DOES OBEYING THE LAWS AND COMMANDS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT PLEASE GOD?
Michael Rood and his followers believe that the purpose of the law is to describe things that please God. So Christians should obey Old Testament laws because He commanded them, and because doing so pleases Him. The OT commands were meant to be perpetual, to be obeyed for all time.
But does the New Testament support these assumptions? Since the NT is the new covenant, our practice is to understand the OT in the light of the NT and Christ's teachings.
Why Did God Give the Law of Moses?
According to the New Testament, there are at least two reasons the Law was given. Jesus speaks of one of them in his teaching on divorce in Matthew 19:3-10. The Jews believed that Moses commanded divorce, and they quoted the law saying that a man could divorce his wife for any cause. Jesus told them that Moses gave that command because of the hardness of their hearts, and that what actually pleased God was permanent marriage, as it was "in the beginning." .In other words, the commands on divorce did not please God, he just included them because of the deep sinfulness of mankind. No doubt there are other OT laws which do not show what pleases God, but were simply allowances for the depth of human sin. To return to the law of Moses in many cases is to return to compromises made for man's sin.
Galatians 3:19-24 describes the primary purpose of the law. The law kept people locked up until faith was revealed, and was the schoolmaster until Christ came. Once the law brings people to Christ, it is no longer needed.
"19 (The law) was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.... 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." Note the key prepositions- "until, before, after, no longer." There is no longer a use for the law, none at all, since Christ, or Messiah, has come.
Colossians 2:11-17 repeats this teaching. The cross canceled our debts and the law that stood against us. "So let no one judge you about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the new moon festival or the Sabbath. All such things are only the shadow, the reality is Christ." The law, which was only a shadow, was canceled when the reality, Christ, came. It was useful before Christ came. Now it is useless. It has been replaced by Christ.
This is the point of the book of Hebrews. Who needs Moses? Jesus Christ is greater. Who needs the high priest? Jesus Christ is the greater Priest. Moses, his law and his priest have been replaced by the One they led people to find. Moses and his law, the high priest and his sacrifices are needed and useful no more.
Michael Rood uses Matthew 23 to contrast the oral law ("enactments," or "tenakot" in Hebrew) from the written Law of Moses (Torah). This is in fact an important distinction. But then he misuses this verse to assert that believers in Y'shua (Jesus) today are required to keep the Torah but not the oral law. (See "A Rood Awakening" tour and the companion "Raiders of the Lost Book" video [ARA/RLB]). But the New Testament does not contrast the written law from the oral law- but rather contrasts the law (both written and oral) from faith: Paul said that according to the written and oral law he was blameless. But he counted all that "dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:8-9). Faith replaces the whole written and oral law.
Hebrews, Romans and Galatians all go into great detail to prove that Abraham, Isaac, Enoch and others knew nothing of the law and did not obey its commands, and yet were righteous. They did not need the law to show them what pleased God, nor did they need to obey it in order to please God. The law would have added nothing to their God-pleasing lives, because faith pleased God, not obedience to commands.
Do you need a chaperone after the marriage? Do you need to study blueprints after the house is built? (You can experience the house by going in it and studying it. The reality is the house, the shadow and imagination is the blueprints.) Obeying the law is like keeping a chaperone with a married couple in heir bedroom, or studying the blueprints outside without going into the house. Is it more pleasing to include the chaperone after marriage, even though a couple doesn't have to?
The Passover only foreshadowed what was to come- that on the day of Passover the Passover Lamb (Christ) was sacrificed, and on the day of first fruits He rose from the dead, becoming the first fruits of those who sleep (1 Cor.15) Later the Spirit came on the Feast of Weeks as the first of the Harvest. Why celebrate the freeing of Israel from Egypt (blueprint) when the reality of Christ freeing all people from death has already occurred. Why celebrate a Harvest of grain (very sketchy blueprint) when the reality of Christ the first fruits from physical death has already happened? Why celebrate the early Harvest when the giving of the Spirit and the ingathering of the first of the Church has already occurred?
