Part Three: Under the Law?
by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets..." Acts 24:14
"But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law." Galatians 5:18
The last article, the Curse of the Law? (click on the highlighted words to view content), seems to have evoked a considerable amount of controversy. One incensed reader wrote, "What could be plainer than Galatians 5:18 which says that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law. He did not say the law had been done away with. The law has a purpose and is still in effect to bring people to a place where they know they cannot fulfill it. The law is good if you use it for what it was intended for which is to bring one to God through Jesus Christ. What you have done is made yourself into the very kind of person Paul talked about in Galatians who he said was cursed. Since your living in Israel it would seem you have become as one of them, blinded by the same things they are. Having started out well believing the truth of Jesus Christ are you now one who thinks being Jewish or following their ways and the laws will make you perfect or complete?"
Let's be clear from the outset - these articles have never advanced "being Jewish" as the answer to anything. There has been no embrace or support of any man made religion in them - including Christianity or the Pharisaical religion of Judaism that has not changed much since Yeshua used His harshest words to castigate the leaders of that religion. There has only been an honest reporting of what the words on the pages of the Book most consider to be the words of Truth actually say and mean devoid of any pre-conceived suppositions overlaid upon them. Words mean things. We must constantly be reminded that ALL the books of scripture were written by Hebrews out of a Hebrew mindset influenced by a Hebrew culture that produced a uniquely Hebrew perspective being conveyed primarily to a Hebrew audience which understood the nuances of the Hebrew language. To properly understand what these words mean necessitates viewing them from the Hebraic perspective they were written in - not from our current English culture. The words of the authors of the Messianic Writings were not written to an audience 2000 years in the future.
To understand any of the writings of Sha'ul (the apostle Paul), one must first lay aside all the traditional Christian hyperbole that has been advanced to discredit his Hebrew thought and approach him from the Hebraic perspective he wrote from. A paradigm that suggests Paul converted to a religious view that no longer upheld the expectation of Torah runs into great difficulty when it confronts Paul's own claims about his life. Sha'ul was a rabbi trained in the school of the Pharisees. He was an expert in Torah. Paul, like James, still lived according to the Torah (Acts 21:24, Acts 24:14), had a zeal for Torah (Acts 22:3), declares himself to be a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), a Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:4-6), and at the end of his life, recounts that he served YHVH "the way my forefathers did…" (2Timothy 1:3). Once you see that he was writing from a Hebraic mindset influenced by Hebrew culture using as his proof text to support his words all of the Hebrew Tanakh (OT), you will find that his words are in alignment with everything Yeshua said and YHVH declares. Of course, it is possible to ignore these claims or to rewrite them so that they don't appear Hebraic - but, then, that is not being true to the text. These sorts of problems vanish when we look at Paul through a different paradigm. If Paul is a Hebrew rabbi living the life of a Hebrew Pharisee as a follower of Yeshua haMashiach (the Hebrew Messiah), then his claims about his own conduct makes perfect sense. But then we have to read his other statements differently - and that is where it becomes a problem to traditional Christian doctrine. So, let's take a look at the scripture this reader spoke of from the Hebrew perspective Sha'ul wrote it from:
|"But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law ." Galatians 5:18|
This passage in Galatians is often misinterpreted by the church to justify not obeying the commandments of YHVH. But, we need to ask the question, "how does one come 'under the law'?" What exactly does that mean? Does obeying the commandments of YHVH put someone "under the law"? Or, could it be that when you violate the law you incur the consequences associated with not keeping it? As long as I do not violate the law, I am not subject to the ramifications of the law - therefore I am not under the law. So, if I am led by the Spirit to be obedient to the law, I do not come "under the law". You don't have to be a lawyer to understand the premise advanced in this verse because it is the same as it is in life today - if I drive the posted speed limit, I am not subject to the penalty associated with breaking that law because I am keeping the law. I only become subject to the law if I break the law. The way to properly understand scripture is context, context, context - we must always consider the context the scriptures are presented in, the context of the Hebrew perspective they are presented from and the audience they are presented to. The apostle Sha'ul goes on in his context to qualify exactly the kind of behaviors he is referring to that puts one under the consequence of the law:
|"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of YHVH ." Galatians 5:19-21|
Sha'ul tells us in Romans 14:17 that the Kingdom of YHVH is found in the righteousness of ruach ha kodesh (reading right to left is Hebrew for the holiness of spirit). So, just what is righteousness? Most will say in response to that question that it is "…being in right standing with God". OK, then, what does that mean? The answer most counter with is, "Jesus became my righteousness for me". This is what the church has declared as "imputed righteousness." The only problem with that answer is that phrase is not found in scripture. These are non-answer answers designed by men cobbling together scripture verses to support a non-Hebraic agenda that has developed into a Christian theology. Few know the answer because they have not been taught what the words of scripture actually say it means to BE righteous. The English word translated as righteousness in the verse from Romans comes from the Greek word, dikaiosyne, meaning "integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, and correctness of thinking, feeling and acting; the condition acceptable to God". The Hebrew word translated as righteousness found in Isaiah 33:14-16 is tsedachah and its definition means "rectitude, virtue and justice in behavior". We see, then, in these definitions from both the Hebrew and the Greek - that righteousness is synonymous with behavior. And just where, pray tell, are each and every one of these behaviors listed in Galatians defined as sin? From Exodus to Deuteronomy! The Torah! Sha'ul is teaching Torah!
