The Holy Spirit Fulfillment of Torah Law Part 2 of 2.

For Part 1, go HERE.

The Holy Spirit is the New Law

The question remains, what is the role of the Torah given the resurrection and ascension? The disciples still considered themselves Jewish. As Fee states, even Paul “sees himself and his churches as being in a direct line with the people of God in the Old Testament; and despite his deep convictions about the radical implications of the coming of Christ and the Spirit, he regularly reaffirms that continuity.”[1] However, with John 20:22 and Acts 2, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is no longer in the temple but is now in the individual believers. God takes up residence in the believer and begins the process of transformation.

This arrival of the Holy Spirit fulfilled three distinct promises. God gives the believer a new heart (2 Cor 3:1-6), will enable the believer to follow His commands (Ezek 36:27), and will be the presence of God Himself within the believer (1 Thes 4:8).[2] Classical Pentecostal understanding of Holy Spirit reception is a two-stage process. The first stage is when the person comes to faith in Jesus, and the second stage is a different experience that commissions the believer for mission.[3] However, Turner, in agreement with Fee, proposed that Holy Spirit reception is a one-time event that happens when a person comes to faith in Jesus and progresses over their lifetime.[4] This line of thought has much more Biblical weight than the classic Pentecostal view.

Regardless if it is one stage or multiple stage event, the truth is that the Holy Spirit is now residing in the temple of the believer (1 Cor 6:19-20). With the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer, there is now a connection between believers in the form of the church. Pinnock notes:

After the resurrection, God’s Kingdom, which had begun to manifest itself through Jesus Himself, would continue to transform the world through the community of empowered disciples. The church is an extension not so much of the incarnation as of the anointing of Jesus. Jesus is the prototype of the church, which now receives its own baptism of the Spirit.[5]

While the Torah was reserved for only those who were members of the Nation of Israel, the gift of salvation through Jesus is now available through the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the church to everyone – Jew and Gentile. As Paul states emphatically, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

 But with this truth, what is the role of the law? The Torah provides people knowledge of their sin and “ultimately deals in death, not life (2 Cor 3:6; Gal 2:19; Rom 7:5, 9)”[6] The Torah, entrusted as God’s word to the Jewish people, shows the need for Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Fee notes again, “Thus faith does not nullify the law; rather it establishes, or upholds, it (Rom 3:31).”[7] The answer then, to the question of the role of the law in the Christian believer, is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 As stated earlier, the law was insufficient for establishing a restored relationship with God that was severed because of the fall in Genesis 3. However, Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit is the vehicle for God and human relationship restoration. Again Fee: “The Spirit is sufficient to do what Torah was not able to do in terms of righteousness, namely, to ‘fulfill in us who walk by the Spirit the righteous commandment of Torah’ (Rom 8:4).”[8] With the Holy Spirit, the law is obsolete.[9]

 The new law is the Holy Spirit, which produces fruit. The Torah demanded an outward cleansing, but the Holy Spirit provides an inward cleansing (2 Thes 2:13). Also, the Torah demanded physical circumcision (Gen 17). However, the Holy Spirit provides an inward circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:28-29). Lastly, the Torah provides ten commandments that people must follow (Exo 20:7-17) while the Holy Spirit produces fruit from a lifestyle and ethic believers want to follow because of their Holy Spirit enabled love for God (Gal 5:22-26). This list is not comprehensive but reveals the new nature of God’s people. Through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, those who put their faith in Him are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. In these ways, the Holy Spirit fulfills the role that Torah once held. But in fulfilling this role, this new covenant is complete and universal to all believers regardless of national heritage, race, ethnicity, social/economic status (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11).

Conclusion

The importance of the Torah to the ancient Jewish nation before Jesus, the first-century second temple Jew of Jesus’ time, and to modern believers cannot be overstated. However, as has been discussed, the law was insufficient for repairing the damage done by sin. Jesus has completed the Torah. His work can provide the Holy Spirit to all who believe and trust in Him. For those in ministry, this Pneumatological truth is essential to keep in mind for ministry. Some Christian churches stress rules and regulations over relationship with Jesus. Salvation is a system of do’s and don’t’s that are quite similar to the Old Testament Law. Fundamentalist and legalistic expressions of the Christian faith risk alliance with first-century Pharisees.

Even with churches that stress relationship and spiritual formation, pastors and lay leaders need to be aware of the backgrounds of those whom they minister. The approach taken with those who have a background of legalism has to stress the love and forgiveness in Christ and the filling and fruit-producing Holy Spirit. In Evangelism, this is equally true as the evangelist must be ready to address those who see the Christian faith as a model of control and uniformity. Jesus provides salvation to all people. Not all people accept His gift. In presenting the gospel, the themes of love, forgiveness, empowerment, and gifting will contrast with the message of blind obedience and rule adherence.

As I have experienced the control culture of a legalistic church, this study has had a significant impact on how I view ministry. Ministry is led by the Holy Spirit, not by rules and regulations. Although boundaries and guidelines are essential, I see that the foundation for all of my ministry is based in Jesus. The work and ministry that I participate in are out of my love for Jesus and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. No set of rules or laws could inspire me, out of love, to do what God has called me. Only the Holy Spirit can do that.


[1] Fee, 4.

[2] Ibid, 16.

[3] Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1996), 149.

[4] Ibid, 155.

[5] Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 114.

[6] Fee, 100.

[7] Ibid, 102.

[8] Ibid, 103.

[9] Ibid.

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