To go back to the Law is to kiss the shadow instead of your wife (she wouldn't be pleased with that!). To go back to the law is often to not please God, but to obey God's compromises to sin. According to the New Testament and Jesus Christ, the law served its purpose once, but it is no longer needed because Messiah has come.
The Teaching and Practice of the Apostles
What was the practice of the apostles according to the New Testament? They are good models for us to follow. Did they obey the law never, sometimes or always? If they at times followed the Law of Moses- what reason did they have to do so? Did they consider obedience to the law to be pleasing to God or required by God?
The Apostle Peter did not obey the law of Moses. Paul tells us this in Galatians 2:11-16:
"11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12 For before certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
Peter lived "after the manner of the Gentiles and not as do the Jews." When he changed his behavior by obeying the law at Antioch, Paul said Peter "was to be blamed," because obeying the law was "not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel." By this, Paul condemns Peter for obeying the law. According to this verse, Paul did not obey the law, either and he condemned those who did.
Peter no longer obeyed the law because God himself commanded Peter not to keep the law in a vision in Joppa recorded in Acts 9:
"13 a voice came to him, 'Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.' 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spoke to him again the second time, What God has cleansed, that do not call common."
God commanded Peter to break the law. The law called certain things unclean. After Pentecost, God declared all things clean, thereby ending the law.
The apostles and elders met in council to address the issue of whether or not Gentiles should be required to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses.
15:1 "certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.... 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses..... 7 Peter rose up, and said to them, Men and brethren, you know how a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God.... 9 put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.... (Later James declared,) 19 my sentence is that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.... 23 And they wrote letters after this manner; 'The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting to the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: 24 Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, You must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Fare you well.' 30 So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: 31 Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation."
The issue was clearly whether Gentiles should obey the Torah and be circumcised (circumcision began some 600 years before Moses). The letter which the Apostles wrote answering this question is quoted in verses 23-29. It does not include either circumcision or obeying Torah as any of the necessary things. James also states that the men who taught that believers should be circumcised and obey the Torah did not have the apostles' authorization (24) and were "subverting your souls." In the same way, everyone today, including Michael Rood, who teacher that believers should obey Torah are "subverting your souls."
Although this is a key passage on this issue, Rood barely addressed it in the "A Rood Awakening" tour and the companion "Raiders of the Lost Book" video (ARA/RLB). He dismisses this passage by asserting that the apostles opposed the enactments of the Pharisees (oral law), no the written Law of Moses. However, they always use the term "Law of Moses," never the term "enactments," which in the Gospels is usually translated as "traditions" of men. It is clear they mean the written, not oral, law because James speaks of the Law being read in synagogues (21). The oral law could not have been read in synagogues then, because it wasn't written down (And to this day the Torah is read in synagogues, not the oral law which is often referred to as the Talmud or Mishnah.
Rood also tries to escape the obvious conclusion of Acts 15 by asserting that when v. 21 mentions that Moses is read in synagogues, it means that the believers in Y'shua (Jesus) will hear the rest of the Torah in their synagogues and then they will be required to obey it all. This makes no sense at all- in part because believers in Y'shua were thrown out of all the synagogues so could not hear the Torah there.
The Apostle Paul was thrown out of every synagogue he entered, in most cases after a single sermon. He was thrown out of synagogues in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), Iconium, Lystra (Acts 14), Thessalonica, Berea (Acts 17), Corinth (Acts 18) and Ephesus (Acts 19). Believers in Y'shua as Messiah met next door to the synagogue in the house of Titius Justus (Acts 18:7) and in the houses of people like Aquila (Romans 16:5). Paul left the synagogue in Ephesus to meet at the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9). The Apostle John tells believers to "put them (false teachers) out of the church" (3 John 10), not out of the synagogue. Not once in the book of Acts, the epistles or Revelation is there ever a reference to believers meeting in synagogues (the Epistles never refer to synagogues at all, and Revelation refers only to the "synagogue of Satan"). This is no surprise, for Saul says that he "imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on" Y'shua (Jesus), and we see in Acts many more Jews who did the same. .
