Aaron Eby, Boundary Stones, Christianity, FFOZ, First Fruits of Zion, God, Jesus Christ, Judaism, law, lawlessness, Messiah, Messianic Judaism, ministry of death, morality, objectice, sin, Ten Commandments, torah, Torah observant, universal
In chapter 2 of Boundary Stones, entitled “Sin Is Defined by the Law,” Aaron Eby promotes a less than orthodox teaching on sin. According to Mr. Eby, sin is defined by the Torah.
Here is what the Boundary Stone summary at the end of chapter 2 says:
In the Bible, the word sin refers to breaking one of the commandments. Though every human being is guilty of sinning against God by breaking his Law, believers receive forgiveness for their sins by faith in Messiah. The Messiah sets us free from sin. However, to be clear: Being “set free from sin” is not the same as being “free from sin.” Being saved makes it unacceptable for us to continue habitually living in sin. A person who has been forgiven and set free from sin will try to avoid sinning further. Avoiding sin requires keeping God’s law.
If Aaron Eby is correct, the overwhelming majority of Christians are even more steeped in sin than previously thought. Most Christians eat pork and shellfish, observe Sunday as the day of worship, wear mixed fabric clothing, and shave the corners of their beards. Most Christians don’t observe Passover, Yom Kippur, New Moon festivals, or the Sabbath. I don’t know of any Christians that make the prescribed sacrificial offerings for unintentional sin or firstborn sons (among other things). I certainly don’t know of any Christians who stone anyone for what the Torah considers capital offenses–such as rebelling against parents, blasphemy, idolatry, false prophecy, adultery, etc. Anyone who fails to keep all of these regulations, and rules I haven’t even mentioned, is a law-breaker and a sinner. The funny thing is, even those who claim to observe the Torah do not observe the whole Torah. More on this in a moment.
Mr. Eby writes:
The Scripture defines sin as any failure to obey the commandments of God’s Law.
It’s a good thing the story doesn’t end here, because we all fail to obey God’s commandments fully. Only the Messiah Jesus himself fully obeyed every applicable commandment found in the Law. In his death he paid the penalty for breaking the Law that was due us, and by faith in him we receive the gift of eternal life. Thank God that our eternal status does not depend on our ability to perform all the commandments.
As in the first chapter, Aaron Eby appeals to orthodox Christian doctrine, but mixes it with Rabbinic Judaism, creating a heterodox syncretic doctrine. Mr. Eby affirms that we all sin, and fall short of God’s glory. He affirms that Jesus paid our penalty for sin, saving us from the penalty of death. However, Mr. Eby’s definition of sin includes eating bacon.
Before we received his payment, our sinful lives were compared to the Law, and the Law’s prescribed punishment–death–applied to us. But now, the Law’s punishment does not apply to us, due to the grace of God. Now we’ve found freedom. We were once in bondage, but now we’re free!
Considering Aaron Eby promotes Torah observance, this is a bizarre statement. Paul taught that the law held us captive. The Apostle compared the Torah to a guardian that imprisoned God’s people.
Galatians 3:23-26 ESV
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Is the law a guardian Jesus sets us free from, or are we just set free from the penalty of death? Is the Apostle Paul right, or is Aaron Eby right? If the law held us prisoner until Christ came, what are we set free from if not the Mosaic law?
Aaron Eby explains:
Yet the freedom we receive in Messiah is not freedom from God’s Law. It is freedom from the law of sin and death. Because we are free from sin (now able to resist its temptation by the power of God’s Spirit within us), we are also free from the penalty of sin that is found in the Law: death.
We should not feel free to commit sins, now that by God’s grace they are forgiven. As it is written, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15).
Mr. Eby may be on to something here! He states we are not free from God’s Law, but the law of sin and death. In referencing Romans 8:2, he recognizes that more than one law is referred to in Scripture.
Romans 8:2 ESV
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Paul wrote of at least two separate laws here–the law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death. I would also say that neither of these laws is the Mosaic law. Paul speaks of another law in Romans chapter 2.
Romans 2:13-16 ESV
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Paul pointed out that the Gentiles were never given the Torah, but they knew the difference between right and wrong because of a law written on their hearts.
I would contend that the law written on men’s hearts is not the Torah, although it does make up portions of the Torah. This is the objective, universal moral law common to all people. All human societies have held that lying, stealing, adultery, murder, and so on, are wrong. The law written on our hearts accuses us without any written code. The law written on our hearts does not convict us when we work on Saturday, eat shrimp, or get a tatoo. The only ones convicted by that sort of thing are those who observe the Torah. The law written on our hearts cannot be synonymous with the Torah.
