Having grown up in Church all of my life, and having a fairly heavy exposure to Mainstream Christianity, and having familiarity with the Bible, possibly you like I noticed notice that Mainstream Christianity often de-emphasizes the Old Testament and puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on Paul's epistles. I would hesitate to say that any part of the Scriptures can be overemphasized. However, if we give uncalled-for weight and emphasis to certain parts of the Bible, and neglect what the rest of the Scriptures teaches about an issue, we will probably develop an unbalanced view of that particular issue.
By volume, Paul's epistles make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul's writings are considered holy Scripture by Mainstream Christianity, but neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit expected us to give more weight and authority to these epistles than we do to the Old Testament or to the rest of the New Testament.
By putting a disproportionate amount of emphasis on these letters (only 5 % of the whole Bible) that Paul sent to various churches, we fail to follow the example of Paul, who told the Ephesians, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Ac.20:27). By neglecting certain parts of the Bible (95%), we ignore Paul's declaration that ''all Scripture is inspired and is useful'' (2 Tim.3:16).
Dear believer when Paul uttered this often quoted saying that "all Scripture is inspired and is useful for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction" the bulk of his writings had not even been written yet, and without a doubt, he was referring to the Bible used by Yeshua..the Old Testament which is tragically so overlooked in the churches that bear his name today. In fact the vast majority of churches that bear his name teach just the opposite of what Yeshua taught in that they teach the Law (Torah=instruction) has passed away.
Christianity's strong emphasis on Paul's writings, and lack of emphasis on so much of the rest of the Bible, is puzzling, no only to me but to the many who study the Scriptures in detail. It is especially puzzling when we consider Peter's warning about Paul's writings:
''His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Pet.3:16).
Answer for yourself: Now don't you think it ironic and puzzling that Christianity today primarily focuses on that 5% of the Bible that even the Apostles who lived with Yeshua and headed up his Church found unsettling, difficult to understand, and easily misunderstood?
Answer for yourself: Is it possible that we with all our good intentions also have been misled by what we hear today from those who themselves have misunderstood the often contradictory passages in our Bibles written by Paul? Let me give you one for instance:
If it was easy for Paul's contemporaries to understand his epistles, we can be sure that it will be even easier for us to do so, with our limited knowledge of Biblical Judaism, a Jewish Messiah, and the situations and problems Paul was addressing when he wrote to these various churches. Yet some Christians, perhaps unknowingly, are more intent on following the easy-to-misunderstand teachings contained in Paul's letters than they are on following the plain teachings of Yeshua contained in the Gospels.
Answer for yourself: How did this shift of focus come about?
Answer for yourself: What caused the Church to begin paying so much attention to Paul and so little attention to the Law and the Prophets and other parts of the Bible which Yeshua used?
To discover the answer to this question, we must go all the way back to the Second Century. After all the original Apostles had died, other people took on the responsibility of continuing the Church's work. The original Apostles were all Jews, who had been exposed to the teachings of the Law and the Prophets since their childhood. The leaders who replaced the Law and the Prophets with the Pauline epistles were mostly Gentiles from pagan backgrounds, who had comparatively little understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures. We can read about these people in various documents from the Second Century.
One Church historian has this to say about these documents:
"Many stories come in versions so distorted that it is hard to decide whether the principal characters were worthy successors to the apostles, or the devil's own agents. Perhaps their contemporaries were as uncertain as we are.'' (Smith, M. A. From Christ to Constantine, London: Inter-varsity Press, 1971, p.14).
There is one character, however, which was undoubtedly one of the greatest adversaries to maintaining the faith once given to the saints: the heretic Marcion, who lived in the second half of the Second Century. Marcion put together the First New Testament in the middle of the second century. Marcion taught that the entire Old Testament should be rejected because it belonged to an evil, inferior God, and not to the God revealed by Yeshua of Nazareth.
Marcion was very anti-Jewish; therefore he also rejected any New Testament writings which appeared to speak favorably of "Jewish practices" (i.e., keeping the laws and commandments of the Old Testament). As one writer notes,
"Marcion started the trend which has had many followers right up to the present -- if it doesn't suit the theory. excise it as spurious or an interpolation." (Smith, M. A. From Christ to Constantine, London: Inter-varsity Press, 1971, p.53).