|the Nature of YHVH is found in the words of Torah|
|"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law ." Galatians 5:22-23|
Of course there is no law against such things, because all of these things are found in the positive consequences of keeping Torah! They are the natural result of alignment with the Nature of Spirit found in the words of YHVH. These are things that Christians are taught to (try to) do and live by. They just don't realize where they originated because they have been taught that everything west of the book of Matthew is no longer relevant! Consequently, since the standard of behavior has been successfully neutralized through the religious theology of freedom from restraint - there is nothing to live by except some vague interpretation of "love" which changes according to opinion and circumstance. The Christian benchmark of "love" shifts with each one's interpretation away from the scriptural definition of love found in 1John 3:16. Sha'ul wasn't teaching anything new or the precepts of a new religion - he was simply teaching what was true. We do well to study Sha'ul's teachings through their proper Torah context.
The purpose of Torah is not to bring men to an understanding that they cannot keep it, but precisely the opposite - as instructions on how to keep the Words of YHVH. Sha'ul himself proclaimed to have kept it faultlessly in Philippians 3:6. Was he lying? Or, was he telling the truth when he said he was blameless according to the standard of righteousness found in the Torah? The Greek word isn’t ambiguous. It’s amemptos, literally meaning "without fault." The same word is used to describe Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6 and the divine intention for every believer in Philippians 2:15 - right now, in this lifetime. Obviously, then, human beings can be amemptos (interestingly, by the way, is to see this Greek word used only five times in the New Testament and none of these are referenced about Yeshua). The Hebrew parallel is naqiy, meaning "innocent," "clean" or "free from blame" (e.g., Genesis 44:10 and Job 22:19). Whatever the language, this is not something we have been taught as readily attributable to ourselves. So, once again, was Paul lying? Was Luke? Since words mean things it seems that, according to these words - the answer must be an emphatic "NO". They were speaking Truth. Whatever amemptos means, Paul and Luke are using it correctly. Men and women not only should be blameless, they can be behaviorally blameless. Torah has a dual role - 1) to instruct or educate us concerning what behaviors are necessary to remain in the Present Presence and 2) to convict us of sin when our behavior places us out of alignment with His Nature. The purpose of Torah is to show us how to become partakers of the divine nature! Too often, however, the religious ordinances of men are confused with the Words of YHVH - these are what are known as the "works of the law" which Sha'ul said he counted as loss in Philippians 3:8-9 in exchange for the excellency of knowing Spirit in the Truth manifest in Yeshua. There is a difference between what scripture defines as Torah and "the law". If the suppositional foundation of a premise is false, the whole argument is baseless and the foundation of this reader's argument, according to the actual meaning of the words of scripture, is found wanting - even though it is a popular assessment. The decision left for you reading this is to ignore what these words mean to "go along" with what is popular or to commit yourself to the words of Truth - regardless of how you may be viewed by others. There is no scripture to be found that abridges, does away with or nullifies the Words of YHVH.
Part One - Torah or "the Law"
Part Two - the Curse of the Law?
Part Three - Under the Law?
Part Four - Legalism
|"By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world ." 1John 4:17|
Please feel free to email me at email@example.com. While not claiming to have all the answers, it would be an honor to partake with you of what the Spirit is uncovering.