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Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles - Least in the Kingdom?

10.30.15 | Testing Everything, Paul | by Awakened Church

    Published by 119 Ministries with permission from Awakened Church

    Introduction: Biblical Inerrancy and the New Testament

    Almost all Christian denominations teach biblical inerrancy: all Scripture is without error and true. I have no issue with this concept at all; in fact, I wholeheartedly agree with it. However, I take exception with the modern Church’s implementation of this concept as it is applied to the New Testament.

    Before you label me a heretic, please hear me out. 

    We all approach the New Testament from the standpoint that it was written to you, or me, or a group of which we have been a part, or that church down the street. And because it was written to me, I instinctively understand all of the concepts and issues that are being discussed. I was even urged to substitute my name in certain passages to make it “real to me.” 

    Consciously or unconsciously we have all been lazy in our study and reading of Scripture. We never take the time to learn about the cultural practices, mindset, religious practices, language and historical background of the biblical time period. In the past when I read seemingly contradictory passages, I would simply shrug and wonder what it meant, or just call it a “mystery,” but I can no longer ignore these types of passages.

    The following passages are some of the Scriptures with which I am currently wrestling.

    Paul stated that the law is “done away with” and he appears to promote a “no-law” doctrine.

    Romans 10:4 KJV
    For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

    Jesus appears to promote the opposite “pro-law” doctrine:

    Matthew 5:19 KJV
    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.

    On the other hand, Paul says: 

    1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
    Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

    In this paper I will attempt to present evidence and evaluate the Scripture adherence to either the “no-law” doctrine or the “pro-law” doctrine. 

    Is it possible for us to reconcile these two opposite passages and still align with biblical inerrancy?

    Matthew 5:18-19 
    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. 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.

    Part One – Jesus’ Relationships

    In order to get a sense of the true ministry of Paul, we must first examine the focus of Paul’s ministry: Jesus. We will start by examining the relationships of Jesus.

    Jesus’ Relationship to the Father:

    • John 5:30 
      I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

    • John 7:16
      Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
    • John 14:10 
      Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

    • John 12:49-50 
      For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. 
    • John 10:37-38
      If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. (38) But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

    Jesus’ Relationship to the Religious Leaders of the Day:

    • John 7:19 
      Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? 
    • Luke 11:46
      And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. 
    • Luke 11:52 
      Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. 
    • Matthew 23:23 
      Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 

    Read all of Matthew 23:1-39 to understand the Savior’s disdain for the hypocritical leaders, the Pharisees. 

    • John 3:10
      Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 
    • Matthew 22:29
      Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

    Jesus’ Relationship to the Laws of God, given to Moses, the Writings and the Prophets:

    • John 10:35 
      If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 
    • John 17:17 
      Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  
    • Matthew 5:17-19 
      Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  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.  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. 
    • John 14:15 
      If ye love me, keep my commandments. 
    • John 15:10 
      If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 
    • Matthew 19:17
      And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 
    • Mark 12:29-31
      And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

    From these words of our Savior, I am forced to come to these conclusions: 

    1.  Relationship to the Father

    a.  Jesus is not teaching his own doctrine, he is only teaching what the Father has allowed him to speak.

    b. The words of Jesus are magnifications of the Father’s laws –all of them, not just the famous Ten Commandments.

    i. In fact, the commandment Jesus named as the “greatest commandment” is a direct quotation from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Even today, this passage is known as the Shema, the watchword of the Jewish faith. It is the first thing the observant Jew recites when he wakes, the last thing he says when he goes to bed, and is even the last thing on his lips before death. There are accounts of the Nazis hearing desperate cries of the Shema from the gas chambers before the deadly silence during the Holocaust.

    c.  Jesus is not teaching something new, he is reiterating God’s laws that are eternally true.

    2.  Relationship to the Religious Leaders of the Day:

    a.  The lawyers, Pharisees, masters, and scribes may have had head knowledge of the laws of God, but not heart knowledge.

    b.They were not teaching the laws of God, they were teaching something else.  

    i. The added laws of man (covered in Part Seven).

