McKee begins NTVT with a proposition that must be very arresting for most Christians unfamiliar with Messianic Judaism:
"Many Christians today are of the false impression that the Apostolic Scriptures tell us that the Law of Moses or the Torah is no longer to be followed and is relatively unimportant for today...they...have misinterpreted the Apostolic Scriptures...because they do not have a foundation in the Torah and Tanach."This false impression of G-d's Law causes the following evil:
"...the Body of Believers today has lost much of its direction for the future. There are many problems among those in our faith today. The foremost of these problems is the widespread proliferation of sin and unbiblical behavior, which results in people having an ineffective spiritual walk and being unable to fulfill the mission of God in the world."McKee's proposition in the book is that Believers, both Jew and Gentile, should follow:
"[Yeshua's] commandments...[which] are not just vague concepts, but are instructions that we encounter within the first five books of Scripture, the Law of Moses or the Torah."At the close of the introduction, McKee makes a rather bold claim, that appreciating G-d's instructions (i.e. Sinaitic Torah) will:
"...help you in your walk of faith...enable you to know our Creator on a deeper level, as He has surely saved you by grace bud made you for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)...[and] grow in your faith..."In short, he begins his book with the bold claim that the Torah solution will (1) help in your daily walk of faith; (2) enable a deeper knowledge of the Creator; (3) help you to understand the complementary relationship between grace and good works.
Methodologically, McKee proceeds to show the typical Christian claims that the Law is invalid and then show the reality that the New Testament Validates Torah. Here is a sampling of his methodology:
The Law makes us more sinful and is therefore harmful.
Christians cite to Romans 5:20 for this point which reads, "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." Along with this they cite Romans 7:8-9, "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died."
While McKee agrees that a consequence of the Law was that "...the people surely started breaking [it]...", he explains that this was merely one negative consequence outweighed by the benefit of having "...laws and injunctions to keep [the Ancient Israelites] in line..." and that, after all, the evil of an increased capacity for sin has been entirely negated by a super-abounding of grace. The Law itself is not harmful but rather human nature. In fact, McKee explains that the Law is wisdom (citing Deuteronomy 4:6; 26:18-19; 28:1). And what could be more beneficial than wisdom?
The Law was intended to be temporary until Christ.
Christians cite to Galatians 3:19 as evidence: "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made." G. Walter Hansen shows the common Christian interpretation of this verse, "The Mosaic Law came into effect at a certain point in history and was in effect only until the promised Seed, Christ, appeared...[T]he law was in effect for a relatively short period of time limited in both directions by the words 'added' and 'until'."
McKee disagrees that Paul meant the entire Sinaitic Law was temporary. Rather, he agrees with Dunn's assessment of Galatians 3:19 "[T]he purpose of the law as it was generally recognized within the (OT) scriptures and the Judaism of Paul's time...[was] as a means of dealing with transgressions. In other words, what was probably in mind here [in Gal. 3:19] was the whole sacrificial cult at whose centre was the provision of means for covering sin and removing guilt..."
No one can keep the Law; therefore, no one should try to keep the Law.
McKee uses Paul's own response, "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law," (Romans 3:31).
Hebrews 7:18-19 tells us that the Law was set aside.
"This 'setting aside'...does not involve the Torah as a whole somehow being abolished, but rather...the Levitical priesthood being removed to the side, likely until Yeshua returns and the Temple service is restored in the Millennium with Him present (cf. Ezekiel chs. 44-48)....The very reason why this specific Torah instruction can be considered as 'weak and ineffectual' (NRSV) is because 'the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak' (Hebrews 7:28)--which is a human problem--not because God's instruction on the priesthood is somehow bad." Also, the fact that the Law made nothing perfect does not mean that the Law was bad. McKee quotes from Donald Guthrie who writes, "...It is characteristic of law--not merely Mosaic law, but all law--that it has made nothing perfect..."
These are just some of the examples of Christian claims to the invalidity of the Torah. McKee systematically covers the other claims which are based on faulty interpretations of Matthew 5:17; John 1:17; Romans 3:20; 3:28; 4:5; 6:14; 6:23; 7:4; 8:2-3; 10:4; 11:6; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23; 2 Corinthians 3:14; Galatians 2:16; 3:13; 3:24-25; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2:14-15; Philippians 3:9; Colossians 2:14; 1 Timothy 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5,7; 3:9; Hebrews 7:12, 18-19; 8:13; 10:1,9.
In Part II of the book, in addition to tackling the difficult Pauline concepts of "under the law" and "under grace", McKee presents some key Messianic views of the New Covenant:
(1) "...the New Covenant...does have continuity with the Sinai Covenant that preceded it (Exodus 19:1-24:11)....One of the essential realities of the New Covenant is God writing the Law onto the hearts of His people!...just as takes place with Jeremiah 31:31-34, [Christians tend to overlook] 'I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances' (Ezekiel 36:27)....It is unfortunate that among Christian commentaries, there is not a huge amount of reflection on Ezekiel 36:27, which clearly states how the work of God's Spirit will cause His people to obey His commandments. This aligns with the Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Covenant promise of God writing His Torah onto their hearts,";
(2) The New Covenant is a national covenant: "The decree is issued that a time is coming when a new agreement will be made 'with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah' (Jeremiah 31:31). These are nationalistic designations...";
(3) The New Covenant is inclusive of Gentiles. "...the restoration of Israel is bigger than just the Jewish people, as the work of the Messiah has surely incorporated people from all nations who call upon the Creator God into the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)."
One of the last sections of the book is entitled "How Do You Become Torah Observant?" In this section, McKee says "There are three critical aspects of Torah obedience where most of the 'growing pains' and/or struggles for today's Messianic Believers are found. They are obeying the command to honor the seventh-day Sabbath or Shabbat, celebrating the appoint times or moedim of Leviticus 23, and following the kosher dietary laws..." He explain that the journey toward Torah begins with these first three steps.
He goes on to explain why these steps present difficulties, "You may see that as you commit yourself to a fuller obedience which many are unwilling to have, that you may lose friendships and relationships with people...This is because how you are practicing your faith convicts them, yet they are unwilling to make these changes...Yeshua tells us that this is not unique..."And everyone who has left houses or brothers and sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life' (Matthew 19:29).
Next, he addresses one of the most critical questions that a Messianic will face: "Do you stay in church or do you leave?" He answers diplomatically that "...as you commit yourself further and further to a path of Torah obedience...your time in your church will probably not last." The reason he suggests is that "...the time will come when you are ready to move on because your church is not feeding you spiritually the way that it used to. Have faith that the Lord will bring you new friends who will share your perspective of the Scriptures, and who are just as sincere in their faith as you are."
He also warns to be wary of congregations that exclude Gentile Believers, "...there are other Messianic congregations where only Jewish Believers are largely ministered to, and non-Jewish Believers are not considered to be a part of Israel along with them." Yet he admonishes the reader to "Treat others with fairness and respect."
There's so much wisdom in this book that a meager book review cannot adequately cover. I hope each of you will purchase two copies of this book: one as a continual reference for your family and another to donate to a local pastor with whom you are building bridges.
Thank you J.K. McKee for all of your hard work in compiling this wonderful resource! May G-d raise up many such workers in our fledgling movement!