Judaism is not just a set of beliefs about G-d, man and the universe. Judaism is a comprehensive way of life, filled with rules and practices that affect every aspect of life: what you do when you wake up in the morning, what you can and cannot eat, what you can and cannot wear, how to groom yourself, how to conduct business, who you can marry, how to observe the holidays and Shabbat, and perhaps most important, how to treat G-d, other people, and animals. This set of rules and practices is known as halakhah. The word "halakhah" is usually translated as "Jewish Law," although a more literal (and more appropriate) translation might be "the path that one walks."
The word is derived from the Hebrew root Hei-Lamed-Kaf, meaning to go, to walk or to travel. (1) The word “walk” frequently used throughout the New Testament gives us our Apostolic “Halakhah” or practical instructions in the way in which we should walk in Christ Jesus. For the foundation of our Apostolic walk “Halakhah” is Jesus Christ.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
- 1 Corinthians 3:11 (KVJ)
We see while reading Acts 21 the issue of “Halakhah” coming to light. The Apostle Paul while evangelizing throughout the regions of Caesarea, and the company that was with him have been experiencing great revival amongst his Jewish brethren in Diaspora. While at the same time they have been experiencing tremendous harvest amongst the Gentiles.
“And when he had said how glad he was to see them, he gave them a detailed account of the things which God had done through his work among the Gentiles. And hearing it, they gave praise to God; and they said to him, You see, brother, what thousands there are among the Jews, who have the faith; and they all have a great respect for the law:” - Acts 21:19-20 (BBE)
Upon his return to Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul presented himself to James, the Bishop of the church in Jerusalem and the Jewish elders. “And after these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, taking a certain Mnason of Cyprus, one of the early disciples, in whose house we were to be living. And when we came to Jerusalem, the brothers were pleased to see us.
And on the day after, Paul went with us to James, and all the rulers of the church were present.” - Act 21:15-18 (BBE)
Paul was being questioned about his teaching to the Jews in Diaspora. He had been rumored to be teaching the Jews in Diaspora to cease from circumcising their sons, to forsake Moses and the Law and abandon the customs of their forefathers.
“And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to WALK after the customs.” - Act 21:21(KJV)
The Elders encouraged the Apostle Paul to prove these rumors to be false by participating in a Nazarite vow so that the believing Jews may know that first Paul himself walks in the way and keeps the law (Torah) and secondly Paul would by the Nazarite vow prove these rumors to be nothing.
“What then is the position? They will certainly get news that you have come. Do this, then, which we say to you: We have four men who have taken an oath; Go with these, and make yourself clean with them, and make the necessary payments for them, so that they may be free from their oath: and everyone will see that the statements made about you are not true, but that you put yourself under rule, and keep the law.” - Act 21:22-24 (BBE)
The King James Version says it this way “but that thou thyself also WALKEST orderly, and keepest the law.” verse 24b James winds up his address to the Apostle Paul with a final “Halakhah” decision as it concerns the Gentile believers in Jesus.
“But as to the Gentiles who have the faith, we sent a letter, giving our decision that they were to keep themselves from offerings made to false gods, and from blood, and from the flesh of animals put to death in ways against the law, and from the evil desires of the body.”
- Act 21:25 (BBE)
This Apostolic “Halakhah” by James and the elders made it incumbent upon Jewish followers of Jesus to continue to walk in the keeping of the customs of their forefathers, i.e., continue in the circumcising of their sons, and to continue observing the Law of Moses. In so doing they differentiated themselves from that which is required of the Gentile followers of Jesus. Hence, for a Jewish follower of Jesus not to walk in way of Jewish Halakhah is for a Jewish follower to abandon the faith.
Why Should An Apostolic Care?
What we say certainly reveals at least in part the way we think. If that is the case,and I believe for the most part it is then we have some cause for concern. Let’s take for example one of the most commonly spoken phrases within Pentecost; “I’ve been living for God for 30 years now!” Can one really live “for” God? Can one indeed be “for” God as one is for a politician? Does God need our vote or endorsement? I do indeed understand what is meant by the phrase. However, would it not be more accurate to say “I’ve been walking with God for 30 years now!”? I think the answer is a resounding yes!
So “Halakhah” or how one walks with God does matter! While we as Gentiles are not required to circumcise our sons, keep the Law of Moses, and walk in the keeping of the customs of the Jewish forefathers, we nonetheless have a walk to walk. And hence, for a Gentile follower of Jesus not to walk in way of the Apostolic Halakhah is for a Gentile follower to abandon the faith.
There are far too many examples of the use of this term "walk" in the context of Halachah, but I will list a few below. It is my hope that reading these Scriptures in the light of Halachah that the Lord will reveal Himself more fully to you.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
– Romans 6:4 (KJV)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” - Romans 8:1 (KJV)
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:4 (KJV)
"Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." - Romans 13:13 (KJV)
"But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches." - I Corinthians 7:17 (KJV)
“(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)”- II Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)
“That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” – Colossians 1:10 (KJV)
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:”
– Colossians 2:6 (KJV)
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” – Colossians 4:5 (KJV)
“That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”
– I Thessalonians 2:12 (KJV)