    3.  Jesus’ Relationship to the Laws of God, given to Moses, the Writings and the Prophets:

    a.  The Scripture cannot be broken.
         i. Heaven and earth are still here, therefore, so is the law.

    b.  Keeping the commandments is the way that our love of Jesus and the Father is manifested.

    c. Keeping the commandments is how we “abide” in Jesus’ love.
         i. According to Webster’s, the word “abide” means, “to
         remain stable or fixed in a state.”

    d. According to Matthew 5:19, keeping and teaching the commandments has a direct correlation to rewards within the Kingdom of Heaven.
         i. 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:
         ii. but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall
         be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    e. Teachers are NOT to teach against the commandments (the entire law, not just the Ten Commandments).

    i.  How can the law of the Father be “done away with” if Jesus’ doctrine is not his, but the Fathers, and the Father doesn’t change?

    ii. Nowhere in Scripture was it prophesied that the instructions of God, the law, would be nullified.
         1. They are prophesied to continue forever.
              a. Psalm 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

    Examining Jesus’ relationships portrays him in a very different light than is commonly taught, but consider the following:

    1. God’s Word is true -
      John 17:17
      Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

    2. God never changes -
      Malachi 3:6
      For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

    3. God’s Word cannot contradict itself -
      1 Corinthians 14:33
      For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

    Part Two – The Testimonies of Stephen, James and the Elders

    In Part One we saw how the words of Jesus are in stark opposition to the doctrine that “the law is not for modern believers.” Do New Testament accounts of the apostles’ actions support that Jesus taught them a “pro-law” doctrine? Or do their actions support a “no-law” doctrine?

    Acts 6:9-14 
    (Emphasis Mine) Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.  And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak 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 us.

    Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against the temple and the law. What was his blasphemy against the law? Jesus would change the customs of Moses! This was the false accusation! Jesus never changed the customs of Moses! Or did the writer of Acts lie?

    Acts 21:18-26 
    (Emphasis Mine) And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (19) And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. (20) And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: (21) And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (22) What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. (23) Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; (24) Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things,whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. (25) As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. (26) Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

    There are several points in this passage that strengthen the argument that Jesus’ doctrine is “pro-law.” 

    The Jews who were zealous for the law had been told that Paul was teaching the dispersed Jews to forsake the law of Moses, not to circumcise the children and to go away from the customs of Moses. The latter half of verse 24 tells us that the information was false (nothing). It is plainly stated that Paul walked orderly and kept the law.

    But there is something of even greater significance going on in this passage, and that is what James and the elders told Paul to do. There were four men who were under a vow, and Paul was to purify himself with them, and pay for the expenses associated with the completion of the vow. 

    It is recorded that Paul began his vow while in Cenchrea: 

    Acts 18:18
    And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.

    There is only one vow that appears in the law that involves shaving the head, days of separation, the temple, offerings and expenses: the Nazarite vow. Because we are not familiar with the law, New Testament believers don’t fully understand the significance of what Paul was told to do. 

    Let’s look at the laws concerning the completion of the Nazarite vow given in Numbers:

    Numbers 6:13-21
    And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,  And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings. And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering: And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings. And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven: And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.

    The Nazarite vow has very specific laws, practices, offerings and burnt sacrifices that are commanded to be followed. When a person chooses to take the Nazarite vow, they are choosing to separate themselves unto the LORD. In order for all of the hair of their separation to be able to be sanctified to the LORD, participants are to start the vow with a shaved head, hence, the reference to Paul shaving his head in Cenchrea. 

    1. James and the elders knew that there was no other set of practices that could confirm and uphold Paul’s adherence to the law more dramatically than the completion of the Nazarite vow at the door of the temple in front of all the zealous believers.

    2. In addition, the elders told Paul to “be at charges with them.”
      1. In order for the vow to be completed, the lamb, ewe, ram, unleavened bread and wine had to be purchased and made ready.
        1. The animals would have been prized, not any old animal from the herd.
          1. The cost in today dollars could easily have been $1,000 - $2,000 per person.
          2. Paul would have paid $5,000 - $10,000 for himself and the four others.
          3. This is an act that would not have been easy to keep quiet.
      2. Some translations make this statement to be “pay to have their heads shaved.”
        1. This is ridiculous; the person under the vow is to shave their own head at the door of the temple.
        2. A better reading would be: “pay their expenses so that they may complete the vow."
          1. History records that it was a common practice for the wealthy to pay for the sacrificial animals of the poor.
            1. It is recorded in the rabbinic writings that King Agrippa and his brother paid for the sacrificial animals of 300 poor men who were under the Nazarite vow, totaling 900 animals!

