The Apostle Paul Revisited: Paul’s Argument with Jesus, Part II

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This is the second of a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.

BFB140421 Easy PluckPluck Chickens, Not Scripture

There is a story about a man who had an interesting way of structuring his day.  Every morning he would close his eyes and flip through his Bible, letting his fingers choose a verse at random.  Whatever the verse said would be his guiding principle for the day.  That worked well until one day when his finger fell on this verse:

“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”  (Matthew 27:5 KJV)

This was not what the man expected and certainly not an example he wanted to follow.  After much contemplation, he decided that it would be acceptable to choose another verse at random.  After going through the process again, his finger came down at this place:

Then said Jesus unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise.”  (Luke 10:37b KJV)

This story illustrates a common shortcoming:  the practice of “verse plucking”.  Those who employ this method latch onto a passage, a verse, or a piece of a verse to prove a point, but they neglect the context of the Scripture and thus miss the full meaning.  “Verse plucking” is the method by which the Bible can be twisted to say anything the interpreter desires – even if it is the exact opposite of what the Scripture actually means.  That is why Peter issued his warning regarding the words of Paul:

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (II Peter 3:14-16 NKJV, emphasis added)

BFB140421 No Gnome ZonePaul’s Antinomian Statements

Peter is addressing the issue of people misinterpreting Paul and the rest of Scripture, either out of ignorance or to suit their own agenda.  There must have been a problem with that even in the days of the first Apostles.  In fact, as we continue looking at Paul, we will see that the problem began almost immediately after Paul became a believer in Yeshua.  Today the problem manifests itself in the form of “verse plucking” to prove that Paul was actually making antinomian statements.

Antinomian means “against the Law”.  The Greek word nomos (Strongs G3551, νóμος) is the word translated “law” in the Apostolic Writings (New Testament).  It is the equivalent of Torah in Hebrew (Strongs H8451, תּוֹרָה).  Anything that opposes the nomos, or law, is “antinomian”.  Since nomos can mean either the Law of God or the law of man, it is critical to examine the context of Scripture to determine the specific meaning in any passage.

This is where we come into difficulty with Paul.  It is quite easy to misinterpret his words to arrive at a meaning that opposes the Law, or Torah, of God.  Here are some examples:

  • But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.  (Romans 3:21-22 NKJV)
  • For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.  (Romans 4:14-15 NKJV)
  • For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  (Romans 6:14 NKJV)
  • Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  (Romans 7:4-6 NKJV)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin:  He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:1-4 NKJV)
  • For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.  (Romans 10:4 NKJV)
  • Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  (Romans 13:8 NKJV)
  • The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (I Corinthians 15:56-57 NKJV)
  • Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  (II Corinthians 3:5-6 NKJV)
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  (II Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)
  • For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.  (Galatians 2:18-21 NKJV)
  • O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?  This only I want to learn from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?  Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  (Galatians 3:1-5 NKJV)
  • For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”  But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”  (Galatians 3:10-11 NKJV)
  • But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  (Galatians 3:23-25 NKJV)
  • For these are the two covenants:  the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.  (Galatians 4:25-26 NKJV)
  • Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.  You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  (Galatians 5:1-4 NKJV)
  • But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  (Galatians 5:18 NKJV)
  • For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  (Ephesians 2:14-18 NKJV)
  • Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:8-11 NKJV)
  • And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.  And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.  So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  (Colossians 2:13-17 NKJV)
  • knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.  (I Timothy 1:9-11 NKJV)
  • But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.  (Titus 3:9 NKJV)
"Trial of the Apostle Paul" Nikolas Kornilievich Bodarevsky
Paul on Trial Before Festus and Agrippa
Nikolas Kornilievich Bodarevsky

Paul’s Pro-Law Statements

That is an impressive list of antinomian statements, and it is not even complete; there are many more I could add.  One might say this list establishes without doubt that Paul  taught against the Law of God on the grounds that the sacrifice of Yeshua of Nazareth satisfied all of the Law’s requirements and set us New Covenant believers on a path of grace.  However, Paul wrote a number of other things as well.  Consider these statements:

  • Do we then make void the law through faith?  Certainly not!  On the contrary, we establish the law.  (Romans 3:31 NKJV)
  • And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.  For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.  (Romans 6:18-19 NKJV)
  • What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  Certainly not!  On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.  For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”  (Romans 7:7 NKJV)
  • Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.  Has then what is good become death to me?  Certainly not!  But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  (Romans 7:12-14 NKJV)
  • I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  (Romans 7:21-25 NKJV)
  • Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.  (I Corinthians 7:19 NKJV)
  • As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.  For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  (Galatians 6:12-13 NKJV)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV)
  • I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  (Ephesians 4:1-6 NKJV)
  • Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.  But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,  (I Timothy 1:5-8 NKJV)
  • But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth:  men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.  (II Timothy 3:1-9 NKJV)
  • But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (II Timothy 3:14-17 NKJV)

This, too, is an impressive list, and there are still more passages that could go in it.  When compared with the previous list, it seems that Paul is confused.  He writes things that indicate the Law, or Torah, of God no longer applies to believers in Messiah Yeshua, but he then writes other things, sometimes even in the same paragraph, that indicate the Law is still in effect.  At the very least he says rather strongly in places that the Law of God given by Moses is a good thing, which seems to be in direct contradiction to his statements elsewhere that we are no longer under the Law, and that pursuing righteousness through the Law is bondage.  Perhaps Governor Festus was correct when he said, “Paul, you are beside yourself!  Much learning is driving you mad!”  (Acts 26:24 NKJV)

We have three possibilities before us:  either Paul was confused, or he was a manipulator of the truth (which is a polite way of saying he was a liar), or our understanding of Paul is somehow flawed.  Which is correct?  This is the question we must answer if we are to resolve this supposed argument between Paul and Yeshua.

Part III sets the stage for resolving the argument by placing Paul’s comments in context by providing commentary on the cultural, religious, and political milieu of the First Century in which both Yeshua and Paul ministered.

Please click here to return to Part I.

Please click here to continue to Part III.

Please click here to continue to Part IV.

© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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