Add Not Unto His Words

When it comes to deciding what’s right and wrong, we only have three choices: [1] make up moral law as we go, deciding for ourselves and imposing our view on everyone else; [2] let some other sinners do this for us, delegating our responsibility to identify the correct moral standard, or [3] look to God to reveal moral law to us, acknowledging His unique right to define good and evil.

Option 3 is our only reasonable choice, and leads us to expect God to either [A] personally reveal moral law to each and every one of us independently, requiring us all to understand and apply moral law in isolation, effectively making each of us a law unto ourselves, such that we’re unable to either verify or validate our own understanding through the insights of others, or to lawfully hold others accountable for breaking moral law, or [B] to provide a formal written document revealing His moral code, one that we can all access, understand and study together, comparing insights and observations as we seek truth in community. Evidently, B is the only rational choice here.

And given that morality is as complex as life itself, nuanced and multi-faceted in ways that take a lifetime to comprehend, we’d expect God to reveal His righteousness within this written Word in multiple ways: (i) through a clearly defined moral code covering all relevant aspects of our lives; (ii) through stories and accounts of how various peoples have kept or broken this moral code in a wide variety of circumstances, and how God has responded to them; and (iii) through recounting the life pattern of one perfect Man, as He obeys this moral code and walks it out before us. And it is no surprise that this is exactly what we find laid out and preserved for us in Scripture.

God has inspired scripture perfectly (Ps 19:7), even giving it divine life (He 4:12), the perfect spiritual weapon, sufficient to fully enable us unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17) God is good, and He is faithful.

To attack this holy document, or any part of it, by altering Scripture in any way, is thus to attack humanity itself, and also God’s intent to reveal Himself to us all; God explicitly forbids this. (De 4:2) For anyone to take upon themselves to diminish, alter or add to the written revelation of God is thus a presumption of the highest order, undermining the very foundation of civilization and spiritual life. (Is 8:20) There is no higher treason than this, to deliberately taint the King’s masterpiece, to misrepresent His heart (Ps 11:3), as if one were qualified to sit in judgment of the Almighty, and correct Him.

Those who commit themselves to carrying out this kind of atrocity, in the myriad of ways that it might be wrought, whether adding to (Pr 30:6), corrupting (2Co 2:17), or taking away from God’s Word (Re 22:19), will necessarily both fail (Jn 10:35b), and also answer to the Author of Scripture for trying to corrupt it; He reserves His severest punishments for such depraved souls. (Re 22:18)

To neglect or misuse such a precious gift is likewise inexcusable; we’re to rightly divide the Word (2Ti 2:15), taking the sword of the Spirit (Ep 6:17), hiding it in our heart and meditating in it day and night (Ps 1:1-3), seeking truth as well as we’re able until we see Him as He is. (1Jn 3:2)

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2 thoughts on “Add Not Unto His Words”

  1. Today I have a question for you on the matter of dietary laws. I have started eating kosher over the last few weeks. I was already mostly plant-based so not too much has changed but I will occasionally eat meat and dairy. I’m curious what you know about the validity of the entirety of Kashrut laws. I know that the totality of Jewish dietary laws includes not only the biblical text, but also passed down through oral tradition. I would gladly follow the strictest version of the law but want to ensure that I am not needlessly burdening myself in ways that the Word has not called us to.

    I would appreciate your musings on the subject. In the way of understanding and how you generally apply said understanding to your life

    1. Great question. My take on this is to dismiss any dietary restriction which I cannot verify for myself in Torah. My reasoning is based on De 4:2: “Ye shalt not add unto the Word which I command you.” (see Add Not Unto His Words) I think Torah itself is perfect; it does not over or under prescribe. When we add to Torah we diminish it’s perfection and harm ourselves and others. Yeshua points this out when He describes Jewish oral tradition as “grievous.” (Mt 23:4) There is a cost to adding to God’s Word, and I don’t take this lightly.

      As an example, kashrut forbids the eating of meat and dairy in the same meal (somehow extrapolated from De 14:21), and I have a Jewish rabbi friend that actually has two dishwashers, two sinks, and two completely different sets of dishes, silverware and cooking utensils in his home in order to keep this regulation, for that is what is evidently required of an orthodox Jew. This is just one example of the extent to which burdensome tradition has been imposed on people, and I think it makes those who insist on imposing this kind of burden look ridiculous to the world. This is the essence of false religion, and I hate it with a passion. I think Yeshua hated it as well.

      That said, there is certainly wisdom in some of the Jewish traditions, and they may have in some cases understood a precept that is a legitimate extrapolation of Torah. So, when I run across any Jewish regulation I try to see if there is a biblical basis for it, researching their reasoning, to see if it is implied by the spirit of Torah. When I do find such a connection I will abide by the regulation as a Torah-based precept.

      Deciding to abide by an extra-biblical tradition can expose us to a number of pitfalls, in addition to causing an undue burden on ourselves.
      [1] It can cause one to become proud of their willingness to sacrifice their own convenience and pleasure, a means to glory in one’s self and look down on others who don’t follow the regulation, trying to set ourselves apart from others with an artificial, man-made standard.
      [2] It can, over time, become confused with Torah itself, mandated and imposed as a requirement for holiness. The tendency then is to look at the set of regulations as the definition of holiness rather than consistently going back to Torah.
      [3] It can create an undue stress on an entire family/community which is not aligned on Torah observance, which is very common in our day. My wife would likely leave me if I started imposing these kinds of regulations in my home, and I would definitely lose my kids if I tried to impose it on them.

      I have experienced all three of the above dangers in community with Messianic Jews, and have felt the trouble that comes from it both personally and through others who have been harmed and wounded. I think it is a nasty business to engage in this kind of tradition and ritual. It is very difficult to do this with a wholesome motive.

      The only appropriate motive I can see here is to do so with the intent of not causing offence to orthodox Jews and to try to become all things to all men, so to speak, to identify with Jews so we can better witness to them. However, though I respect this intent in others, I’m not so sure that Yeshua would do this: He didn’t seem to think that keeping such man-made regulations was a good way to bring truth to people, He rather purposefully violated these kinds of traditions in order to make a point and expose their false religion, especially when it was helpful in alleviating the undue burden it caused in a given circumstance. (Mt 15:2, etc.) Paul also warns us to avoid being spoiled like this by man-made tradition. (Co 2:8)

      So, while it is not technically sinful to abide by a standard that is more strict than Torah, I don’t think it is generally a good idea.

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