If there is one person most MIS-understood and most MIS-quoted it is the Apostle Paul. Almost as soon as Paul penned his words, the church began twisting them to say the complete opposite of what he had intended. The commentaries all tell us that the Apostle Paul realized that the Torah has passed away, was no longer needed, that it had merely been a shadow of the Messiah. Pastors, evangelists, teachers and intercessors all tell the same story, that Paul shows how YahShua did away with "the law". The only law now is a "law of love", the "spirit" of the law, which now trumps the old "letter" of the law. Over and over we hear the same charges: that Paul taught against circumcision, against the feasts, against the Torah, against the "letter of the law" because YahShua somehow nailed His Torah to the cross.
We must bear in mind the words of Peter concerning Paul, " . . . 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." Paul, being a very learned man, wrote in such a way that CAN be hard to understand without the guidance of the Ruach Ha Kadosh. Those who seek to justify their rebellion against Torah can do so, simply by twisting Paul's words to say the very thing which he would never tolerate: disobedience to Yah's commandments.
Before going into all the passages Christians point to when saying that Paul threw out the Torah, let's start with a basic premise: Paul loved the Torah, he understood the Messiah loved the Torah and thus he would never say it had become obsolete. How can we establish this basic premise?
Paul's actions speak even louder than his words. In Acts 21, Paul faces a dilemma. Upon his return to Jerusalem, Paul was shown "how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the Torah." (vs20). However, among these believing Jews, a false accusation has surfaced against Paul. What was this false accusation? "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."(vs 21) The very charge that the Christian Church has brought against Paul was first done here in Jerusalem. So, how does Paul respond to this accusation? Did Paul indeed teach against the Torah, against circumcision and against the customs? They ask this very question, "What is is therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come."
The men ask Paul to answer this false accusation with a public action. They offer a solution by saying, "Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself 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 Torah.
They ask Paul to not only take a Nazarite vow, but to help four others do the same, as a public statement that Paul was NOT teaching the Jews to forsake Torah. The Nazarite vow, located in Numbers 6:1-21, included 1) abstaining from strong drink, vinegar or wine, and dried grapes 2) not shaving the head 3) not approaching a dead body 4) when the days of separation are over he is to present animal offerings along with unleavened bread. He is also to cut off his grown hair and burn it under the offering.
Throughout the remainder of the book of Acts, Paul continues to state that the accusation leveled against him is false.
He says in Acts 24:13 "Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me." No one had a shred of evidence that Paul had ever taught against the Torah much less stopped practicing the Torah. Again in Acts 25:8 he says, " . . . Neither against the Torah of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all." Paul makes it absolutely clear that he has not commited any offense against the Torah in his teachings, repeating that the accusations leveled against him are false.
But the question remains: Why did people think Paul was teaching against the Torah? Where did they come up with the idea that he was teaching people to forsake the law of Moses and to cast away the covenant of circumcision? The answer lies in a major problem that confronted the apostles almost as soon as YahShua departed on the Mount of Olives. As we learn from Acts 15:1, there were a certain sect of the Pharisees requiring obedience to Torah as a prerequisite to conversion. Some of the Pharisees, steeped in their rabbinical traditions, were trying to reverse the process, sticking obedience to Torah in front of faith in YHVH. Paul had to confront this problem by stressing the fact that conversion must come first, FOLLOWED by obedience to Torah. This is why in Galatians he mentions that circumcision profits one nothing (when used as a means to justify oneself). He could have said any number of things instead of circumcision: water baptism profits one nothing, when used as a means to justify oneself, prayer profits one nothing, when used as a means to justify oneself, and on and on we could go. Now, let's go ahead and deal with some of the passages Christians have habitually misunderstood for centuries.
The phrase "under the law" needs to be explained. In Romans, Paul repeatedly says, "you are not under law, but under favor". The phrase "under law" means under condemnation of the Torah. Since we have placed our faith in Messiah, we have a new identity, and thus are no longer under the condemnation of the Torah, but under the YahShua's favor, a favor which enables us to keep His commandments.
The next misunderstood passage is Romans 7:1-14. The passages appears to teach that we have died to Torah. The first six verses set up an illustration. The remainder of the passage clarifies this illustration so that no one misunderstands what Paul is trying to teach. The illustration is simple: when a woman marries a man she is bound to her husband until he dies. When he dies, she is released from that marriage covenant and free to marry another. Death changed the way she related to her marriage covenant. In the same way, a certain death has also changed how we relate to Yah's covenant, the Torah! Before we died to sin and selfishness, the Torah was foolishness to us, condemned us and we rejected it. After we died to sin and selfishness we were made alive in Messiah and we loved the Torah! We cherished the Torah! Our relationship to the Torah completely changed!
When we were trapped in our sin, unable to understand the Torah, we needed our "bad" relationship to the Torah to be broken! How could this happen? Only through death! Just like the only way to break a marriage covenant is by the death of a spouse. She is then free to form a NEW relationship. Torah requires death for sin. The Torah does not die, we die! The Torah prevents a woman from remarriage but ALLOWS the remarriage after her husband dies. In the same way, once we die, the Torah allows us to enter into a NEW marriage covenant with YHVH. But the Torah never leaves! And the only way we could die to sin, is because the Messiah died on the tree.
