Here is a great question that came in through Facebook: “My pastor tells me that Jesus only told us to keep the two greatest commandments and that Jesus had nothing to do with the Torah. He says that Jesus was the word of John 1:1. What do I say to him?”
Where pastors get confused is that they are not familiar enough with the front of the book to know that the entire Torah is founded upon the two great commandments of love. Every Jew knew this in the first century, which is why the scribe questions Yeshua and asks him which is the greatest commandment. His answer was to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself…and UPON these two hangs ALL of the Torah and the prophets. In other words, without the heart motivation of love for both Yahweh and man, there is no foundation for the Instructions of God (Torah) to rest upon. Take away love, you have nothing.
In John 1:1, where the “word was with God and the word was God…”: This is a mystical spiritual phrase that is stated to the first-century Jewish audience that knew the concept of the “word” (memra/debar) as a real entity. They understood that there were at least two powers in the heavens…the eternal hidden Yahweh and the revealed Yahweh, called the Word. It is this revealed Yahweh which created the universe and was the manifestation of Yahweh in human form or angel form several places in the Old Testament (burning bush, the three men that came to Abraham, the angel that called Gideon, Joshua, etc…). The “Angel of the LORD” is the most common manifestation of Yahweh, which they, in turn, called the “Word.” John is simply saying that this “Word” that you all have attributed to the second power in heaven, the Yahweh that man has the ability to intersect with and relate with has now become flesh (1:14) in the form of Yeshua. He is saying that Yeshua is this Word that we all have been waiting on.
In Judaism, the Word (the manifestation of Yahweh into our realm) and His Torah instructions are one and the same. The Word brought forth the Word on the Mountain. He IS the Torah. The Torah was called the Way, the Truth and the Life. Without Torah (Him), no man comes to the Father, which is why he tells the rich man that if he wants to enter into eternal life, he needs to keep the commandments. Which ones? All of them!
It is inconceivable on any kind of intellectual or theological level to believe that the only commandments that we have to keep are the two greatest commandments and that is all when Yeshua himself tells the rich man to start listing commandments in the Torah which are clearly not the two greatest. Not to mention that Yeshua himself says in Mathew 5:17-21 that anyone that teaches someone to not keep one of the smallest commandments in the Torah will be “least in the kingdom of God.” That is pretty strong language. The entire Torah is connected to the two love commandments. They cannot be separated. To separate them and pit the commandments of Yeshua against the commandments of God is to pit the Father against the Son. Furthermore, if one believes that Yeshua IS Yahweh in the flesh, then it was HIM that wrote all the commandments to begin with, which would now create inconsistency and schism within Himself!
The rest of the Torah is what defines what the definition of love actually is. Remove the detailed instructions and then everyone is allowed to make up their own definitions of love and how to serve God…which is exactly why we have 44,000 denominations currently in Christianity. John himself goes into much more detail in his smaller letters. I would encourage you to read 1 and 2 John. 1 John says that anyone who does not keep the commandments does not love God and the light of God is not in him. John uses very strong words to convey his thoughts that unless we do what God told us to do through the love of Yeshua, we are just clanging symbols. It is not the keeping of the commandments in of themselves that count, but it is keeping them THROUGH the two greatest commandments of love.
Hope this helps!