Aaron Eby, Abraham, Boundary Stones, change, Christianity, conscience, copy, eternal, Genesis, Hebrews, Israel, Jesus Christ, Judaism, law, law written on the heart, Messianic Judaism, Moses, patriarch, shadow, torah, Torah observant, transcendent, universal, useless, weak
In the sixth chapter of Boundary Stones, Aaron Eby argues that followers of Jesus should observe the Torah because God does not change. The boundary stone summary of the chapter “God Does Not Change,” Mr. Eby writes:
Depicting God as if he capriciously changes his mind about things is theologically dangerous. God is eternal and unchanging. And if he does not change, then neither do the expectations that he spelled out for us in his Law. God does not reverse His word or arbitrarily suspend his commandments, punishing his people for what he once praised them and praising them for what he once punished them. Instead, he is a good and consistent father, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I agree that God is not “capricious,” and that He is “eternal” and “unchanging.” However, I see no good reason why this means that the Torah of Moses is still in effect. You see, even though God never changes, His children do. Humans change their minds all the time and are often capricious. That is how we got the Mosaic law in the first place! The law was added because of Israel’s sin.
Can an additional law be a part of God’s eternal plan and unchanging commandments? Of course not! In fact, the Torah was only added until the Offspring (Jesus Christ) had come.
So far in this series, I have spoken of the Torah strictly in terms of the commandments God gave to Israel through Moses. However, Torah has a broader meaning of the five books that Moses wrote: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Genesis in particular shows us that God’s people served God without the Mosaic law. They obeyed God’s universal, transcendent law that is written on the heart.
If the broad Torah shows that God’s eternal law is not the Mosaic law, then, in a sense, Christians who are justified by faith are more “Torah observant” than Messianic Jews who still live under the Mosaic law.
If we look at any of the saints of Genesis–Adam, Eve, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and others–we never find God commanding them to obey the peculiar commandments given to Israel through Moses. Before Moses God never commands anyone to observe Sabbaths, new moons, or holidays such as Passover. God never commands pre-Mosaic saints to abstain from pork or shellfish. God never told anyone from Adam to Moses to undergo complicated cleansing rituals after touching the dead, having sex, or getting sick. God never admonished Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob to stone murderers, adulterer, or rebellious children. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. There is only one exception–God commanded Abraham and all his male descendants to be circumcised. More on this in a moment.
These facts should seriously trouble anyone who appeals to God’s unchanging nature to promote the law of Moses.
Paul demonstrates that the Mosaic law is not God’s eternal by appealing to the universal law written on human hearts, and to pre-Mosaic Abraham. Though the Torah bears witness to the universal law by including its moral commands against theft, adultery, lying, murder, etc., the Torah is not itself God’s universal law for all humankind. Otherwise, how could God justly judge the Gentiles, or even pre-Mosaic Hebrews who did not have the Torah? The Torah was only for B.C. Israel.
Here is what Paul points out concerning Abraham:
Romans 4:1-12 ESV
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Torah observance was never God’s eternal plan for all mankind. God’s eternal plan was justification through faith! Even as far back as Genesis, Abraham was justified by faith. This was prior to the law of Moses. Even though God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and all the males of his house, God justified him before he was circumcised. Paul argues that since Abraham was justified by faith apart from the law, so are we. Aaron Eby admits this in the first chapter of Boundary Stones:
Abraham received righteousness by grace through faith, which is–and always has been–the only way for anyone to receive right standing before God and forgiveness for sin. Any other heroes whom we will see in Paradise will undoubtably have obtained righteousness in this fashion.
In fact, the faith of these devout ones is attested to in Hebrews 11, demonstrating that their faith led to their eternal reward: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
But wait. At this point in history Jesus hadn’t died for the word’s sins, had he? Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Is it possible that Abraham came to the Father through some other means? Absolutely not! If he had, then the words of our own Messiah would be a lie, and he is not a liar. Thus Abraham must have been made righteous and reconciled to God through Jesus.
In Temple times, people didn’t offer a sacrifice before sinning; they offered it after they sinned. Sacrifices applied retroactively. In the same way, Jesus’ sacrifice did not apply only to the future, but, in a timeless way, it was the means by which the Lord granted grace to those in the past. Hebrews 4:3 affirms the timelessness of Messiah’s sacrifice: “His works were finished from the foundation of the world.”
What boggles me is how Aaron Eby can, on one hand affirm the orthodox Christian doctrine of salvation by faith, and yet on the other hand claim that the Torah is still binding on Jews and even Gentiles. The law is not of faith. The Torah was a guardian that held Israel prisoner until Jesus Christ came. Now Mr. Eby wants, not only Jews, but also Gentiles, to be imprisoned under a law that has passed away.
In his boundary stone, Mr. Eby writes that God is a good and consistent father, the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is very odd for a Torah Observant Messianic Jew to quote from the book of Hebrews, whose author calls the law of Moses weak and useless, and a shadow of the good things to come (Jesus and the blessings of the New Covenant). He explicitly writes that the Old Covenant is done away with in order to establish the New Covenant.
The writer of Hebrews wrote that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but he also wrote that God’s dealings with men clearly changed over time. Mr. Eby cannot affirm one position in Hebrews and deny the other. The whole book is sacred Scripture. If Mr. Eby wishes to appeal to God’s unchanging nature, he should stick to affirming the universal law written on all human hearts, and justification through faith, rather than a peculiar law intended to govern the lives of a peculiar nation for a particular time.