The letters of Paul contain many verses that seemingly contradict The Law, known as The Torah, in Hebrew. That contradiction, however, is entirely in the misunderstanding of Hebraic terms, idioms, culture, and the people to whom he addressed. This has caused many to turn away. Even Peter expressed that Paul’s teachings to the Gentiles were being twisted. These were the Gentiles without the Hebraic background and understanding he was addressing. Please don’t reject His Torah, His Law, by your false understanding of Grace.
2 Peter 3:15-16 And think of the long-suffering of our Lord as salvation (as our beloved brother Paul also has written to you according to the wisdom given to him as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable pervert, as also they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction).
Please read Acts chapters 21-24.
This passage of Scripture shows Paul teaching his disciples. He then arrives in Jerusalem and is confronted by some Jews who stir up the crowd in anger with false accusations based on a perception.
Acts 21:27-29 And when the seven days were about to be completed, the Jews who were from Asia, having seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, Men, Israelites, help! This is the man who teaches all everywhere against the people and the Law and this place. And even he brought Greeks into the temple and has polluted this holy place. (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city before, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
They soon expand their anger to include his teaching everyone against The Law. Paul begs for an opportunity to speak. He begins with his history of persecuting the followers of Jesus then gives testimony of his conversion to “The Way”. After his appeal to the Jews themselves, he is released, but subsequent evil plots begin all over again.
The original false accusation dealt with bringing a man from Ephesus into the Temple, but it was actually four other men from Israel that were purified in the Temple with Paul.
Acts 21:23-24 Therefore do this, what we say to you: We have four men who have a vow on themselves; taking them, be purified with them…
He did indeed take four men from Jerusalem with him who were also followers of “The Way”, but their false accusations are with a man from Ephesus (located in present day Turkey). Gentiles are not allowed into the Temple.
In this next verse, who is calling “The Way” heresy? Paul or his accusers? What does Paul say he believes about The Law and The Prophets?
Acts 24:14 But I confess this to you, that after the Way which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
We have just seen Paul say “I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things that are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Does this sound like Paul is saying the Law is done away with or has been replaced simply with a “Law of Love?” The confusion comes from a misunderstanding of what Paul is speaking of and to whom he speaks.
The Law is known as The Torah in Hebrew. Most people call it The Commandments. A more proper translation of Law is the word: Instructions. The Torah is His Instructions in righteousness.
In Acts 24:17-18, Why did Paul go to the Temple? Was he with a crowd causing a riot as they accuse him?
Acts 24:17-18 And after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation. Among which certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, not with a crowd nor with tumult.
Let’s look at what Paul says in these passages.
Acts 25:7-11 And he having come, the Jews who came down from Jerusalem stood around and brought many charges against Paul, which they could not prove.
Defending himself, Paul said, Neither against the Law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I offended in anything. …
But Paul said, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know.
For if I am an offender or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die. But if there is nothing of which these accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar.
We see Paul in these and many more examples of being falsely accused of breaking The Law. He didn’t. He was fully obedient to The Law. The misunderstanding of Paul lies with the interpretation of The Law. The Jews had added many man-made laws that took priority over the written Law given by God and recorded by Moses at Mt. Sinai. These laws are recorded in the Talmud and are known as the Oral Torah. There is no Oral Torah from God. They are the opinions and man-made laws recorded by Rabbi’s over the centuries. Jesus taught against these added laws from the Talmud. He never taught against the written Law. Every accusation is against the laws in this Oral Torah. Paul, therefore, was now keeping The Law in its pure form while the Jewish authorities condemned him for not teaching and being obedient to their man-made laws. They looked for every opportunity to condemn Paul just as they did with Jesus.
Psalms 119:89 …Forever, O Jehovah, Your Word is settled in the heavens.
We will now take a look at the false accusations against Jesus.
What does Matthew 26:59-60 tell us? Does there appear to be a personal or political motivation to accuse Jesus and have Him put to death? You may read the full passage of events in Matthew 26:57-68.
Matthew 26:59-60 And the chief priests and the elders and all the Sanhedrin sought false witness against Jesus, in order to put Him to death. But they found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came up
Exerting control over people is nothing new. It is important to point out that attacks against Jesus, Paul, and all the disciples are not coming from all of the Jews, but only a segment of them. That point is frequently misunderstood as “The Jews killed Jesus”. This is not true.
In Psalms 119:142, what does it say about “Your Law”?
Psalms 119:142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your Law is the truth.
Then in Malachi 2;6, we see a prophecy of Jesus. What does it say?
Malachi 2:6 The Law of Truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and turned away many from iniquity.
Do we see this “Law of Truth” in Jesus’ mouth? According to those who wanted him put to death, he spoke blasphemy. Did Jesus speak blasphemy or did they falsely accuse Him? Refer back to Matthew 26:57-68 for the entire event.
You just read that God’s Law is the truth and this “Law of Truth” is in Jesus’ mouth.
Now read the passage from John 5:44-47.
John 5:44-47 How can you believe, you who receive honor from one another and do not seek the honor that comes from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you, Moses, in whom you trust. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My Words?
Here we see Jesus say if you do not believe Moses’ writings, you won’t believe My words.
Do you see the connection?
Here it is: We see God’s Law is The Truth. This Law (Torah), was given by the mouth of God to Moses as the Mt. Sinai Covenant which is still in force to this day. This Law of Truth or “These Instructions of Truth” are in Jesus’ mouth. Now, Jesus speaks of The Torah of Moses and says if you can’t or won’t accept those words of Moses (which were spoken by God Himself), then how can you believe My Words? The words Jesus spoke were the SAME words His Father spoke in defining the Covenant (Torah) in which He would be their God and they would be His people. This is why Jesus says Moses will condemn them. But remember, Moses’ words, were God’s words that he recorded.
