Christian Halakhah


In the Hebrew language the word for “walk” is “ha-lak.”  One can almost hear the sandal striking the pavement. Since Hebrew is a very poetic and expressive language, the word for walk has come to symbolize a person’s manner of life.  It expresses what he does and how he lives.  In Judaism, the body of commandments and traditions governing the religion has come to be known as the ha-lak-hah.  Thus, a person who lives according to halakhah must be careful to observe all these laws and traditions. For instance, the observant Jew would never eat a cheeseburger, because halakhah forbids the mixing of milk and
meat products.

As we seek to return to our Hebrew heritage it might surprise us to learn that there is also a Christian halakhah.  We see this in 1 John 2:6 where it is said, “Whoever claims to live in him [Jesus] must walk as Jesus did.”  John tells us that the Christian walk involves loving one another with an abiding love (1 John. 3:11).  We learn more about the Christian walk in other places in the New Testament such as Romans 6:4, Romans 8:4, Philippians 3:18, and in the last chapters of Ephesians, beginning with Ephesians 4:1. Here the apostle instructs us to walk or live lives worthy of our calling.

The apostle then gives us some specific examples of how a Christian should walk.  A Christian should be humble, gentle, patient, long-suffering, and ever striving for the unity of the Church (Eph. 4:1-3).  Such a one should live in righteousness, holiness, truthfulness, and productivity (4:23, 25, 28).  This one must get rid of unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice (4:29-31). In their place the believer must be kind, compassionate and forgiving (4:32).

Paul goes on through the remainder of the book of Ephesians with more specific instructions on how one should live and walk as a Christian.  A Christian should imitate God (5:1).  A Christian should walk in love (5:2). Such a one should get rid of all sexual impurity, greed, obscenity, and foolish talk (5:3-4).  God’s holy one should find out what pleases the Lord and avoid all deeds of darkness (5:8-11). That one should be filled with God’s spirit (5:18), walk circumspectly (5:15), and have a submissive heart (5:21).   Wives must be submissive to their husbands (5:22), and husbands must love their wives (5:25).  Children must also obey their parents (6:1).


The evidence points us to the fact that in New Testament times they didn’t just “talk the talk” but they actually “walked the walk.” Much emphasis was therefore placed upon obedience.  In the intervening centuries of church history, that emphasis has become tempered as theologians have focused more upon grace than upon obedience. This emphasis upon grace is important, but I dare say that if we were somehow thrust into the Apostolic Era, those early Christians might look upon us askance.  They might regard us as a little bit heretical because of our unconcern for obedience.

We can see how they would have a right to do this if we take a good look at the New Testament.  Some time ago I began to notice its many specific commands.  I had heard the Jewish people speak of the 613 commands of the Torah (Law), and I wondered how many commands there were in the New Testament.  With the help of my computer I began to count and catalogue these commands.  I was amazed to learn that there are over a thousand of them.  This did not count the hundreds of implied commands, or the additional hundreds of teachings.  Jesus says that if we love him we will keep his commands (Jn. 14:15).  He also says that if we love him we will obey his teachings (Jn.  14:23). Jesus himself asks us in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do
what I say?”

We soon realize that the faith of the Bible was built upon the principle of obedience to God’s commands. This has always separated real religion from the false religion of confession only, spoken of in James 1:22 and in 2 Peter 3:17.  While it is true that we cannot in one sense keep God’s commands, we are nevertheless given the means whereby they can be kept as we yield ourselves to Christ and as he lives triumphantly in us.  In this sense the Bible says in Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  

While it is true that we are saved by faith, and that even our faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9), it is also true that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:26).  Faith without works or obedience is a disastrous error and has caused much ruin and lawlessness in the modern Church.  Peter challenges us not to be swept away with the error of lawless men (2 Pet.3:17).   It is clear in the Bible that the last judgment will catch many people by surprise.  We see this in the parable of the house built upon the sand (Mt. 7:21-29), and in  the New Testament pictures of the last judgment found in Matthew 25:31-46.

How ironic that we in the modern Church have placed so much emphasis upon the first part of Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20, and have utterly neglected the last part.  We have gone into all the world to make disciples, but we have not taught them to OBEY EVERYTHING he commanded.


The Bible makes it clear that there are many benefits and blessings that come to us through obedience. Conversely, there is a great deal of difficulty that comes to us through disobedience.  It is a little like the teen-age son who has disobeyed the father all week and then comes up with a big smile on his face and asks for the family car on Friday evening.   The father will not likely grant the request.  Had the son been a model of love and obedience, the father might have even volunteered the car without the son’s asking.

In John 13:17, Jesus says, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  God  promises that he will love the one who obeys, and that he will reveal himself to that one (Jn. 14:21).  He promises that he will send his Holy Spirit to that obedient one (Jn. 14:15-18), and that he will even come and make his abode with that obedient one
(Jn. 14:23).

There are some things that will begin happening in the life of the obedient one.

1. That one will abide in God’s love (Jn. 15:10), or in another sense, God’s love will be made complete in that person (1 Jn. 2:5). Who wouldn’t long for such a thing to happen?

2.  The joy of that obedient person will become full (Jn. 15:11).  Today we are living in a joyless society.  People long for happiness and seek it in every conceivable way.   Real happiness comes through obedience to God and to his will for our lives.

3.  That person can ask whatever he wills and it will be given (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:21-22).  Those early Christians were able to ask and receive whatever they desired from God.   Today we ask but do not consistently receive. Could our problem be one of disobedience and not necessarily our lack of faith?

4.   That one will be able to bear much fruit (Jn. 15:5).  The world around us is busy producing fruit.  We might say that this is the consuming passion of all life forms around us.  There is hardly a flower that blooms for beauty’s sake alone, and hardly a bird that sings just to make music.  Everything is connected to fruit-bearing.  God wants us to produce fruit too, but he desires spiritual fruit from us  –  things  like love, joy, peace, gentleness, self control, etc. (Gal. 5:22). The one who obeys will produce such fruit.

5.  The obedient person will have great confidence in his salvation. In 1 John 2:3 it is written, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”  This is how we know that we know!


From what we see in the scripture, it appears that as the end-days dawn, the real Church will look more and more like it did in its beginning.  It will return to its Hebrew heritage.  The focus will again be upon obedience.  The Church has long avoided this area of laws and commandments because of its great fear of legalism.  For centuries law and grace have been regarded as almost totally incompatible things.  This will not be the case in the
last days.

In Revelation 12:17, we see a picture of some triumphant saints of the end-days.  It is said of them that they “obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (cf. Rev. 14:12b).   In them there will no longer be a conflict of law and grace for they will have perfected Christian halakhah.

-Jim Gerrish


This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace,Jerusalem(original publication date, 1992).