Saturday, October 8, 2011

Paul and the Mosaic Law.

When Paul taught the gospel to the Jews in the first century, he was under a set of unique circumstances than when we preach the gospel today. The problems Paul faced was unique to his day and age. The Jews loved the Mosaic Law and were absolutely convinced they could keep the righteousness of the Law in their own strength, and self-effort. They believed they could keep all the requirements of the Law unto salvation in their self righteousness.

It is also important for us to recognize that Paul had a high regard for the law. He tells us that the "law is holy, and the commandments are holy and just and good" (Roman. 7:12). He described himself as a strict observer of the law, "a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee." There was no one who tried harder to be justified by the law than Paul. He understood the purpose of the law (Galatians. 3:24-25) and was devout concerning the law before he was a Christian as well as after he became a Christian.

Paul was not against the law. His own words bear witness to this fact. So what was he against? He was against those who would teach the law as a means for salvation. That was the unique difference how Paul taught the gospel in his day. In Galatians 5:4-5 Paul says “You have become estranged from Messiah, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”.

Paul never teaches that the Mosaic Law is bad he was against those who would teach you had to keep the Mosaic Law in order to have salvation. Paul taught (justification by faith). This was definitely Paul’s downfall with the Jews salvation without works of righteousness. Paul got himself into double trouble when he preached against not only the works or self- righteousness but
keeping the Mosaic Laws for salvation.

Paul's problems came because people believed false rumors about him. These rumors also got Paul in trouble with Jewish Christians. James the physical brother, of Jesus was a key pillar of the mother church and tells Paul rumors had been told about him. “They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs” (Acts 21:21)

Although Paul had not taught these things, many of the zealous Jews were distressed, thinking that he had. Yes, Paul taught the Gentiles, that it was not necessary for them to circumcise their children as a necessity for salvation. However, he never said the Jews could not circumcise their children out of respect for their Jewish heritage. In fact, Paul circumcised the half-Jew Timothy in order that he might win some Jews (Acts 16:3; 1 Corinthians. 9:20-21).

He refused to circumcise Titus, because the Judaizers were trying to bind circumcision upon him and others as necessary for salvation. Therefore, in order to teach the Judaizers that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, Paul did not give in to them for one minute (Galatians. 2:3-5).

To alleviate these fears, James encouraged Paul to go to the Temple, and take a Hebrew vow according to the Torah. (Acts 21:22-24) Under such a vow they would let their hair grow, not eat anything from the grape moist or dried; they were not to come near any dead body, nor to make themselves unclean for their father, mother, brother, or sister when they died (Numbers. 6:3-7). They were to present an offering when the days of the vow were completed (Numbers. 6:13-21). Taking the vow was not intimated to Paul. (Acts 18:18)

By accepting James and the elders proposal, Paul is simply becoming a Jew to the Jew that he might win some (1 Cor. 9:20-21). For the sake of others, he acted. After all, that was what he was encouraged to do, "that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing" (Acts 21: 24). The book of Acts offers several examples of Paul’s practice of Torah: in 18:18, he cuts his hair in order to complete a (Nazirite?) vow; in 21:21-26, he performs rites of purification to counter the charge that he is encouraging fellow-Jews to abandon the law; and in 24:17-19.

So Paul never teaches that the Mosaic Law is bad he was against those who would teach keeping the Mosaic Law in order to have salvation. The coming of Christ and the arrival of the eschatological age of salvation had brought epochal changes with regard to the role and function of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law was no longer the regulating code for behavior. Christ had delivered them from the curse of disobedience to the law. Galatians 3:10–14 (ESV) For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."

For reasons of culture, conscience, and testimony, Jew and Gentile fellowship in the early church was made possible and peacefully coexist. The Gentile Christians were given the freedom to not practice the Torah observance, while Jewish believers were given the freedom to continue to practice many aspects of their former heritage, and culture, and lifestyle. Paul encourages believers to remain in the condition to which they were called. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)

So when Paul taught the gospel to the Jews in the first century, he was under a set of unique circumstances than when we preach the gospel today. The problems Paul faced was unique to him and the people of his day and age. Paul has to do a balancing act between not looking as though he is against the former Jewish heritage, and culture, and lifestyle. And yet against the works of righteousness under the Mosaic law for salvation.

Paul had a lot on his plate.