Do Christians have to observe the Torah? There are generally two responses to this question. The first is that Christians don't have to, because Yeshua fulfilled the Torah.The second response is that the Torah is only for the Jews, so Gentiles don't have to observe it. It is this second response that we will talk about today. Please see here for previous discussion:
There are several places in the Old Testament that outline who is responsible for what in the Torah. For example there are obligations that only the priests have, obligations that apply only to men, and there are some that apply only to women. In any case, the assumption is made that the Torah is written exclusively for God's people, the Jews, but this is not exactly the whole truth.
Exodus 12:43-47 (KJV)
And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.
This passage initially gives the impression that the Passover is meant only for Jews. No stranger, foreigner, or hired servant is to participate in the Passover. Only a circumcised slave is qualified to eat the Passover meal. However, look at the next verses.
Exodus 12:48-49 (KJV)
And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.
These verses make it clear that if a stranger desires to keep the Passover with the Jewish people, he or she can. The only stipulation is that if the stranger is a male he needs to be circumcised first. Then he or she is just like a Jew. Verse 49 especially informs that there is ONE LAW for all those that desire to be a part of God's people.
Leviticus 24:22 (KJV)
Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.
After listing several commands God sums up who is responsible for keeping these laws, the Jews as well as any stranger that has joined with them. This is reiterated in the following:
Numbers 9:14 (KJV)
And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.
Numbers 15:15 (KJV)
One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.
Numbers 15:15 also mentions that this is an ordinance forever!
Exodus 20:10 (KJV)
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Even the seventh day Sabbath is to be kept by both Jews and the strangers that dwell with them.
The problem with these verses in the minds of most Christians, however, is that they refuse to see themselves as strangers that dwell with the Jews, but the Scriptures are very clear on this, that Gentile Christians are grafted into Israel and are made a part of God's people.
Romans 11:17 (KJV)
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Notice the words "with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree." When Gentile Christians are grafted in to Israel they partake of the "root and fatness."
Ephesians furthers the idea of Israel and Gentile Christians being one.
Ephesians 2:12-19 (KJV)
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Verse 12 highlights that Gentiles are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, but by Yeshua (verse 13) they are brought into the commonwealth. Verse 19 confirms that Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellowcitizens to the natural born olive branches that are not broken off.
The Old and New Testaments together picture the blending of Jew and Gentile together in the Body of Yeshua. It is called the commonwealth of Israel and we all belong when we believe in Messiah Yeshua. We are all then subject to the ONE LAW for all.