Richard Agee

Yom Kippur and being ‘released from the law’

Richard AgeeMost Christians interpret Rom. 7:6 to mean that the Torah has been cast aside and that we don’t have to live by the rules of the Torah anymore. Life does not come from the letter of the Law — and it never did.

We deserve death under God’s holy law, but Yeshua the Messiah gives us life to live the law with a new “heart.” That’s the message of יום כיפרים Yom Kippurim, the Day of Atonement.

Apostle Paul’s Romans letter tells us that the righteousness of God is separate of the righteousness of the Torah. God’s righteousness is higher than the Torah. He wants to know if we are willing to listen to Him by and through the Torah. 

He uses the example of a marriage to try to explain our relationship with the Torah, but it’s a very confusing text and it’s often interpreted in an antinomian (anti-Law) way. 

Let’s start with Rom. 7:6:

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”

Most Christians interpret this verse to mean that the Torah has been cast aside and that we don’t have to live by the rules of the Torah anymore. 

But the Scriptures tell us that God doesn’t change. He is the same today, yesterday and forever. 

When reading the book of Romans, ask yourself, “Who is the target audience of this book?” Is it Roman Catholics? Anglicans? Messianic Jews? No, Paul wrote this letter to the εκκλεσια ekklesia (congregation) in Rome. These Gentiles in Rome had very little knowledge of the Torah, they certainly didn’t have it inoculated in them from childhood, but the Jews in Rome did. The Jewish believers in Rome were the ones teaching the Gentile believers there about the Torah. 

In Rom. 1:8-11, Paul tells the Roman believers that he is praying for them and he longs to travel to see them. He says he wants to come to them that he can plant a spiritual gift into their community. He wants to establish something in them. What would he want to set up in them. There was already some kind of community there so he’s not going there to plant a church. But Paul saw that something profound was lacking in them and he wanted to bring that to them. 

There is something wrong with the Roman congregation and he longs to visit them to make them better. From the letter, we can get a sense that the Roman congregation did not have a complete understanding of the death of sin. They also didn’t understand the importance of baptism.

In those days, “baptism” was a common ritual, which in Hebrew is called mikvah. However, the baptism that Paul introduced to them is the concept of one baptism, that there’s only one baptism that really counts, which is the baptism into Yeshua’s life, death and resurrection. 

We need to put ourselves in the mindset of the Jewish believers in Rome. We need to also put ourselves into Paul’s mindset before He met the Lord at Damascus. 

Paul was a pharisee and one of the main doctrines of the Pharisees was the idea of separation. You could only be righteousness if you separated yourself from the world and its pagan influence. 

The Jewish believers were the leaders of the Roman congregation at this time. The Gentiles there were just following what the Jewish believers were teaching them. 

When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the Egyptians paid a grave cost for that redemption. Think about that as we go back to Romans 7. 

If we are delivered from the Law as it says in Rom. 7:6, what are we delivered from? Are we exempted from holiness and free to sin? No, because Rom. 7:7 tells us, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be!”

In Rom. 2:28-29, Paul says to them:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” 

What does Paul mean by this? Would you walk up to a fellow believer and dare to point a finger at them and say, “You aren’t a real Christian.” God judges the heart, not us. That would certainly be presumption on your part. 

If you keep the law to the letter, you may receive the praise of men, but if your heart isn’t keeping the law, you will not fool God. 

When God sent the people into exile, most of the people didn’t come back, only a remnant returned. Those returnees were zealous for the law, they wanted to make sure that they never, ever broke the law again. They tried to do this by setting up so many rules and fences around the Torah to make sure that they never transgressed it. They believed that the Torah itself was the source of eternal life, almost to the point of setting up the Torah as an idol. 

When Messiah Yeshua came to earth, was He pleased with all these minute rules? No. Yeshua told the people in John that the scriptures speak of Him, but they did not see Him there and did not believe Him. Because of their refusal to see Him as He really was, they did not gain life, but lost it. 

When Paul saw the Lord Yeshua in Damascus and the scales fell off his eyes, what fell away was his obsession with the letters of the Torah as a source of eternal life. 

Life is not in the Torah. The Torah can not give you life. 

The Jewish leadership were teaching the Gentiles all the minutia of the Torah, not because they disliked them but because of a sincere desire to help them gain eternal life but Paul had to correct this thinking because keeping the law perfectly does not give eternal life. 

Deut 10:16 says, ““So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” Circumcision of the heart encourages humility. 

Paul is telling them that it is a humble heart that God wants, not a head stuffed full of words. God is the one who softens the heart, not us. 

Ezek. 11:19-20 says:

“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” 

Life does not come from the literal law, and it never did. Before Damascus, Paul believed that if he just lived right, he would earn eternal life. After Damascus, he realized that was wrong. 

The believers in Rome were meeting together, Jew and Gentile, because they all loved Yeshua. However, they did not have the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John at this point. They only had the TaNaKh (Torah, Prophets and Writings) to help them understand how to follow Yeshua. 

Yeshua said if you only clean the outside of the cup, the inside is still dirty but if you clean the inside of the cup the entire cup is clean.

Paul is saying that if you don’t let God clean your heart, then keeping the externals of the Torah will be of no benefit to you. God gives eternal life, not the Torah. 

When God gives you His Spirit, it heals our weaknesses, flaws, ignorance and infirmities. This is not an overnight process. It’s the process of a lifetime. 

The Day of Atonement is a great day, a day of hope. May we approach it with humility and a soft heart. 

Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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