Paul Did Not Obey the Torah (Law of Moses)
Paul did not obey the law at Antioch, as Galatians 2 noted above. The Jews persecuted him because they said,
"This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law." (Acts 18:13)
The Jews further accused Paul, saying:
"This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law" (Acts 21:28).
In his defense, Paul never claimed that he obeyed the law at all times (because he didn't), instead he spoke of how Jesus Christ revealed himself to Paul as Lord, and the Lord commanded the end of the Mosaic law.
Eating food offered to idols was also against the law. Yet, Paul clearly says that believers are permitted to eat it. In fact, three times he said that obeying the law by not eating food offered to idols was actually "weak," not something hat pleased God (1 Corinthians 8), and added:
"8 meat commends us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. 9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (1 Cor 8:8).
In other words, obeying the law does not please God any more than disobeying it. Only the "weak" obey the law. Obeying the commands of the law is bondage, not liberty, and Paul no longer lived in bondage after he received grace in Christ Jesus.
Furthermore, while the Apostles at times worshiped in the temple, there is never any record of them celebrating the three major festivals, even though most of the apostles lived within the prescribed distance from the temple for much of their lives.
Occasionally Paul obeyed the commands of the law, but only for a special purpose, and never because he considered God to be pleased by obedience to the law:
"19 For though I be free from all men, yet I have made myself servant to all, that I might gain the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; 21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. 22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker of it with you" (1 Cor 9:19-23).
Paul sometimes temporarily obeyed the commands of the law because this pleased the Jews and made them more willing to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not because it pleased God. As an example of this, Paul circumcised Timothy not because it pleased God, but because it pleased Jews:
"3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they all knew that his father was a Greek (Acts 16:3).
Paul circumcised Timothy not because he believed he should obey the commands of the law, not because it pleased God to obey, but because it pleased the Jews and would make it easier to gain the Jews for Christ.
Clearly, the apostles not only systematically disobeyed the commands of the law, but also taught others not to obey them either.
Does the law please God more? The law of Moses permits slavery, permits (and commands in some cases) polygamy, forbids wearing cloth made of more than one kind of material, permits concubines, commands that beards and sideburns not be trimmed, commands wearing tassels on clothes, commands divorce for any cause the husband decides (and so forbids women to get a divorce), commands that disobedient children, adulterers, homosexuals and those who curse God be killed, and commands ritual purification after menstruation. Does it please God to follow these commands today? Do you follow and promote obedience to these commands in the law? If, as followers of Rood and Old Testament law say, the laws give a clear image of what God likes and dislikes, then why don't you obey and teach all these?
Did Jesus Teach that His Followers Must Obey the Commands of the Law
Because They Are a Clear Picture of Righteousness?
Jesus Christ apparently lived the life of an Orthodox Jew in most ways, following the commands of the law of Moses. However, the picture the Gospels paint of Christ is one who challenged the Law again and again, and was continuously attacked by Pharisees who saw themselves as protecting the Law from the assaults of Jesus of Nazareth.
Jews repeatedly accused Jesus of breaking the commands of the Law, including:
+ Sabbath laws, by
- allowing his disciples to Harvest grain on the Sabbath (Mat 12)
"when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, Behold, your disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day. 3 But he said to them, Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law, how that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.
7 But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." Jesus admitted to breaking the law, but declared that breaking it pleased God, and that the law of Moses was of no effect since he as Lord of the Sabbath had declared these actions good.
- healing on the Sabbath ( It is especially striking that when the Jesus is accused, he doesn't deny the charge of working on the Sabbath. Instead, he said, in effect, that doing good on the Sabbath was God's perfect will, and the Mosaic Sabbath rest laws either could be broken to do good or could stand side by side with doing good.
