“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 2 Peter 3:14-17
There are many references to the law in the Apostle Paul’s letters to the various churches in the New Testament, but does every reference to the law refer to the law of God given to Moses and the twelve tribes at Mount Horeb? It is not possible to think that and for there to be any coherency in Paul’s writings. All of Paul’s writings should be looked at through the lenses of Peter’s warning in the opening scripture.
For starters, what is God’s law? The word law is Strong’s H8451, pronounced “torah” in Hebrew. It is simply the instruction Yahweh gave his people to live and prosper. It is more often translated as the word law, which makes it seem like a list of rites and rules in a negative connotation. This is instruction from the Creator, who knows everything about this world. Most do not view the law of gravity as an evil thing to which we are in bondage to. It is simply cause and effect. Therefore, if someone walks off a high place, that person will fall to the ground, and depending on how high it was, that person will likely die. I am suggesting God’s law or instruction is just like the law of gravity. It was not established to remove enjoyment from life, but to enhance life. Yahweh knows what makes living on Earth sustainable and enjoyable. So why all the confusion?
תּרה / תּורה
1) law, direction, instruction
1a) instruction, direction (human or divine)
1a1) body of prophetic teaching
1a2) instruction in Messianic age
1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction
1a4) body of legal directives
1b1) law of the burnt offering
1b2) of special law, codes of law
1c) custom, manner
1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law
There have always been rebellious entities whose goals are to separate mankind from Yahweh. One might say that these principalities are jealous of the relationship Yahweh wants to have with his creation. The first example occurred when there was only one instruction: don’t eat the fruit on that specific tree.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Gen 3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
Gen 3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Gen 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Gen 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The question: Did God really say…….? Did he really mean rest on the seventh day? Did he really say not to eat certain creatures, like bats and pigs, because they are unclean? Certainly we must know better today, after all, we have refrigeration and science.
It started in the beginning and spiraled into the present situation. Now, concerning Paul’s writings, we will look at the various laws that Paul speaks of, and see that much like James and John, who emphasized that faith is exhibited by works, Paul was teaching that works cannot justify and save a person, or prove one’s faith. Both are true. When a person is justified by their faith, they will want to be obedient to the deliverer of that justification. Let’s establish that Paul carried out God’s instructions and thought God’s law was a good thing.
Act 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law,
Act 21:21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.
Act 21:22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
Act 21:23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;
Act 21:24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.
Much like today, people in the Apostles’ day thought Paul was teaching against the law of God. The leadership had Paul take what was likely a Nazarite vow to prove to the people that he also lived in observance of the law. With Acts 24:4 in mind, one has two choices: either the Apostles of Jesus Christ were deceitful, and lived one way pretending to live another, or they observed the law of God. Taking all of scripture into account, it is easy for me to believe they observed the law of God. Otherwise, the whole system is corrupt and does not make any sense.
Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
Rom 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 3:24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Rom 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
Rom 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Rom 3:27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Rom 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
Rom 3:30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Rom 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
Paul explains himself in his letter to the Roman’s very well. It can become confusing if we start reading with the preconceived notion that Paul is advocating to intentionally practice breaking God’s law. That is why Peter gave the warning that people would twist Paul’s words to justify lawlessness, or the breaking of God’s law. We uphold the law by our faith. Notice Paul mentions more than one law also. This becomes important when reading all of Paul’s letters. When Paul speaks of the law, one must determine which law he is referencing by context. It is not always the law of God. In the verses above he mentions the law of faith and the law of works. Let’s look at some verses that speak of other laws Paul deals with.
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Rom 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Rom 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
Rom 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Rom 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
In these verses Paul speaks of the law of the Spirit of life and the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” The law of sin and death cannot be the law of God. It is the result of breaking the law of God, and without the law of the Spirit through Jesus, everyone is guilty of breaking the law of God, thus bound by the law of sin and death. Also, in verse seven, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot”. If the fleshly mind is hostile to God because it does not submit to the law of God, then those in the Spirit would submit to the law of God, therefore not being hostile to God. I don’t know how else to read that. This law of God that Paul speaks of is not some new thing.
Rom 7:22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
Rom 7:23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Rom 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Rom 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
A person cannot delight in something that brings bondage and death. Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is a good foundation to understand what Paul has to say in his other letters. One of the problems we have understanding Paul’s letters is that we are not often given the context to the things Paul is writing about. Another issue that Paul faced was the Pharisaical system that ran Judaism. They had many laws and commandments that added to the law of God, which in itself, broke the instructions Yahweh gave to Moses and the twelve tribes.
Deu 12:29 “When Yahweh your God has cut off the nations whom you are about to go to, to dispossess them before you, and you have dispossessed them, and you live in their land,
Deu 12:30 take care so that you are not ensnared into imitating them after their being destroyed from before you, and so that you not enquire concerning their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods, and thus I myself want to do also.’
Deu 12:31 You must not do so toward Yahweh your God, because of every detestable thing they have done for their gods Yahweh hates, for even their sons and their daughters they would burn in the fire to their gods.
Deu 12:32 All of the things that I am commanding you, you must diligently observe; you shall not add to it, and you shall not take away from it.”
Jesus also taught against adding to the law of God. He called these added rules or instructions commandments of men. It doesn’t sound like Jesus was impressed with the Pharisees rejecting the commandments of God and replacing them with the commandments of men.
