselytes who were full citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt.15:24).
Quote:
The whole idea of being a disciple is to learn (by heart) the teachings of one's rabbi and then to put it into practice.

Do you think that the Gentile believers learned from their rabbi? Do you have a rabbi, Ed?
Quote:
As far as justification/salvation, it sounds like you may not believe that salvation has always been and always will be by grace alone through faith alone. Because of your view (if I am correct in assessing it), you can divert some texts (like the Law, many of Jesus' teachings -- like the Matt.5 passage) and relegate them to a different dispensation. I am not sure that this is where you are coming from, but I am assuming it.

You assume wrong. I believe that no man has ever been saved in any other way than by grace through faith alone. Just because I point out that the Lord Jesus' words were directed only to the Jews who were under the Law does not mean that I believe that they were saved by law keeping.

But if we are to follow your ideas then all of those in the Body of Christ should have to keep the Law because, according to you, ALL that He taught while He walked the earth applies to us.

Ed, if the principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount applied at the time when they were spoken and apply in the time now present why did the Lord Jesus not keep His own commandement?:

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Mt.5:39).

Here is how the Lord reacted when He was struck:

"When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. 'Is this the way you answer the high priest?' he demanded. 'If I said something wrong,' Jesus replied, 'testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?' " (Jn.18:22-23).

The Lord Jesus certainly did not turn the other cheek after being struck in the face. Instead, He demanded an answer as to why He was struck. Ed, why do you suppose that the Lord Jesus did not turn the other cheek? If you are right that the principles which He taught in the Sermon on the Mount were in effect at that time then this was the perfect opportunity to put what He taught into practice. But He did not. Why not?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Brother Jack,

You need to understand that this article was written after I wrote an entire book, much of which addresses our perspective on interpreting Jesus' words in the SOM, as well as elsewhere.
The article was material I did NOT include in the book, but is based upon the premises of the book. I would encourage you to get a copy of The Midrash Key if you want more extensive material that addresses some of your concerns.

About Jesus turing the other cheek, are you suggesting that he was not a Jew? Or that this happened before Pentecost? Then why did he not obey his own command?

My interpretation is as I said before. Turning the other cheek is an expression for insult, and Jesus ruled that you should not sue for insult, but turn the other cheek. When he was slapped, he obviously did not sue or take someone to court. I have zero problem with it. How do you answer it?

I Without recapping the entire book, let me paste another excerpt that sets forth my paradigm from the Midrash Key, one that contrasts my view (below) with the more typical viewpoints.

Quote:
 An Alternate Scenario
The above scenario is what many Christians have believed and were taught. Reading the Bible apart from its historical and Jewish context can birth such a belief system. We could point out specific verses that seem to bolster some of these misunderstandings. In addition, the prejudices and anti-Semitism espoused by important church leaders throughout the centuries have embedded these misunderstandings deep into the theology and viewpoint of much of Christendom. Here is my alternative scenario. I have noted the distinctions between mine and the previous scenario through use of italics:
Yeshua came to his own people, and preached out against the hypocrites within Judaism, as did many other Jewish rabbis and leaders; most of the Jewish people agreed that the problem was real. This is why Jesus was able to get away with turning over the tables in the temple courtyards on two occasions: many people experienced similar frustration with their corrupt leaders who were in collaboration with their Roman oppressors.
He taught that the entire system was not corrupt, encouraging his followers to obey the rulings of the rabbis who “sat in the seat of Moses." He taught that the Law was good; he had not come to abolish it, but to fulfill (properly interpret and apply)it; he came to restore Judaism to its foundation, based upon loving God and loving one’s neighbor, an old concept from Deuteronomy embraced by many rabbis at that time. He had a special love for the Jewish people, and he wept over the judgment that awaited them because of their unbelief, yet he prophesied about a future time when the Jewish people would welcome him as Messiah.
Because the corrupt and powerful Jewish leaders rejected him, and because most Jews were uncertain about him, Jesus accumulated those Jews who did believe in him, and began his Messianic- Jewish church (assembly) with this remnant. Later, in the book of Acts, he revealed that this assembly would include gentile believers as well.
In resentment (and fear that the Romans would view Jesus as a political threat and bring more oppression to Judea) of him, the corrupt Jewish minority who held the power secretly called an illegal trial. They selectively invited leaders they assumed would embrace their dubious scheme. They collaborated with the Romans and – while the Jewish people were distracted celebrating Passover– crucified him.
The Jewish people, as a whole, would not have approved of his trial or crucifixion. Whereas they were not necessarily convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, they did view him as a notable rabbi and a good man. While many were undecided, the Palm Sunday crowd who had come from the north (Galilee) and Bethany remained faithful to the Lord. Later, in the Book of Acts, many priests (Acts 6:7) and Pharisees (Acts 15:5) came to believe in Yeshua.
Some of the same powerful leaders who hated Jesus persecuted the church, while the godly leaders, like Rabbi Gamaliel, opposed persecution (Acts 5:33-39). God’s anger burned against Jewish unbelief. Allowing one generation’s time for repentance (40 years), Yahweh brought about the destruction of Jerusalem and grafted many gentile believers into the church to make Israel jealous. God will one day fulfill the promises he had made to that nation, because he is faithful, sovereign, and not dependent upon human fickleness. He has not replaced the Jews with the church. Believing Jews as well as believing gentiles are part of the Body of the Messiah, the church. When it comes to salvation, God covenants on an individual basis (John 1:11-12). Unbelieving Jews are lost and in need of salvation, just as unbelieving gentiles are lost and in need of salvation. But God has a special destiny for the generation of Jewish people living in the “end times.” The church is connected to and draws her sustenance from Israel, yet God’s promises to the genetic descendents of Jacob stand. Jews are, at times, a stubborn and stiff-necked people and make wonderful examples of God’s grace to the undeserving.
 Others Have Already Documented A Similar Paradigm
Messianic Jewish and Jewish Roots authorities have produced a wealth of volumes and articles to argue the case above. Especially noteworthy are Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel by David Stern, Jesus, the Jewish Theologian by Brad Young, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church by Ron Moseley, and They Loved the Torah by David Friedman. In this volume, I hope to build upon these assumptions and put them to practical work. I will elaborate upon some of the above in later chapters and footnote in greater detail.
I believe when Yeshua preached to the Jewish crowds, he did so out of love and respect. To the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus was transparent about his view of the Jewish people and Judaism, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” Note that Jesus used the term "we," thus including himself as a Jew.
He cherished the Law and sought to apply it to his listeners, and he fully engaged in the debates of his day. Yeshua was unlike any other rabbi, yet he was more like his rabbinic peers than most Christians imagine. He validated the rulings of other rabbis; he sided with one particular school of rabbis most times, but not always. He talked about what fellow rabbis talked about, the “hot issues” of the day. Sometimes he found himself caught in the crossfire between competing schools of thought (the conflict between the School of Hillel – Bet Hillel, and the School of Shammai – Bet Shammai). Most of his teachings were consistent with mainstream Judaism.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