Even as the Apostle Paul says earlier in Romans 6:8-11 "Now if we be dead with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Messiah being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto Elohim. Likewise, reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto Elohim through YahShua Ha'Mashiach our Adonai."
Notice also in this passage, Paul emphasizes that the Torah is righteous, kodesh (holy), just and good! (vs12). Certainly something YHVH made, which is righteous, kodesh, just and good would not be destroyed by YHVH simply because we couldn't handle it? That makes no sense at all! The Torah is "spiritual" (vs14) but a sinner is carnal, and thus cannot relate to the Torah in any way except in condemnation. Once we die to ourselves, through the Messiah, the resurrecting power of His Ruach Ha'Kadosh empowers us to keep His commandments and to love His Torah.
Another "problem" passage is Romans 10:4 "For Messiah is the end of the Torah for righteousness to every one that believeth." Most Christians will claim that the Messiah put an end to the Torah because he is the final fulfillment of the Torah.
However, the Greek word used here for "end" is telos, where we get our English word telephone. It means boundary or goal. With this in mind, Romans 10:4 says that the Messiah is the single object of focus of the Torah. In other words, a correct understanding of Torah will always lead to the Messiah!
Another passage often misunderstood is Galatians 4:21-31. After reading, many Christians say that the Old Testament/Mt. Sinai experience was bad, while the New Testament/faith experience is good. They try to set up a contrast as if the two testaments were complete opposites.
However, the problem in Galatia was similar to the one in Acts 15:1: certain Pharisees were requiring people to become circumcised Jewish proselytes as a qualification for conversion. Keep in mind the central thesis of this book found in Galatians 2:16-17. Paul makes it clear that one cannot be justified by keeping Torah. Rather, faith in Messiah accomplishes conversion while keeping the Torah is a result of this blessed conversion.
With this in mind, the allegory Paul paints in Galatians 4:21-31 becomes more clear. The Avrahamic covenant was given 430 years before the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant in no way annulled or voided the Avrahamic covenant. In fact, Paul makes clear that one must have the faith of Avraham in order to correctly keep the Mosaic covenant. Without faith, keeping the Mosaic covenant is impossible. Paul makes an analogy by showing that Hagar's son Ishmael (earthly Jerusalem) was produced not by faith, but by their own flesh. Rather than trusting in Yah, Avraham tried to do it his own way, obey his own flesh, and produced Ishmael. This would be akin to attempting to keep the Torah without faith.
However, the birth of Isaac (heavenly Jerusalem) resulted from Avraham trusting in Yah, obeying Him and allowing Yah to bring forth the promised seed. When Avraham had a child with Hagar, he was putting his works before faith, trying to bring about the promised seed in his own way. When Avraham had a child with Isaac, Avraham placed his faith in Yah and this resulted in obedience and the promised seed! In other words, true faith leads to keeping Torah!
In Galatians 5:1, many Christians claim that Paul is denying the need for circumcision. However, verse 4 makes it clear that the motive behind the circumcision is what Paul opposed. The motive, hearkening back to the problem first addressed in Galatians 2:16-17, was seeking justification through circumcision. Obviously Paul was not urging people to stop circumcising! In Acts 16:3, Paul circumcised a Greek named Timothy. Paul simply was making the point that circumcision could not be used for justification, rather it was a step of obedience after being converted. As mentioned before, Paul might have said water baptism, prayer, evangelism, any number of spiritual actions which do not profit in any way when used to try and justify oneself.
Another often misunderstood passage is Colossians 2. In Colossians 2:13-14 many believers think Yahshua "nailed" the Torah to the tree. However, is this really what it is saying? The subject of the passage is the certificate of debt (handwriting of ordinances against us). Torah requires death as a consequence for sin -- the certificate of debt. When a woman would commit adultery, the Torah prescribed a certificate of debt or divorce to be written against her. It was this certificate of debt -- or death - - that was NAILED to the execution stake, not the Torah! YahShua's death and resurrection has enabled us to BURN the debt of sin, and live a FREE life, free of debt! We are now FREE to keep the Torah! HalleluYAH!
Many believers also take the remainder of Colossians 2 and try to state that Paul encouraged believers to no longer keep the Shabbat, the New Moons, or any other feast day! However, what Paul is really doing is contrasting Torah-loving instructions to the burden of man-made traditions. After praising the Colossians for living righteously, and walking as the Messiah walked (who kept Torah) (vs 5-7), he warns them of vain philosophies and deceit which ran rampant in pagan Colosse.
Paul basically tells these faithful followers, "Don't allow vain philosophies and traditions to beguile you! Don't allow these pagans to judge you and accuse you of being weird simply for observing the New Moons, the Shabbat, the feast days, abstaining from unclean meats, etc. They may think you strange for not following their pagan practices and instead following Torah, but pay them no heed!"
As you can see, many of Paul's writing have been badly twisted to say the very opposite of what he intended. When reading Paul's writings it is healthy to keep in mind his writing of Romans 3:31 "Do we then make void the Torah through faith? Yah forbid: yea, we establish the Torah."