Storm oor die see

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04 May 2011

Paul's teaching about the Torah

The Rape of the Torah in the New Covenant

Gospels and Acts - Chapter 3

Remember, Paul was NOT against the Torah. His own words bear witness to this. So, what was he against? He was against those who would teach the law as a means for salvation. Do you see the difference? Most Bible teachers have missed the context of Paul’s writings, substituting obedience for justification. Paul was not teaching us to ignore YHWH’s commandments when he said “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondagePaul was warning us not to listen to those who would seek to put conditions on YHWH’s unconditional love!

Rest assured that Paul does not teach us to ignore the instructions of the Living God. In fact, if he did, then he was a false prophet as according to Deuteronomy 13 and deserving of death by stoning. Speaking of stoning, do you know why Stephen was stoned to death? If you remember he too was falsely accused of something. You can find the answer in Acts 6:11-14. Once again, remember, this is after Y’shua went to the cross!!332

Paul, along with the other Jewish Believers, continued to follow the Torah of Moses after accepting Y’shua as the Messiah. Paul's lifestyle was undoubtly Torah-observant.

A man named Ananias came to see me.  He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.333

Ananias was the Christian man that YHWH selected as the agent to restore Paul's sight, baptize him, fill him with the Holy Spirit, and commission him as an apostle.

When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law."334

Historical sources confirm that Torah-observance was the norm among the Jewish Christians. Paul's lifestyle did not differ in that regard. The Book of Acts contains ample evidence that Paul continued to faithfully observe the TaNaCh’s laws.

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.335

In the notes for this verse, the NIV Study Bible acknowledges, "For the Jew's sake Paul conformed to the Jewish law." That isn't something that Paul could have done on a part-time basis. Unfortunately, some people would rather portray Paul as a clever hypocrite - acting like a Christian when he's with Christians, acting like a Jew when he's with Jews, and acting like a Gentile when he's with Gentiles - as if Paul might gain some missionary advantage by doing so. We know that Paul did not approve of that kind of hypocrisy because he had publicly rebuked Peter for such behaviour. In Gal 2:11-14 Peter had reverted to following a man-made tradition. We also know that there were very few times in Paul's ministry when he was not in the company of Jews.

Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.336

The context of this passage refers to the Torah of Moses. James and the apostles who were acquainted with Paul knew that Paul was Torah-observant. By joining in the purification rites it would become apparent to everyone that Paul had been living in obedience to the Torah. Paul did join in the purification rites, so today everyone should know that Paul himself was living in obedience to the Torah of Moses. There was no truth in the rumours that Paul was teaching people to turn away from Moses.

Paul didn't do this to appease the Jews. When he left Corinth earlier, Paul’s head was shaved as part of a vow that he had not yet completed. To fulfill that earlier vow it was necessary for Paul to participate in these purification rites in Jerusalem according to Acts 18:18 and Numbers 6).

333 Acts 22:12 (NIV)
334 Acts 21:20 (NIV)
335 1 Cor 9:20 (NIV)
336 Acts 21:24 (NIV)

If Paul had been in the habit of disregarding the Torah of Moses, it would have been deceitful for Paul to join in the purification rites knowing that everyone would think he had been living according to the Torah. It also would have been deceitful for James and the elders to recommend a course of action that would have intentionally misled the Believers in Jerusalem. So it is apparent that Paul really had been living in obedience to the Torah all along.

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day."337

Many Christians today could say the same thing that Paul said. However, a few moments later Paul also stated that he was a Pharisee, which defines more clearly what he and the Sanhedrin understood as his duty to YHWH.

Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead."338

Although Paul evidently said this in order to take advantage of the dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, it would not have worked if Paul had not been living in accordance with the Torah of Moses. In that case, it would probably have been laughter, rather than a dispute, that broke out in the Sanhedrin when Paul claimed to be a Pharisee. Apparently there was enough evidence to show that Paul's claim to being a Pharisee was valid. Some of the Pharisees argued vigorously, "We find nothing wrong with this man" (Acts 23:9). It is doubtful they would have said this about a man who was not following the teachings of Moses.