It takes several books to address all these issues thoroughly. But I will say this:

The School of Hillel (and Jesus usually agreed with this school) taught that gentiles could be saved if they turned from their sin to the true God and demonstrated their repentance by living under the covenant of Noah (not the Law, which was given to Israel). The School of Shammai (which prevailed in Jesus' day) taught that gentiles had to be circumcised and obey the Law in order to be saved (like we see in Galatians). The Jerusalem council, in Acts 15, besides making it clear that turning to God meant believing in Jesus, affirmed the Hillel position (that saved gentiles only had to live by the standards of the 7 Noahide commands...you can look these up on the internet). Their ruling against blood and immorality parallels those commands.

So I am saying that believing Jews continued to be Jews and observed the Law (not for salvation, but to identify as God's nation, Israel), including eating Kosher (which is why Peter could not understand his vision, even though it was quite a while AFTER Pentecost, and the goal of the vision was not about food, but, as Peter said, that he should consider no MAN unclean). So believing Jews WERE expected to observe the rulings of those who sat in the seat of Moses, as Jesus said.

Alternatively, Nehemia Gordon, a Karaite Jew, has written a book titled, "The Hebrew Yeshua Vs. the Greek Jesus" and he argues that this statement (obeying those who sit in Moses' seat) is actually a textual corruption based on the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew. I do not agree with that position, but it is an interesting alternative.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
There is nothing in the text that tells us to distinguish what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount from his other public teachings. The Great Commission teaches us to observe ALL that he taught us, not just part (Matthew 28:20).

Ed, let us look at what the Lord Jesus said:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Mt.28:19-20).

One of the things that the Lord commanded and, according to you, is for us in the Body of Christ to observe is the following:

"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Mt.23:1-3).

There is no doubt that the reference to "Moses' seat" is in regard to the Law which was only given to the Jews and does not apply to Christians. You seem to realize this fact, writing that:

Quote:
So believing Jews WERE expected to observe the rulings of those who sat in the seat of Moses, as Jesus said.

But what about the Gentile believers. You said "we" are "to observe ALL that he taught us, not just part."

Are you now saying that you were wrong and "we" are not to observe all things that He taught but only part?

If we are only to observe only "part" then how do we know which "part" of the Sermon of the Mount we are to observe, especially since that sermon was only addressed to the Jews who were under the Law?

Quote:
About Jesus turing the other cheek, are you suggesting that he was not a Jew? Or that this happened before Pentecost? Then why did he not obey his own command?
My interpretation is as I said before. Turning the other cheek is an expression for insult, and Jesus ruled that you should not sue for insult, but turn the other cheek. When he was slapped, he obviously did not sue or take someone to court. I have zero problem with it. How do you answer it?

