Paul the Law-Keeper
The apostle Paul does NOT attack the validity and value of the law as a moral guide to Christian conduct. On the contrary, he emphatically affirms that the Messiah specifically came "in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:4). All serious students of scripture are familiar with Paul's words in I Corinthians 11:1. He said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Therefore, a truly appropriate way to begin to understand Paul's approach to the Law of YEHOVAH God is to know and understand the Messiah's approach.
by David Hinkley
Isaac Newton was the man who began the revolution that would recover much lost knowledge of our Universe. Knowledge that could only be recovered by a God-Fearing, Truth-Seeking Law-Keeper (as much as he could know). By the same token, this same knowledge could only have been lost during the dominance of lawless heathens such as the ones that ruled secular and religious life during the Dark Ages. Truly can "you know them by their fruits."
Sir Isaac Newton once declared prophetically:
"About the Times of the End, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies and insist upon their literal interpretation in the midst of much clamor and opposition."
He was only partly right because "WE" are turning our attention to ALL SCRIPTURE -- Torah, Prophecy, Wisdom Writings and Epistles. And in that spirit it is time to declare that Saul of Tarsus, the last Apostle (called Paul), was a devout Law-Keeper and Teacher of the Law.
Scholars Vs. Blind Faith
There is a large community of people who are church leaders and educators thoroughly versed in scripture and many others who are mature, reasonably educated, adults that have lived as Christians or Jews most of their adult lives. And yet, they still prefer the traditions of men over the simple, eternal truths of God. Some are worse. Ones, such as those of the World Wide Church of God, that deliberately turn from sound doctrine and refuse to advance their poor ones in favour of appeasing the broad "main-stream" community.
However, I should make it clear that I know first-hand that there are many sincere "seekers" and "believers" out there that honestly believe many of the doctrines of lawlessness that are attributed to Paul's epistles. Perhaps many of you reading this now. And I think that explaining the trap you've fallen into is a good place to start and I don't think I can improve on the words of Samuele Bacchiocchi, Professor of Church History and Theology at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Dr. Bacchiocchi, originally from Rome, Italy, came from a devout Catholic family that turned to Sabbath worship after they began, for the first time, actually reading the scriptures for themselves. His family eventually became Seventh-Day Adventists and Samuele went on to be the first non-Catholic student at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has authored 12 published books on biblical topics beginning with the now famous From Sabbath to Sunday. His latest book God's Festivals in Scripture and in History is a reversal in one of his scholarly opinions. He once presumed that only the "10 Commandments" were completely binding on Christians and that all other laws were done away -- his latest book re-evaluates his former stance.
In his book, The Sabbath and the New Testament, Dr. Bacchiocchi devotes an entire chapter (Ch. 6) to "Paul and the Law." The section "A Resolution of Tension" contains these words about Paul:
"Is it possible to reconcile Paul's apparently contradictory statements about the law? How can Paul view the law both as 'abolished' (Eph. 2:15) and 'established' (Rom. 3:31), unnecessary (Rom. 3:28) and necessary (I Cor. 7:19; Eph. 6:2, 3; I Tim. 1:8-10)?
"A popular explanation has been to say that Paul's negative statements refer to the Mosaic, ceremonial law, while the positive ones refer to the moral law of the Ten Commandments. Such as explanation, however, is based on an arbitrary distinction between moral and ceremonial laws which cannot be found in Paul's writings.
"The correct explanation is to be found in the different contexts in which Paul speaks of the law. When he speaks of the law in the context of salvation (justification -- right standing before God), he clearly affirms that law-keeping is of no avail (Rom. 3:20).
"On the other hand, when Paul speaks of the law in the context of Christian conduct (sanctification -- right living before God), then he maintains the value and validity of God's law (Rom. 7:12; 13:8-10; I Cor. 7:19). For example, when Paul speaks of the various forms of human wickedness in I Timothy 1:8-10, he explicitly affirms 'now we know that the law is good' (verse 8)."