Subsequent passages show how determined the Jews were to be rid of Paul, which makes this vindication of Paul by some of his enemies even more significant.

However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,339

When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar."340

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.341

"The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.342

Notice that Paul says, "our religion" instead of "their religion". Paul still thought of himself as a part of the Jewish religion. Apparently Paul's behavior had been fairly consistent ever since he was a child. It's not likely that Paul would have invited the Jews to testify that he lived as a Pharisee unless he was still living essentially as a Pharisee because the Jews would have been eager to challenge, rather than verify, Paul's testimony.

Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: "My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.343

In the New Covenant, it was the enemies of the Christians who falsely accused the Believers of breaking the Torah of Moses and teaching others to disregard it too (Acts 6:11-14; Acts 18:13; Acts 21:21-24; Acts 21:28- 29). Today, it is Christians themselves who sometimes repeat those same assertions about Paul.
337 Acts 23:1 (NIV)
338 Acts 23:6 (NIV)
339 Acts 24:14 (NIV)
340 Acts 25:7-8 (NIV)
341 2 Tim 1:3 (NIV)
342 Acts 26:4-5 (NIV)
343 Acts 28:17 (NIV)

If Paul were in the habit of disregarding the Torah instructions, then we would expect to find recorded in the New Covenant at least one instance where Paul disobeyed the Torah. However, no such record exists. Should we assume that Paul is guilty of law breaking until someone proves him innocent? Not according to Scripture. Two or three truthful witnesses are required before we can find a person guilty of transgressing the law (Deut 19:15, 1 Tim 5:19). Through his words and actions Paul repeatedly led people to believe that he was living according to the Torah of Moses. It should be safe to assume that Paul's testimony about his own lifestyle is true. Or will we choose to affirm instead the same assertions that Paul's enemies directed against him?

Paul taught the Gentiles to follow his own lifestyle and example:

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.344

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.345

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.346 because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.347

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings [or tradition -- NIV footnote], just as I passed them on to you.348

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you
yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.349

Paul set himself up as a model for Gentile believers to follow. So when Paul rested on Sabbaths and during the annual Sabbaths of the Biblical feasts, resting on those days would have become part of the work ethic that the Gentiles were supposed to follow.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" Paul replied, "Short time or long--I pray God that not only you but all who are
listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains." 350

Notice that Paul's prayer was for everyone listening to become, not only a Christian as Agrippa suggested, but a Christian specifically like Paul himself. Paul believed that he was an appropriate role model for all Christians, whether they were Gentiles or not.

Act 23:29
Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.

344 Phil 3:17 (NIV)
345 Phil 4:9 (NIV)
346 1 Cor 4: 16, 17 (NIV)
347 1 Thes 1: 5-7 (NIV)
348 1 Cor 11:1-2 (NIV)
349 2 Thes 3:6-9 (NIV)
350 Acts 26:28

Paul uses the argument that he was accused to question “their law” and argues that he lived fearfully under the conditions of the Torah and that he did not violate any part of the Torah. He basically told the Sanhedrin, his “brothers,”351 that he walked blameless and that he is innocent.

Act 24:6, 14
6 Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. 14 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: Explanation as per Acts 23:29.

Act 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. Explanation as per Acts 23:29.

Act 26:22
Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: Again Paul admits that he only speak the things said in the “prophets” and “Moses” (Torah), meaning he is upholding the Torah.

Act 28:23
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.

Again the Scripture reinforces that Paul’s basis for teaching was from the “law of Moses,” from morning to evening. The Law of Moses included laws of ritual purification, prophecies about the Messiah, rules about treating livestock, and civil laws about penalties for religious crimes. In fact the "law of Moses'' included everything Moses wrote, what we now call the Books of Moses. Jews call it the Torah, the Law, one of the three main sections of the TaNaCh.

Passage taken from a book by Prof Wimpie Liebenberg

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