+ kasruth (kosher) laws of clean and unclean
- Jesus repeatedly ate with Gentiles and sinners, which was impossible to do without breaking thee laws. Even touching (to say nothing of actually eating) food prepared or touched by Gentiles, or even that prepared by Jews in a non-kosher kitchen was breaking the commands (Mat 9:10-13) When Jesus was confronted by the Jews, he did not deny breaking the Law of Moses, but told them, "go and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice'
(Mat 9:13) By saying this, he pitted the prophets as well as himself against the Law of Moses.
- Jews criticized Jesus for breaking kosher law by allowing a woman who was a "sinner" to touch His feet
- Jesus did not censure a bleeding woman for touching him, which would make him unclean (Mat 9:20-22)
- Jesus specifically taught that breaking kosher laws did not make people unclean, "Jesus said, 'Are you also yet without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand, that whatever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.'"
+ people thought that Jesus came "to destroy the Law" (Mat 5:17)
Jesus also contrasted his teaching from the Law. In the sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus repeatedly says "You have heard it said," (referring to the Law, "but I say to you..." His teaching supercedes the Law because the Law is weak, bare, the crudest of ideas of righteousness, which prohibits only the grossest sins and barely scratches the surface in trying to describe what is pleasing to God.
The Jews did not commit blatant adultery and did not murder, and divorced their wives for many reasons, so they believed that they had fully obeyed the Law and pleased God, and so were perfect (many Orthodox Jews see themselves this way even today). The Law executed people for murder and adultery, but never penalized people for lust or anger. So they believed that by obeying these commands they fully pleased God.
Then Jesus said, "But I say to you," and taught that lust was adultery, and anger was murder, and that the only reason for divorce was adultery. The Jews were shocked. They thought they knew and obeyed what pleased God, only to have Jesus tell them that the Law was barely a glimmer of perfection, and was light years away from true righteousness.
From the perspective of the Law, there was a huge difference between adultery and lust, and between murder and anger. From Christ's perfect perspective, there was none.
It was as though the Jews who obeyed the law held it up as a chunk of coal and said, "this is the perfection of carbon, we have the perfection of God's will in the law." Then Jesus held up a polished diamond, His teaching, and said, "this is the perfection of carbon, I am showing you the perfection of God's will."
Why did God give the people of Israel such a crude and incomplete picture of righteousness in the Law? They were raised as slaves, in the pagan land of Egypt and had forgotten or never known what Abraham's life of faith and friendship with God was like. Their hearts were hardened by sin (for example, Jesus said that their hardness was the reason for the Law on divorce: "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." Mat 19:8). In a sense, this command was a compromise that took into account the depth of Israel's sinful nature and actions. Plus, they did not have the Holy Spirit in them as believers in NT times do. As it was, Israel fell far short of fulfilling even this barest of pictures of God's will.
To return to the law or to see it as a clear picture of God's likes and dislikes is to return to the weakest of pictures of what pleases God, one that in a sense is misleading. The Jews thought they could fully please God by obeying it. But even if they had obeyed every command perfectly, their righteousness would be far short, for as Jesus said, "I say to you, That except your righteous shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 5:20).
SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE EASTER?
Rood's followers hold that Christians should not celebrate Easter because,
1) "Easter" is the name of a false goddess, 2) worship services take place at sunrise on a Sunday which was the day of the week when legend says a sun god rose, and 3) believers are not commanded to celebrate Easter; in contrast, God's people were commanded by Moses to celebrate other festivals such as Passover, so they should be celebrated instead
First, a look in any dictionary reveals that "Easter" means the celebration of Christ's resurrection. No meaning for the word "Easter" has anything to do with a goddess or non-Christian religion. Dictionaries do note that the word "Easter" comes from the Old English (OE) word "Eastre" which meant "spring" or the name of a goddess. Old English was spoken from 400- 1100 A.D. The word "Easter" was never used for a goddess. But a word that was spelled differently ("Eastre," not "Easter") and used over 900 years ago did mean this at that time. (The Resurrection of Christ was celebrated hundreds of year before Old English came along.) It really makes no difference what a related word meant 900 years ago. What matters is what our modern English words mean now. Rood's argument is like saying that we shouldn't use battery chargers now because 500 years ago the English word "charger" meant a platter, and it was used to carry John the Baptist's severed head.
