Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):

Law Versus Grace?

Most all Christians claim that the "Law" of YEHOVAH God was abolished, replaced by "Grace". But was there ever any real conflict between the "Law" or "Torah" of YEHOVAH God and His Grace? Or is this whole idea a gross misunderstanding to begin with? Why should it be assumed that Law contradicts Grace? Or that Grace does away with Law? Were there ever two different "ways" to salvation?

by HOIM Staff

One Scripture anti-law advocates often turn to in their attempt to repudiate the Torah or Law of YEHOVAH God is Romans 10:4, where the King James Version has, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." But, says Dr. David Stern, in the "Introduction" to the Jewish New Testament:

"But Greek telos, which gives the English word `teleology', usually means `goal, purpose, consummation', not `termination.' The Messiah did not bring the Torah to an end. Rather, as the Jewish New Testament renders it, `the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts.' This is the point which Sha'ul is making in Romans 9:30-10:13. For this reason the Greek word de at the beginning of Romans 10:6 is rendered as a continuative, `moreover,' rather than as an adversative, `but'; for the latter world would imply that there are two paths to righteousness through deeds (i.e., obeying the Torah apart from faith, verse 5) and through faith (verses 6-10). However, Sha'ul's point throughout the passage, and indeed throughout Romans, is that for Jews and Gentiles alike there has never been more than one route to righteousness, namely, trusting God; so that the Torah is built on trusting God and from beginning to end has always required faith" (p. xxiii).

The New Testament itself can and should be defined as part of YEHOVAH God's "Law," or "Torah." It together with the Old Testament comprises the "Word" or "Revelation" of YEHOVAH God to mankind, and therefore is official Torah by which mankind is instructed to live.

Why, then, do so many professing Christians assume and believe that Torah -- which they incorrectly define as "Law" but which is really much more than that -- is abolished in the Messiah and done away? Generally, the problem is that Christians have grossly misunderstood and misapplied the expressions "works of the law" and "under the law" as found in the writings of Paul. Concerning this common and fatal mistake, Dr. David Stern writes once again in the "Introduction" to the Jewish New Testament:

"Works of the Law" and "Under the Law"
Is the Torah Legalistic?

"The Greek phrases erga nomou and upo nomon were coined by Sha'ul and used by him in three of his letters -- Romans, Galatians and I Corinthians; each appears ten times in the New Testament. They are usually translated `works of the law' and `under the law' respectively. This often causes the reader to infer that keeping the Torah is bad, and that being within the framework of Torah-observance is bad. The Jewish New Testament, following the lead of Cranfield, takes these phrases as referring not to the Torah itself but to man's legalistic perversion of it. Therefore erga nomou is rendered: `legalistic observance of Torah commands' and upo nomon, `in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism.' The reader can then infer, correctly, that according to the New Testament teaching of Sha'ul, legalism -- whether Jewish, Christian or other -- is bad, but living according to God's Torah is good" (p. xxiv).

With these principles in mind then, let's look at how the Jewish New Testament correctly translates some of the most misleading passages of Paul's writings, which anti-Law antagonists have quoted in order to attempt to demolish YEHOVAH's Law or "Torah."

"Not Under the Law"?

In Romans 6:14, the King James version says, "for ye are not under the law, but under grace." A Bible teacher once told a class the Greek word for "under" meant "under the penalty of," and that as Christians we are not under the penalty of the Law. However, when pointed out before the entire class, "If that be true, then Paul is saying that we are not `under the penalty of the law, but under the penalty of grace'"! The teacher was mortified, and spent the next two hours of the class trying to explain away his mistake. He finally concluded that the Greek term might better be rendered "under the claim of."

However, the truth is the word "under" in Greek simply means what it does in English -- "under" or "underneath." The problem with this verse was never the word "under," but the context of what Paul was talking about. The Jewish New Testament correctly has it, "For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not under legalism but under grace." Verse 12 goes on: "Therefore, what conclusion should we reach? `Let's go on sinning, because we're not under legalism but under grace?' Heaven forbid!"

In chapter 7, Paul goes on, "Therefore, what are we to say? That the Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid! Rather, the function of the Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is. For example, I would not have become conscious of what greed is if the Torah had not said, `Thou shalt not covet'" (Rom. 7:7). Paul then sums up the matter, "So the Torah is holy; that is, the commandment is holy, just and good" (v. 12). Paul concludes: "To sum up: with my mind, I am a slave of God's Torah, but with my old nature, I am a slave of sin's `torah'" (v. 25).

Notice David Stern's comments on Paul's remark in Romans 7:7:

"Those who think Sha'ul sought an escape from the Jewish Law in order to make Christianity easy for pagan converts must find this verse difficult. It proves that Sha'ul neither had an un-Jewish view of the Law nor desired to abrogate it. The verse witnesses to Sha'ul's lifelong high regard for the Torah, which corresponds to his lifelong observance of it (see Acts 13:9N, 21:21N). This attitude would have been with him from his youth, since his parents were Pharisees (Acts 23:6), it would have been strengthened by his studies with Rabban Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and there is no reason to suppose that his coming to faith in Yeshua -- who did not `come to abolish the Torah' (Matt. 5:17) -- would have changed it. So many errors about Sha'ul's opinion of the Law could have been avoided had this verse been understood as constraining everything he writes about it. God's holy Torah for holy living does not change. Why? Because God himself does not change (Malachi 3:6) and holiness does not change. Moreover, this verse is not alone: vv.10, 14, 16, 22 and 8:2, 4, 7-8 all show that Sha'ul had a high regard for the Torah" (Jewish New Testament Commentary, p. 378, David H. Stern, 1992, Jewish New Testament Publications, PO Box 1313, Clarksville, Maryland 21029).

