Properly Understanding Paul

By Sean Killian

Every blessed brother or sister who comes to realize that every “jot and tittle” of Torah (the first five books of the Scriptures) is indeed still to be obeyed, and accordingly, learns to guard (observe) the many commandments, also soon discovers that convincing others of this fact is not at all easy. And in these types of discussions about the true weekly Sabbath, annual festivals, clean/unclean meats, etc., one will commonly encounter contentions beginning something like, “but Paul said…” For those seeking to justify their Gentile lifestyles, must refer to him as their authority. In the following chapter, I do not attempt to address every scripture commonly cited in this manner, only the clear fact that Sha’ul (Paul) the emissary has been severely misunderstood.

Now, the claim that Sha’ul taught against Torah is not new. In fact, this same allegation has been thrown around for almost two thousand years. Unlike the modern-day “Apostles,” however, the original ones knew it was false. Nowhere is this more clear than in the record of Sha’ul’s visit to Jerusalem. For Ya’aqob (James), the Messiah’s brothers and head honcho of the Assembly, apparently knew the claim was false (Acts 21:18-24). And as proof, he told Sha’ul to take part in a ceremonial vow, including various deeds legislated in Torah (Num. 6). Sha’ul then willingly complied (Acts 21:26-27, 24:17-18). This is actual fact.

Nevertheless, many still held onto the allegation (Acts 21:27-28), as they have ever since, even unto this day. In his own defense though, he said in no uncertain terms that the claim was simply not true and therefore could not be proven (Acts 24:10-14, 25:7-8). Ironically, today the claim comes primarily from supposed believers whereas back then it came from unbelievers (Acts 21:36, 25:18-19). How times have changed!

What most “believers” today fail to realize is that they only study the epilogue of this book of the Scriptures, failing to give proper attention to that which it is founded on. Consider how foolish a storyline would be if they watched only the last hour of a three-hour presentation. It would not matter if they watched it a thousand times, they would never understand. Strangely, that is just what many do. And then they go about teaching others what they think they know!

For instance, although many cite Sha’ul as their authority, do they consider who HIS authority was? But even more significant, they have come to look down on that very authority which he cited (Acts 26:22, 28:23). So in essence (and we will fully prove this), to say that Sha’ul taught against Torah is to say that he cited as his authority that which he also said was irrelevant. That makes no sense!

The fact is, Sha’ul expected his readers to have an intimate relationship with the TaNaKh Scriptures. In considering discussions with the “…but Paul said” bunch, they will almost certainly cite his letter to the Roman assembly. However, right in this letter he unambiguously states, “I speak to those who know the Torah” (Rom. 7:1). With this in mind, let us ask ourselves, “was he even speaking to those who now cite him against torah?” If not, then we have found a simple resolution.

Moreover, the Greek term underlying “know” is ginosko (Strong’s #1097), meaning “to understand completely.”In the New Testament “ginesko” frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is known is of value or important to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship. “It is also used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between a man and a woman. To know by observation and experience…” (New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words). So, ultimately, if the individual has not kept “Torah as the apple of thine eye” (Prov. 7:2), then Sha’ul was not speaking to them. Therefore, no more need to discuss it, unless they want to know Torah by observation and experience.

But Sha’ul, the “emissary to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13) did not only expect the Assembly in Rome to know Torah. Just look up “written” or “scripture” in a concordance. You will find that all throughout his letters to these assemblies, he says, “as it is written” or “what does the Scripture say?” In addition, these many references are quite meager compared to his references to the TaNaKh by context and not simply using these phrases. You could also get a good reference Bible and check this out, or, go and learn Torah by “observation and experience” yourself. This way you have the special bonus of actually being part of the audience that he was speaking to!

Also significant to note when the “but Paul said” contentions come up, is what Sha’ul actually did in his life. For in this it becomes apparent that he has been misunderstood. He continued to intimately guard Torah. This includes assembling on the True Sabbath (Lev. 23:3/Acts 13:14, 16:13, 17:2, 18:4), the Festivals (Lev. 23/Acts 18:21, 1 Cor. 5:7-8), the laws of witnesses (Deut. 19:15/2 Cor. 13:1, respecting authorities (Exo 22:28/Acts 23:5), offerings (Num. 6/Acts 24:17), and even circumcision (Gen. 17/Acts 16:3). To this, some may say “it’s only because he was becoming like a Jew unto the Jews.” However, he was not as two-faced as people portray him (Gal. 1:10 –2:13). And moreover, his sincerity is apparent. See the verses above about festivals and respecting authorities above. Guarding torah was part of his nature; it was not a front.

Then it may be claimed that this is all “Jewish stuff,” and the “Gentile church” is not “under the Law,” so they don’t have to follow this. Ironically though, Shaul was not “under the Law,” either (Rom. 6:15), yet we’ve seen he continued to guard Torah. Furthermore, he expected the Assembly in   Rome, who were not under the Law, either, to intimately know Torah, already shown. Clearly, “under the Law” does not mean Torah obedience, then.

Additionally any doctrine of a separate “Gentile church” is foreign to the Scriptures. When Shaul writes to the “Church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2 and 1 Thes. 2:14), it should be noted that he is using a terminology from the Torah, properly translated “Assembly of Yahweh” (Deut.23). The “Church”, properly Assembly or Congregation, began in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:38). This is when Yahweh called out a people unto Himself, which is what the words translated  “Church” or Assembly or Congregation, all mean. His Assembly is composed of those who are called by His Name (Deut. 28:10, 2 Chron. 7:14, Acts 15:17), which is not LORD or GOD. There is but one body of Believers (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 2:16, 4:4), not two distinct entities such as “Jews” and “Christians.”

