Did the apostle Paul keep the laws found in the Torah?




Did the apostle Paul keep the laws found in the Torah? If so, why do people reject them today?

"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Paul used every means available to him to increase his opportunity to teach the gospel message. In order to teach the Jews he lived in accordance with Jewish teachings and customs; not because he was required to follow these laws, but solely to give himself an opportunity to teach Jewish people. You see, what self-respecting Jew would listen to another man if that Jew believed the other man was not religious? Yet, when Paul lived among the Gentiles he followed Gentile customs as far as he could without violating the laws of Christ, solely so the Gentiles whom he was striving to reach would find it acceptable to listen to the message he was bringing.

So did Paul follow the laws found in the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah as the Jews now call them)? Yes he did, when he found it convenient to do so. He did not do so because it was required but because many of the laws could be followed without violating the laws of Christ. Yet at the same time, Paul strongly taught that those laws were not binding on Christians.

For example, the Torah records a law requiring circumcision. Before Paul brought Timothy among the Jews, he had him circumcised. "Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek" (Acts 16:3). Paul did not do it because God required circumcision under the law of Christ. He merely did it so Timothy would be found acceptable among the Jews in the region he would be preaching. As Paul later argues, "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (I Corinthians 7:19). Because of the change in laws, the law of circumcision which was an absolute requirement, became something of no significance. Since it did not matter whether a person was circumcised or not, Paul found it convenient to have Timothy circumcised in order that Timothy would be accepted in the Jewish community. Yet Paul adamantly refused to have Titus circumcised. "Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised" (Galatians 2:3). In fact, Paul faced down those who taught that such a thing was necessary, "to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Galatians 2:5).

Later, Paul said this about circumcision: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:1-4). Such teaching is contrary to what the Law of Moses taught. If Paul was living by that law, he had violated it by his teaching that circumcision was unnecessary.

Hence, Paul kept laws from the Torah when it was convenient and it suited his purpose, but he did not follow the law of Moses because that law had come to an end. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God" (Romans 7:4). What law was Paul referring to? Just a few verses later, Paul illustrates the law he had in mind. "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet"" (Romans 7:7). Paul quotes the last of the Ten Commandments. It was this law that had come to an end in order that it might be replaced with a greater law -- the law of Christ.

March 15, 2005