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Messianics, Law, and Grace

There are a number of reasons to have issues with the Apostle Paul. Even Peter acknowledged that Paul had written things hard to understand (2Peter 3:14-18).  But in addition to the fact that, in this text, Peter acknowledged Paul’s God-given wisdom and grouped his letters with “other Scripture,” here are some things I think we need to keep in mind:

Paul needs to be read in the context of his own day. Because he was writing letters to his own culture rather than directly to our own, he said things about i.e. the relationship between slaves and masters, and husbands and wives that probably were easier to understand in his own generation than in our own.

But in his own day, what probably confused and angered his fellow Jewish countrymen were the comments he made about the Law of Moses.

Am thinking that what must have confused Paul’s countrymen was similar to what is bothering the friend I referred to in my last post. Some within the Messianic movement of  our day have discovered such rich meaning and wisdom in Torah (the five books of Moses) that they also have real trouble with the fact that Paul makes comments that sound dismissive of Moses.

Such persons are confused by the fact that Paul took a strong position not only against the excesses of Jewish oral tradition but also against anyone who takes pride in token, external compliance with Jewish legal customs (Galatians 2:11-16).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m convinced we can join king David and Messianic brothers and sisters in valuing the wisdom, guidance, and insight of the law that God gave to Israel (i.e. Psalms 19 and  119). But we have even more reason to celebrate with Paul when he boldly declares to his own Jewish culture that, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Messiah, we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14-16; Galatians 3:10-14; 5:1-14).

If we keep in mind– as Paul and Messianic believers are so good at reminding us– that all Scripture is full of the wisdom of God (2Tim3:16), then we can understand how it is possible to honor the ideals, and wisdom, and insights of Torah without being obligated to live by the outward forms, ceremonies, and religious systems that the law of Moses requires.

Few Jewish men had more enthusiasm for the law than Paul (Saul) (Philippians 3:1-11). He was so committed to the law that he helped kill countrymen who turned from dependence on Moses to follow Jesus (Acts 9:1-6). Yet after after his encounter with the resurrected Christ, Paul saw his efforts to  comply with the law of God to be useless! Why? Because he gradually came to the place where he realized that even in all of his zeal to comply outwardly with the law of Moses, in his heart he was a rebel (Romans 7:7-25).

Outward compliance with Mosaic customs had deceived Paul. He thought he was being faithful. But in his heart he was self-righteous, proud, and even willing to kill those who looked to Jesus for grace, forgiveness, and freedom from the curse of the law.

Paul discovered what the Apostle John later wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

Paul honored the God-given purpose of the Law. He said that if it weren’t for the law of God (written in both rock, scripture, and our hearts) we wouldn’t see how wrong we are. But he also said that reliance upon the law is like toxic rubbish (Philippians 3:8-9). Trying to comply with the Law for our spiritual well being is worthless because, when it is understood, the law only shows us how far short we all fall from loving God with our whole heart– and our neighbor as ourselves.

That’s why the teachings of Jesus infuriated those who were relying on outward compliance with Jewish law. He exposed their hearts– and ours’ in the process

That’s one reason Paul is rejected today. He doesn’t  put followers of Jesus back under the law of Moses and refuses to see token, external compliance with the Law of Moses as a basis for spiritual pride. He doesn’t view the law as a way of life, but uses it the way a doctor uses diagnostic tests– not as a cure, but to show what’s wrong.

According to Paul, the prescription for “heart disease” is not the moral law of God. The solution for “heart disease” is only the undeserved grace, Spirit, and rescue of Christ.

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12 Responses to “Messianics, Law, and Grace”

  1. chfranke says:

    Thank you for continuing on with this topic in more detail. I did not know that this issue was raising its head again.
    In my fiew it’s pretty simple. The entire Bible is meant for our instruction as mentioned multiple times in the Old and the New Testament. It is one body. Even in its own way, the Rabbinic Laws inform us.
    It seems to me that once we agree on that, any discussions to the contrary are needless and time can be better spent on how we spread the Good News.

  2. macsisson22 says:

    At the beginning of my walk with God, having been somewhat “religious”, I was asked this question that the Holy Spirit used to bring me to himself;

    “What can you do to impress a Holy God that has created everything and given everything to you?”