Nor is this one Body a Gentile organization. According to Sha’ul Gentiles are grafted into the olive tree (Rom. 11), which is Israel (Isa. 17, Jer. 11:16, Hos. 14:5-6). That is, those who were “once Gentiles in the flesh” are no longer excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, which is the Israel of Yahweh (Eph. 2;11-12-22, 4:17, 1 Pet. 4.3, 1 thes. 4.5, Gal. 6.16). So, ultimately, “there is one torah (Law) for the native born and for the stranger who sojourns among” them (Exo. 12.49, Lev. 24.22, Num. 9.14, 15.5).

In this respect it is important to note that guarding Yahweh’s Torah does not make one “Jewish,” neither according to the Scriptures nor Judaism. However, Judaism has various tenets (traditions) that are opposed to Torah, and to the way that the Messiah showed us to guard it. There are many examples of this (Mat. 12, 15, 19, 23, Mark 2, 7, Luke 6). So guarding Torah as He taught it does not mean becoming Jewish, although to the ignorant, it may seem so. This is what all the controversy over the Circumcision was really about. It was concerning converting to the Pharisee religion which required circumcision before baptism, and not simply converting to a Torah-based lifestyle. It was their interpretations and traditions that was the “unbearable yoke” that Peter spoke of in Acts 15:10. The Messiah’s requirements are light, and Torah is NOT grievous (Mat. 11:29-30 and I John 5:3). It was the Pharisees who made it hard and burdensome (Mat. 23). Contentions to the contrary are badly mistaken.

Sha’ul was a scholar of the TaNaK (Acts 22, 26), so it is just plain silly to claim that one fully grasps his teachings without a familiarity with what he studied. He himself said that the Assembly is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yahshua the Messiah Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2.20). With that in mind, we should ask ourselves, “did the prophets write that Messiah or His emissaries would void the Torah?” Truth is, they did not. It is just not written anywhere.

Researching these matters out, what we do find is that anyone who does not speak according to Torah has no light in them (Isa. 8.20). That the New Covenant essentially is Torah (Jer. 31:31-33). That Yahweh’s Spirit is given so we can obey it ((Eze. 36.27). And moreover, that the heavens and the earth are now being detained in custody (2 Pet. 3.7), as the two witnesses Yahweh called to record whether we guard Torah or not (Deut. 30.19-20) to eventually testify (Psa. 50.1-4), and therefore not even the least particle of Torah can pass away until they do (Mat. 5.18, 2 Peter 3.10). Blessing or cursing, the choice is yours (Deut. 30).

“But according to His promise we wait for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. So then, beloved ones, looking forward to this, do your utmost to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and reckon the patience of Yahweh as deliverance, as also our beloved brother Sha’ul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, as also in all his letters, speaking in them concerning these matters, in which some matters are hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the other scriptures. You then, beloved ones, being forewarned, watch, lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the delusion of the lawless” (2 Pet. 3:13-17).

Sha’ul himself also addresses this “delusion” in 2 Thes. 2:7-12. He calls the matter a “secret.” The Greek term is musterion (Strong’s #G3466), and is described as, “…that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation…to those only who are illumined by [Yahweh’s] Spirit…certain knowledge…not imported to the uninitiated…” (New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words). So what we have found is the Scripture’s explanation of why it’s so difficult to persuade others of Torah truth. Both Kepha (Peter) and Sha’ul clearly give us (in the Greek text) all the insight we need to make sense of it all.

This “lawlessness” that is anomia in the Greek text is also used in other significant places, such as Mat. 7.21-23, 13.41, I John 3:4, and many more. It is Strong’s G#458. Although the KJV usually renders it as    “iniquity,” (which means sin), it is properly translated in I John 3:4, as “transgression of the Law.” This is very important because this is the Scriptural definition of “sin.” And this is the definition that Paul followed (Rom. 3.20, 7.7). So when we read his writings, we should keep this in mind. For instance, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the Law but under favor (grace)? Let it not be!” (Rom. 6.15). (Ed. note: Paul also said that where there is no law, there is no sin. So if the Law is ‘done away,’ then sin is impossible! How ridiculous!)

According to the Scriptures, iniquity, sin, wickedness, unrighteousness, offense, transgression, evil, etc., all mean violating Torah.

Through research you may discover that “works of the law” is not a reference to faithfully guarding Torah, but to legalism. Moreover, Shaul’s concept of “faith” was obviously based on the TaNaK (Hab. 2:4, Rom. 1:17, 2 Cor. 3:11). This “faith” is  “emunah,” Strong’s #H530, which is not simply belief but the fullness of faith, that is, faithfulness. Consider the “hall of Faith (fulness)” (Heb 11) in light of this. Putting this together, shows that Shaul (Paul) was not contrasting obedience to Torah with “faith,” as is commonly alleged, but rather “legalism” and “faithfulness.” This is the real Sha’ul; not the hypocrite many portray.

Ultimately, much more could be said concerning this greatly misunderstood subject, but my purpose was only to give you a proper perspective. For with this you can prove for yourself the matter. However, I can assure you, from my own experience, Sha’ul never taught against Torah. He was faithful to the Way until the end.

Yahweh bless you and guard you; Yahweh make His face to shine upon you, and show favor to you; Yahweh lift up His face upon you, and give you peace. And may these words be confirmed by many witnesses for all who ask, seek, and knock. ~~