Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Understanding the Apostle Paul!
To begin understanding Paul, one must first know that much of the New Testament writings are set in the context of YEHOVAH's reconciliation with the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the controversy sparked by the remnant of the House of Judah surrounding that event.
by Jonathan David Brown and John D. Keyser.
Two Kinds Of Law
Words of the Apostle Paul have many times been misinterpreted (as all scripture can be) to the extent of nullifying YEHOVAH's law on the Sabbath, and others such as the food laws. One reason why this happens is because of certain key words being mistranslated. An example of this is the Greek word meaning "common" in Romans 14:14 being improperly translated as "unclean." This kind of mistake causes teachers to hold doctrinal positions which are plainly unsupportable in context with the rest of scripture. But it is easy to do because Paul seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth at times, which is perhaps the best explanation for this "law nullification" process.
For instance, in Galatians 5:4 he states: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." But then in Romans 2:13 he states, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Many of these contradictions are easily cleared up with the understanding that he is speaking of different kinds of law. Mostly, that which is of the sacrificial versus that which is of the moral and civil.
We'll divert momentarily from Galatians to demonstrate this from the book of Hebrews chapter 10:
vs. 1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
vs. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
vs. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.
vs. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
* * *
vs. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law.
vs. 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
vs. 10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
vs. 11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:
This passage shows the insuffiency of the sacrificial law to perform a complete work against sin and bring the believer to perfection. (vs. 1). It then becomes obvious that the part of the "law having a shadow" which would be "taken away" (vs. 9) is that which is "offered by" the law (vs. 8), i.e. sacrificial. The sacrifice of Yeshua is established in verse 10 as a finality, being once for all.
So, the concept of "taking away" something from the law called "the first" (vs. 9) is then greatly contrasted later in that chapter by a kind of law that would be established permanently:
vs. 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
vs. 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
The permanency of this kind of law flows with Paul's words in Romans 3:
vs. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
It then becomes even more obvious in the following verses in Hebrews 10 that this particular kind of law Paul speaks of must be different than that in the earlier verses concerning the sacrifices, which were to be "taken away:"
vs. 26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
vs. 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
vs. 28 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:
vs. 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
We know that the sin being spoken of (vs. 26) "is the transgression of the law." 1 John 3:4. Therefore we can see from verses 16 and 17 (further above) that there must still remain a kind of law to be "written in our hearts" which defines sin. That law (a much older law) contrasts the sacrificial kind of law which was added later to temporarily atone for sin. Verses 27-29 makes it clear that those who deliberately sin after fully understanding the truth have counted Yeshua's sanctifying blood "an unholy thing" and thereby despise the Spirit of grace. And those who do so are to receive harsher punishment than even Moses' law calls for.
It is important at this time to establish that there truly was a "change in the law" at the crucifixion tree. Though most of Christianity has mistaken just what the real "change in the law" was, we can back up to Hebrews 7 and find where this idea comes from:
vs. 11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
vs. 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
vs. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
vs. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
Notice that verse 11 ties the Levitical priesthood with how the "people received the law." We can be sure that the "law" being spoken of which the people received by them was the sacrificial ordinance because verse 13 implies the Levites gave "attendance at the altar," which "our Lord" who sprang out of the tribe of Judah had no obligation to perform. This "change in the law" was the abolishment of the Levitical priesthood, because animal sacrifice was no longer necessary. (vs. 12)
The Apostle Paul states it like this in Galatians 3:
vs. 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.
In this verse we can see there must be one kind of law necessary to define transgressions, and another which was added because of those transgressions. And, the kind of law being which was added was only in effect until "the seed should come" (the Messiah), who we know put an end to animal sacrifice.
In summarizing the two kinds of law, we can be confident that no one is "justified" by the sacrificial ordinance now that the Messiah has come. But to those who "do his commandments," he gives the "right to the tree of life" and permission to "enter in through the gates into the city." Revelation 22:14. We can confidently understand and accept our Master's exhortation in Matthew 5:
vs. 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
vs. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
vs. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
vs. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The People Of The Book
To begin understanding Paul, one must first know that much of the New Testament writings are set in the context of YEHOVAH's reconciliation with the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the controversy sparked by the remnant of the House of Judah surrounding that event. (See Luke 2:25; Acts 13:23-27; Acts 26:6, 7). As many of you know, Israel was "married" to YEHOVAH God. (Jeremiah 3:14). Israel was divided into two kingdoms in Solomon's son, Rehoboam's day. (I Kings chapter 11). The Northern House of Israel (10 tribes) was given a bill of divorcement because of her adulteries (Jeremiah 3:6-8) and sent into captivity. (II Kings 18:11-12; also Isaiah 50:1). And YEHOVAH God said to them "ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." Hosea 1:9. The law regarding divorce was then activated as found in Deuteronomy 24:
vs. 1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.
vs. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife.
vs. 3 And if the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife;
vs. 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the LORD: and thou shalt not cause the land to sin, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Paul explains how this applies to the divorced Northern Kingdom of Israel, speaking to them -- his brethren in Romans chapter 7:
vs. 1 Know ye not brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
vs. 2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
vs. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she is called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from the law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
vs. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto death. (emphasis added).