By the time Marcion finished editing the Scriptures, his ''Bible" consisted of nothing more than Luke's Gospel (minus the "Jewish" elements..including the infancy narratives) and ten of Paul's epistles (many of which were added to by the Monks until the completion of the Canon). It is not my intention to get into this at this point, but the reason Marcion did not include the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke is because they had not been written yet! Again this is a record of historical fact. Paul, Marcion taught, was the only apostle who could be trusted and that the Jerusalem Church and its leaders should not be trusted. He got it backwards!.
Marcion's anti-Jewish, pro-Paul churches spread throughout the Roman Empire and soon became a major threat to the Messianic faith. According to historians, Marcion's heresy continued to spread until it finally died out sometime around the Fifth Century. But we are continually exposed to the residual influence of Marcionism in Christianity today.
We who claim to believe the Bible must ask ourselves an important question:
Answer for yourself: Did Marcion's anti-Jewish, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul heresy really die out?
Answer for yourself: Or did the Church simply succumb to it and accommodate it and incorporate it, in a subdued form, into Mainstream Christianity?
Answer for yourself: Of course our Bible, unlike Marcion's, includes the Law and the Prophets, but how much do we heed their instruction?
When we examine the average Christian's attitude to the Law and the Prophets, it is obvious that the influence of Marcion is very much alive in the Christian church today.
Although the Church pays lip service to the inspiration and authority of all the Scriptures, the Church's de-emphasis of the Law, the Prophets, and anything "Jewish," and its heavy emphasis on Paul, reveals that the Church today is basically Marcionite in practice.
For those who doubt this assertion, let us examine some things that Marcion taught, and we will see that the influence of Marcion still has a very strong influence on the Church today.
Marcion's most influential writing was a work entitled Antithesis, described as "a highly competent work" which consisted of "contrasted statements arranged to prove the incompatibility of the law and the gospel." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, trans. and ed. Ernest Evans, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, p.xv).
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there are no known copies of Antithesis in existence. What we know about Marcion's teachings comes mainly from the writings of those who opposed his heresy. The one to write the most about Marcion was Tertullian, a church leader who wrote a lengthy work called Against Marcion. Tertullian describes Antithesis as "a work strained into making such a division between the Law and the Gospel as thereby to make two separate Gods, opposite to each other, one belonging to one instrument (or, as it is more usual to say, testament), one to the other, and thus lend its patronage to faith in another gospel, that according to Antithesis." (Tertullian, IV.1)
No real Christian today would admit to believing in two Gods, of course. Yet many believers make such a division between Old Testament Law and New Testament grace, that they view the Law as something opposed to grace. The Law is seen as something obsolete and of little use to a Christian. Such a warped view of God's Law will carry over into our view of God Himself. If God's Old Testament Law is opposed to God's New Testament grace, we end up with either a schizophrenic God, or Marcion's two Gods.
''Marcion sets up unequal Gods," Tertullian writes, ''the one a judge, fierce and warlike, the other mild and peaceable, solely kind and supremely good." (Tertullian, IV.1.6)
Answer for yourself: Is this not exactly what many Christians do?
They shun the "Old Testament God" because He is too stern and fierce. They focus instead upon the ''New Testament God," who, in their minds, does not expect obedience to His laws.
Listen to Tertullian's description of Marcion's God, and see if it is not a description of the God presented by the Christian Church today: Marcion's God "displays neither hostility nor wrath." He ''neither condemns nor disdains" and "does not punish." "A better God has been discovered," Tertullian sarcastically writes, "one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment...he is merely kind. Of course he forbids you to sin -- but only in writing. It lies with you whether you consent to accord him obedience. (Tertullian,IV.1.26f).
"To what purpose does he lay down commands?" Tertullian asks. ''This God is exceptionally dull-witted if he is not offended by the doing of that which he dislikes to see being done." (Tertullian, IV.1.26f).
Answer for yourself: We might ask ourselves the same question about the God we worship: To what purpose does He lay down commands? We are certainly not justified by keeping the Law without faith. We are justified by faith first....but this is a faith that "obeys" and does not "disobey."
Answer for yourself: But after we are justified, what are we to do with God's commandments?
Answer for yourself: Are we to put them into practice, or are we to disobey them?
