Messianic Solutions to Problems of Paul
Messianic leaders generally solve the problems which Paul presents to a Torah observant life by BENIGN means. This means these are well-intentioned arguments. However, I believe these benign positions are Biblically incorrect. That means they are intended to be helpful to a Torah observant life but they are also untrue. We should seek truth instead, and it will "set us free," Jesus / Yahshua told us.
Incorrect harmonizations of Paul to Jesus / Yahshua presents a subtle danger. A Messianic leader might give Paul validity in a way the leader did not expect. As a result, such a teaching can prove spiritually harmful to the congregant later. When the truth is discovered, the congregant may decide to follow Paul not Jesus under the doctrine of dispensationalism that predominates outside Messianic churches. Under dispensationalism, the commands of Jesus end up relegated to a prior dispensation that is now supposedly correctly abrogated by Paul. The congregant is left unarmed against dispensationalism by the Messianic leader's endorsement of Paul as equally inspired as Jesus / Yahshua.
Anyway, I will explain this point about incorrect harmonizations by the illustration which the following video provides. In it, a Messianic Rabbi seeks to rebut the "anti-Paul" segment that keep approaching him apparently from within his own congregation. See this link.
The Messianic Leader Says Paul Meant Merited Favor by Grace
This video is called Paul - False Prophet or Torah Teacher. The leader solves the tension between Yahshua and Paul by defining "grace" as "merited favor" in Ephesians 2:8-9. The leader then asks at 54:20 of the video what brings merited favor? His answer is "obedience." Hence, Paul supposedly upholds Yahshua / Jesus' teachings that indeed support such a view of grace or favor. But is the meaning of grace in Ephesians 2:8-9 truly one of merited favor? No.
The leader is trying to line Paul up with Yahshua / Jesus by using Yahshua's usage of "charis" -- grace -- in the 4 uses that appear in Luke's Gospel. Clearly, in each use, Jesus / Yahshua means "merited favor."
NOTE: Grace in these Lucan passages is translated in a manner that most Christians are not permitted to even see the word is "grace" present four times. The typical Christian is thus unable to deduce that Jesus is saying grace is merited in these 4 usages. See our article Meaning of Grace by Jesus versus by Paul.
But this leader knows that grace or favor can also be given without merit, i.e., without obedience. The word grace means only favor. The context tells you whether the intention is that it is merited or unmerited. In Jesus' usage, it is clearly a merited grace or favor. But what about Paul's usage?
The very passage the leader is quoting from -- Ephesians 2:8-9 -- is the antithesis of merited favor. The leader even defines merited favor to mean favor acquired by obedience. The leader is ignoring Paul continues after saying in 2:8-9 that we are "saved by grace," that it is "not of works lest anyone should boast." If grace is merited by obedience, then it is merited by works. Paul necessarily has a view of grace that it is unmerited. This excludes "obedience," and hence the "favor" in Paul's mind is unmerited, not merited in Ephesians 2:8-9. So the leader's effort to line up Paul with Jesus is by bending and twisting Paul unreasonably -- yet I assume in good faith and with a benign purpose -- to line up with Jesus' usage of grace / charis in Luke's Gospel as merited favor.
Messianic leaders have benign intent but their views about Paul are often unreasonable. The aim is benign in the sense that it keeps the congregation following Yahshua and God's Law At the same time, because their views are unreasonable, and a spiritual person seeking truth should find this out, it can lead to disillusionment among individuals which can have negative spiritual results. They could turn from the teachings in the gospels from Yahshua / Jesus and choose Paul instead, using modern dispensational logic that prefers Paul's words over Yahshua's words in the gospels.
Hence, the Messianic leader is not guarding his congregant from how to solve the dilemma that the NT presents us having to choose between the doctrines on salvation by Jesus - merited favor -- and that of Paul -- unmerited favor.
Thus, I urge the leaders over Messianic congregants to teach the truth even if it is hard, goes against the grain of the majority, and takes you outside your comfort zone. Yahshua taught the truth bravely. Let's follow Yahshua even in his examples, and not just in his words.
Others with similar benign goals claim Romans 7 is not endorsing the end of the Law. Again, this is not valid based upn the word choices of Paul. We can agree on the benign aim of the video-author Jazmine, but her claims that Paul teaches the Law continues are not true. See her video Book of Romans Review Part I -- Is Christianity Following Paul's True Words?
