Paul: Apostle or Heretic?
by Robert Sewell
Do the Teachings of Paul and the Church Agree or Contradict Torah?
Christianity was spread mostly by Paul of Tarsus, the self-proclaimed 13th apostle to the Gentiles. Because the Church adopted Paul's doctrines (and seem to have edited and enhanced them - read The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman, ISBN 0-19-510279-7), when you examine the main beliefs and doctrines of the Christian church, they are the same as found in the epistles of Paul (and those believed by laymen to be written by him).
To prove or disprove the doctrines of one is to prove or disprove the other. What are these doctrines? Can we find a list of core doctrines held by all its denominations? I believe such a list can be found in the book Churches of Today In the Light of Scripture, by L. G. Tomlinson, published by the Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, TN. I have the 10th edition, published in 1962. Let us compare this list to TN"K to see if there is agreement.
Section I of this book is given the title The Great Salvation, which, in three subsections, attempts to explore and explain the issue of salvation, the Christian's primary concern. First is given the Christian "proof" that the "old" covenant was insufficient for man to obtain salvation. Second is the attempt to show that God has given only one way to gain salvation, that one way being, of course, Jesus. Finally, the Christian's "new and improved" way of obtaining salvation is given.
On the next three pages are the three subsections (headings in large, bold type), followed by Tomlinson's "proofs" (in italics). I have rearranged them and tried to group them according to common themes, headed by smaller, bold type. After each proof is my refutation from TN"K (and logic).
None Saved by the Old Testament Law
First it must be said that many Jews have argued that the intent of the Law was not salvation, that the Law was a set of guidelines for how to live and how to build a just and moral society. Torah, these Jews say, is a way to righteousness, not justification before God's judgment. Personally, I'm not sure there is a difference between being righteous and being justified before God, and I can see much in TN"K that indicates that the Law does lead to righteousness which justifies us before God. These same Jews would, I think, acknowledge that righteousness comes by obedience to Torah, and only those who live righteously will see the world to come.
Sin, before and after Torah
Both the Jew and Gentile were under sin after Jesus had shed his blood, showing that nothing but obedience to the Gospel could save (Rom. 3:9).
After the law had come and gone, all, Jew and Gentile, were still under sin (Galatians 3:22).
Refutation -- The two assertions made by both of these 'proofs' -- that everyone was under sin after Jesus' death and after the law had, according to Paul, been done away with, and that only obedience to the gospel can save -- are unrelated, therefore neither proves nor disproves the other. The fact that Jews and Gentiles are under sin after the crucifixion (were they not also sinners before Jesus? isn't that why Jesus said he came?) has nothing to do with whether or not obedience to the gospel saves. The question of whether or not obedience to the gospel can save will be explored in the third section.
Justification through Torah
No one was justified by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20).
The works of the law justified no one (Galatians 2:16).
No one is justified by the law in the sight of God (Galatians 3:11, 12).
If there had been a law which could have given life, righteousness should have been by the law and not by the gospel (Galatians 3:21).
Refutation -- The bible begs to differ. A righteous man is, by definition, also justified. The Hebrew word tsadaq is translated both 'righteous' and 'justified.' There are many examples of men who are called righteous by God. Noah was called righteous (Genesis 6:9; Ezekiel 14:14, 20). Abraham was righteous. David was righteous (2 Samuel 22:21). Daniel and Job were called righteous (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Job 27:6; 29:14). The Christian's own bible says that John the Baptist's parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, were righteous due to their obedience to Torah (Luke 1:5, 6).
King David wrote that because of his obedience to all of the law, he was perfect with God, and that he was righteous and rewarded accordingly (Psalms 18:20-26). How can this be when we all know David sinned before God? Because God is merciful, and knowing we are imperfect humans, gave us ways to atone for our sin to make us righteous again before Him. David said that God Himself led David to righteousness (Psalms 23:3).
See also Proverbs 12:17, "He that uttereth truth showeth forth righteousness; But a false witness, deceit."
If righteousness came by the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Refutation -- So be it. See all the verses above from TN"K which show that righteousness does indeed come by the law.
Torah, Faith and the Promise
The law left all in unbelief because it was not of faith (Romans 11:32).
The law made no one an heir, neither did it offer an eternal inheritance (Galatians 3:18).
"For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." (Romans 4:14)
The law is not of faith (Galatians 3:12); therefore the law could save no one (Hebrews 11:6).
