This is probably the most misunderstood concept in the Scriptures. Because many teachers do not understand the basics concerning the Torah, they distort Paul’s writings (2 Pet 3.15-17) to fit in with their own preconceived notions and biases that they brought into the faith with their belief in the concept of replacement theology. Paul did not start a new religion nor did he deviate from the faith of his fathers.
In this teaching we are going to look into what he taught and what he said and try to set the record straight. First of all, being Torah observant and obeying the commandments does not give you salvation or justification before the Lord. It never did and no writer of the Scriptures ever said it did. However, Paul did not the teach man-made doctrines found in the “Judaisms” of his time if it contradicted the Scriptures. And remember, the only Scriptures he had was the Tanak (what many call the “old testament”).
Most of what Paul taught was never written down and he taught person to person. And his lifestyle agreed with what he taught (1 Cor 4.16-17; 11.1-2). First century historians and scholars have confirmed that the normal lifestyle of the believers in the First Century was in accordance with the Torah. They attended the Temple day by day (Acts 2.46). Peter and John went to the Temple for the afternoon Tamid service (Acts 3.1-2). They were not going around teaching a brand new religion called Christianity, as many teach.
But, Paul’s teachings are distorted by denominations and synagogues to fit what they want him to say. A Mormon sees Paul’s teachings as consistent with Mormonism. A Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Pentecostal, non-denominational, Church of Christ, Messianic, and those in any other denomination see his teachings as consistent with their denomination.
But, how can so many denominations be so different and interpret Paul so many ways. It’s because we are not doing what the Bereans did (Acts 17.10-11) and check to see if these teachings agree with the Tanach. Paul was not a hypocrite, acting like a Jew with Jews and a Gentile with Gentiles. Paul rebuked Peter for doing just that (Gal 2.11-14). Paul would have been a liar if he did that.
Paul was Torah observant (Acts 21.24) and said that he was a Pharisee (“I am” is present tense) in Acts 23.6. When he was on trial he presented enough evidence to prove that he was (Acts 23.9; the Pharisees said “we find nothing wrong with this man” which means he kept the Torah). Now, these people were determined to get rid of him but they knew he told the truth about his lifestyle. He even called it “our religion” when testifying about his back-round in Acts 26.4-5.
He testified about his living a Torah observant lifestyle in Acts 28.17. What about the Gentiles? What did he teach them? His own testimony says that he taught them the Torah (1 Cor 11.1-2; Phil 3.17; 4.9; 1 Cor 4.16-17; 1 Thes 1.5-7; 2 Thes 3.6-9). He was an example for them to follow (Acts 26.28) and he followed Yeshua, who was also Torah observant, but that is another story. Paul taught the whole Torah (1 Tim 1.8; Rom 2.13; 3.29-31; 7.12-14,21; 1 Cor 7.19).
People today try to say that the Torah was divided into ceremonial and moral law, but the Torah was never considered like that and you can find no proof in the Scriptures that anyone did. The whole Torah was considered as one set of instructions. Now, there are things that don’t apply to everyone. For instance, if you were not a priest, you didn’t concern yourself with what they had to do. You should know what they did but it was not applicable to you. If you weren’t a king, a woman, or lived outside the land there were things that didn’t apply, but it was considered a part of the whole.
Paul considered the Torah profitable for teaching (what Torah means), reproof, correction and for training in righteousness (2 Tim 15-17) so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (“mitzvah” in Hebrew, meaning commandments). He taught the Gentiles to obey certain commandments found in the Torah (Acts 15.22-35; 16.4). The “yoke” Peter talked about in Acts 15.10 were Torah commands that only applied to Jews (like circumcision-see Acts 15.1) and the man-made “halakah” of the rabbi’s that even Yeshua rebuked (Matt 23.1-12).
Paul told the Ephesians that they were “one” with Jewish believers (Eph 2.11-22), not only because of their faith in Yeshua, but because they practiced the Torah. There was one Torah for both (Num 15.14-16) and they were to obey what applied to each other (1 Cor 7.17-24). In Rom 11.17-24 Paul uses an olive tree as a picture of how the Gentiles are “grafted into Israel”(Eph 2.12) using Jer 11.16 as a basis for this concept.
People who believe that the “church” or any other entity “replaced” Israel in the plan of the Lord does not realize that in order to do this they would have to “cut themselves off” from the olive tree! But, the New Covenant spoken about in Jer 31.31-34 says that the Lord is going to write the Torah (Law) on the hearts of those who believe (v 33). The only difference between the Torah and the New Covenant isn’t the Laws, but where God writes them (tablets of stone vs the heart of flesh).
Yeshua said that the Torah was not going to “pass away” until heaven and earth passes away. That certainly hasn’t happened yet (Matt 5.17-19). There is not one writer of the Gospels and Epistles that says the Gentiles are not to follow the Torah as it applied to them. When we examine the Scriptures from the context of the Torah we see that the assumptions that many teachers have had concerning this issue are faulty and cannot stand up under scrutiny.
People will say that if you are led of the Spirit you are not under the law. True, but what does that mean. It means that “under the Law” means that you are not under some system of works righteousness and you don’t rely on the Law for righteousness. Obedience to the Torah is linked to being led by the Spirit (Ezek 36.26-27). Some will say that the “end of the Law is Messiah” quoting Rom 10.4. However, the word “end” means “goal” and “target” and means that the goal of the Torah was to teach about the Messiah. Translators purposely chose to use the word “end” and not “target” or “goal” because it gives the reader the idea that the Torah was no longer valid as a teacher. This usage went contrary to everything that Paul taught and said and gave the impression that the Torah was “done away with”, which is exactly the opposite thing that Yeshua said in Matt 5.17-19.
Paul said in Acts 24.14 that he believed everything written in the Law and the Prophets. This distortion of Paul’s sayings and writings has got to stop or else people will not truly understand what is being taught. It can only stop when the Lord opens hearts and minds to his word and people put what the writers of the Gospels and Epistles said in it’s proper context. These writings cannot be seen through the biases and false traditions of the untaught and the unstable, nor should people be carried away with the error of unprincipled men (2 Pet 3.15-17).