    The accounts of real events solidify the assertion that Jesus’ doctrine is “pro-law.” The account in Acts 21 either delivers a devastating blow to the claim that Jesus “did away” with the law and ALL burnt sacrifices, or Stephen, Paul, James and the elders were deceivers and liars! 

    If you are to be intellectually honest, you must explore the possibility that the teachings of Jesus and the testimonies from Stephen, James and the elders bring the “no-law” doctrine into serious question!

    Part Three – The Testimonies of Paul, John, King David, King Solomon, Isaiah and other Prophets

    Paul gives record concerning his personal adherence to the law:

    Acts 25:7-8
    And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. While he answered for himself, neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended anything at all. 

    These “grievous complaints” were false. 

    Romans 6:1-2
    What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 

    Grace, which came through the Savior, is not a license to sin. John gives record of the law and the commandments:

    1 John 2:3
    And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

    1 John 3:4-6
    Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.  Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

    1 John 3:22
    And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

    1 John 5:2-3
    By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous 

    2 John 1:6
    And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

    Can these passages be interpreted any other way than “they mean what they say”? To interpret them differently goes against many, many, many New and Old Testament Scriptures.

    Revelation 12:17
    And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

    Revelation 14:12
    Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

    The dragon was angry with those who kept the commandments, so those that didn’t keep the commandments were of no concern to the dragon, or worse.

    The Psalms of David, the man after God’s own heart:
    Psalm 19:7
    The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

    Psalm 111:9
    He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

    Psalm 119:44
    So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.

    Psalm 119:47
    And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

    Psalm 119:48
    My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.

    Psalm 119:53
    Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.

    Psalm 119:89 LAMED
    For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.

    Psalm 119:97 MEM.
    O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

    Psalm 119:126
    It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.

    Psalm 119:136
    Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.

    Psalm 119:142
    Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.

    Psalm 119:151
    Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.

    Psalm 119:160
    Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

    Psalm 119:165
    Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

    The words of Solomon, the wisest man to ever live: 
    Proverbs 28:4
    They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

    Proverbs 28:7
    Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.

    Proverbs 28:9
    He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

    The words of Isaiah:
    Isaiah 24:5
    The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

    From the writer of Chronicles, possibly Ezra:
    1 Chronicles 16:15-17
    Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,

    From the writer of Kings, possibly Jeremiah:
    2 Kings 17:37
    And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods.

    2 Kings 17:38
    And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. 

    1. All of these passages align EXACTLY with the teachings of Jesus, and the testimonies of Paul, Stephen, James and the elders!a. 
      1. Consistency in message:
        1. God’s Word is true -
          John 17:17 
          Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
        2. God never changes - 
          Malachi 3:6
          For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
        3. God’s Word cannot contradict itself - 
          1 Corinthians 14:33
          For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
    2. In order for the “no-law” doctrine to stand, the teachings and testimonies of these great men MUST be overlooked, ignored or twisted.

    Can we continue to trivialize the words of these great men that were inspired by God Almighty?

    Can we continue to discount the words of his Son?

    Can we continue to ignore the words of the Father, given through Moses? 

    Part Four – God’s Criteria for the Messiah and Prophets

    Deuteronomy chapters 13 and 18 are the criteria given by God to Moses concerning every prophet and the prophesied Messiah.

    Deuteronomy 13:1-5 
    (Emphasis Mine) If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.  And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

    Deuteronomy 18:17-22 
    (Emphasis Mine) And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet,which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.  And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

    1. The teachings of Jesus from Part One align EXACTLY with these criteria!
    2. This is exactly what we would expect.
    3. Because God never changes and
      ii. God’s Word is true and
      iii. He doesn’t contradict himself
    4. The testimonies of Stephen, James and the elders align EXACTLY with these criteria!
    5. Exactly what we would expect!
    6. The New Testament passages about Paul and the Nazarite vow align EXACTLY with Numbers 6!