Refutation -- Paul tries to separate faith and belief from obedience, but these cannot be separated. He who has no faith has no belief, and has no reason to obey God; but what man truly has faith and believes God yet refuses to obey Him? Abraham believed God, and was righteous because of his faith, but his faith resulted in obedience to God, which brought God's blessings (Genesis 22:16-18). Abraham's heirs were blessed because of his obedience to God's commandments, statutes and laws (Genesis 26:3-5). In addition, because of his obedience, all the nations of the earth would bless themselves (verse 18), in effect making them heirs through their own obedience (Isaiah 56). All of TN"K emphasizes that the promise depends not merely on faith, but on heartfelt obedience and action.
While the law was still in force, faith had not yet come (Galatians 3:23).
Refutation -- Then how does Paul explain Abraham's being justified by faith, a fact Paul himself uses in Romans 4? You cannot have it both ways. Either Abraham had faith, which meant faith had come, and was justified as Paul claims in Romans 4:3, 22 (quoting Genesis 15:6), or he didn't, in which case he wasn't justified by faith. Which is it? Is Paul speaking out of both sides of his mouth?
Paul, using the allegory of the bondwoman and the freewoman, told us to cast out the law because the sons of the law could not be heirs with the sons of the Gospel (Galatians 4:21-31).
Refutation -- Paul's allegory does not fit the story of Abraham and his two sons. Hagar and the seed of her son, Ishmael, were not given the law, and were not heirs. That woman of bondage had no law; her seed had no inheritance. But the seed of Sarah, the freewoman, and her son, Isaac, were given the law, and were heirs. And this was the Gospel of Jesus, that the promise - the kingdom of God - was near (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15), and only those who repented of their sins (Mark 1:15) and kept the law would see it (Matthew 5:19-20; 19:17; 25:34-36; Mark 10:17-19). Those who are without law are in bondage, while those who hold the law dear are free.
Dead to Torah
We are dead to the law by the body of Christ in order that we may be married to Christ (Romans 7:4).
Refutation -- The whole attempt at logic in the first several verse of Romans 7 fails, if in nothing else, in its twisted, confusing scheme. Paul establishes that the living are commanded to obey the law, and rightly shows that the law prohibiting adultery no longer applies to a woman whose husband has died*. But then he shifts the analogy and writes that we are freed from the law because of our own vicarious death through our husband's (Jesus) death. How he got from point A (our release from the law because of our husband's death) to point B (we died when our husband died) is never explained, and we are left to just take his word for it. In real life, the wife usually does not die vicariously when her husband dies, so she is not released from obeying the rest of the law.
Paul would have made more sense if he had written that we were married to the law, but because Jesus' death ended the law (in his opinion, not God's), then the law was dead and we are then free to marry Jesus. But that isn't what Paul wrote, nor would it be true if he had written that, because the law is eternal; God's statutes and laws are to be kept forever (see the laws regarding the sacrifices, feasts etc. in Leviticus; Psalms 119:151, 152, 160; etc.).
The main reason this symbolism fails is because there is no relationship between Jesus' life or death and our obligation to keep Torah. The woman is no longer bound to the law of marriage after her husband dies, but his death has no bearing on her obligation to obey the rest of the law. Paul's attempt to use symbolism and allegory to convince us that we are no longer obliged to keep Torah just doesn't pass the ring of truth test, and I refuse to take his word on faith, when I have God's word to the contrary.
* That doesn't mean the law is done away with, it just means that this particular law no longer applies to her. This state occurs often, where some laws do not apply to someone. For instance, a man is not bound to the laws governing a woman's menstrual cycle, and women are not bound to the laws governing the shaving of a beard while in mourning. For another example, no one but priests are bound to the laws governing the priesthood, and the laws of sacrifice no longer apply without a purified temple in Jerusalem.
The law is called the "enmity" and Christ slew it, taking it out of the way (Ephesians 2:16).
Refutation -- The law is a blessing; those who strive to keep it are friends of God. It is those who willfully ignore it who are the enemies of God. Messiah will not "slay" Torah, since it is an eternal covenant. In truth, he will bring it to the nations (Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 8:23; 14:16-19).
Torah is a set of commands for how to live life correctly. In a way, they are analogous to traffic laws, which are a set of commands for how to drive on public streets. If one person drives all his life without breaking a single traffic law, can that slay the laws and justify the rest of us to ignore them? Did this person fulfill the traffic laws for all of us?