We do indeed see another acknowledgement of this from Timothy.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
Timothy refers to it as “The Word of Truth”. This is yet another name for “The Law of Truth” or simply “The Law”, which is recorded in the Tanakh (Old Testament). The Tanakh consists of the Torah, the Prophets, and historical writings. The “Old Testament” should not be considered old nor surpassed with the New Testament. It is very much the foundation of everything the New Testament teaches. Without this foundation, the letters of Paul, the disciples, and the Gospels, are misunderstood.
What does Matthew tell us about obedience to The Law (commandments)
Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever shall relax one of these commandments, the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.
Now that we have seen many statements concerning the importance of The Law, let’s look at the man-made laws that were in effect and known as “The Tradition of the Elders”. These were in effect at the time of Jesus and are still taught to this day.
Mark 7:13 making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have delivered. And you do many such things.
What does Mark tell us about traditions?
Traditions arise that one may think are based on Scripture, but they aren’t. They may be passed down from generations ago and you grew up with them incorporated into your family life. Frequently, we see them associated with celebrations. Traditions tend to give us a warm, comfy feeling as they are often linked with joyful times. The question to ask yourself is this: “Can I confirm my religious traditions and beliefs are based on and supported by Scripture?” Are you sure of your answer?
In religious practice, we see many traditions become (formal or informal) laws: “This is the way it is done.” Not all traditions are wrong, but if they involve doing something that God’s Word expressly forbids, then it becomes sin. The Torah provides the answer.
Let’s look at some of these traditions in Scripture:
Mark 7:2-9 And when they saw some of His disciples eating loaves with unclean hands, that is with unwashed hands, they found fault.
For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they immerse their hands with the fist, holding the tradition of the elders.
And coming from the market, they do not eat without immersing, and there are many other things which they have received to hold, the dippings of cups and pots, and of copper vessels, and of tables.
Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat loaves with unwashed hands?
But He answered and said to them, Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
However, they worship Me in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men, the dippings of pots and cups. And many other such things you do.
And He said to them, Do you do well to set aside the commandment of God, so that you may keep your own tradition?
In Mark 7:5, we see the Pharisees concerned that the disciples don’t follow “The tradition of the elders”. This is a man-made document of laws that take priority over The Law as given by God Himself to the people at Mt. Sinai. It continues to be in effect today.
In Mark 7:8, Jesus responds, “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men”. Some of these laws involve washing hands in a specific manner, which is why they are accused of “unclean / unwashed hands”. It is not that they didn’t wash their hands; they just didn’t wash them in the prescribed ritual manner.
These laws are the basis of many arguments between the Jewish Pharisees and Jesus, Paul, and His disciples. The arguments are NOT condemning The Law (The Torah) as so many think it is. The arguments are over the man-made laws. Unfortunately, many Christians teach it is about God’s Law due to their lack of knowledge concerning The Law and Jewish traditions. By not understanding the language, the culture, the history, or The Law, they misrepresent what Paul teaches.
Stephen is the first follower of Jesus who was martyred for his faith.
Acts 6:8-10 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue…disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Acts 6:11-15 And they induced men to be saying, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God. And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes. And coming on, they seized him and brought him to the Sanhedrin. And they set up false witnesses, who said, This man does not cease speaking blasphemous words against this holy place and the Law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered to us. And looking intently at him. all those sitting in the Sanhedrin saw his face as if it were the face of an angel.
We see the exact same persecution come upon Stephen as Jesus and Paul encountered. You can read more about Stephen in Acts chapters 6-8. In fact, they were all put to death for teaching the truth of God’s Word.
We see in this next verse, the death of Stephen prompted many of the followers of Jesus to flee to other nations:
Acts 11:19 Then, indeed, they who were scattered abroad by the persecution that rose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the Word to no one except the Jews.
It was Paul who persecuted and ordered the death of Stephen. He then had a personal encounter from Jesus himself and this resulted in a great transformation. He began preaching “The Way” and worked with the other original twelve disciples.
Acts 22:20 And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was poured out, I also was standing by and consenting to his death, and holding the garments of those who killed him.
Acts 22:7-15 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? And I answered, Who are you, lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute. And they who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid. But they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, Arise and go into Damascus. And there it shall be told you all things which are appointed for you to do. … The God of our fathers has chosen you to know His will and to see the Just One, and to hear a voice out of His mouth. For you shall be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
Jesus sent His disciples to “The Lost Sheep of the House of Israel”. These are the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom. NOT the Gentiles. That topic is too vast for this lesson.
Matthew 10:6 But rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:24 But He answered and said, I am not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Paul, however, was sent to “all men”. It was Paul who was sent to the Gentiles. He did not teach a different Law or Covenant as many suggest, but the same one. Remember, Peter wrote about Gentiles twisting what Paul taught due to being untaught concerning The Law.
Exodus 12:49 There shall be one law to the native, and to the visitor that stays among you.
Numbers 15:16 One law and one way shall be for you and for the stranger that lives with you.
Numbers 15:29 And you shall have one law for him who acts through ignorance; for him that is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien that resides among them.
People will come against you for following Jesus. You will be falsely accused just as Jesus, Paul, Stephen, the original disciples, and all the others who chose to follow after The Truth. Look up!
Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they who have been persecuted for righteousness sake! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 7:13 Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it.
1 Peter 3:16 having a good conscience, that while they speak against you as evildoers they may be shamed, those falsely accusing your good behavior in Christ.