    Acts 7:37-38
    This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.  This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

    1.  Stephen also confirms the exact alignment of the teachings and life of Jesus with Deuteronomy 18.
    2. As a side note, this passage also talks of the Church in the wilderness at Mt. Sina/Sinai, 1,500 years before the Acts 2 account of Pentecost.
    3. Was Stephen lying or perhaps mistaken?

    Deuteronomy 13 and 18 was the driving force that sparked the Bereans search of the Scriptures.

    Acts 17:10-12 
    (Emphasis Mine) And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.  Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

    1. The Bereans confirm the exact alignment with Deuteronomy!
    2. They also confirm the alignment with ALL Scriptures concerning the Messiah!
      1. If they had discovered that Paul and Silas were teaching about a Messiah that did away with the law, or even slightly changed one point, the Bereans would have had scriptural justification to kill them!
    3. The Bereans only used the Old Testament for their study of Scripture!
    4. The New Testament was not written yet!
      1. b. The New Testament was not written yet!
    5. They were LIVING out the New Testament, not studying it!

    How can these passages be reconciled to doctrines that “do away” with the law, especially in light of the Bereans searching only the Old Testament? Remember, the New Testament wasn’t even written yet!

    Is God’s Word true? 

    Does God change?

    Can God’s Word contradict itself? 


    Part Five – The Testimony of Peter

    Peter, the apostle, addresses the writings of Paul:

    2 Peter 3:15-16
    And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

    I have some questions; here are a few:

    1. What was the culture of first century Jerusalem like? 
    2. Were idioms used in the first century culture? 
    3. What was/were the predominant language(s)? Was Greek really the predominant language? 
    4. What was the role of the temple in everyday life? 
    5. What were the methods of teaching used in the synagogue? 
    6. Was there a difference in how the Hebrews thought vs. the Greeks? 
    7. What was a Hellenized Jew? 
    8. What was the relationship between the Pharisees and the Sadducees? 
    9. What was the role of the scribes? 
    10. Why didn’t the scribes teach with authority? How did the scribes teach?
    11. How did the rabbis, Pharisees and Sadducees come about, because they are never mentioned in the Old Testament?
    12. How did the Sanhedrin come into place?  
    13. What were the differences in what the Pharisees’ and Sadducees’ practiced and believed?

    Most, if not all, of the first century Church would have known the answers to these basic questions. Even small children would have known the answers to these questions. The learned would have been able to expound and go into great detail in answering each question. 

    Paul was a scholar trained at the feet of Gamaliel; he excelled in his study of the oral laws of Judaism. Even Peter, who was a companion of the Messiah and heard the very words of Jesus himself, says parts of ALL of Paul’s writings were hard to understand. Most Christians aren’t even aware that the oral laws of Judaism exist, let alone study them. We must conclude that virtually all 21st century students of Scripture cannot claim to be learned in regard to Paul’s writings.

    Can we consider ourselves learned based on the above questions? Does your pastor or Sunday school teacher know more than a couple of the answers to these questions? We are willingly and wholly naive historically concerning Paul’s audience. If we don’t even know some basic information about the context of Paul’s writings, isn’t it arrogant to believe that we KNOW what Paul is talking about and that he was teaching a “no-law” doctrine? 

    Part Six – Paul’s Writings: A Witness for the “No-Law” or “Pro-Law” Doctrine?

    The following are quotations from Paul’s writings regarding the law:

    Acts 25:8
    While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.

    Romans 6:14
    For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 

    Acts 24:12-14
    And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

    1 Corinthians 9:21
    To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

    Romans 3:31
    Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. 