The Galatians Controversy

Clearly, the "Torah" is not contrary to faith in the Messiah. However, when men make it into a legal system of works and legalistic interpretations and deeds -- "halakkah" -- as a means of attaining righteousness, then it becomes perverted and distorted and transmogrified from its original intent. It becomes a beast -- a monster -- a burden -- a "yoke of bondage," as Paul describes. It becomes "legalism" of the worst and most self-righteous sort!

Paul rebuked the Galatians because they were getting enmeshed in legalistic observance of YEHOVAH God's laws -- "legalism." He told them, "For if the way in which one attains righteousness is through legalism, then the Messiah's death was pointless" (Gal. 2:21). He thundered

"You stupid Galatians! Who has put you under a spell? Before your very eyes Yeshua the Messiah was clearly portrayed as having been put to death as a criminal! I want to know from you just this one thing: did you receive the Spirit by legalistic observance of Torah commands or by trusting in what you heard and being faithful to it? Are you that stupid?" (Gal. 3:1-3).

Later, in Galatians, Paul writes,

"Now before the time for this trusting faithfulness came, we were imprisoned in subjection to the system which results from perverting the Torah into legalism, kept under guard until this yet-to-come trusting faithfulness would be revealed. Accordingly, the Torah functioned as a custodian until the Messiah came, so that we might be declared righteous on the ground of trusting and being faithful. But now that the time for this trusting faithfulness has come, we are no longer under a custodian" (Gal. 3:23-25).

Dr. Stern points out the meaning of how the Torah functioned as a "custodian":

"The word translated `custodian' is paidagogos, literally `boy-leader.' In ancient Greece a paidagogos was a slave who conducted a boy to and from a school. It is therefore not surprising that the KJV renders the phrase, `the law was our school-master to bring us [Jews] unto Christ.' But although the English word `pedagogy' is derived from it, the paidagogos had no teaching functions; and although the Torah had as one of its goals leading Jewish people to the Messiah, as Sha'ul explicitly says at Romans 10:4&N, that is not the import of the present verse. The paidagogos actually would have been a harsh disciplinarian, hired to do a job, with the boy required to obey him. Thus the Torah, because it was perverted into legalism, served in the role of a harsh disciplinarian for the Jewish people, providing some protection but generally making the Jewish person aware of many transgressions, so that we Jews might turn from legalistic rule-following and be declared righteous forensically (2:16aN) on the basis of our trusting and being faithful to Yeshua, whose trusting faithfulness to God the Father purchased our salvation" (JNT, p. 553).

Notice! There never was anything wrong with the Torah or "Law" of YEHOVAH God itself. But over the centuries, as the Jewish leaders and rabbis continually interpreted it, their religion became a twisted and perverted distortion of YEHOVAH's original intention. Their added "halakkah" of do's and don'ts turned a thing of beauty and wonder into a grotesque scheme of legalistic bondage and hard-nosed oppression!

This is the reason Paul so strenuously opposed "legalism" throughout the book of Galatians. As a Pharisee, Paul knew very well how the Law or Torah could be misapplied and misconstrued and made into a rigorous system of bondage. He was outraged by professing Christians to be returning to such a system. Paul cried out in exasperation,

"You were running the race well; who has stopped you from following the truth? Whatever means of persuasion he used was not from the One who calls you. `It takes only a little chametz to leaven the whole batch of dough.' I am confident that since you are united with the Lord, you will take no other view; and I am confident that the one who has been disturbing you, whoever he may be, will have to bear his punishment.

"And as for me, brothers, if I am still preaching that circumcision is necessary, why am I still being persecuted? If that were the case, my preaching about the execution-stake would cause no offense whatsoever. I wish the people who are bothering you would go the whole way and castrate themselves!" (Gal. 5:7-12).

Paul explains, in conclusion, to the Galatians, "But if you are led by the Spirit, then you are not in subjection to the system that results from perverting the Torah into legalism" (Gal. 5:18).

Torah and Grace Together

Paul nowhere condemns YEHOVAH God's Law, or "Torah," in his writings. Rather, he is doing battle with those who pervert and twist YEHOVAH's Torah into a system of legalism! There is and never has been a "conflict" between YEHOVAH's Law, or "Torah," and "Grace."

Rather, the Law or "Torah" of YEHOVAH God and "Grace" go together like peaches and cream, or bagels and cream cheese. They go together like steak and eggs! The truth is, they need each other. Grace without Torah is chaos, nihilism, and would lead to death. Torah (Law) without Grace would be rigorous bondage and strict judgment -- again leading to death. But both of them, together, are a tree of Life -- the Way of YEHOVAH God -- the Way of Life! One without the other is simply incomplete.

The two go hand in hand, like a loving Husband and Bride. They fulfill each other. Apart, they are incomplete, but together they make a beautiful "oneness" -- a complete whole.

Additional articles: Law or Grace -- Which?; Is the Law of YEHOVAH God Nailed to the Tree?; A New Look at the Book of Galatians!


Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.

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