Although Paul does not repeat the part in the law stating that the woman given a bill of divorcement is permitted to marry again (Deut. 24:2 -- above), he does describe the adulterous woman. His bride, Israel, had been just that. She had already "married another" before a bill of divorce was issued.
Then when He finally divorced her, she could not return to YEHOVAH -- even if she was divorced from the latter husband. (Deut. 24:4 above). Leaving Israel in such a state that she could cry "Our hope is lost: we are cut off . ." (Ezekiel 37:11). This is why Yeshua died, to release Israel from the law -- so she could marry another -- i.e. his resurrected body. For this reason we look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Revelation 19:9. This, in my opinion, is the meaning of the Gospel.
Another passage showing a reversal of the judgment Israel was under is found in Galatians 4:
vs. 4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
vs. 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Even though Paul here doesn't use the marriage analogy (male and female) he nonetheless shows the need to redeem His people from being " under the law," which we now know to be the law of divorce in Deuteronomy 24.
The reality of the redemption was so powerful that it created this great controversy between the remant of Judah and those "gentilized" and "uncircumcised" Israelites who were accepting Yeshua as their redeemer. Paul addresses this in Colossians 2:
vs. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. . . .
vs. 11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
vs. 12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
vs. 13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
vs. 14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;
vs. 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
vs. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
vs. 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. . .
vs. 20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
vs. 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not;
vs. 22 Which all are to perish with the using:) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (emphasis mine).
A Third Kind Of Law Appears
We must now analyze the Colossians passage above by the "rightly dividing" process which Paul exhorted Timothy to do (II Tim. 2:15):
First: the word "spoil" in verse 8 means "rob." In other words, let no man rob you of something. The whole text is based on someone being robbed of something by and through (1) philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men (vs. 8); and (2) being subject to ordinances, i.e. 'rudiments of the world'. . after the commandments and doctrines of men (vss. 20-22). Keeping the sabbath holy is YEHOVAH God's command, not men's.
Second: many of Paul's letters are based on controversy surrounding circumcision of the flesh, just as the above passage in Colossians. (verses 11-13). This is because of problems the local ekklesia were having with the "judaizers," as recorded in Acts 15:
vs. 1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Those men of Judah were robbing the uncircumcised 'gentile-ized' House of Israel of "redemption" i.e., restoration from their alienated (divorced) condition to fellowship with the 'circumcised' during the sabbaths, new moons, holy days (Col. 2:16). These were all instituted by YEHOVAH God under the category of the Fourth Commandment, (not the mere traditions of men). The judaizers were saying in essence, 'don't come near us, we are holier than thou because we're circumcised and you're not.' Recall that Peter was rebuked by this same group for even eating (sitting down to meat and drink -- Colossians 2:16) with the uncircumcised. Acts 11:2-3.
Paul corrects this misapplication of the law by showing that Abraham obeyed YEHOVAH's commandments before he was circumcised! Romans 4:
vs. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
vs. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. [see note 1]
Paul laid the foundation for the above passage by stating earlier in chapter 2:
vs. 14 For when the Gentiles [ethnos -- House of Israel], which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
vs. 15 which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
* * *
vs. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
vs. 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and the circumcision dost transgress the law?
So, circumcision was a sign of the covenant (later enacted into law) which was added after Abraham proved his faith by obedience to YEHOVAH God's pre-existing Moral and Civil Laws. (See Genesis 26:4-5). Because of this, when the divorced House of Israel (i.e., "uncircumcised gentiles") showed the work of the law written in their hearts by fullfilling it ("keeping" it -- vs. 26), they proved their faithfulness just as Abraham did -- without circumcision of the flesh. But those who were circumcised in the flesh and not in heart were exposed as hypocrites. (See Romans 2:25-27).
Third: back to Colossians, the "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us" can't be YEHOVAH God's Moral and Civil Law as some teach, nor even the sacrificial laws. The word ordinances here (Strong's # 1378 -1379) is dogma in the Greek, which is where we get the word dogmatic, synonymous with 'traditions of men.' It is not the same Greek word for ordinances as used in Luke 1:6 speaking of Zacharias and Elisabeth who "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord Blameless." That word is Strong's number 1345 -- dikaioma, implicating YEHOVAH's ordinances pertaining mostly to the Levitical priesthood.