Dr. Bacchiocchi then goes on to make some of the same points, from scripture, that I intend to make to you. He concludes this section with a very succinct conclusion that attempts to explain why many have easily accepted, and presumed to be true, Romish teachings about Paul's attitude on the Law of God. I think his own words say it best:
"The conclusion that emerges from the foregoing considerations is that Paul does not attack the validity and value of the law as a moral guide to Christian conduct. On the contrary, he emphatically affirms that Christ specifically came 'in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us' (Rom. 8:4). What Paul criticizes is not the moral but the soteriological understanding of the law, that is, the law viewed as a document of election that includes the Jews [Judahites] and excludes the Gentiles [northern 10 tribes in dispersion].
"The mounting pressure of Judaizers who were urging circumcision upon the Gentiles, made it necessary for Paul to attack the exclusive covenant-concept of the law. 'But,' as George Howard points out, 'under other circumstances he [Paul] might have insisted on the importance of Israel's retention of her distinctiveness.'
"The failure to distinguish in Paul's writing between his moral and soteriological usages of the law, and the failure to recognize that his criticism of the law is directed not toward Jewish-Christians but toward Gentile Judaizers, has led many to fallaciously conclude that Paul is an antinomian who rejected the value and validity of the law as a whole. Such a view is totally unwarranted because, as we have shown, Paul rejects the law as a method of salvation but upholds it as a moral standard of Christian conduct."
Do you truly know the views and approaches that Jesus took towards the Law? Do you know why this is so important to the study of Paul? Or any other Apostle for that matter?
All serious students of scripture are familiar with Paul's words in I Corinthians 11:1. He said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." Therefore, a truly appropriate way to begin to understand Paul's approach to the Law of God is to know and understand our Lord's approach. Wouldn't you agree?
Let's begin at the Christ's first year of burgeoning maturity:
40: And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom:
and the grace of God was upon him.
41: Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
42: And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43: And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not...
46: ...they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47: And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding [of the law] and answers.
How about during his temptation? Did he rest only on the "10 Commandments"? or something else like tradition or conscience? What did he do? Jesus Christ resisted Satan from the strength he gained from the WHOLE LAW and responded to Satan three times succinctly from the 2nd. century BC Septuagint Version of the Book of Deuteronomy:
Here is just one example of His beliefs on far-reaching religious practices. The case in point is abstinence from food and drink as a means of achieving greater communion with God -- to gain spiritual strength. As we know from His temptation in the wilderness found in Luke 4, Jesus used this method to gain spiritual strength -- but was His teaching consistent? Notice, in Luke 5:29-35, that Jesus is supping with Levi, other tax collectors, and, among others, the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees "who belonged to their sect." These scribes and Pharisees complained to the disciples about them eating with sinners and Tax Collectors, to which Jesus replied that He didn't come for the righteous but for the "sick" sinners -- to call them to repentance so that they can begin to learn how to live righteously (follow the law like Himself and the Pharisees of their sect). But, what is interesting, is that afterwards these Pharisees and Teachers of the Law said to Him:
33: "...John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
34: Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?
35: But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
Did Jesus know the eternal Sabbath that God Himself inaugurated at the foundation of this world; that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob observed on the seventh day; that Moses, after speaking directly with the Lord God, instructed Israel to "remember it and keep it holy"?
I'm sure you're way ahead of me on this one. You probably looked down the page of your Bible to Luke 6 and discovered Jesus debating Sabbath Law with Pharisees on the Jewish Sabbath. Well, read on in Luke 6:5: "Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'"
Do you honestly believe that the Lord of the Sabbath wouldn't approve of the Sabbath?
Immediately after this in Luke 6:6 we read: "On another Sabbath He went into the synagogue and was teaching,..." Yet another isolated incident? No, in fact in every Good News Epistle (gospel) you'll not only find Him declaring Himself the "Lord of the Sabbath," but you will find a statement to this effect: "...and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read" (Luke 4:16).