One thing that has helped the influence of Marcion to thrive so well in the Twentieth Century Church is the popularity of the Scofield Reference Bible. Even Christians who have never seen a Scofield Bible have probably been affected by it indirectly, through preachers and teachers who have been influenced by it. The Scofield Bible contains many excellent study notes and aids to understanding the Scriptures. Several of Scofield's notes, however, strongly suggest a Marcionite view of Law and Grace. A reader of Scofield's notes is left with the impression that Law and Grace are mutually exclusive. Scofield's anti-law bias has fed and nurtured and sustained the tares of nomophobia (fear of the law) that Marcion sowed in the Church nineteen centuries ago. As the end of the age approaches, God is sending forth His messengers to uproot these tares, so His wheat can mature and bring forth the fruit of obedience to God's laws.
A spirit of lawlessness has been hanging over the Church for most of its history. Some Christians have been influenced by it more than others, of course. Paul saw it beginning in his lifetime. Second Thessalonians speaks about "the secret power of lawlessness'' which was ''already at work" when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. Paul told the Thessalonians that before the Messiah returned, there would be a "falling away" (apostasy, 'departure from truth'.). This departure from the truth would then open the door for something called ''the man of lawlessness" to come forth. This "coming of the lawless one" would be accompanied by "all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" which would "deceive those who are perishing."
Answer for yourself: Can you tell me that this is not a picture of a grace-filled and law-forsaking Christianity for the most part today?
"They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved," Paul writes. "For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie." Gentile Christianity has fallen into the trap. In preparation for the Return of the Messiah, God is also sending powerful revelation to graciously expose the ancient lie, so that those who love the truth can depart from error and be freed from the bewitching influence of the spirit of lawlessness.
In 1989, Ted Turner of CNN declared the Ten Commandments obsolete, and offered his own "Ten Voluntary Initiatives" as an alternative to God's outdated laws. No one should take Turner seriously, of course, but he did make one comment that deserves our attention. "Nobody around likes to be commanded," he said. ''Commandments are out." (Turner's Commandments,'' Peoria Journal Star, 27 Oct., 1989, section D, p.22).
Answer for yourself: Christians may scoff at Turner's idea of replacing God's laws with human ideas, yet is this not the very thing the Church has done with some of God's commandments?
We have replaced the 24-hour, seventh-day Sabbath with an hour or two of Sunday morning worship; we have replaced the Biblical holy days with holidays of pagan origin; we have replaced God's dietary guidelines with our own ideas about what we should eat, and we have replaced giving the tithe to places ONLY where God has placed his name to the general fund of churches who use the LORD's moneys in which any way they desire. For your information the tithe in the Bible is to go to ONLY three categories or receptacles: 1) the widows, orphans, sick, lame blind, etc., 2) you are to keep part of your tithe to celebrate the LORD's Festivals and help the poor to observe them with you, and 3) to the Levite or the "teacher" who teaches the truth of God's Word and not the by-laws of your particular denomination.
Answer for yourself: Do you not realize that if your church does not distribute the LORD's tithe accurately then you are a party to "robbing God" and you have place yourself and your family "under a curse?"
Answer for yourself: Having said that you can better understand the following question: "after a person has been forgiven and justified by faith, where should he look for moral instruction?"
Answer for yourself: Should he look to God's commandments to tell him how to live the Christian life, or should he ignore God's commandments and live according to man's suggestions?
Even Scofield, in spite of all his anti-law bias and nomophobia, concedes that the Old Testament commandments "are used in the distinctively Christian Scriptures as an instruction in righteousness." (The Scofield Reference Bible, ed. C. I. Scofield, New York: Oxford University Press, 1917, p.l245).
In Against Marcion, Tertullian accuses Marcion and his followers of "forbidding what [God] commands and commanding what he forbids.'' (Tertullian, IV.1). The influence of Marcion continues to do this in the Church today. Mainstream Christianity has criticized believers for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, for celebrating the Biblical holy days, for practicing the dietary laws, for placing their tithe in other places than their local church, and for refusing to shave their beards...all things that God has commanded. And, like Marcion, Mainstream Christianity often commands what God forbids: "Forget the Sabbath. Ignore the holy days and dietary laws, bring you tithe to the storehouse for the church is "the storehouse" (which it is not!). And shave that beard, so you'll look like a Christian!" (Many Bible colleges and seminaries command their students to shave the beard, in spite of God's command in Lev.19:27.)