Example #1: At video 3:01, the video author Jazmine contends Paul is "honoring" the Law when he says in "glory and honor and peace to all men, the Jew first and then the Gentile," citing Romans 2:10. I don't see that. But you can see it if you 'squint' to imagine it is there. But it is not. This is again, a benign truth I wish were true -- to put an end to Lawless teaching against the Master's directions. However, the problem of Paul is not solved by such imagined meanings not present in a text.
Example #2. The video author Jazmine is next correct that Paul says in Romans 2:13 that the doers of the law are justified, but she has to realize by the time we get to Romans 4:3-5 that Paul now says faith accomplishes justification alone without works of the law. And it's very clear he means that Abraham was justified while he was ungodly, and had no works and no repentance. Paul was relying upon a mistaken translation of Genesis 15:6 in the Septuagint Greek from 257 BC. Regardless it's still Paul's view and undercuts the statement in Romans 2:13. However, the video-author skips over that key passage in Romans 4.
This is a significant oversight because it is Romans 4:3-5 that allows one to claim you can accomplish the works of the law by faith alone causing God to count your faith as full compliance with all the law without you actually having to perform any works of the Law. Hence it is a crucial oversight of the video author who has selectively – unconsciously it seems – chosen passages where Paul is saying only those who are doers of the law will be justified.
More important, at the 14:32-42 mark of the video, the video author Jazmine quotes Romans 3:28 where Paul says that we're justified by faith "without the works of the law." But she doesn't see that this directly contradicts Romans 2:13 where Paul says the "doers of the Law are justified." Which way is it Paul?
What is going on? Paul is preparing us for Romans 4:3-5 which explains how by faith alone one becomes a doer of all the law without actually obeying the Law.
What the video author Jazmine is ignoring in the bigger picture is that Paul is using rhetorical advances into enemy territory by affirming principles that sound like he agrees that the Law continued. Then step-by-step he undermines it. By the time we get to Romans chapter 7, it is clear he is claiming that Christ is the end of the law. Paul means that the Law actually is abrogated and died when the husband died. In fact, Romans 7 is another problematical passage.
We prove in another article that Paul meant in Romans 7:1-7 that the husband of Israel -- Yahweh -- died when Jesus died (as the father indwelled Jesus), but when Christ resurrected the bonds to the law were not revived. And unfortunately that means that Yahweh implicitly remains dead. For if the husband revived, the bonds of the Law would have continued, if one tracks Paul's explanation why the Law is now dead. Scholars of Christian background realize this horrific implication, and typically say that this passage could not have been written in a way Paul truly intended, and it is supposedly preferable we simply "ignore" what Paul is saying in Romans 7:1-7. That's how horrible it is. See our article Paul Says The God of Sinai is Dead.
Paul is not only saying the law is dead, but also that the one who gave it -- the father and husband of Israel -- died. This is how Paul can proclaim in Romans 7 that Christ is the "end of the law" – putting the Law to death by putting to death on the cross that husband of God's people who gave them the Law. This is what Paul is clearly saying, and this is how the early gnostics even read it. Christianity in the 2d century condemned the gnostics who relied upon Paul, but never could the early church refute that this is what Paul actually was saying. Thus, early Christianity abhorred this gnostic teaching, but there it is staring at us from the pages of Paul's Romans chapter 7.
This same wonderful sister has a part 2 analysis to prove in Romans that Paul reaffirms the Law. You will find it at this link. But right away it turns ironic. For she cites Paul's self-contradictions that without the Law there is no way to know what is sin, and then she expresses upset that people do not read these verses to realize Paul cannot affirm this and then abrogate the Law. For obviously then Paul would be leaving us without the very writings that would tell us what sin is. She says at the 2:31 mark:
"I am tired of people of pulling a couple of verses out to try and prove the Law is no longer. You cannot understand Paul with a fragment of his passages. His writing style is complicated. You have to read everything in its context."