Torah: the Law of Sin and Death, or of Life?
The Old Testament law was the "law of sin and death," while the "law of life" is in Christ (Romans 8:2).
Refutation -- The law brings death only to the lawless -- those who refused to obey it -- while obedience to it gives life and blessings.
Deuteronomy 30:19, 20:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love Yihweh thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which Yihweh sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; And the law is light; And reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Proverbs 13:14 The law of the wise is a fountain of life, That one may depart from the snares of death.
The Old Testament law killed, but the New Testament law gives life through Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6).
The Old Testament law "written and graven in stones" was the "ministration of death" (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8).
The Old Testament law was the "ministration of condemnation" (2 Corinthians 3:9).
Refutation -- As was shown above, the main theme of TN"K is that obedience to the law gives life. It is Paul's "New Testament law" -- which teaches that the Torah is dead, and causes one to fall from grace and therefore should be shunned and disobeyed -- that brings death and cursing. I cannot help but hear in Paul's "gospel" the echo of the serpent's words to Eve, telling her the exact opposite of what God told her, "You shall not surely die!"
Revealed, yet Veiled?
The Old Testament Scriptures were "veiled" to all those under the old law (2 Corinthians 3:14).
Refutation -- So, God revealed His instructions to a people who couldn't understand it, or He then made sure they couldn't understand it by placing a veil over it? I'm not buying it. God told the Hebrews it was not hidden from them, and not out of their reach:
10 If thou shalt obey the voice of Yihweh thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law; if thou turn unto Yihweh thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
And what is implied in Paul's assertion is the ludicrous notion that (a) God wasted His time revealing His scripture to His chosen people, because they couldn't understand it and He was unable to clarify it to them, or He hid the meaning from them while telling them the opposite, and (b) where God's chosen people couldn't understand His revelation, it took the Gentile pagans -- who were not chosen by God -- to interpret the Scriptures through their pagan worldview, the same worldview and practices that God condemns over and over as complete abominations. These pagans interpreted the Hebrew's Messiah as yet one more version of the same divine god-man / son of a god that had been common in various pagan mystery religions (e.g., Osiris, Dionysus, Mithra, and others) for many centuries before Jesus was born.
There was no Holy Spirit under the law to guide unto all truth (Galatians 3:1-5).
Refutation -- YHWH has no body that is separate from His spirit; He is spirit, and He is holy. It was He who gave Torah to the Hebrews, He who sent the prophets to guide them into all truth, therefore the Holy Spirit, i.e., God, did indeed guide all unto the truth and righteousness through the law.
Torah: Blessing or Curse?
All under the Old Testament law were under a curse (Galatians 3:10).
Refutation -- Again, only if they disobeyed. Those who obeyed were under a blessing. (Deuteronomy 7:11-13; 11:26, 27; 30:19, 20; Psalms 24:3-5)
Christ has "redeemed" us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).
Refutation -- The only ones who can redeem us from the curse of disobedience is God through His forgiveness, and ourselves through our repentance, prayer and obedience. No human can pay the penalty for sin but the sinner himself (Deut. 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20, 22).
By corollary, no one can keep the law for another person. To say this can happen is like saying that you can keep the traffic laws for me, and that if one person can keep all traffic laws perfectly for many years, then he has fulfilled these laws and therefore the government will repeal all traffic laws, after crucifying the one who kept them perfectly, of course.
The Jew had to be redeemed from the curse of the law to receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:1-5).
Refutation -- The Jew could redeem himself and be blessed by the law through that obedience.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command thee this day, to do them. And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, that Yihweh thy God will keep with thee the covenant and the lovingkindness which he sware unto thy fathers: and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; he will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy ground, thy grain and thy new wine and thine oil, the increase of thy cattle and the young of thy flock, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
In that I command thee this day to love Yihweh thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that thou mayest live and multiply, and that Yihweh thy God may bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.
See also Deut. 11:26, 27; 30:19, 20; Psalms 24:3-5.
Purpose of Torah
The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-26).
Refutation -- And so we are then to abandon the knowledge and rules given by this schoolmaster? I earned a minor in mathematics, and I had a lot of schoolmasters who taught me math. The idea was to bring me to an understanding and appreciation of the physical world. But once I graduated and was out from under their tutelage, how foolish would I be to abandon the rules they taught me that guide me to answer real-life mathematical problems; I do not add 2 + 2 and get 7, or multiply 3 by 1 and get zero. So, even if the law was to bring us to Messiah, how could that mean we should then disobey it?