Marcion, like many church leaders today, misused the words of Yeshua and the words of Paul to support this nomophobic, anti-Jewish, pro-Paul gospel. Tertullian rightly points out that Yeshua's verbal teachings of the Law were not aimed at the Law itself but man's perversion and misuse of God's Law. "He is not criticizing the burdens of the law," Tertullian writes. The burdens Yeshua criticized were, according to Tertullian, "those which they piled on of their own, teaching for precepts the doctrines of men." (Ibid., IV.27).
Tertullian shows the importance Yeshua attached to keeping the commandments when he writes about the rich young ruler who approached Yeshua: "So when he is asked by that certain man, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do to obtain possession of eternal life?', he inquired whether he knew -which means, was keeping -- the Creator's commandments... Come now, Marcion, and all you companions in the misery and sharers in the offensiveness of that heretic, what will you be bold enough to say? Did Yeshua here rescind those former commands...?
Tertullian opposes Marcion's misuse of Paul's writings by pointing out the "Jewishness" of Paul's faith, and then asking, "What had (Paul) still to do with Jewish custom, if he was the destroyer of Judaism?" (Ibid., V.5).
He also refers to Romans 7:7 to combat Marcion's hatred of the Law: "What shall we say then? That the law is sin? God forbid." Shame on you, Marcion. God forbid: the apostle expresses abhorrence of complaint against the law...Yet he adds even more: "The law is holy, and its commandment is just, and good." (Ibid., V.14). As Tertullian points out later, ''you cannot make a promoter of the law into an opponent of it." (Ibid., V.17).
Unfortunately, the Church ignored Paul's positive statements about the Law and Yeshua' warning about the necessity of continuing to practice and teach the Old Testament commandments. (See Matt.5:17-19.)
The Epistle of Barnabas, an influential letter written in the Second Century, indicates the general direction the Church was heading in its attitude to the Old Testament. "The main theme of Barnabas, writes one church historian, "is a spiritualization of the Mosaic law. The writer holds that the were wrong to take the Old Testament literally." (Smith, M. A. From Christ to Constantine, Inter-varsity Press, 1971, p.39).
Everything in the Old Testament was allegorized to give it a Christian meaning. Even the commandments were taken figuratively, because, according to Barnabas, ''the law of Moses had never been meant to be taken literally." (Eerdman's Handbook to the history of Christianity, ed. Tim Dowley, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977, p.102). Even the dietary restrictions were said to represent not actual food, but various kinds of sinful habits.
Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho also shows early Christianity's negative attitude toward the Law. Trypho the Jew expresses bewilderment when he tells Justin:
''[You Christians] spurn the commands...and then try to convince us [Torah-observant Jews] that you know God, when you fail to do those things that every God-fearing person would do. If, therefore, you can give a satisfactory reply to these charges and can show us on what you place your hopes, even though you refuse to obey the Law, we will listen to you most willingly, and then we can go on and same manner our other differences.'' (Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch.10. Ibid., ch.ll, 14. 20, Ibid., ch.47).
Justin replies by saying that the Law "abrogated," "voided,'" and tells Trypho, "You understand all in a carnal way.'' (Ibid., ch. 11, 14).
Not all followers of the Messiah were influenced by the nomophobic, anti-Old Testament, pro-Paul gospel of Marcion. There is historical evidence of several groups of believers who practiced the Law as an expression of their faith in Yeshua (Yeshua) as the Messiah.
After Trypho asks Justin about the possibility of believing in Yeshua as the Messiah and continuing to observe the commandments, Justin writes his reply:
"Yes, Trypho, I conceded, there are some Christians who...desire to observe as many of the Mosaic precepts as possible...precepts which we think were instituted because of your hardness of heart...while at the same time they place their hope in Christ...'' (Ibid., ch. 47).
Answer for yourself: Dear Christian brother..did you hear history speak to you through Justin and his anti-semitism?
Well into the second century the Christians kept the Law and the testimony of Yeshua (Rev. 12 and Rev 14)! Justin, previously a pagan philosopher who was in times past a stranger to the covenant promises, alien to the commonwealth of Israel, without hope and without God and who grew us knowing no restrains to his flesh, obviously disagreed with these Law-keeping Messianic believers, but he does acknowledge their existence. Notice that the true Messianic community had not discarded the Law but continued to teach all nations to observe those things commanded by Yeshua! Some would obey and others, like Justin, would find excuses not to submit to the rule of God over their lives in many areas...today we call this "Salad Bar Christianity."