Ed, I said nothing that even hints that the Lord Jesus was not a Jew. From your answer I can only conclude that you believe that the Lord Jesus' words in regard to turning the other cheek cannot be taken in a literal sense. I find that strange since every other command given in the sermon should be taken literally.

I explain the fact that He did not turn the other cheek to the idea that the principles outlined in the Sermon on the Mount will not be in effect until the kingdom is set up on the earth and those principles were not in effect at the time the Lord Jesus walked the earth and they are not in effect now.

You make a big mistake when you take things which were spoken to Jews who were living under the Law and attempt to apply those same things to those in the Body of Christ, where there is neither Greek nor Jew (Col.3:11) and where no one is under the Law.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
You make a big mistake when you take things which were spoken to Jews who were living under the Law and attempt to apply those same things to those in the Body of Christ, where there is neither Greek nor Jew (Col.3:11) and where no one is under the Law.

Jack, the same verses, like Galatians 3:28 teach we are neither Greek nor Jew teach that there is neither female nor male in Christ. There is a difference between our relationship to and status before Christ and our daily or church lives. For example, women are not allowed to teach men in the church, even though there is neither male nor female. So we have to say that there is a sense in which we have neither female or male in Christ, and there is a sense in which male and female are distinct.

The Jewish believers were clearly zealous for observing the Law. What could be more clear than Acts 21:20

Quote:
20When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.

Yet the gentiles were not responsible to keep the Law (Acts 15:20), though they were to learn it, as per Acts 15:21

Quote:
"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

Jack, the common elements between Jewish believers were (1) a common trust in Christ alone for salvation, and (2) a common commitment to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Being a disciple, by definition, meant learning (usually memorizing) and then practicing the command of a rabbi. In this case, all who followed Jesus learned and kept the commands as relevant. Since gentile believers were grafted in years later, Jesus did not address the relationship of gentile believers to the Law, but did so later via the apostles.

As far as literalness goes, the whole point of my book and article is that the SOM is a series of short summary statements, and that to really understand their teaching, you need to go back to the first testament verses that the text is expounding and the issues of the day. I have suggested and documented that one debate of the era was whether one could sue another for insult, as in the case of a slap on the cheek. In the case of Matthew 5:25-41, these issues are in the context of legal rulings. I am saying that a slap on the cheek is typical for all sorts of insults or prosecutable offenses. This is not talking about persecution here, as is the case when Jesus was arrested. The SOM is filled with figurative language or cases taken to the extreme (this is called the rabbinic "hot and cold" method). For example, one man has a large beam jutting out of his eye while another has a speck. A camel goes through the eye of a needle elsewhere.

If you try to interpret the SOM with the idea that this is ALL Jesus said at the time, you will come out with a perspective that says, "contradiction." And thus the interpreter is forced to relegate the SOM to a different dispensation, which still carries with it the same problems, only for a different group of people. The Millennium will not be a perfect time because people will be sinners, but the issues of Matthew 5:11-12 is for now, not the Millennium. To the contrary, during the Millennium it is more like Zechariah 8:23,

Quote:
This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' "

As far as Jesus' response when slapped, I Peter 2:23 makes the point:

Quote:
23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

I do not think that turning the other cheek really refers to this, IMO; this is bearing up under persecution. I still think turning the other cheek is about the issue as to whether one should sue for insult, and Jesus is teaching we should give people space before we bring in the authorities or sue. If you want to think that turning the other cheek refers to persecution, I do not have trouble with that. But I stand by my article.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed, you seem to miss the importance of what I said earlier. I will once again cover the same points again. Earlier you said:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
There is nothing in the text that tells us to distinguish what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount from his other public teachings. The Great Commission teaches us to observe ALL that he taught us, not just part (Matthew 28:20).

Ed, let us look at what the Lord Jesus said:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Mt.28:19-20).

One of the things that the Lord commanded and, according to you, is for us in the Body of Christ to observe is the following:

"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (Mt.23:1-3).

There is no doubt that the reference to "Moses' seat" is in regard to the Law which was only given to the Jews and does not apply to Christians. Here is what you said about the command to obey those who sit in Moses' seat:

Quote:
Yet the gentiles were not responsible to keep the Law (Acts 15:20), though they were to learn it, as per Acts 15:21.

You did not say that "we" are to learn from what is meant for the Jews but instead you said that we "are to observe ALL that He taught us. not just part."
Quote:
The Jewish believers were clearly zealous for observing the Law. What could be more clear than Acts 21:20.

Yes, they were zealous of the Law during the Acts period but in the epistles that were written after the Acts period came to an end we read:

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 Pet.2:16).

That practically mirrors what Paul said here in regard to being free from the Law:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13).

