Is the Torah an Unbearable Yoke?
(Acts 15:10-11 & Matt. 11:28-30)
James Scott Trimm
Often when I share with Christians that the Torah is everlasting, for all generations, they respond by saying something like, “The Law was an unbearable yoke, the Messiah’s yoke is easy and brings rest to our souls.” By this they allude to Acts 15:10-11 and Matthew 11:28-30, two passages which have been very misunderstood.
Lets begin by looking at Acts 15:10-11 and Matthew 11:28-30 as they read in the KJV:
10 Now therefore why tempt ye 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.
(Acts 15:10-11 KJV)
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
(Matt. 11:28-30 KJV)
Now many of the teachers of Torah-lessness use these passages as proof texts. To them these passage refer to freedom from the bondage of Torah. However the “yoke” which is unbearable in Acts 15:10-11 cannot be the Torah.
In fact this is clear by comparing with, and closely examining Matthew 11:28-30. A portion of Yeshua’s statement in Matthew 11 is a quotation from the Tanak. A quotation which gives a great deal of context to Yeshua’s statement. Lets look at this Tanak passage:
Thus said YHWH, stand you in the ways, and see,
and ask for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and you shall find rest for
your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.
Notice that this “way” which gives “rest” is “the old path”. Now lets read a little further down in Jer. 6 to obtain more context:
But they said, we will not walk therein (Jer. 6:16)…
…they have not hearkened unto my words,
nor to my Torah, but rejected it.
Notice that the “old path” that brings “rest for your souls” to which they said “we will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16) is identified by YHWH as “my Torah”. This takes us up a bit further in the text of Jeremiah:
…they are foolish, for they do not know
the way of YHWH, the requirements of
their Elohim. So I will go to the leaders and
speak to them; surely they know the way
of YHWH, the requirements of their Elohim.”
But with one accord they too had broken
off the yoke and torn off the bonds.
(Jer. 5:4-5 see also Jer. 2:20)
Here we find that the “yoke” which brings rest is the yoke which was being rejected. The yoke of Torah. The yoke that Messiah asks us to take on ourselves, the yoke that will give us rest for our souls is the Torah. The Torah is freedom from the bondage of Torah-lessness. The freedom of Torah is freedom from the bondage to sin that results without Torah. Without Torah there is no true freedom, only bondage. True liberty does not include a license to sin. As Paul writes:
And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported,
and as some affirm that we say,)
Let us do evil, that good may come?
whose damnation is just.
(Rom. 3:8 KJV)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?…
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:1-2, 15 KJV)
And as we read elsewhere:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law.
(1Jn. 3:4 KJV)
The Scriptural definition of sin, is transgression of the Torah, and the freedom of being under grace does not include a freedom to trangress the Torah.
The easy yoke of Messiah that brings rest to our souls is the Torah, and therefore the Torah cannot be the yoke that we are not able to bear in Acts 15:10-11. The yoke that we are not able to bear in Acts 15 is the false teaching that salvation can be earned through Torah observance (including the act of circumcision) and not Torah observance itself, which is an easy yoke and light burden which brings rest to our souls.
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