Clearly, Jesus Christ was a SABBATH-KEEPER!!!
You are on the right path now. So, continue to read the Holy Bible with an open mind and, preferably, an open Concordance and continue to discover Jesus -- the Law-Keeper. Finally, let's read Jesus' own final word on the matter of the Law: Luke 16:16: "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." Luke 16:17: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law."
The Life and Career of "an Apostle"
Commonly known as Paul, the "apostle to the gentiles" was known by his Hebrew birth-name Saul by those closest to him. In fact, in the Acts of the Apostles, written by his close friend Luke, he isn't referred to as Paul at all until their encounter with the Jewish sorcerer at Paphos (Acts 13:9).
In his own words, he was "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:5, 6). And he was "born in Tarsus of Cilicia [modern-day Turkey], but brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel [a great teacher of the Law of God and of Jewish tradition], taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law [Jewish tradition], and was zealous toward God as you all are today...And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14).
Of course, Paul disavowed any association with the sect of the Pharisees (so often reviled by "modern scholars" and theologians), right? Wrong!!!
At a much later time, Paul had the perfect opportunity to swear off "Pharisaism" once and for all before the Sanhedrin. Instead, Luke relates this telling incident:
"Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, 'My brothers, I am a PHARISEE, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead'" (Acts 23:6, NIV).
William Dankenbring, of Triumph Prophetic Ministries (Church of God), and a long-time teacher and researcher in the Churches of God (over 40 years), makes this observation about this and other scriptures relating to Paul in his article entitled Who Were the Pharisees?:
"Obviously, Paul was not ashamed of his heritage as a law-abiding Pharisee. Nor did Jesus rebuke the Pharisees for their teachings concerning the laws of Moses. Rather, He acknowledged that they 'sat in Moses' seat,' something He never said concerning the Sadducees or Samaritans. Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, wrote concerning the Sadducees, 'The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all' (Acts 23:8)."
"Jesus never acknowledged the Sadducees as having any spiritual authority as interpreters of the Law. Rather, on one occasion when they accosted Him, and questioned Him, He replied with a very real 'put down':"
"'You are in ERROR because YOU DO NOT KNOW THE SCRIPTURES nor the power of God' (Matt. 22:29, NIV)."
"Clearly, even the evidence from the New Testament itself shows we should be following the teachings of the Pharisees as those teachings relate to the laws of God and the Torah -- not the paganized Samaritans who knew not what they worshipped, or the Sadducees, who did not even recognize the existence of angels and who denied the resurrection, and who Jesus Christ said did not even 'know' the Scriptures!"
The NIV Dictionary of the Bible has this to say about the "PHARISEES (far'i-daez, Heb. perushun, Gr. Pharisaioi)":
"The name 'Pharisee,'...means 'the separated ones, separatists,'..." and "...were also known as the chasidim, meaning 'loved of God' or 'loyal to God.' It continues: "...the Pharisees made these contributions to Judaism,...The first of these is Jewish legalism, which began in earnest after the Babylonian captivity, temple worship and sacrifices had ceased, and Judaism began to center its activities in Jewish Law and the synagogue [local worship centres]. The rise of the Jewish scribes, who were closely associated with the Pharisees, also gave great impetus to Jewish legalism. The Pharisees -- more of a fraternal order or religious society than a sect [of about 6,000 at the time of Jesus according to Josephus] -- were the organized followers of these experts in interpreting the Scriptures; they formal- ized the religion of the scribes and put it into practice. This is why the NT mentions the scribes and Pharisees together 19 times, all in the Gospels (e.g. Matt. 5:20; 15:1; 23:2, 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; Luke 11:39, 42, 43, 44, 53). The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews, not the practical politicians (like the more liberal Sadducees)" (NIV Dictionary of the Bible, p. 454, "Pharisees").
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