By Peter's own words they have been set free from the Law. At another place he referred to the Law as being a "yoke" (Acts 15:10) and that is exactly how Paul referred to the Law:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal.5:1).

If Peter was not referring to being set "free" and at "liberty" from the Law then what was he referring to?

Besides that, the entire teaching of the book of Hebrews is in regard to the fact that the Jewish Christians were no longer under the Old Covenant (the Law) but instead were now under the New:

"The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb.7:18-22).

It is a huge mistake to assert that the Jewish Christians remain under the Law.

So again we see that you make another mistake when you take things which were spoken to Jews who were living under the Law and attempt to apply those same things to those in the Body of Christ, to those who are not under the Law.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Dear Jack,

Thanks for your thoughts. You said:

Quote:
You did not say that "we" are to learn from what is meant for the Jews but instead you said that we "are to observe ALL that He taught us. not just part."

Okay, you got me. I was painting with a broad brush. I should have said, "The teachings of Jesus are not set on a timer -- some for now and some for later." Within the Gospels, Jesus often addresses different people groups and situations. We can think of differences in genders, differences in what he expects of those who follow him (sell all, don't follow me but go back and tell people what God has done, etc). Jesus never addressed the distinction between Jewish and gentile believers because that did not come up until the Book of Acts, just as the issue of divorce of a believer from an unbeliever and desertion did not come up until I Corinthians 7:10-13.

If you want to say that the SOM applies only to Jewish believers, but applies perpetually because of the context, I would still disagree with limiting it to the Jews (because its extensive inclusion in the Gospels implies it applicability to all believers), but I would confess that you at least have an argument. But as far as saying it is for the future, where does it say or even imply that?

Thus the Jewish believers were to observe those in the seat of Moses' rulings. I do not believe Jews were constrained to remain Jews as believers, but that they were advised to do so. I do not think that Christ told his Jewish disciples to blindly follow the rulings of those in authority (obeying God was always primary).

The history behind this statement is involved. Let me be brief. Bet Hillel (School of Hillel) had been trumped by the more powerful Bet Shammai. Bet Shammai placed restrictions on the people opposed by Bet Hillel. But Bet Hillel taught his disciples to submit to the authoritative majority who controlled the seat of Moses in the main Jerusalem synagogue. Jesus, I believe, is advocating a similar "team player" attitude. Much of the relevance of this was reduced after the Temple was destroyed and mainstream Jews rejected Messianic Judaism. Messianic Jews, as early as 150, built their own synagogues.

Quote:
Yes, they were zealous of the Law during the Acts period but in the epistles that were written after the Acts period came to an end we read:

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 Pet.2:16).

That practically mirrors what Paul said here in regard to being free from the Law:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13).

The events of Acts 21 are dated at 60A.D. Galatians is dated at either 49 or 55 A.D. This means that Acts 21 and Galatians HARMONIZE -- or at least SHOULD harmonize if you have a consistent paradigm. I Peter is but a few years after Acts 21.

Church history tells us that the apostles and Jewish believers continued to be Torah observant.

There are certainly senses in which the Law is temporary and other senses in which it is eternal (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, relates to God apart from the Law. But that does not mean a Jewish believer cannot elect to follow the Law to identify with his people.

This is a COMPLEX discussion we are having, you know! But you are worthy of it, for sure.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Thus the Jewish believers were to observe those in the seat of Moses' rulings. I do not believe Jews were constrained to remain Jews as believers, but that they were advised to do so.

Ed, what do you think that Peter was referring to in the following verse, words that were written after we see those in the Jerusalem church keeping the Law?:

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 Pet.2:16).

That practically mirrors what Paul said here in regard to being free from the Law:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13).

By Peter's own words they have been set free from the Law. At another place he referred to the Law as being a "yoke" (Acts 15:10) and that is exactly how Paul referred to the Law:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal.5:1).

If Peter was not referring to being set "free" and at "liberty" from the Law then what was he referring to?

Quote:
If you want to say that the SOM applies only to Jewish believers, but applies perpetually because of the context, I would still disagree with limiting it to the Jews (because its extensive inclusion in the Gospels implies it applicability to all believers), but I would confess that you at least have an argument. But as far as saying it is for the future, where does it say or even imply that?

From the way that the Lord Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount I would say that the application of that sermon relates to the time when the kingdom will be set up on the earth:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth...Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:3,5,10).

At the end of the sermon He also ties what He had been saying into the "kingdom":

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt.7:21-23).

Not only that, but I believe that the Lord's words in regard to turning the other cheek should be understood in a "literal" manner. The fact that the Lord Jesus Himself did not turn His other cheek when He was struck tells me that that teaching was not for the time then present nor is it for the present time.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jack Hampton wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
Thus the Jewish believers were to observe those in the seat of Moses' rulings. I do not believe Jews were constrained to remain Jews as believers, but that they were advised to do so.