The best-known of these groups who believed in Yeshua and practiced the Torah were the Nazarenes and the Ebionites. There were other groups, more obscure and far less orthodox, such as the Elchasaites and the Pseudoclementines. (Austin, Bill R. Austin's Topical History of Christianity (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1983, p.72f).
From a Gentile's viewpoint, some supposed doctrinal errors in some of these predominately Jewish groups probably contributed to the decision of the Mainstream, Gentile Church to adopt Marcion's anti-law, anti-Jewish attitude. One writer notes that "Jewish Christianity in various forms continued as a disturbing factor until almost the Fifth Century. (Ibid., p. 73).
It is interesting that this is the same time that Marcion's heresy supposedly "died out." Once Marcion's error (in a modified, subdued form) had been fully assimilated into the Mainstream Church, "Jewish Christianity" was no longer a "disturbing factor" because the Law-keeping Christians were greatly outnumbered by those who had adopted Marcion's attitude toward the Law. The number of those who upheld both the Torah and the Messiah (see Rev.12:17 & 14:12) was so insignificant by the Fifth Century that the Mainstream Church no longer considered them a threat. However, a remnant lives today! They could now be written off as a fringe group, and conveniently ignored. Though they were few in number compared to the now-Marcionized Mainstream Church, these groups who upheld both the Torah and the Messiah continued to exist until at least as late as the Tenth Century. (Flusser, David, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, New York: Adama Books, 1987, p.88).
Now listen up. While Mainstream Christianity, influenced by Marcion, de-emphasized the Law and over-emphasized Paul, groups such as the Ebionites totally rejected Paul, viewing him as an apostate and enemy of the Law.
The solution is not to reject either Paul or the Law; the solution is to view Paul's writings in a way that will allow them to harmonize with what the rest of the Bible says about the Law. Only in this way will we be able to find within the New Testament the early ideas of Paul concerning the Law which were positive before he changes his religious beliefs concerning the validity of the Law later in his career. Only when Paul opposes the Law is his testimony to be discarded but a careful reader and observer of the New Testament must be on the lookout for those passages where Paul validates the Torah. This in itself is somewhat puzzling to finally come to the realization that we have a "evolution" of sorts of Paul's religious ideas away from the Torah the older he got.
Answer for yourself: How should a disciple of Yeshua/Yeshua view Paul's epistles? For those who desire to be faithful and to live "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God," seven guidelines are listed below. The Bible student should keep these guidelines in mind when reading Paul's writings in order to arrive at a correct Biblical understanding.
Paul's epistles, like any other part of Scripture, must be viewed in the light of the entire Bible. This means that when we are dealing with the Law, we must not focus in on a few statements Paul made, and ignore everything else the Bible says about God's Law. As pointed out earlier, Paul's writings make up approximately 5% of the Bible. Paul's writings must be understood in a way that will make them compatible with what the other 95% of the Bible says. In other words, let the other 95% of the Bible interpret the 5% that Paul wrote. If the New Testament is to be seen as the "fulfillment" of the Old Testament then let it be that; but don't get confused with "rejection" of the former foundations of the Old Covenant as any sort of "fulfillment."
It is important to remember that for many years, the Old Testament was the only Bible the Early Church had. The New Testament writings were gradually accepted into the canon of the Scriptures and was not finally officially accepted Canon until the 4th century! It was not until about the middle of the Second Century that the term "the Scriptures" referred to the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. (Smith, p.63). Therefore, when New Testament writers mention "the Scriptures" or the commandments," they are referring to the Old Testament and not the New Testament....and this is undeniable fact!
The New Jerusalem Bible, in its "Introduction to Paul, makes this statement: "It is important to remember that Paul's letters were not meant as theological treatises: most of them represent his response to a particular situation in a particular church....Paul's letters do not give any systematic and exhaustive exposition of his teaching; they presuppose the oral teaching which preceded them, and enlarge and comment only upon certain points of that. (The New Jerusalem Bible, ed. Henry Wansbrough, New York: Doubleday and Co., 1985, p.l852f).
Because Paul often wrote to correct particular problems in particular churches, we must have some knowledge of the situation Paul was addressing if we are to understand his writings. Sometimes the problem can be inferred from Paul's remarks, but often we are left with little or no knowledge of the situations Paul was dealing with.