It was the ordinances, or dogma, of these judaizers that had long kept uncircumcised and divorced Israel from being "saved" and brought back into fellowship. First, they held these "gentiles" under the judgment of divorce (cp. John 4:9) beyond the proper time. Even after the Messiah, the judaizers thought that the only way the "gentiles" could come into fellowship was through circumcision. But, by the sacrifice of Yeshua, in spite of the judaizers, he "saved" his people anyway, nailing their dogmatic requirements to his cross (Col. 2:14) and fulfilling the judgment of divorce (Deut. 24:1-4 & Romans 7:1-4), thus bringing the uncircumcised House of Israel, "gentiles," in dispersion back to himself and into fellowship with the House of Judah. This is vividly demonstrated in Ephesians chapter 2:
vs. 11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
vs. 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens [Greek: alienated -- i.e. divorced] from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world;
vs. 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
vs. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
vs. 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances [dogma]; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
vs. 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
vs. 17 And came and preached peace to you which were far off, and to them that were nigh.
vs. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
vs. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God . . . (etc.) (emphasis added).
This passage perfectly sets forth fulfillment of the prophecy of the "two sticks" found in Ezekiel 37:15-28 where the "sticks" or "scepters," representing both Houses of Israel and Judah, were joined as one in the prophet's hand, symbolic of re-uniting the divided kingdom (See especially Ezek. 37 verse 22).
Fourth: This last and most important point is perhaps at the very heart of the question of whether the Sabbath was abolished in the Messiah. I repeat what Paul says in Colossians 2:
vs. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
vs. 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Many believe that because the sacrificial laws were closely tied to the Sabbaths and feasts, that when the Messiah came to be the sacrifice all holy days or 'shadows' had fulfilled their purpose. Further proof, they say, is that Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 thereby bringing a crashing end to the sacrifices, with the Sabbaths and feasts ending there also. The argument uses Paul's words in Colossians to prove it. The passage is thus convoluted to read, "don't let anyone judge you if you don't want to keep the sabbaths, holy days, new moons, or if you do eat pork."
This doesn't take into account, however, as YEHOVAH said in Exodus 31:12 that: (1) the Sabbath is a sign between Him and His people for ever, (2) it is a perpetual covenant, (3) it is tied directly to the pattern of His resting after He made heaven and earth, which was long prior to the ritual sacrifice being codified, and (4) there were sacrifices every day.
The apparent contradiction between the keeping of the Sabbath day being a "sign/perpetual covenant" and Colossians 2:16 is easily resolved with the understanding of the judaizers' purpose in keeping out the uncircumcised, and the following concepts.
Paul wrote to the Colossians some 30 years after the New Covenant was established by the crucifixion and resurrection. Notice he doesn't say they 'were a shadow of things,' he says "are" (meaning currently) a shadow of things to come. So it can't be said that sometime between Paul and the 21st Century we left the "shadows" and now clearly see the object creating the shadow.
For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. . .
I Corinthians 13:12 -- speaking of a time "when that which is perfect is come." Indeed, that which is perfect has not yet come, otherwise Paul would not have spoken of a future day.
Paul's words in Colossians 2:16 were simply encouraging these "gentiles" to keep the holy days, etc., in spite of the judaizers. This was confirmed in Peter's vision where unclean animals appeared on a sheet and he was told to "rise, kill and eat." (Acts 10:13-15). Peter, knowing that YEHOVAH would not contradict His well established law states, "I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean," (Acts 10:14) and "doubted in himself" what the vision should mean. (Acts 10:17). So after pondering its meaning, (Acts 10:19) he states, "God hath shewed me that I should not call any man (adamite) common or unclean," speaking of those who were uncircumcised. (Acts 10:28 and 11:1-3)
In closing, if verses 16 and 17 of Colossians 2 are read together properly, they would say, "Let no man therefore judge you. . . but the body  of Christ." The word "is" in vs. 17 is not in the original Greek text. [see note 2]
In other words, the body of the Messiah (the circumcised in heart under the New Covenant) is the only group of people capable of judging whether one may sit down to meat and drink on the holy days, based on whether one is obeying His Laws. You can see this acted out where Paul exhorts believers during the Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread in I Corinthians 5:
vs. 11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Let us now endeavor to return to all of YEHOVAH's Laws, showing that they are indeed written on our hearts, that we may obtain mercy for all of the time we have dismissed them. And let us never again consider the Apostle Paul the man who taught us that YEHOVAH God's Moral and Civil Law was changed or done away with.
1/. Cp. Gen 26:5: "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." He did this prior to circumcision.
2/. In the King James Version, all words in italics are not in the original
text, like the word "is" in vs. 17.
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