Ed, what do you think that Peter was referring to in the following verse, words that were written after we see those in the Jerusalem church keeping the Law?:

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 Pet.2:16).

That practically mirrors what Paul said here in regard to being free from the Law:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13).

By Peter's own words they have been set free from the Law. At another place he referred to the Law as being a "yoke" (Acts 15:10) and that is exactly how Paul referred to the Law:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal.5:1).

If Peter was not referring to being set "free" and at "liberty" from the Law then what was he referring to?

Quote:
If you want to say that the SOM applies only to Jewish believers, but applies perpetually because of the context, I would still disagree with limiting it to the Jews (because its extensive inclusion in the Gospels implies it applicability to all believers), but I would confess that you at least have an argument. But as far as saying it is for the future, where does it say or even imply that?

From the way that the Lord Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount I would say that the application of that sermon relates to the time when the kingdom will be set up on the earth:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth...Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:3,5,10).

At the end of the sermon He also ties what He had been saying into the "kingdom":

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt.7:21-23).

Not only that, but I believe that the Lord's words in regard to turning the other cheek should be understood in a "literal" manner. The fact that the Lord Jesus Himself did not turn His other cheek when He was struck tells me that that teaching was not for the time then present nor is it for the present time.

Jack, If you want to interpret turning the other cheek as only a literal turning, that's fine. But, as quoted above, Peter interpreted Jesus' response as non-retaliation. If you interpret that literally, what about the beam in the eye vs. the speck?

Granted, if you do not buy the proposition that Jesus is teaching as other Jewish rabbis taught, I can understand where you are coming from. My belief is that Jesus DID teach as in the other rabbis taught, only better and with more authority. Rabbinic literature is filled with legal rulings about applying portions of Torah, and that's what I understand the SOM to be. You apparently see it otherwise.

When we talk about the Law or the Kingdom, we are dealing with terms that have a variety of aspects. I believe that there will be an earthly Millennial Kingdom, but I also believe that the Kingdom can refer to the eternal state, the fellowship of believers we call the church, and, as quoted in my book the Midrash Key, any time one studies the Word he "enters the Kingdom." These terms do not break into the highly organized, neat, clean systems modern westerners are used to. From The Midrash Key:

Quote:
Torah study was a privilege because when one studied, he “entered the Kingdom of Heaven,” “took the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven,” or came “under the wing of heaven." Note the words of Hillel and the Talmudic commentary that follow those words:
He [Hillel ] would stand at the gate of Jerusalem and meet people going to work. He questioned them, "How much will you make at work today?" One person would answer, "A denarius." Another replied, "Two denarii." Then he would ask them, "What will you do with your earnings?" They would reply, "We will buy what we need to live." Then he challenged them, "Why don't you come follow me and acquire knowledge of the Torah. Then you will receive life in this world as well as life in the future world?" In this way Hillel lived all his days and was able to bring many people under the wing of heaven.

Dr. David Flusser comments regarding the sages of Bet Hillel:

In their opinion, what mattered was not whether one accepted Roman rule or rejected it; for the Kingdom of Heaven could come about at any time, once the people repented and took upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven – and once that happened, no nation or tongue would hold sway over them. Only then would God fulfill his promise to rule over Israel…the kingdom of Rome would vanish once the people had taken upon themselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven…The Sages believed that even when a man recites "Hear O Israel," he is taking upon himself the Kingdom of Heaven and is living under it…Jesus developed the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in a personal manner…It is reasonable to assume that…Jesus thought that he was not only at the center of this process, but that he was himself the Messiah, who was bringing the Kingdom of Heaven upon Israel."

Since the Jews did not pronounce God's Name (Yahweh) and minimized pronouncing his personal titles (Lord, God, etc.), they would sometimes substitute Ha Shem (“the Name”) or "Heaven” for God. Thus Jesus probably actually said, "The Kingdom of Heaven" (and “heaven” is used in Matthew's Gospel, the Gospel honed for Jewish readers), but the term is probably dynamically translated by Mark, Luke, and John for gentiles as "The Kingdom of God."

I have already pointed out how that the fruit of salvation (works) are often not distinguished from the cause of salvation (by grace through faith). Take John 5:27-29, for example:

Quote:
And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

This is obviously not the separation of the sheep and the goats before the Millennium. Yet it is very similar in end result to the Matthew 7 passage you quoted.

You cannot avoid these apparent discrepancies by relegating them to different dispensations.

As far as the Law goes, the tedious rulings of the Pharisees (esp. Shammai) made it a burden. Thus the Jewish believers were not CONSTRAINED to follow rabbinic customs, but when it talks about rulings of the Seat of Moses, these were the few major rulings that applied to all Jews; the idea of Jesus' command to Jewish believers would have been consistent with Jesus' practice while training them. He modeled what it meant to turn the other cheek (do you agree with that?) and he modeled what it meant to follow the rulings of those in the Seat of Moses. Please answer this: Do you believe Jesus' obeyed the commands that He gave to His disciples while He ministered on earth?