    Since he had not yet give me the ability to juggle the logical conclusion in my mind was NOTHING!

    I later came across this verse from the book of Romans that I memorized and use quite frequently when talking to people who, like I was, are trying to impress God with their “goodness.”

    [Romans 11:33 ff] “O the depths and the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out. For who has known the mind of the Lord, and who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it should be repaid to Him? For of Him, to Him, and through Him are all things, to Him be glory forever, Amen.”

    Like Paul, we all must admit that the only merit we have is a gift; God’s grace! We are made the righteous requirment of God when we conclude that He was made sin for us. Amen?

  3. SFDBWV says:

    The Bible is a living thing. Not just words written, but living words. Our personal relationship with God through his Son and our Savior Jesus, enables these words to teach each one of us at a time, we are ready to understand at a point in our heart whereby we are able to accept. Only the Holy Spirit knows when that time is within our heart. Even we do not. So everyone is at different levels of understanding, truths.

    This is true from Genesis 1:1 thru Revelation 22:21

    Because we are all at different levels spiritualy we, each one of us can read the same verse of scripture and glean new, even different meaning than another.

    This should not divide us but strengthen us, as we are all parts of the same body, the body of Christ. HIS Church.

    If each one of us thinks we are “special” because we have a “better” uinderstanding of scripture. Than we have lost sight of the fact that we are all to work together for Christ’s agenda. And have become a fractured gathering of individualists all arguing with each other, over who is right. Awaiting the gavel to quiet us.

    All of the purpose and relationship between God and man can be found in the pages of the living Word of God. OT and NT. One without the other is incomplete. Jesus completed the BOOK. People wrote the words, as God instructed. God is the author.

  4. poohpity says:

    Wow!! Isn’t it the most freeing thing to know scripture and understand. Steve you said it in your last paragraph and Mart I wish I knew how to put things into words like that wow!! Those pages are filled with God and are the testimony of man’s witness and on top of all that we have the Holy Spirit as a teacher, how blessed are we? Think of how many years peoples eyes were closed because only priests had God’s word and now we all have. It is a shame with such availability of the Bible that more do not read and you know not many pastors have not read it they only went to school and read the books given them by outside authors. Gosh I love God’s word and wisdom it contains, not just wisdom but the history of human’s relationship to Him the “I AM”. We are ssoooooo blessed!!!:)

  5. rokdude5 says:

    I agree with SF, that the Bible is a living thing. If we read what is written in John 1:1-4, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

    It cant be any more clearer than that. Yet, how many of us, put our Bibles aside letting it collect dust or burying it under other worthless stuff. Would we do that to a family member, friend or guest of our homes?

    What I would like to know is how today’s Jews living the Law? Are they still doing sacrificings? When I used to live in the city, I would see them on Saturdays walking to the temple with long flowing robes and hats. But I know there is a whole lot more than that if they want to be under the Law.

    Is your friend, Mart, suggesting that we revert to that kind of living? I know that sacrificing animals is no longer required but what about all the other Levitical laws? It would certainly be a “culture shock” to do so yet I do think of John 14:15 “If you love me, then follow my Commandments.” I do the best I can to follow God’s Commandments -in my world- because I do love Him but, dang it, I still mess up.

    Thank You, Lord, for Your Grace and Mercy. Eph 2:8-9

  6. poohpity says:

    The one way I see is service if we all do what Jesus asked us to do that is where we will find unity. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve as an example for us to follow and if we are busy working then we will have no time to quibble about things that have no lasting value.
    I think that is what we all have in common is messing up. When we concentrate on that “that we all mess up” we will enjoy God’s grace ssooo much more! I also mess up so much that is why I love the Lord so much because of His unmerited grace and mercy!!!