Mar 7:6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
Mar 7:7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
Mar 7:8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Mar 7:9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
How many rules do we have in churches today that are beyond the law of God? The Roman church under Constantine and later councils added many laws, called canons, as well as many feast days, which involved other deities at their roots, at the same time rejecting Yahweh’s instructions. They demonized anyone who still followed Yahweh’s instructions and called them Judiazers. Jesus said:
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Do not let yourself be burdened by the doctrines of men and reject the instruction of Yahweh. Psalms 119:165 , “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.”
Carrying on with the writings of Paul, his letter to the Galatians is often used to argue that we can live a lawless life as Christians. Beside the fact that a person has to reject most of scripture to believe that, just a basic understanding that Paul wasn’t teaching a new and different doctrine should be enough. Also, there was no New Testament when Paul wrote his letters. He argued everything from the only scripture he had, which we call the Old Testament today. Paul tells us that all scripture “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”.
2Ti 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
2Ti 3:13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2Ti 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
2Ti 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
2Ti 3:17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Gal 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Gal 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
Gal 5:3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.
Gal 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Gal 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Gal 5:7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
Gal 5:8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Gal 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Gal 5:10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.
Gal 5:11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.
Gal 5:12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!
Gal 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Gal 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Gal 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Gal 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Gal 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,
Gal 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
Gal 5:21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Gal 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Gal 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Gal 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Gal 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he is addressing a few different issues, one being a group that said circumcision was necessary for salvation. The best line to summarize what he means is the following, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”. There is no salvation in keeping the law. However, the long list of works of the flesh Paul gives are things that the law instructs us not to do. If we are living in the Spirit, we won’t do them by nature. Does that mean we should embrace witchcraft in the church? Of course not, but many churches unknowingly do. If we do sin, which is defined by Yahweh’s instructions, we can now ask for forgiveness, and are not under the law of sin and death. Ideally, we would be in a place in the Spirit where we would not go against Yahweh’s instruction by nature. The writer of Hebrews, quoting Jeremiah, tells us Yahweh will write his laws in our hearts and put them into our minds. Which laws? The same laws he gave at Mount Horeb.
Heb 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Heb 8:11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In Deuteronomy, Yahweh predicts there will be a time in the future that the children of Israel will return to him after being scattered. This prophecy was at least partly fulfilled at the time of Jesus, whereby Jesus, the Messiah, made a way for Israel to return to Him. Yahweh states, “And you will again listen to the voice of Yahweh, and you will do all his commandments that I am commanding you today”. This is referring to us, now.
Deu 30:1 “And then when all of these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse that I have set before you and you call them to mind among the nations there where Yahweh your God has scattered you,
Deu 30:2 and you return to Yahweh and you listen to his voice according to all that I am commanding you today, both you and your children, with all your heart and with all your inner self,
Deu 30:3 and Yahweh your God will restore your fortunes, and he will have compassion upon you, and he will again gather you together from all the peoples where Yahweh your God scattered you there.
Deu 30:4 “Even if you are outcasts at the end of the heavens, even from there Yahweh your God shall gather you, and from there he shall bring you back.
Deu 30:5 And Yahweh your God will bring you to the land that your ancestors had taken possession of, and he will make you successful, and he will make you more numerous than your ancestors.
Deu 30:6 “And Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your inner self so that you may live.
Deu 30:7 And Yahweh your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, on those who harassed you.
Is Paul advocating lawlessness? Absolutely not. We are to strive for righteousness, which appears to be the opposite of lawlessness.
Rom 6:15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Rom 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Rom 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Rom 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
Rom 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul knows that the standard of teaching and righteousness is defined in Yahweh’s instructions.
Rom 7:10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
Rom 7:11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Rom 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
So what are we to do? Taking all scripture in to account, forsaking the commandments of men, I am compelled in my heart to be obedient to Yahweh’s instructions. Not for salvation, or justification, but out of love for the One who provides a means of salvation, and in order to show proper love to my neighbours.
Rom 7:7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Jesus explains it quite simply:
Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Mat 5:18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Also, who are these who did many mighty works in the name of Jesus whom Jesus doesn’t know because they were workers of lawlessness? Who wants to be one of them? They must have thought they were doing something good for God, but clearly they were not.
Mat 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
Mat 7:23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Does this mean every instruction or command given is applicable for everyone today? No. For example, there is no longer a Levitical priest system or sacrificial system. The book of Hebrews addresses that.
Heb 7:11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron?
Heb 7:12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.
Heb 7:13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar.
Heb 7:14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
Heb 7:15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
Heb 7:16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
Heb 7:17 For it is witnessed of him, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Heb 7:18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
Heb 7:19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
Heb 7:20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath,
Heb 7:21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”
Heb 7:22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
Heb 7:23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,
Heb 7:24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
Heb 7:25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Heb 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
Heb 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Heb 7:28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
We can still offer a sacrifice, but it comes from the bulls, calves or fruits of our lips.
Heb 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
There is too much evidence for me to listen to these false teachers who are teaching against the instructions of Yahweh, saying those instructions are for someone else, or “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”. Which commandments are you choosing to break or ignore? Are you teaching others to do the same?
Feature picture taken by Emma Vail somewhere in New Brunswick, Canada.