Also, the thrust of every Messianic prophecy shows clearly that we will not need to be brought to Messiah, nor will we need faith to believe that he is Messiah. He will come to us, and in those days the whole world will know who he is.
The law was but a shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1).
Refutation -- This is correct, but not in the way that the author of Hebrews believed. The shadow was that the law is currently only obeyed by the Hebrew; the good things to come are that the nations will eventually all keep Torah.
The law made nothing perfect (Hebrews 7:19).
Refutation -- King David disagrees with that assertion, in Psalms 19:7, 8.
John the Baptist, the greatest man the law could produce, was less than the least under the Gospel (Matthew 11:11).
Refutation -- Why does Paul think that John the Baptist is the "greatest man the law could produce?"
Who Has a Savior, and When?
It is those who have been baptized into Christ that are in Christ. Those under law were without a Saviour (Galatians 3:27-29).
Refutation -- I don't see where Tomlinson gets this notion from those verses in Galatians. But in case this is a common conception in Christianity, I'll let TN"K speak for itself on this point:
2 Samuel 22:3, "The God who is my rock, in Him I take refuge; my shield, and my horn of salvation, my high tower, and my refuge; my saviour." King David, who was under the law, speaking here.
Psalms 106:21, "They forgot God their saviour, who had done great things in Egypt;" King David, who was under the law, speaking here.
Isaiah 43:3, "For I am the LORD thy God, The Holy One of Israel, thy saviour; I have given Egypt as thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee." God speaking through Isaiah, to Israel, who was under the law.
Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside Me there is no saviour." Ditto.
Isaiah 45:15, "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the saviour." Ditto.
Isaiah 45:21, "Declare ye, and bring them near, yea, let them take counsel together: Who hath announced this from ancient time, and declared it of old? Have not I the LORD? And there is no God else beside Me, a just God and a saviour; there is none beside Me." Ditto.
Isaiah 49:26, "And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy saviour, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." Ditto.
Isaiah 60:16, "Thou shalt also suck the milk of the nations, and shalt suck the breast of kings; and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy saviour, and I, the Mighty One of Jacob, thy Redeemer." Ditto.
Isaiah 63:8, "For He said: ‘Surely, they are My people, children that will not deal falsely’; so He was their saviour." Ditto.
Jeremiah 14:8, "O Thou hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?"
Hosea 13:4, "Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou knowest no God but Me, and beside Me there is no saviour." God speaking through Hosea, to Israel, who was under the law.
Bondage of Torah
Only Christ makes us free. The law is a "yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1).
Refutation -- Messiah will make us free from the bondage of the tyrannical and wicked, God-hating, heathen nations, but he will bring us and all mankind to live under the Law of God (Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 8:23; 14:16-19).
Those who return to the law, return to the weak and beggarly elements and desire to return to bondage (Galatians 4:9).
Refutation -- Those who remain without Torah (law) are lawless, "And sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4) Torah gives strength and is anything but "beggarly," Psalms 19:7 (19-8) "The law (Torah) of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple." The weak and beggarly cannot "restore the soul." And if righteousness and blessings comes through "bondage" to God and His law, then I choose that bondage over that of lawlessness and the resulting curses.
Justification and Salvation By Torah
Those claiming to be justified by the law are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
Refutation -- Those claiming to be justified without the law have no salvation. (Matthew 19:17-19)
The hope of righteousness was never by the law (Galatians 5:5, 6).
Refutation -- Paul wrote (verse 5), "For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness." But the prophets beg to differ. And could Paul not make up his mind? If there is no righteousness (i.e., justification) by Law, then why does he say the opposite in Romans 2:13 ("...the doers of the Law will be justified.")?
Paul wished those were impotent who taught salvation by the old law (Galatians 5:12).
Refutation -- Jesus foretold the same for those who teach lawlessness. (Matthew 5:19)
Christ's death did not save the Jew, but only broke down the middle wall of partition (the law) between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:13-15).
Refutation -- Jesus' death did not, and could not, save anyone, Jew or Gentile.
Because no one can save another's soul by his own death, no "middle wall of partition" was broken down; the Jews are still required to obey God and keep Torah, and the Gentiles are still in their sins.