You have to forgive this sister, for she has likely never studied techniques of sophistry. Their logic is to destroy propositions they appear at first to agree upon. They are slippery, and you cannot go down the slope with them or you will fall into a pit. Paul is the consummate sophist. For he praises the Law only to clearly undercut it by means that are in the end consistent-- the trump card of justification by faith alone attributing all the works of the Law to your account with God. Paul then fully consistently can say in Romans 7 that moving forward the Law is dead and finished.
Our sister avoids this problem by skipping over all the implications of problem passages that contradict her views -- such as Romans 3:28 that says we are justified without the "works of the Law." She quoted it, but did not compare it to 2:13 where Paul says "only the doers of the Law are justified." These propositions cannot both be true unless one takes into account Romans 4:3-5.
Sophists do this technique too...affirming what they know you want to hear, knowing then you will let your guard down, and then they seemingly contradict themselves, leaving you in a puzzle where you now will wait to see how the author reconciles the passages. Yet while you wait to hear the solution, the sophist has made sure you cannot attack the sophist as anti-law for he or his supporters will go back and quote the earlier pro-law verse.
Our sister also tries to explain Romans 7:1-7. She concedes here Paul does mean the Torah is abrogated, but she tries to claim Paul only means the judgment aspects of the Law are abrogated. Our sister does not explain what she means by judgment aspects of the Law. She leaves it up to you to imagine what it could mean. Our sister becomes just another one of the commentators who say "Paul says this, but he really means this."
Our sister also overlooked the fact that if she's correct about Paul's meaning, then Jesus has already condemned this as well. For in Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for teaching on the less important command of the tithe, but leaving undone the more important aspects of the law which Jesus says includes three things: judgment, mercy and faith. Hence, what Paul says is abrogated -- its judgments (according to our sister) -- matches the first of those three aspects Jesus condemns the Pharisees for leaving undone from the Law. See Matthew 23:23. The word "judgment" used by Jesus truly means the legal principles of right and wrong. That is the judgment of the law of what is wrong and what is right. If our sister is correct, then Paul is supposedly legitimately tearing down an important component of the law according to Jesus – its directions of right and wrong.
Moreover, even if our sister had a narrower belief of what the word "judgment" of the Law means, as she used it to reinterpret Paul in Romans 7, it still doesn't insulate Paul from contradicting Jesus. For Jesus said not one jot or title of the law will pass out of the Law until all things come to pass and the heavens and earth pass away. This necessarily includes the judgment of the law, whatever that may mean in our sister's reinterpretation of what Paul meant to abrogate from the Law.
Our sister also ends up reinterpreting Paul's statement in Roman 7 in a manner to deflect Paul's blasphemy against the law, and thus Paul's unwinding of all his prior positive statements about the law. Paul says that he would never have known to covet his neighbor' goods, and sin was as good as dead until Paul read the law's command against coveting. (This is one of the Ten Commandments.) By reading the law, Paul was destroyed, so he says.
Our sister spins this to mean "based on the 50,000 times prior that Paul endorsed the law" that Paul truly means that the problem is with us and not the law. But our sister is now contradicting Paul. For Paul indicates he would not have coveted had he not read the law to not do so. Paul blames the law for arousing sinful thoughts. Paul attributes to himself innocent motivation whether to steal absent the law telling him not to covet. Paul depicts that the problem is not our sin nature, but is the law itself.
Now you might say that at least she fixed the problem. But you see these assertions are temporary Band-Aids. This is because they are factually untrue, and Paul says the opposite of what she says he said. Also, what he says is a blasphemy, and our sister leaves her viewers exposed to one day reading Paul again but this time correctly. Then if they still think they have to believe everything Paul says, they will repeat such blasphemy, and the result then will be that their last condition will be far worse than their first.
The path going forward is we all must be honest about Paul's meanings.
In sum, the key point is our wonderful sister omits discussion of Romans 4:3-5 where Paul says God justifies the "ungodly." Paul explains there that faith without works justifies - "he who works not is justified by faith" for "God justifies the ungodly" because God supposedly "counts their faith as righteousness." The entire context of Romans indeed is what she ignores; she is the one quoting snippets out of full context. This is a benign delusion. Our sister is very correct generally on doctrine from the few videos I have watched. But on her forced squeezing in of Paul to affirm the Law as something to obey in fact in his Epistles, our esteemed sister is straining at the gnat. It does not work.