Theologians often try to reconstruct the historical backgrounds of the epistles, and make educated guesses about the problems Paul was addressing. This can be a noble effort, if it is done in a sincere attempt to come to a clearer understanding of what Paul taught. Unfortunately, many people come to an understanding of Paul that contradicts what the rest of the Bible teaches, either by incorrectly reconstructing the historical background, or by ignoring it altogether.
It is important to bear in mind Peter's warning that Paul's letters are not easy to understand: "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position" (2 Pet. 3:16f). Notice carefully the contrast of people's distortion of Paul's writings as they often distort the Scriptures. Peter is not, under any circumstance, calling or considering Paul's writings on equal standing with Jewish Scripture; he is only making a comparison of people's misunderstanding of both!
Those with little or no knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures are especially apt to misinterpret Paul's writings to their own ruin. Notice, it is not the Law-keeping disciples of Yeshua who distort Paul's epistles -- it is "lawless men" that Peter warns us about.
Early in His ministry, Yeshua spoke this warning to His followers: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:17-l9).
Our Master's warning seems plain and simple enough to understand, yet many Christians mistakenly believe that by fulfilling the Law, he thereby abolished it. This is exactly what He is warning us not to think! "I have come to fulfill the Law," he says, "but do not even think that by fulfilling it, I am thereby abolishing it."
Sometimes it is easier for people outside Mainstream Christianity to see the blindness of Christians in this area. The Jewish Encyclopedia quotes Yeshua's warning of Matt.5:17, and then makes this bold statement: "The rejection of the Law by Christianity, therefore, was a departure from its Christ."(The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1903, Vol.V., p.52).
In an article with the catchy title, "Yeshua Was Not a Christian," the writer points out that "Yeshua certainly wouldn't have been recognized as a Christian throughout his entire life." He "scrupulously adhered to the law of Moses" and "enjoined his disciples to keep every detail of the Torah." (John Murray Smoot, Yeshua Was Not a Christian," A Way in the Wilderness, ed. M. G. Einspruch, Baltimore: The Lederer Foundation, 1981, p.28).
A story in the New York Yiddish Forward tells of a reporter's encounter with an old Hasidic Jew in Paris years ago. This Jew had a fervent faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. When the reporter asked him about the compatibility of Orthodox Judaism and belief in Yeshua, the old man replied, "Who then should believe in him -- the gentiles?" The reporter describes the old man's remarks this way: "He said that only Jews can truly accept belief in Yeshua as the Messiah and regard him as the last prophet, for gentiles can never accept such a lofty faith. It is next to impossible for them to walk in his ways, for first of all, Yeshua, as he called him, commanded to observe all the Jewish laws, the entire Torah, and gentiles do not even know this." (J. Feldman, "Yozel's Hasid," The Ox, the Ass, the Oyster, ed. Henry and Marie Einspruch, Baltimore: The Lederer Foundation, 1975, p.74.
Of course it is not impossible for Gentiles to accept and practice such a lofty faith. The question is, will they do it? Or will they continue to cling to the lies of Marcion?
Many Christians overlook or choose to ignore the positive things Paul said about the Law. He writes, for example, "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good" (Rom.7:12). Paul says, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law" and "I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law" (Rom.7:22,25).
He tells Timothy, "We know that the law is good if one uses it properly" (1 Tim.1:8). To the Corinthians he writes, "Keeping God's commandments is what counts" (1 Cor.7:19). Even when explaining the righteousness that comes by faith, Paul is careful to make sure his readers know that their faith does not give them an excuse to ignore God's Law: "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law" (Rom.3;31).
We now come to a very difficult subject because within the New Testament are contradicting statements made by Paul concerning his "gospel" and the "law." What began for Paul as the negation of the Jewish leader's requirement of non-Jews to be circumcised and the imposing upon the non-Jewish males the mitzvot of circumcision to be affiliated with Israel (enforcing conversion which in reality was a deterrent to keep Jews and non-Jews separated) we find Paul over the course of his life drifting away from Judaism and the faith of the Fathers (that is if we are to believe the writings under his name are accurate as to his religious belief system). It takes years to master such studies but when one has put forth the concerted time and effort his only conclusion is that which others before him have arrived throughout history: Paul becomes an apostate from the faith of Jesus and changes the message and religion of Jesus to the Gentile world. This is a fact which is undeniable when all the evidence has been sifted and been given careful consideration. There are tons of information that exist outside this one book (the New Testament) which explains and reveals this apostasy of Paul. It truly is a sad story but one which has momentous impact upon the lives of current believers and followers of Jesus if their desire is to really be a follower of Jesus and not a follower of Paul since in reality Paul ends up rejecting the historical Jesus and his faith.