This is very important for us to recognize because Torah observant Messianics would accuse orthodox Christians of lawlessness. As Mr. Eby writes:
The Bible provides the definition for sin. 1 John 3:4 states, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” The Greek word for lawlessness is anomia, from the prefix a- meaning “without,” and nomos, meaning “law.” The Hebrew term corresponding to nomos is torah.
However, according to verse 16, God will judge men by the law written on our hearts, not the Mosaic law! This is a problem for Mr. Eby, who argues that sin is defined by the Torah. How could God be just and judge men according to a law that has not been revealed to all men? This makes it perfectly clear that by rejecting the Torah, Christians are not promoting lawlessness.
Romans 6:15 ESV
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Rather than sin being defined by a Special Revelation to the Jewish people, it is defined by the General Revelation God gave to all nations–the law written on our hearts, which our conscience bears witness to. The standard of holiness is God Himself, not arcane rituals and regulations. God’s nature is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). The Torah was just a shadow of the reality of Jesus. The Old Covenant shadow is obsolete now that we have the reality of the New Covenant in Christ (Hebrews chapter 8).
Paul makes an interesting observation of those who keep the written code of the Torah–
Romans 2:17-24 ESV
But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Paul is speaking to Torah observant Jews who see themselves as morally superior to Gentiles who do not have the written code. The Apostle points out that despite the fact that they have the law of Moses, and boast in it, they continue to break it. You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.
Aaron Eby calls on followers of Jesus to observe the Torah, but he himself does not observe the whole Torah. Mr. Eby claims to live by faith and follow the Torah, but the two are mutually exclusive. Paul put it this way–
Galatians 3:10-12 ESV
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
So the law is not of faith, and whoever observes the Torah must observe the whole Torah or be cursed. Mr. Eby cannot keep the whole law without a Levitical priesthood offering the proper sacrifices on his behalf. There has been no Levitical priesthood since the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. Mr. Eby is not in the habit of stoning murderers, adulterers, or blasphemers–which is a requirement of the Torah. Per the Scriptures, Mr. Eby and other Torah observant Jews (Messianic, Karaite, Conservative, or Orthodox) are under a curse.
Mr. Eby is not a true observer of the Torah he preaches. The Judaism that Mr. Eby has attempted to mix with the gospel is not the Torah observant Judaism of the Old Testament, but Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is not compatible with Christianity. Torah observant Messianic Jews have invented a new religion, an odd syncretic mish-mash of modern Judaism and Christianity, which is neither Judaism nor Christianity. It is another gospel.
Galatians 1:6-9 ESV
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Now that the Torah has been done away with, Christians might reasonably ask whether the Ten Commandments still apply to us today. Aaron Eby points out:
The Ten Commandments, for example, are included in the Law or Torah. Some commandments in the Torah prohibit acts such as stealing, murder, and certain sexual unions.
To be consistent with Scripture, the Ten Commandments do not apply to Christians today. This is probably a shock to most Believers. The Apostle Paul, champion of Christian liberty, wrote:
2 Corinthians 3:7-9 ESV
Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.
The only portion of the Torah engraved in stone was the Ten Commandments. Paul calls these very commandments the ministry of death. At this point, many Christians would object by saying that my interpretation promotes lawlessness. However, the Apostle is not vague: the Ten Commandments are the ministry of death which were brought to an end.
Does this mean Christians are now permitted to worship other gods, fashion idols, or take God’s name in vain?
The Ten Commandments no longer apply to God’s people, but the objective, universal moral law, which is written on our hearts, still applies. It is still immoral to dishonor one’s parents, or commit murder. God will judge adulterers, thieves, and liars. It will always be immoral to covet your neighbor’s spouse or property. The moral standards of the Ten Commandments come from the universal moral law, so while even the moral regulations of the Torah no longer apply, the objective morality they originated in still applies.
Paul, the tenacious opponent of the Torah observant Circumcision Party, even more vigorously opposed sin.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Christian are called to walk by the Spirit, rather than observe the Torah. When we receive Jesus Christ by faith, the Spirit of God actually dwells within us. This is far superior to the former written code, which could easily be misinterpreted. Even the moral regulations, re-affirmed in the New Testament, are disputed by Christians. For example, Aaron Eby and other Torah observant Messianic Jews dispute the orthodox Christian position! Even though all men have the universal moral law written on their hearts, we are fallen and see in a mirror dimly.
Christians have the indwelling Spirit to guide them into all truth. As long as we walk by the Spirit, we don’t sin.
Galatians 5:16-25 ESV
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
The Christian life is not dictated by the Torah, but led by the Spirit. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Rather than leading to lawlessness, this leads to love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. And no wonder–rather than following copies and shadows, Christians follow the Spirit of God. Objective, universal morality is grounded in God’s nature. Those led by God’s Spirit and God’s Word hate sin.
If Christians walk in the true realities of God, why would we remain in the shadows?