Yet, in Mark 7:6-13, he spoke out AGAINST these additions to the Law. So, however one interprets obeying those in the Seat of Moses, if you believe Jesus practiced what He preached, then his very actions model what He meant.

It was the constraint to follow the Law and the additional commands to the Law that made them burdens (or difficult, as used in the NIV of Acts 15:19).

The Scripture itself pictures the Law as a DELIGHT:

Quote:
Psalm 119:16
I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Psalm 119:24
Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.
Psalm 119:35
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Psalm 119:47
for I delight in your commands because I love them.
Psalm 119:70
Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.
Psalm 119:77
Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.
Psalm 119:92
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
Psalm 119:143
Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.
Psalm 119:174
I long for your salvation, LORD, and your law gives me delight.

These verses mean something. The Law did not (and does not) serve merely ONE purpose. For Messianic Jews [the Israel of God ] in the first century, the Law was their schoolmaster to bring them to Christ (Galatians 3:21-24). The Law restrains sin in those not regenerate (I Timothy 1:8-9).
Faith upholds the Law (Romans 3:31). The Law of God is written on the hearts of the believer.

Paul's statements that seem to put the Law down as a bad thing seem to conflict with his statements that the Law is a good thing. Paul addresses the misuse of the Law or seeking to be justified by the Law or living by the Law as though the Messiah had not come. I agree that there are sense in which the Law has passed away, but there are also senses in which it is everlasting and profitable for doctrine and necessary to make us fully righteous (2 Timothy 3:16-17), though in what sense is certainly a complex issue.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed, what do you think that Peter was referring to in the following verse, words that were written after we see those in the Jerusalem church keeping the Law?:

"As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God" (1 Pet.2:16).

That practically mirrors what Paul said here in regard to being free from the Law:

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (Gal.5:13).

By Peter's own words they have been set free from the Law. At another place he referred to the Law as being a "yoke" (Acts 15:10) and that is exactly how Paul referred to the Law:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal.5:1).

If Peter was not referring to being set "free" and at "liberty" from the Law then what was he referring to?

Thanks!

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jack, I don't see these verses in the context of people choosing of their own volition to follow the Law to identify with their people. I have already explained in as many words that the yoke of bondage was the endless barrage of qualifiers many rabbis added to the Law, the Mark 7 thing and the traditions of men -- and the misuse of the Law as an attempt to gain merit before God.

So do you believe that the Psalmist in Psalm 119 was under a yoke of bondage? If so, he seemed to be enjoying it. How do you account for the delight in the Law of Psalm 119?

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jack, I don't see these verses in the context of people choosing of their own volition to follow the Law to identify with their people.

Ed, here is a part of the Introduction to the book of Hebrews from The Scofield Study Bible:
Quote:
"The purpose of the book, then, was:

(1) to confirm Jewish Christians by showing that Old Testament Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law."


The entire teaching of the book of Hebrews is in regard to the fact that the Jewish Christians were no longer under the Old Covenant (the Law) but instead were now under the New:

"The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' "Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb.7:18-22).

Ed, the Jews would not continue to keep the law after it was revealed to them "that Old Testament Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law"?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
to confirm Jewish Christians by showing that Old Testament Judaism had come to an end through the fulfillment by Christ of the whole purpose of the law.

Jack, Scofield was right on this point. OLD TESTAMENT Judaism had come to an end, replaced by the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not about which rules we obey, but rather a covenant of the individual that only includes the regenerate, they of whom God's Law has been written upon their hearts.

Do you believe that the Jews will offer sacrifices in the Millennium? If so, you have to say that in some sense Judaism has not been done away with.

The New Covenant is about what those verses in Hebrews say it is: a better way to draw near to God. The Law IS weak and useless to accomplish what some were purporting it to accomplish, because it did not regenerate the soul.

Romans 7:14

Quote:
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

And Romans 8:3

Quote:
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

That New Covenant includes only those who know the Lord, whereas the Old Covenant included regenerate and non-regenerate Jews. In the New Covenant, God covenants with the individual, so that ALL under this covenant know the Lord.

Thus the Jewish believers in Acts 21 who were zealous for the Law were under the New Covenant because they had come to God on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice and were not dependent upon the Law as a way to gain God's favor. But they still obeyed the Law.

Acts 21:20-26

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When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “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. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

Paul saw to it that a sacrifice was paid for (an integral part of taking a Nazarite vow), thus endorsing the idea of sacrifice and Torah obedience for the Messianic Jew; these believers who cut their hair did so to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that one could abide under the New Covenant and still obey the Law (taking a Nazarite vow). A paradigm that does not integrate all this criteria is defective, IMO.

