So, in a previous post, I exposed the rather lacking attempts that the Church makes to defend Paul and explained why they cannot provide an adequate defense of the Apostle. In this post (which will probably be a multi-part series), I'll be proving that Paul is a legitimate Apostle of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah. We're going to be starting in the book of Romans since much of the accusations against Paul are the result of misunderstanding what Paul wrote in his epistles. First, we need to lay a few rules about how we are testing Paul to determine his legitimacy.
- Any command that he gives that he credits to God must come from God's Law. Same for any command that he credits to Jesus. For he is not allowed to add to or diminish from God's commandments [Deuteronomy 12:32].
- Teaching people that they do not have to keep God's Law is the same as teaching people to follow after other gods. See the Deuteronomy 13 Test for why this is.
12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [Romans 2:12-16; NIV]
In the above passage, Paul makes it abundantly-clear that only those who keep the Law will be declared righteous (verse 13). And in verses 14 and 15, Paul explains that the one who does what is required by God's Law, even though they do not have the written Law, shows that they have his Law written on their heart. By the way, Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a promise by God to make a new covenant with his people where he will write his Law on their hearts. The Law being on our hearts is nothing new. Deuteronomy 26:16 commands us to keep the Law with all our hearts. That is, keeping God's Law should come naturally to us.
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. [Romans 2:25-27; NIV]
There is definitely a lot of confusion on the topic of circumcision. Some use the above passage as proof that circumcision is bad. But those we are addressing in this post use this passage as proof that Paul was a deceiver. But notice what Paul said about the one who keeps the Law, yet is not circumcised. If God's Law requires all to be circumcised, then how can somebody obey the Law without being circumcised? Hint: It does not require all to be circumcised; only the descendants of Israel and those who want to eat the Passover.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. [Romans 3:19-20; NIV]
This passage should be pretty self-explanatory. The Law tells us what sin is, and it is because of the Law that the whole world will be held accountable to God on Judgement Day. This is one of many passages that are used as proof that keeping the Law is a bad thing. But the logic behind this is what's known as a non-sequitor. It does not follow that because the Law makes us aware of our sin, that we therefore should not keep the Law. In fact, the opposite is true. Since the Law tells us what sin is, we should be making every effort to keep the Law. And remember Romans 2:13: Only those who keep the Law will be declared righteous.
Romans 3:21-26 is Paul explaining that righteousness comes from believing in Jesus. This does not mean that one can break the Law and still be righteous. It means that those who believe have been forgiven of their transgressions through the blood of Jesus. Forgiveness means God no longer counts the times you have transgressed his Law against you, and are therefore, righteous in his sight. Oh, and if anyone gets any ideas after stopping at verse 30: You stopped one verse too soon! Those who have faith keep God's Law! Now even if he didn't explicitly say that, think: How much sense does it make to define righteousness as keeping God's Law, then teach us not to keep the Law? Does it make any sense for someone to say, "righteousness is keeping God's Law, therefore do not keep God's Law"? Of course not.
Starting in Romans 3:21, Paul is teaching that righteousness is by faith apart from the works of the Law. And in Romans 4:3, Paul quotes the historical account in Genesis 15 to prove his point. This is because Genesis 15:6 states "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. [NIV]" Many assume that Paul is teaching something called "faith alone", which James had some choice words concerning such doctrines. The only time the phrase "faith alone" appears in the Bible is when James speaks against it. It never appears anywhere else. Faith alone is the doctrine that since our righteousness is by faith apart from the works of the Law, that our works have absolutely no bearing on our righteousness. And those who teach it will say that if you teach otherwise, then you are, by definition, teaching a "salvation by works". Never-mind the fact that only those who keep the Law can be declared righteous in God's sight (Romans 2:13). In Jame's rebuke of such heresy, he quotes from the exact same verse to prove that Abraham's deeds came from his faith.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Romans 5:20-21; NIV]
Here's another verse that I've seen used to try to prove that Paul spoke against the Law. There's just one tiny little detail:
6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? [Romans 6:1-2]
Yup! They stopped too soon again. Speaking of which, chapters 6 and 7 is where Paul starts his teaching on slavery to sin vs slavery to righteousness; being dead to sin, but alive to God. Take to heart Peter's warning, and read carefully the whole passage before jumping to conclusions about what Paul did or did not teach. Because a lot of the misunderstandings about what Paul taught are from forming whole doctrines around one or two verses without taking the context into consideration. By doing this, one will draw a conclusion that is the exact opposite of Paul's teachings. This is on top of the fact that Paul is still difficult to understand, per Peter's warning.
Read Romans 6 very carefully. And notice how Paul is teaching that we have died to sin, and therefore are no longer slaves to sin, having been set free from it. And that we are to offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness. Now, what does Romans 6:14 mean? What "law" is Paul referring to when he says we're not under the Law? Is it possible that Paul is talking about more than one law here? Under what law is sin our master? If it's God's Law, then what does being "under the Law" mean? Does being under the law mean we have to keep the Law? Or does it mean something else? Perhaps it means that we are under the curse that comes when we break the Law.
If you interpreted "not being under the Law" as referring to God's Law, then you might want to continue reading. The very next verse states that we shall no means sin because we are "not under the Law". It seems that Paul knew how we might misunderstand what he was trying to say, and so he made sure that we would not draw any incorrect conclusions about what he was trying to teach. If only we would not keep stopping one verse too short.
That brings us to Romans 7, which will be the last chapter we cover in this post. At the end of Romans 6, Paul reiterates one final time that we have been set free from sin and are now slave to God. And Romans 7 starts off by making using God's marriage law as an analogy for what he is trying to say. So now, what is Paul trying to tell us when he says that we have been "released from the Law" (Romans 7:6)? Which law is he referring to? If he is referring to God's Law, then is he referring to the requirement to keep the Law? Or is he referring to the penalty that the Law requires for breaking the Law? Again, it seems Paul knew how people would interpret what he was saying verses what he was trying to say. Because in Romans 7:7, he says (clearly referring to God's Law), "What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'"
Notice again that Paul is saying that it is because of God's Law that we know what is sinful. And if you keep reading, you will see that Paul is saying that sin uses God's Law to deceive us. Sound familiar? It should. Because this is exactly the same trick that the serpent used in Genesis 3 to deceive Eve into eating the fruit that God said, "you shall not eat of it". And Paul spends the rest of the chapter explaining how he used to be under the power of sin, but have been saved through Jesus the Messiah (Romans 7:21-25).
In part two, we will (Lord willing), continue to study Paul's writings to prove that he never once taught against God's Law. For now, I'll leave you with this quote, from Paul: "I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the flesh a slave to the law of sin."