There is a large amount of controversy today surrounding the writings of Paul. Some say that his writings indicate that God’s commandments have passed away and we are free from the law. Some use Paul’s teachings as an excuse to continue in sin because God’s grace covers all (Grace Doctrines). Some discount Paul as a valid teacher all together because of the confusion that surrounds his writings. It is important to first understand that Paul was confirmed as a valid teacher by Peter himself, but Peter warned us in advance, that the “unlearned” will twist Paul’s writings to their own destruction. In other words, Peter warns us that those that don’t know the entire testimony of the bible will misuse these writings:
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” ~ 2 Peter 3:13-16
This passage tells us two main things. First Peter tells us that ALL of the espitles of Paul are valid, and second he tells us that many of Pauls epistles will be “hard to understand” and they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (or twist) them to their own destruction. So hopefully we can at least agree that the writings of Paul are valid for us today. In these writings when examined closely, there is an enormous amount of wisdom to be found. There are also many of what some will call “contradictions” that Paul makes in his own writings. These “contradictions” have led to hundreds of twisted doctrines of the gospel, because as Peter warned- many in fact have twisted Pauls writings. To understand Pauls writings- there are a few concepts that must be understood: Righteousness, Sin, Law, Transgression, The Promise, Walking in the Flesh, and Walking in the Spirit. Their meanings can be identified in the scriptures.
Righteousness– To walk in God’s ways, laws, commandments, statutes, ordinances etc:
“And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us.” ~ Deuteronomy 6:25
“Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law“ ~ Isaiah 51:7
“And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” ~ Luke 1:6
Sin & Transgression– To disobey God’s laws, statutes, ordinances etc:
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” ~ 1 John 3:4
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” ~ Romans 7:7
Law– The term “Torah” which was translated to mean “Law” literally means “teaching”. The primary purpose of the law was to teach. God’s law is a compilation of Commandments, Statutes, Ordinances etc. given through Moses to the Israelites. The cornerstone of the law was found in the Ten Commandments which can be found in Exodus 20, or on the “God’s Rules” page of this site. The remainder of the law can be found throughout the books of Exodus and Leviticus. God’s law was given two “roles” in scripture:
1. The Instructor– Again refer to Romans 7:7 above. The law teaches us what sin is. It teaches us what God’s ways are, the path that God wants us to walk in, and the perfect will of God. It is by the law that we know when we are in sin.
2. The Custodian– With the law comes a judicial role in that those that are under the law will be sentenced to death for sin. Until one comes to Jesus in true repentence for their sin and cleanses themselves in his blood- one remains under the law and subject to the death penalty. When someone comes to Jesus in repentance, they are reborn through baptism and no longer walk in the lusts of the flesh, but rather walk in the Spirit of God. Remember that repentence means to truly feel sorry for our sins, and to change our lives to become obedient to God. Repentence does not mean- saying sorry God, and continuing in your sin. A choice to continue in sin places the chooser back “under the law” with the penalty of death- not under grace.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.“ ~ Romans 6:23
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” ~Ezekiel 18:20
“For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” ~ Romans 7:5-6
To make clear this last bible verse- in both the OT and NT, men “served” god but Paul here is saying that under the old covenant men served God by recognizing and obeying God’s law (of the letter) outwardly, but in the new covenant men could now serve God in “newness of spirit” in that God’s law is now within our heart (See “God’s New Covenant” page). It is a part of our being. It is not a chore any more but we obey out of true love in the heart for the father the creator and our neighbor. When considering the entire testimony of the bible, it reveals that we must do more than simply believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. Even Satan and his demons believe in Jesus Christ. Rather, the testimony of the bible reveals that repentance is required in our approach to the Savior, accompanied by a true change in us (with the helper, the Holy Spirit) towards obedience to God and his laws and ways from the heart.