This absolutely proves that Torah observance for Jews and the New Covenant are compatible.
Please understand: I am not saying Jewish believers must follow the Torah, but neither am I saying that it is wrong for them to do so.

The issue is two-fold for the believer: the standards he is to obey, and the power to obey those standards. The New Covenant is primarily about the latter.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jack, another way for me to state my case is this.

In Acts 15, Jewish believers recognized that they needed to accept gentile believers who did not observe the Torah of Moses.

They let the gentiles in who did not embrace the Law, but, once gentiles got in control of the church, they refused to allow Jews who obeyed the Law into the fold.

Do you see the injustice of this?

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jack, Scofield was right on this point. OLD TESTAMENT Judaism had come to an end, replaced by the New Covenant.

Ed, the following words of the Lord Jesus spoken in the Sermon on the Mount are about Old Testament Judaism and nothing else:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:17-19).

Today the Law is inoperative and the commandments which the Lord makes reference have been abolished:

"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph.2:15).

With this in mind we can understand that when thre Lord Jesus spoke of breaking one of the least commandments that He can only be speaking about the time when the Law will once again be in effect. Today these least commandments have been abolished in the lives of believers so it is impossible to "break" one of them.

Therefore the Lord Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount will only find their fulfillment at the time when the Law will once again be in effect. Here we see prophecies that speak of the time when the keeping of the Law had been resumed:

"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" (Dan.9:27).

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jack, it is a pleasure to discuss these matters with you. I feel like I am being stretched and I appreciate it. You are an ethical debater. Let me try to address the items you brought up.

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With this in mind we can understand that when thre Lord Jesus spoke of breaking one of the least commandments that He can only be speaking about the time when the Law will once again be in effect.

Jack, if the Law will once again be in effect, it is not abolished. It may be temporarily set aside, but it is not abolished.

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Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:17-19).

"To fulfill" is an idiom used by the Hebrews to properly interpret and apply (to complete our understanding). In addition, the Jews did expect the Messiah to make some adjustments to the Torah. So Christ is teaching here that the Torah portions he is teaching upon need to be obeyed as He presents them. He could do this because He is the Messiah, not just a Rabbi. Our greatness in both His earthly kingdom (when we will reign with him) and perhaps our heavenly reward is affected by our obedience or lack thereof.

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"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph.2:15).

The enmity here is not the Torah, but, to quote David Stern, " (1) Gentile envy of the special status accorded by God to Israel in the Torah, (2) Jewish pride at being chosen, (3) Gentile resentment of that pride, (4) Mutual dislike of each other's customs...Jewish customs are unique for a reason. They did not merely evolve; rather, they were the Jewish people's response to the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances...That is why it is appropriate to say that the enmity between Jews and Gentiles was occasioned by the Torah...The enmity was destroyed in Messiah's body when he died for all sinners..."

The NIV captures the thought better, IMO, although the translations vary quite a bit on this one:

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14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,

The enmity or hostility is the barrier war between Jew and Gentile. By removing the Law as a means for drawing close to God and because the NT sets a different criteria for status, namely, all under the New Covenant know the Lord, the points enumerated by Stern are addressed.

If you still maintain your view that the Law is the culprit rather than its misuse, how do you justify the Eph. 2:15 text being written perhaps in the same year Paul went to the Temple and paid for sacrifices to held Jewish believers take a Nazarite vow? And how do you justify an interpretation that makes the Law a culprit in Galatians when Galatians was writtten 7 to 11 years earlier?

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Jack, it is a pleasure to discuss these matters with you. I feel like I am being stretched and I appreciate it. You are an ethical debater. Let me try to address the items you brought up.

Ed, it is also a pleasure to discuss these things with you, a gentleman and a scholar. You too are an ethical debater and very honest in your approach. Now please allow me to clear up the following misunderstanding:
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If you still maintain your view that the Law is the culprit rather than its misuse, how do you justify the Eph. 2:15 text being written perhaps in the same year Paul went to the Temple and paid for sacrifices to held Jewish believers take a Nazarite vow? And how do you justify an interpretation that makes the Law a culprit in Galatians when Galatians was writtten 7 to 11 years earlier?

I never intended to express the view that the Law is a culprit so excuse what I said that led you to that conclusion. What I was trying to do was to express the thought that the Law is not now in effect for any believer. Different aspects of the Mosaic Covenant worked together. For instance, the Ten Commandments was the knowledge of sin and therefore those who broke any of those commandments knew that their sin had defiled them. Then another part of the Law, the ordinances, provided a means whereby those who had sinned could be cleansed from their sins. In fact, one of those ordinances applied to the whole house of Israel and provided for the cleansing for the children of Israel (Lev.16:3).

Without the Temple there is no cleansing for the nation so therefore it is obvious that the Mosaic Covenant cannot now be in effect. That means that the following words of the Lord Jesus which were spoken in the Sermon on the Mount cannot possibly be in effect at the present time because they find their application under the Mosaic covenant:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:17-19).