Actions speak louder than words, the well-known proverb says. If we truly want to understand Paul's attitude towards the Law, we must look at his actions as well as his words. But we are presented with a problem here as Paul's actions and statements in the New Testament often are contradictory.
Even in Paul's own lifetime, were circulating that Paul taught people "to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs" (Acts 21:21). To dispel these accusations, the elders of Jerusalem had Paul go with four men who had taken a vow (probably a Nazirite vow), telling Paul that in this way "tall will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law" (Acts 21:24). As you can see there were problems not to mention Peter's first hand eyewitness discovery of Paul teaching against the Laws of Moses and the Laws of Noah in Antioch when allowing his converts to practice idolatry by eating food sacrificed to idols (Paul calls those who have a problem with this practice "weak"). The summons of Paul to the Acts 15 council to answer charges was within 5 years followed by a more sever summons of him for a second time to answer charges before James and the Jerusalem church.
So Paul is a chameleon in the New Testament as he exhibits two different theological positions. In spite of Paul's negation of the Law we find Paul's Law-Keeping included worshipping on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 16:13;17:1f,10; 18:4,19), celebrating the Biblical holy days (Acts 20:6,16), and taking a Nazirite vow which required the offering of blood sacrifices for sins (Acts 18:18). Request our article on Paul and blood sacrifices for more information.
It is very clear that Paul continued to keep the Law after he met Yeshua in a vision...at least when it served his purposes and agenda.
By keeping the Law, in the right way and for the right reasons, Paul left an example for all disciples to follow, Jew or non-Jew. When Paul fails to keep the Law then his example is to be scorned! Some people seem to think that only Jewish believers were expected to continue practicing Torah. The so-called "Great Commission" rules out this possibility. When Yeshua instructed his Jewish disciples to go to "all nations [Gentiles]," he told them to teach the Gentile nations "to obey ever thing I have commanded you [My Jewish disciples]" (Matt.28:18ff). He commanded his Jewish disciples to obey the Torah (Matt.5:17-19 & 23:1-3), and they were to teach the Gentiles to do it.
The key to Godly living is not to ignore the Law and elevate Paul, as Marcion did. Nor is the solution to overemphasize the Law and reject Paul, as the Ebionites and others did. The solution is to do what Paul said to do: "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Messiah" (1 Cor.11:1). The converse of this is just as true: "Don't follow my example when I don't follow Messiah" and often in the New Testament we find Paul not following the Jewish Messiah or what he would have believed or taught. If we truly follow Paul's example, as he followed the example of Messiah, we will begin to practice the Old Testament commandments that the Church has ignored or changed.
A. W. Tozer wrote,
"Probably no other portion of the Scriptures can compare with the Pauline epistles when it comes to making artificial saints. (Gems From Tozer, England: Send the Light Trust, 1969, p.18).
Let us avoid artificial sainthood by keeping in mind the above-mentioned seven guidelines for understanding Paul's epistles:
As we let the naked truth of Holy Scripture renew our minds and change our thinking, the sunlight of God's Word will dispel the mist of the ghost of Marcion. We will find ourselves transformed as the fog lifts, and as we see the Law as God always meant it to be seen: as something positive, holy, and good, "if one uses it properly" (1 Tim.1:8).
Let those who wish to wholeheartedly follow Yeshua begin to learn the commandments, practice them, and teach them to others, for "whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt.5:l9). As we banish the legacy and influence of Marcion, the "spirit of lawlessness" from our theology, we will see the commandments not as a yoke of bondage, but as a moral guide by which we can joyfully live a life that is pleasing to the Heavenly Father. Then we will be able to rejoice in God's commandments as the psalmist did: "I will praise You with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws...I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches...I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws. I hold fast to Your statutes, 0 Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free...I will always obey Your law, forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts...Great peace have they who love Your law, and nothing can make them stumble'' (Ps.119:7,14,30-32,44f,165). Shalom.