The Promise– Paul in several instances refers to “the promise”. To understand this promise, we have to look at the Old and New Covenant. There is much more clarification of this on the “God’s New Covenant” Page. To give you the jist of this promise, we can look to the Old Testament:
“And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” ~ Genesis 26:4-5
“For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” ~ Jeremiah 7:22-23
So you can see the original promise of God- Obey my voice, commandments, statutes and laws and walk in the ways that I have commanded you, and I will be your God and you shall be my people. This is the original promise that was given to Abraham and Moses, and this also is the promise that Paul is referring to.
Walking in the Flesh Vs. Walking in the Spirit– These two terms are opposing. According to the scriptures, walking in (or after) the flesh means to walk and live in sin (disobedience to God’s laws). In contrast, walking in (or after) the spirit means to walk in righteousness (obedience to God’s laws) according to God’s law. This could be characterised as the struggle within, of every human being:
“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” ~ Romans 8:4
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” ~ Galatians 5:16
THE GENTILE CITIES
One mistake that is often made is that Pastors or Ministers take one verse from Paul and establish a doctrine from it. The writings of Paul are in depth and detailed. Without looking at an entire book written by Paul all at the same time- his writings can become twisted. For this reason, Pauls writings require study of the entire text- not just one text here or there. Also a study of Pauls writings requires an understanding of the issues of that time period. Paul was for the most part preaching to the Gentiles (with the exception of the book of Hebrews). These Gentiles were living in Gentile cities that were rampant with idolatry, sacrificing animals for their many gods and eating the animals that were left over, worshipping and recognizing many pagan holidays that were not established by God and the list goes on. These first gentile christians were a people that were under scrutiny in their cities because obviously they didn’t fit in. Their ways (which were a reflection of God’s ways) were very different from the ways of the people in the cities where they lived. These things must all be taken into account when reading the writings of Paul.
With the understanding of these biblical concepts- any reader of Pauls writings will be able to see that Paul doesn’t at all contradict himself. So now that you understand what Righteousness, Sin, Transgression, Law, the Roles of the Law, The Promise, Walking in the Flesh, Walking in the Spirit and the Time Period of the first gentile Christian Churches, read his writings with this understanding. Pauls writings get twisted when men don’t understand the bible’s meaning of these terms.
Many “Grace Doctrines” today teach that since we are no longer under the law, but we are under grace- God’s commandments have passed away and we are no longer required to obey them. One can only come to this conclusion by taking a small piece of scripture alone- and not by taking the entire testimony into account. Paul is careful in this testimony to bring clarity to the fact that we still must continue walking in the spirit of God in “righteousness” free from sin (no longer sinning). With the help of the Holy Spirit, God’s law is written into our heart. We then obey His law from the heart. Again- whenever you read the writings of Paul, you must recall the definitions that were outlined above whose definitions are identified in the scriptures themselves. Here is some of the clarity Paul provided concerning his epistles:
“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” ~ Romans 3:31
“For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” ~ Romans 2:11-16
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” ~ Romans 6:1-2
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” ~ Romans 6:15-18
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” ~ Galatians 2:17-18
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, ~ Hebrews 10:26
Grace is a wonderful gift from God, not to be perverted or twisted by men. According to Paul himself, the Apostle who is known for bringing the Gospel of Grace, he tells us that when we come to Jesus in repentence, we come under grace and we are no longer under the law with the penalty of death. Paul also tells us that if we decide to return to a life of sin (Disobeying God’s law), we again become a transgressor- and if we choose to obey sin it is “unto death”. We are “servants to whom we obey” either of righteousness (obedience to God’s laws) unto life, or sin unto death. Please don’t fall into this trap. We encourage you to become familiar with all of God’s laws, his commandments, etc and obey them from the heart as the New Covenant requires. You can find information on the “God’s New Covenant”, “Why Follow the Commandments”, and “God’s Rules” pages of this site. We also encourage you to read and study all of Paul’s writings with an understanding of these definitions. You will see a new light shed on his writings which were at one time difficult to understand. We hope that this will help you in your studies. Be careful of grace doctrines- we were warned:
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Jude 1:4