The "commandments" which the Lord spoke of are commandments that were in force as long as the Mosaic covenant was operative. But now it has been temporarily set aside so it is impossible for anyone to break any of those commandments because they have been set aside. Therefore his following words can only be referring to a time when the Mosaic covenant is in force:

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

These words can only find their fulfillment when the Mosaic covenant is once again in force. They cannot have a direct application now because the Mosaic covenant is not now in force.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
I never intended to express the view that the Law is a culprit so excuse what I said that led you to that conclusion. What I was trying to do was to express the thought that the Law is not now in effect for any believer. Different aspects of the Mosaic Covenant worked together. For instance, the Ten Commandments was the knowledge of sin and therefore those who broke any of those commandments knew that their sin had defiled them. Then another part of the Law, the ordinances, provided a means whereby those who had sinned could be cleansed from their sins. In fact, one of those ordinances applied to the whole house of Israel and provided for the cleansing for the children of Israel (Lev.16:3).

Without the Temple there is no cleansing for the nation so therefore it is obvious that the Mosaic Covenant cannot now be in effect.


Thank you, Jack, for clarifying things. Your paradigm is neat, orderly, and logical. However, I do not think it takes into account all the Scriptures, which is why I personally disagree with it.

The Law was never about taking sin away from the inner person, but rather allowed for sacrifice to cleanse one ritually so that he could participate in the religious life of Israel. The sacrifices could only make one ritually clean. You probably agree with this, so I will just refer any readers to Hebrews 9:8-14, with a special emphasis on Hebrews 9:13.

So you are right in saying that the Law cannot be fully in effect now because the Temple is no more (and it appears that the writer to the Hebrews, in particular, picks up on this). But the Jews, like Ezekiel or Daniel, for example, still followed what part of the Law they could after the first temple was destroyed and they were in exile. They did not trash the rest of the Law because there was no Temple, but they viewed their inability to comply with it all as temporary. This did not create a new dispensation.

I do not want to split hairs, but, in my understanding (and that may change through correction), I see a distinction between the Mosaic Covenant and the Torah. The first covenant is an agreement, a contract. So is the second. The demands God places upon his people may or may not change. Thus, as I understand things, the New Covenant went into effect with the Last Supper, and the Jewish believers who were zealous for the Law in Acts 21 (including the apostles) were under the NEW covenant, not the Old. The essence of the New Covenant is not a distinct set of rules (for Jews in the Millennium are under the New Covenant) but the idea that all those under it have the Law of God written on their hearts (regeneration, circumcision of the heart, new birth). It is not the particular set of obligations that make the covenant new, but the relationship of all those under the new covenant to God.

Since we see in the very early church that Jewish believers continued to observe the Torah in a New Covenant way (Acts 21:20-25, Acts 10:14) and seeing that gentile believers were allowed to fellowship with Jewish believers without obeying the Law, and seeing that faithful Jews in the Babylonian captivity obeyed what parts of the Law they could (Daniel 1:8-16), and seeing that the Law will be observed by the Jews during the Millennium, what makes it so incompatible to say that believing Jews can, if they so desire, obey what portions of the Law that they can obey if they so choose, as long as they do not look down on believers who do not do so and they are not trusting in Law observance to justify them? I don't get it.

Cannot one observe a day to the Lord and another not?

"The Midrash Detective"

Jack Hampton's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Cannot one observe a day to the Lord and another not?

Ed, let us look at the following verse:

"In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away" (Heb.8:13).

At the time when the book of Hebrews was written the Law was still kept by most of the Jews but it was ready to "vanish away." Obviously by now it has vanished so the folllowing reference to "breaking" commandments can have no relevance now because it is impossible to break something that has vanished away:

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Heb.9:15).

This is obviously speaking of an individual's righteousness as judged by the Law but Paul makes it plain that during the present dispensation no one's righteousness will be judged by the law:

"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Ro.10:4).

Therefore the Lord's teaching as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount is not in effect now and it will not be in effect until the Law is once again in force.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Brother, I think we are just recycling our discussions from above. I guess we just disagree. I think this is a fair summary:

I do not dispute the verse to which you refer, but I interpret them as "in some sense." For example, Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes." I interpret it mean that a function of the Law has been fulfilled in Christ, but that the Law still has other uses, and that Christ is the end of the Law in this sense for all time. You understand that Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes, except in the Millennium.

I understand the Hebrews verses to teach that the Old Covenant is obsolete because the New Covenant has replaced it, but the main difference is not the rules but the disposition of the hearts of those under the covenants, and thus the Old Covenant has ended forever, even in the Millennium (when Jews will obey the Torah under the New Covenant).

We are at an impasse. But it has been a pleasure, brother.

"The Midrash Detective"

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