Torah, Faith and Grace
James Scott Trimm
Another misunderstanding common in the church today is the concept that Torah and Grace are mutually exclucive ideas. For exmple one author writes:
“A believer can not be under law and under grace at the same time.”
(God’s Plan of the Ages; Louis T. Tallbot; 1970; p. 83)
Now let us be noble Bereans to see if this is true. Let us ask ourselves: “How were people saved in ‘Old Testament’ times? Were they saved by works or by grace?
The fact is that often when Paul speaks of how we are saved by grace through faith he often cites the Tanak to prove his point. Two of his favorite proof texts for this concept are from the Tanak:
“And he believed in YHWH; and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
(Genesis 15:6 = Romans 4:3, 22; Galatians 3:6)
“…the just shall live by his faith.”
(Habakkuk 2:4 = Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11)
So Paul is arguing from the Tanak that one is saved by faith alone appart from works. In fact the real truth is that men of the “Old Testament” times were just as under grace as we are today:
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of YHWH.”
“…you have also found grace in my sight….”
“…for you have found grace in my sight…”
“…and now I have found grace in your sight…”
“The people… found grace in the wilderness…”
Thus as noble Bereans we learn from the Tanak that people in “Old Testament” times were saved by grace through faith. They could not have earned their salvation any more than we could today, as Paul writes:
“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Yeshua the Messiah, even we have believed in Yeshua the Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of Messiah, and not by works of the law; and by the works of the law shall no flesh be saved.”
In fact the “New Testament” contains more commandments than the “Old Testament”. The New Testament contains 1050 commandments [as delineated in Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible; By Finnis Jennings Dake; N.T. pp.313-316] while the “Old Testament” Mosaic Law contains only 613 (b.Makkot 23b; see Appendix). Thus faith and grace are in the “Old Testament” and law and works can be found in the New Testament. People in Old Testament times were saved by grace through faith just like people in New Testament times. Now many anomians will agree to this fact on the surface, but lets follow this thought through to its fullest conclusion. Lets go beyond the surface and really think this through. If what we have shown to be true is true, then the people in the wilderness in the days of Moses were saved by grace through faith. Now lets look at the full impact of that statement. That means that people were under grace, and saved by faith alone and not by works, when Moses was stoning people to death for violating the Torah! Obviously then being saved by grace through faith in no way affects Torah observance.
So if grace and faith do not negate the observance of Torah, then what is the true nature of faith and grace? What is faith? What is grace? Let us once again turn to the scriptures for answers.
Now part of the reason that many people have come to think that there is more “grace” in the New Testament than in the Old Testament is a translation bias in the KJV and many other English versions.
There are two words for “grace” in the Hebrew Tanak. The first word is CHEN (Strong’s 2580/2581) which means “grace or charm”. The other word is CHESED (Strong’s 2616/2617 ) which carries the meaning of “grace, mercy or undue favor.”
These two words closely parallel the meanings of the two Greek words used for grace in the Greek Bible. These are CHARIS (Strong’s 5485/5463) which means “grace or charm” and ELEOS (Strong’s 1651/1653) meaning “grace, mercy or undue favor.”
Obviously Hebrew CHEN = Greek CHARIS and Hebrew CHESED = Greek ELEOS. Now the KJV tends to translate CHEN/CHARIS as “grace” but tends to translate CHESED/ELEOS as “mercy”. Now when we think of “grace” in biblical terms we are ussually thinking of the concept of CHESED/ELEOS “undue favor”.
Now if we follow with the KJV translation scheme then it appears that there is much more grace in the New Testament than the Tanak, since CHEN only appears 70 times in the Tanak while CHARIS appears 233 times in the New Testament. But remember, the concept of “undue favor” is actually CHESED/ELEOS. CHESED appears 251 times in the Tanak, while ELEOS appears only 50 times in the New Testament. If anything there is far more “grace” in the Tanak than in the New Testament.
Now let us turn to the Tanak to get a better understanding of what grace really is. According to the Scriptures there is a close connection between “grace” and the “fear of YHWH”:
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his grace (CHESED) toward those who fear him.”
“Oh let those who fear YHWH say, ‘His grace (CHESED) is everlasting.’ “
“By grace (CHESED) and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of YHWH one keeps away from evil.”
And the fear of YHWH, according to the Tanak, includes Torah observance:
“…that he may learn the fear of YHWH his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to do them:”
“…that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear YHWH your God, and observe to do all the words of this Torah.”
Therefore there is clearly no conflict between grace and Torah. In fact the Torah is closely connected to grace.
The next word we need to examine is “faith”. The Hebrew word is EMUNAH. EMUNAH can mean “belief, faith or trust” and is best translated “trusting faithfulness”. When we speak of “faith” in YHWH we are not merely speaking about “belief” but “trusting faithfulness”. If someone were to ask you if you are faithful to your spouse, you would not reply by saying “Yes, I believe my spouse exists.” That is because it is clearly not an issue of what you believe but in whether you are faithful. Imagine a man who stays out late at night every night committing adultery with various women. Each night he comes home to his wife and tells her how much he loves her, and insists that since he believes in her existence that he therefore is faithful to her. Is this man faithful to his wife? Absolutely not! This understanding is confirmed to us in the Scriptures as follows:
“Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me your Torah. I have chosen the way of faith; I have placed your ordinances before me.”
Now I want to make it clear that we are not saying that one earns ones salvation by keeping Torah. At times I have been asked “Do I have to keep Torah to be saved?”. I reply by saying “Of course not…. do you have to get cleaned up to take a bath?”
You may ask, “Well if we don’t keep the Torah for salvation, then why do we keep the Torah?” First of all, keeping the Torah SHOWS our faith (Titus 3:5-8; 1Jn. 2:3-7; James 2:14-26). Secondly there are rewards for keeping the Torah (Titus 3:8). The Psalms tell us that it “restores the soul” (Ps. 19:7). Yeshua promises that those who keep the Torah and teach others to do so will be called first in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt. 5:19). Additionally, Jews who keep the Mosaic Torah are given a long list of other promises (Deuteronomy 28).
Now if the Torah is good and everlasting then it stands to reason that it should be observed. Paul tells us that we should not use grace as an excuse to sin (Rom. 6:1-2, 15) and that the only way to know sin is through the Torah (Rom. 7:7). Yeshua tells us that if we love him we will keep his commandments (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-25; 15:10). The fact that we are saved by faith is all the more reason that we should keep the Torah, as the Scriptures tell us:
“…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Yeshua the Messiah our Savior, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
“And by this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says, ‘I know him,’ and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in him ought himself to walk just as he walked. Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.”
(1 John 2:3-7)
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