    Galatians 2:16
    Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

    Romans 7:12
    Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 

    Galatians 5:18
    But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

    Romans 7:22
    For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

    Romans 10:4
    For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 

    Philippians 3:5-6
    Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

    1. By analyzing these passages, logic would dictate that Paul was one of the following:
      1. A con-man, phony, liar, fake, schizophrenic or bipolar
    2. But God’s Word cannot contradict itself!
      1. If Paul was following the Messiah, his writings would not contradict other Scriptures.
        1. In the book of Acts, it is recorded over and over again that Paul always kept the laws of God!
      2. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
        Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
        1. John 15:10 ESV
          If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
        2. John 7:16
          Jesus answered them, and said,My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
        3. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 ESV 
          If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
        4. So… if we imitate Paul, we imitate Christ, because both kept the Father’s commandments!
      3. Hmmm… What else could that mean, except exactly what it says?
        1. If we imitate Paul, we keep the commandments of the Father!
          1. This is in direct and utter opposition to the “no-law” doctrine.
          2. This fits perfectly with the “pro-law” doctrine.
    3. When Paul says we “are not under the law”
      1. He cannot be talking about the laws of God given through Moses.
        1. This would violate dozens, if not hundreds, of Scriptures.
      2. He must be talking about some other set of laws from which we are now free.
    4. The key to understanding Paul’s writings lies in the study of the culture, mindset, language, Pharisaic laws and practices, and most importantly, the laws of God given through Moses.
      1. As you can see in the above passages, Paul seemingly contradicts both the “no-law” and “pro-law” doctrines. He even seems to contradict himself.
    5. Paul was an expert on more than one legal system: Pharisaic laws and practices, the laws of God given through Moses, and Roman law. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees.
      1. Galatians 1:14
        And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
      2. Acts 22:3
        I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

    Paul’s seemingly contradictory statements must make us realize that if Scripture cannot contradict itself, then what in the world was Paul talking about?

    There must have been a reason that Paul was chosen to be the apostle to the gentiles. 

    Could it be to protect the gentile believers from false teachers and ravenous wolves who had a history of adding and taking away from God’s Word?

    The Father chose to dramatically convert an extremely zealous person and bring him out of this system, which had a tendency toward hypocrisy. 

    Galatians 1:13-17 NET
    For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, but right away I departed to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus.

    I am persuaded that God chose the best person alive to combat the blasphemous and hypocritical practices of some of the scribes and Pharisees. Who could have been a better choice than their most zealous star pupil, the best of the best?


    Part Seven –Pharisaic Judaism and Conclusions

    The teachings of Pharisaic/Rabbinic Judaism are virtually unknown within Christian churches, but they MUST be understood when studying Paul’s writings.

    1. Here is just a tiny sampling of the practices of Pharisaic Judaism known as the Oral Law, today known in Rabbinic Judaism as the Talmud.
      1. Adding to Scripture, the rabbis enacted 1,400 additional laws regarding the Sabbath (Scripture has seven).
      2. The rabbis define three different types of physical male circumcision (Scripture records one).
      3. The rabbis teach that their enactments supersede Scripture.
        1. “If there are 1000 prophets, all of them of the stature of Elijah and Elisha, giving a certain interpretation, and 1001 rabbis giving the opposite interpretation, you shall incline after the majority, and the law is according to the 1001 rabbis, not according to the 1000 venerable prophets.”(Maimonides Introduction to the Mishna)

        2. “Even if they instruct you that right is left, or left is right, you must obey them.” (Sifrey Deuteronomy S154 on Deuteronomy 17:11)

        3. “A person must not say, ‘I will not keep the commandment of the elders because they are not from the Torah.’ The Almighty says to such a person, ‘NO My Son! Rather all that they decree upon you, Observe! As it is written, According to the instruction which they teach you.’ (Deu_17:11) ‘EVEN I [YHVH] MUST OBEY THEIR DECREE, as it is written, You will decree and HE will fulfill it.’ (Job_22:28)” (Pesitka Rabbati 3)
      4. It was a sin for Jews to associate with gentiles.

    Please take the time to read Matthew Chapter 23. Jesus is speaking to the scribes and Pharisees. Here are excerpts of how the Savior addresses these “out of order” men:

    (13) But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …
    (16) Woe unto you, ye blind guides… 
    (17) Ye fools and blind: …
    (24) Ye blind guides…
    (26) Thou blind Pharisee…
    (33) Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers …

    The Messiah calls them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, blind, serpents and vipers. He wasn’t exactly trying to win friends! I wonder if the Messiah would have a different message to the pastors and leaders of today’s prosperity-driven mega-churches? I doubt it. 

