Hebrew Roots/Restoration/Grace & Law/Paul
Paul is often thought to have taught against the observance of the Law of Yahweh God and yet upon a deeper investigation, we see that he not only kept it himself, but he also did not speak against doing so, as it appears. What Paul was teaching against was a legalistic approach to observance of the law that was not based on faith.
PAUL'S PERSONAL TESTIMONY[edit | edit source]
Paul was an observant Jew and that never changed. He kept the feasts, participated in offerings, and made vows according to the Jewish Law. Paul's testimony of himself proves that. In the book of Acts we see many accounts that Paul gives of himself as a Torah-observant believer . Toward the end of Paul's life and ministry when Paul was supposed to have liberated the first-century believers from the "shackles and bondage" of the Torah-observance, we read the following:
"I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father's law, and was zealous toward God as you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death ... " (Acts 22:3) Gamaliel was the leading teacher of the Pharisees in his day
"But this I confess unto thee, that according to The Way, which they consider a sect [of Judaism], so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the prophets." (Act 24:14 ) Paul did not separate the church from Judaism - it remained a sect of Judaism.
Another reference to this being called "The Way" (Acts 19:23) Often referred to as the way of truth, this way etc.. (Acts 22:4; 9:2 24:14, 22; 2 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 10:20; John 14:6)
"For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." (Act 24:5) The Nazarenes were an established sect of Judaism, also called the Way. Paul retained his Jewish identity. He did not found a "Gentile" church that was separated from the main Jerusalem-based Nazarene church.
"While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all." (Acts 25: 8) Paul made this statement in his defense against accusations of teaching contrary to observance of the Law of Moses in a court of law about A.D. 62. He was not guilty of any offence against the Law - i.e. he hadn't gone against it.
"And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans." (Acts 28:17) This was in Rome written about A.D. 63 near the end of his life. This is not the testimony of one who has abandoned observance of the Law.
"And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of you, that you teach 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. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that you are come. Do therefore this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify yourself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning you, are nothing; but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the law." (Acts 20:20-24)
This was written in about A.D. 58 -60 when Paul came to Jerusalem. James also confirms that he knows that Paul kept the Law and the accusations about him that he taught contrary to the law of Moses were false. What he did teach against, was the oral law, the "works of the law", of the Judaisers and this inflamed them to attack him.
"For I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) A statement made on his last visit and farewell to the elders in Ephesus.
PAUL'S TEACHING ON THE LAW[edit | edit source]
Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, was not a conversion to the form of present-day Christianity which has been attributed to him. The Nazarenes were a sect of Judaism and worshipped in the temple and in synagogues with their fellow brethren, even though they were persecuted. When going in search of the believers in Yeshua, he went looking for them in the synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:1-2).
Prior to Rabbi Akiba's unification of the different sects, into what has continued up till today as Rabbinic Judasim, there were various sects of Judaism, namely the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Nazarenes. Paul was from the strictest form of Pharisaism which he renounced, with their oral laws, to follow Yeshua the Messiah of Israel, and the unadulterated Torah.
"For you have heard of my conduct in time past in Judaism, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and ravaged it; and excelled in Judaism above many my peers within mine own kindred, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my elders". (Galatians 1:13-14).
"Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews. Concerning the Law, a Pharisee. Concerning zeal, persecuting the congregation the church. Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for the Messiah. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the supremacy of the knowledge of Messiah Yeshua my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may gain Messiah, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law but the righteousness which is from God by faith which is through the faith in Messiah." (Philippians 3:5-9)
Paul rejected the observance of the Law to obtain righteousness, but he didn't reject it's observance altogether, Consider the following: in all of these cases, noting that the Apostle Paul is the author.
"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." (Romans 3: 31)
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully" (1 Timothy 1:8) "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." (Romans 7:12)
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin." (Romans 7:14)
"For I delight in the law of God after the inward man... " (Romans 7:22)
"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [i.e., violation of the laws - see 1 Jn. 3:4], that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2)
"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners [i.e., violators of the law], is therefore Christ the minister of sin [lawlessness]? God forbid!" (Galatians 2:17)
Paul did not keep the Law and speak positively about it, and at the same time fail to live it and teach against it to the believers in the nations. Either he kept it or he didn't. Either he taught that it was valid, or he didn't. His testimony to the Ephesian church was that he had given them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
He had also set himself as an example to the believers and exhorted them to follow his example.
"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1)
"And you became followers of us and of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
"For you brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Yeshua the Messiah"(1 Thessalonians 2:14)
"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern." (Philippians 3:17)
"Therefore I urge you, imitate me" (1 Corinthians 4:16)
This is inconsistent with him living as a Jew himself and teaching those in the nations otherwise. His own testimony and that of James, refutes such a thing. Rather he warned that wolves would come in among the flock after he left and pervert the truth into Law-less-ness (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Timothy 2:19; 3:1-7, 15-17).