  7. sitsathisfeet says:

    God Bless each one for their heartfelt comments. I love SFDBWV’s descrition of the living word, and poohpity’s loving appreciation for God’s grace. I look forward to everyone’s comments they are such an encouragement to me each day. I have no problem with Paul and his view of the Law. I would say that we are under Jesus law to love God, and love one another for that sums up the law and the prophets. And that Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, and not one jot or tittle of the Law will be abolished before it is fulfilled. So seems to me that Jesus and the Law go hand in hand. The danger of course is of accepting the law as truth, but not accepting Jesus. I think this too is what Paul expresses. I always felt if you are a Christian Jew, you had a double blessing. You are the chosen people, the son or daughter by birthright. If you are gentile, (not Jewish ) you are the adopted daughter or son’s of God, through Christ. God does not love one or the other less, or more. But what a privilege to be chosen and predestined by God. All who come to him will be loved and receive his mercy and grace. That I think is what Paul is saying too. Should we abolish the Law, certainly not, as Jesus states it has it’s place. Should we rely on it as our saving grace and continue to perform sacrifices instead of acknowledging Jesus sacrifice once and finally for all? No, we are to believe in Jesus, follow and obey him and offer our bodies as living sacrifices. If one has a problem with Paul’s rhetoric, look at what Jesus said about the law and the prophets for support and confirmation. And remember Paul had to defend the gospel to unbelieving Jews, who were even telling the Gentiles they had to observe Jewish law, become circumcised (physically), and basically convert to their idea of Judasim to be christian believers. Paul basically said anyone who preached a gospel different than the one we preached to you, do not accept.

  8. daisymarygoldr says:

    Agree about the Laws of Moses used as “diagnostic tests” and the undeserved grace provided in Jesus Christ as the prescription for “heart disease”. And yes, just as Christ came not to destroy but fulfill the Law, Paul also did not teach doing away of the law. In fact, Paul emphasized the Law as ‘holy’, ‘spiritual’ and ‘good’. (Rom 7:12, 14, 16)

    By asking this question “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?” Paul’s teaching implies that the law continues to exist, for sin exists only where law exists. From the law we learn what sin is, avail the forgiveness of sins provided by the grace of Christ and then avoid committing it. “Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Rom 6:1)

    Animal sacrifices were temporary ordinances, foreshadowing the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Hence we do not observe them today. However, the ‘spiritual’ principles underlying those physical sacrificial laws are still applicable today. Paul urges in Rom 12:1 “dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and ‘holy’ sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

  9. wretch-like-me says:

    What strikes me most in your blog today is the ‘nugget’ you have unearthed regarding the basic difference between Christianity and all other faiths. Our God is not about ‘rules’ or ‘tradition’ or ‘reaching nirvana’. It is about a ‘Loving God’ who reveals our flawed nature and provides the only possible ‘Way of Salvation’. It is Himself thru the person of Christ… His expression of Love for Us. He asks only that we love Him in return. Understanding what Love means is the key. 1st Corinthians 13 says it all. Because He loves us He made a way for us to be worthy (Holy) despite our inability to keep the Law. Because We love Him, we attempt to keep the Law as best we can recognizing that when we fail, we have Christ and His sacrifice Who justifies our failures and covers us with His Righteousness. Am I wrong?

  10. blowentw says:

    Mart, maybe you can renew your discussion with your friend starting with Peter’s experience in Acts, when he was very clearly told that the Old Testament regulations of the Law for diet were no longer in force. If this area, a major part of the law for Jews of that time, has passed, then what else has passed?

    We even see within the teachings of Jesus a different understanding of Law from that of traditional Judaism, even though the practice was staring them in the face. In Matthew 5:17-18, where Jesus says that not one bit of the Law would disappear until heaven and earth disappear, in context he is talking about the fulfilling of the Law. Taken in conjunction with Jesus’ discussion in Matthew 12:4-5 about the priests being exempted from the Sabbath we see that Jesus recognized that the Law isn’t the total sum and substance of relating to God, that there are ways we relate tot God that transcend the Law. What we have now is beyond the scope of the law.

  11. felixery says:

    Yes! so many people need to know this, for most of my life i have been stuck in the law, thinking of God as a judge and ruler. A couple of months back though I met a guy that has so much wisdom in this area and he really showed me who God really is, and how Jesus fulfilled the law. Then after that I was thinking, well.. if Jesus came and gave us grace instead of the law then we can sin all we want and be fine. But I had this revelation, when you are a child, you need a bribe or a punishment to do and learn what is right or wrong. and when you get older and you are more mature you learn what is right and what is wrong and for love of your parents and other people around you do what is right. It is the same way with people, God put the law in place to show us what is right and what is wrong. And that by all means still applies today. BUT Jesus came to give us grace, I believe as a sign of maturity, that he could trust us with doing what is right because we love him, instead of because otherwise we will be struck down.

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