    Paul left the hypocrisy of Pharisaic Judaism on the way to Damascus. It was Pharisaic Judaism’s oral laws that were burdensome and all but impossible to follow, not God’s Levitical laws. The oral laws were added to God’s laws and were built on the traditions of men. Paul left these blasphemous practices on the road to Damascus.

    The laws of God were zealously followed by Paul, Stephen, James, John, Peter, all of the apostles and even a great many of the scribes and Pharisees! Nowhere is it ever recorded that true followers of the Messiah taught others to break them. 

    God’s Word is true. God doesn’t change. God’s Word cannot contradict itself.

    Here is a comparison between the Pharisees and the modern Church:

    1. According to the Pharisees:
      1. The Oral Law was the “truth filter” that was applied to all Scripture, and it is still used by Rabbinic Judaism to this day.
        1. The only true interpretation of all Scripture could be attained through this filter
          1. This filter ignored contradictory Scripture.
          2. If a Scripture didn’t fit, they concocted some method of scriptural interpretation in order to make it fit or explain it away.
            1. The seven rules of Hillel, the thirteen rules of Ishmael, the thirty-two rules of Eliezer
            2. Through skillful twisting, the Scripture could be made to say whatever they wanted.
            3. Anyone who disagreed was called a heathen, blasphemer or heretic.
    2. According to the modern Church:
      1. The “no-law” doctrine is the “truth filter” that is applied to all of Scripture.
        1. The only true interpretation of all Scripture can be attained through this filter.
          1. This filter ignores contradictory Scripture.
          2. If a Scripture doesn’t fit, they concoct some method of scriptural interpretation to make it fit or explain it away.
            1. Progressive Revelation, Dispensationalism, Supersessionism, Covenant Theology, Ultradispensationalism
      2. Traditions of the church and church fathers became more important than Scripture.
        1. Even traditions with clearly dubious origins can be overlooked by saying, “That’s not what it means to me,” or, “It’s a mystery.”
      3. Through skillful twisting, the Scripture can be made to say whatever is required.


    The “no-law” doctrine has taken Paul’s “hard to understand writings” and interpreted them to mean that the laws of God given through Moses are no more, and in so doing, have elevated Paul’s teachings above the teaching of Jesus and the very words of God. 

    Jesus is the Messiah, not Paul!
    Salvation comes through Jesus, not Paul!
    We are to follow the Gospel of Christ, not the Gospel of Paul!

    This isn’t easy! Paul’s writings are HARD to understand; the apostle Peter said so! We must realize that the writings of Paul are not exempt from these scriptural truths. We cannot ignore or twist his difficult writings to make them support beloved and long-held doctrines.

    I have not been able to reconcile “the law is not to be followed by modern believers” with Scripture. 

    The only conclusion I have been able to come to, without going against Scripture, is that the law is still in effect for modern believers, not as a condition of salvation, but as a reflection of how the Father wants us to be a holy and set-apart people, and out of love and obedience to him. 

    This is an EXTREMELY unpopular stance, but what does the Savior have to say about it?

    Matthew 5:19
    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.

    Will Paul be called least in the Kingdom? No, he never taught against God’s laws!
    Paul will be called GREAT in the Kingdom of Heaven!
    Will your Sunday school teacher?
    Will your pastor?
    Will you?

    What does “fulfill” mean?
    New Testament uses of the Greek word G4137 πληρόω plēroō in the form of: πληρωσαι
    πληρωσαι appears four times in the New Testament:

    Matthew 3:15 KJV
    And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

    Matthew 5:17 KJV 
    Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.

    Romans 15:13 KJV
    Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Colossians 1:25 KJV
    Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;

    Old Testament References from the Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures: 

    The Septuagint (LXX)
    For those of us not familiar with the Septuagint (LXX), here is a summary from Wikipedia:
    The Septuagint (pronounced /ˈsɛptʊ.ədʒɪnt/), or simply "LXX", referred to in critical works by the abbreviation, is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE in Alexandria. It was begun by the third century BCE and completed before 132 BCE.

