I became a believer in Yeshua, but have been told that, being Jewish, I still have to keep the law of Moses. How do you see my position as a Jewish believer?
To start with the first part of your question: As for our position as human beings before God, the Bible clearly teaches that there is no difference between a Jew and a non-Jew. Both are descendants of the fallen Adam. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), or in Job’s words: “What is man, that he should be clean? And he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”(Job 15:14).
Giving the law, God does not expect man to be saved by his own works, nor can he live righteously before God. On the contrary; it is by the law that man comes to know his sins. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
Therefore neither the law nor the prophets speak of the possibility of human righteousness, but only of God’s righteousness. That very righteousness becomes ours by belief. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Rom. 3:21,22).
That, as Paul says, even the prophets witness this principle, is clear from Jeremiah 23:5,6:
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
The law brings unto to Christ
So, the law was never given in order to live a perfect life before God. Even while the people of Israel lived in Canaan in the time of the Messiah, about 2000 years ago, they could not keep the Law. Yeshua said to the Jews: “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?” (John 7:19). Paul, a Jew out of the school of Gamaliel, out of the tribe of Benjamin, gives us an answer in Galatians 3:19: “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” (also see Rom. 5:13). We know that ‘the Seed’ is Yeshua (Gal. 3:16). Paul explains it in the next verses (21-25): “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster”.
The law brings us unto Christ, that is the real aim of the law! How? By making it clear that we are sinners, who need redemption. Paul wrote: “I had not known sin but by the law” (Rom. 7:7). The law leads to the understanding that we are in need of salvation, which has been provided by Yeshua. Even in the times of Moses and David the people of Israel could only be saved by faith. Not because they were the seed of Abraham or by keeping the law, but only by faith! We read in Genesis 15:6 “And he (Abram) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
What else do we learn about the law?
- Its nature is holy, just, good and spiritual (Rom. 7:12,14)
- It was a shadow of the things to come (Hebr. 10:1)
- It is fulfilled by Christ (Matt. 5:17; Luk. 2:22; 24:44; Joh. 19:30)
But in combination with our human nature, the law
- worketh wrath (Rom. 4:15);
- by the law, sin abounds (Rom. 5:20)
- gives knowledge of sin (Rom. 7:7)
- brings us under the curse (Gal. 3:10).
- is a ministration of death (2 Cor. 3:7)
- “the law is not made for a righteous man but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, etc….” (1 Tim. 1:9)
Besides all these things mentioned above we must remember that:
- The Law was given to Israel as an exclusive marriage pact, between God and Israel (Jer. 3:14)! We could say that the 613 commandments were the marriage articles for Israel.
- The complete law could only be kept in the land in combination with the Temple service
- The Law also knew strict sanctions, which could only be fulfilled under jurisdiction of established civil legislation. For instance: taking God’s Name in vain is a terrible sin, but does that mean that we should stone the curser, according to Lev.24:14-16? And who will bring his disobedient son to the elders to have him stoned? (Deut. 21:18-21). Adultery is an atrocity, but who will put the adulterer and the adulteress to death…? (Lev. 20:10).
Not under the law, but under the grace
As believers in Yeshua we are called to live by His grace and stand in the new life, He has given us by His death and resurrection.
For this reason Paul wrote: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
“For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law but under grace!” (Rom. 6:14).