But just for the sake of dialogue, let's pretend that "Easter" was used today to mean both the day of resurrection and the name of a goddess. Would Christians then need to avoid the word and the celebration for this reason? The practice of early Christians sheds some light on this.
Three prominent leaders in the early church were Apollos, Dionysius and Tychicus (their names appear many times in the New Testament). They continued to use these names long after they became respected Christian leaders, even though many people of that time worshiped "Apollos" as a sun-god, "Dionysius" as a god of wine and revelry, and "Tyche" as god of destiny. It didn't bother them that their names were names of Greek and Roman gods, they were just names.
By the same token, people today don't avoid the name "Diane" or "Diana" because it was once used of a goddess of fertility 2,000 years ago (Acts 19; some translations use the Roman name "Diana," while others use the equivalent Greek name "Artemis"). And, Christians aren't compelled to avoid "Nike" shoes because the Greeks once built temples to Nike, nor eliminate the fourth day of the week because the word "Wednesday" once referred to a Norse god, nor refuse to acknowledge planets like Saturn and Neptune because the names were once used for Greek gods.
In fact, the OT in a few places (Jeremiah 31:32, 3:14, Isaiah 54:5ff) even used the name "Baal" for the true God, because "Baal" could mean owner, husband, master or the idol Baal. While the Hebrew titles "Elohim" and "El" were normally used for the true God, they were also used for the goddess Ashtoreth (1 Kings 11:5, 33) and for idols (Isaiah 57:5). The prophets didn't seem compelled to avoid the titles because they were also used by idol worshipers, anymore than Christians avoid the titles "God," "Lord" or "Master" because some people use them for false gods today.
Worship From Obedience or from Thankfulness?
Should Christians celebrate Passover because the Mosaic law commanded it to be done, but not celebrate Easter because the Bible does not command us to?
This leads to the question- should Christians celebrate only things Israel was commanded to celebrate- and not celebrate things that are not commanded to celebrate?
The Bible does not command me to hug my children, celebrate their birthdays, or enjoy wedding anniversaries with my wife. Does this mean that I should not do these things? If my wife commanded me to celebrate our anniversary by giving her gifts, would this make me enjoy celebrating it more? Would she be more pleased if I gave her a gift because I was commanded to, or because I wanted to do so because I love her (even though she hadn't commanded or expected it)? Surely it's apparent that we are more pleased with gifts that come from someone's love rather than done in obedience to command.
It is revealing to read books of laws for Orthodox Jews such as Laws and Customs of Israel. Vol 3-4 includes a section on "Laws Concerning How to Honour, Delight in and Rejoice on a Festival." It lists things that are mandatory and obligatory to do in order to delight in a festival. But does performing a list of mandatory commands make anyone delight in a festival? It is far more likely to burden one with making sure that all the obligatory commands are obeyed.
The same is true of celebrating The Day of the Resurrection of our Lord (note that traditional churches typically use the term "The Day of the Resurrection of our Lord" in bulletins and worship materials rather than the more common "Easter.") The Christian Church celebrates it because Christians since Christ's resurrection were excited, thankful, happy, pleased and delighted that Christ rose from the dead, and that this assured believers that they will rise to eternal life as well. No OT festival provides forgiveness of sins, resurrection and eternal life- only the death and resurrection of Christ do. OT festivals celebrate God's provision for the physical descendants of Jacob, not for all people. But the resurrection of Christ, on the other hand, brings forgiveness and life to all human beings who believe, not just to the Jews. There is far more reason to celebrate Christ's resurrection than any other festival or event in history- not because we are commanded to, but because we are delighted to.
Dr John P Juedes, 2005
See related articles by John Juedes about Michael Rood, including: "Found a Book, But Lost the Gospel-- A Review of "A Rood Awakening' and 'Raiders of the Lost Book'" and "Michael Rood, Doomsday Prophet"
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