    It is the oldest of several ancient translations of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean Basin from the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE).

    The Septuagint was held in great respect in ancient times; Philo and Josephus (associated with Hellenistic Judaism) ascribed divine inspiration to its authors. Besides the Old Latin versions, the LXX is also the basis for the Slavonic, the Syriac, Old Armenian, Old Georgian and Coptic versions of the Old Testament. Of significance for all Christians and for Bible scholars, the LXX is quoted by the New Testament and by the Apostolic Fathers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Septuagint)

    Our access to this translation is of immense value because it gives us tremendous insight to the usage and meanings of New Testament Greek words in their first century context. 

    Uses of the Greek word G4137 πληρόω plēroō in the form of: πληρωσαι
    πληρωσαι appears nine times in the Septuagint - I have placed its English translation (the Brenton) beside the King James for comparison:

    • Numbers 7:88
      Brenton All the cattle for a sacrifice of peace-offering, twenty-four heifers, sixty rams, sixty he-goats of a year old, sixty ewe-lambs of a year old without blemish: this is the dedication of the altar, after that Moses consecrated Aaron, and after he anointed him.

      Numbers 7:88 KJV
      And all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace offerings were twenty and four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he goats sixty, the lambs of the first year sixty. This was the dedication of the altar, after that it was anointed.

      1 Chronicles 29:5 Brenton
      for thee to use the gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for every work by the hand of the artificers. And who is willing to dedicate himself in work this day for the Lord?

      1 Chronicles 29:5 KJV
      The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?

      2 Chronicles 13:9 Brenton
      Did ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make to yourselves priests of the people of any other land? whoever came to consecrate himself with a calf of the heard and seven rams, he forthwith became a priest to that which is no god.

      2 Chronicles 13:9 KJV
      Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.

      Job 20:23 Brenton
      If by any means he would fill his belly, let God send upon him the fury of wrath; let him bring a torrent of pains upon him.

      Job_20:23 KJV
      When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.

      Psalm 20:4-5 Brenton
      Grant thee according to thy heart, and fulfill all thy desire. We will exult in thy salvation, and in the name of our God shall we be magnified: the Lord fulfill all thy petitions.

      Psa_20:4-5 KJV
      Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel. We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfill all thy petitions.

      Isaiah 8:8 Brenton
      and he shall take away from Juda every man who shall be able to lift up his head, and every one able to accomplish anything; and his camp shall fill the breadth of thy land, O God with us.

      Isaiah 8:8 KJV
      And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

      Isaiah 13:3 Brenton
      I give command, and I bring them: giants are coming to fulfill my wrath, rejoicing at the same time and insulting.

      Isaiah 13:3 KJV
      I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.

      Jeremiah 33:5 Brenton
      (40:5) to fight against the Chaldeans, and to fill it with the corpses of men, whom I smote in mine anger and my wrath, and turned away my face from them, for all their wickedness:

      Jeremiah 33:5 KJV
      They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city.

    The context of the instances πληρωσαι in the LXX doesn’t even hint to a definition of “to end” or “completed.” Given that this word πληρωσαι is not only used as fill and fulfil but also as dedicate, dedication and consecrate, it is safe to say that the first century usage of this particular form of πληρωσαι would not and could not be translated as “to end” or “completed.”

    The dedication of the altar was not “the end of it." The consecration of one’s self was not “the end” of his service or life, it was a renewed beginning.

    Let’s look once again at the New Testament verses using the definition of πληρωσαι as consecrate (to set apart and make Holy) instead of fulfil (to end or completed):

    Matthew 3:15 KJV
    And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to consecrate all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

    Matthew 5:17 KJV
    Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to consecrate.

    Romans 15:13 KJV
    Now the God of hope consecrate you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

    Colossians 1:25 KJV
    Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to consecrate the word of God;

    Does it make sense? Yes. 

    Does this fit the context? Yes!

    If this is the correct interpretation of πληρωσαι, does it remove any question of what Matthew 5:17 is really talking about? Yes!!

    Ask yourself the hard questions.  Ask others.  Ask the Word. Test your faith.  Challenge yourself. Test everything.


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