Do you know Paul?

14 April 2020

Series: Bible study

Do you know Paul?

Ask any mainstream Christian about Paul the Apostle, and they would tell you how God gave him the revelation of salvation by grace through faith. They would tell you how Paul God revealed to Paul how we are now under grace and no longer law. Have you ever wondered if Paul would have agreed? Did God give him a special revelation, or are most mainstream Christians deceived into believing a lie about him? Only the Bible can answer this question for us.

Paul is often presented to us as the epitome of the conflict between grace and law, Christianity, and Judaism. Until his conversion in Acts 9, he was a zealous Jew who brutally murdered every Jew who had converted to Christianity. But then, because of the grace of God, Jesus intervened on the road to Damascus, and Paul became a Christian. This is how our pastors have presented Paul to us, and this is the reason why so many of us have accepted the idea that “Christ came to start Christianity.” But what if this is not the real Paul? What if we have a wrong impression of Paul because most of us never read the Bible, so we only base our opinion on what our pastors are telling us?

In Gal 1:14, Paul is referring to his life as a Jew before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. What Paul says in Gal 1:14 will prove to us if we have a wrong impression of him or a right impression of him. If Pauls’s own words in Gal 1:14 do not match up with what our pastors have told us, then we have to reject what they have told us in favor of Pauls’s own words.

In Gal 1:14, Paul says he was extremely zealous for the tradition of my fathers. When Paul says the tradition of his fathers, he uses the Greek word paradoseon. This is the same word Jesus uses in Matt 15:2-3 when He rebukes the Pharisees for making traditions of men more important than the law of God.

What is this tradition of men, Paul, and Jesus refers to?

The answer is in Acts 9 and Matt 15:2. The Pharisees rebuke Yeshua (Jesus/Yehoshua) disciples for breaking the tradition of elders by not washing their hands before they eat. There is no commandment in God’s law, the written Torah (the written law of Moses) telling us to wash our hands before we eat. There is, on the other hand, a commandment saying we are to wash our hands before we eat in a specific manner, but this is in the Oral Torah.

What is the “oral Torah?”

The Oral Torah can best be compared to a Bible commentary. It consists of Rabbinical opinions and interpretations of the written Torah, and many times, you will find two conflicting commandments in the Oral Torah because two Rabbies could not agree with each other. The Oral Torah is the traditions of men, the opinions and interpretations of men, and it is not legally binding today. Why do we know it is not legally binding?

Because of Yeshua, in Matt 15:2-3, 23:2, Mark 7:6-8,13 and Paul in Colossians 2:8,23 and Galatians tells us never to obey the traditions of men. We are only to obey Yehovah and His law, the written Torah (the written law of Moses.)

We see the same thing in Acts 9 when it describes how Paul went from house to house, capturing Jews who had come to faith in Yeshua as their Messiah. In the Oral Torah, it says a Jew who decides to disobey the traditions of his fathers or willfully breaks the written Torah has sinned. Any Jew who is still obedient to the traditions of their fathers have, in the Oral Torah, an obligation to punish the backslidden Jews. If they do not punish them, the Oral Torah says they are sinning against Yehovah.

This is why Paul is persecuting the church because he sees them as backslidden Jews, and he sees it as his duty to see that they are punished for it.

How does the Bible describe Paul the Apostle before his salvation?

As a man obedient to and zealous for what is called the Oral Torah. What is the Oral Torah? The Oral Torah is not the same thing as the written Torah; the Oral Torah is the traditions of men, opinions of men, and doctrines of men. It has nothing to do with what most Christians understand as “the law of Moses.”

So what happened on the road to Damascus?

In Paul’s own words, in Galatians 1-2, he had a revelation of Yeshua. What does it mean when Paul says he had a revelation of Yeshua?

Paul answers this for us in Gal 2:4 and Acts 15. In Gal 2:4, he is referring to what happened in Acts 15 when the circumcision party caused troubles for the newly converted Gentiles. In Acts 15:1 the circumcision party says Gentiles who believe in Yeshua must be circumcised according to the tradition of Moses. Nowhere in the written Torah does it say gentiles have to be circumcised to become part of Israel. It only says they have to decide to join Israel, keep Yehovahs Shabbats and love His law (Isaiah 56:3-7.) So here again, we have this important word tradition; telling us Acts 15 is not about the written law of Moses; it is about the Oral Torah. Paul, with the rest of the Apostles, decides in Acts 15, the Oral Torah is not legally binding for anyone.

What Paul decides here in Acts 15 shows us partly what he is referring to in Gal 1-2 and 5:1 when he mentioned he had a revelation of Yeshua. When Paul says he had a revelation of Yeshua, he is referring to Yeshua’s teachings. He taught His disciples to obey only the written Torah. This is why Paul, in Gal 5:1, says we are free in Christ because we are free from legalism, which in Paul’s opinion is the same thing as obedience to the Oral Torah.

The other revelation Paul had is this: Even though he was zealous for the Oral Torah, every Pharisee knew what the sacrificial system in the written Torah required of them. Paul knew the sacrificial system was well able to atone for unintentional sins but not able to atone for intentional sins. So if a Jew committed a deliberate sin, the sacrificial system and the written Torah said they would be lost forever and cut off from their people. The written Torah says how they should be punished, but it clearly says the punishment is only to be done by the priests in the temple. To this, the Oral Torah disagrees and says people like that have to be punished by every Jew who is still faithful to the traditions of men, and as we have already seen, this was why Paul persecuted the church.

When Paul understood what Christ had done on the cross and how His death atones for intentional AND unintentional sins, he saw himself as free from the obligations in the oral Torah to punish a backslidden Jew. He also understood how the cross, for the first time in history, says we are free from our intentional sins and the curses in Deut 28:14-48 if we accept what Yeshua did for us. So if we accept the cross, we are free to live in obedience and love to Yehovah by the written Torah.

Did Paul have a revelation of salvation by grace through faith? No, the Bible does not agree.
Did God reveal to Paul we are now under grace and not law? No, the Bible does not agree.

What would Paul tell us, we who are alive today in 2020? He would say we can all be forgiven for our intentional sins if we accept the cross. By accepting the cross, we are free to obey Yehovah and His Torah, the written law of Moses. He would warn us never to obey the traditions of men or doctrines of men, and if we do not listen to his warnings, Paul would say we are in danger of making Christ of no effect and lose our liberty. He would tell us time and time again; true freedom is found only in obedience to Yehovah’s Torah, the written law of Moses and the cross. At no point would he tell us not to obey the written law of Moses.

As we have seen today, most Christians dont know Paul. They base their knowledge of Paul on what their pastor tells them, and most of their pastors dont know him either, so they give their congregation a wrong impression of him. Because most Christians dont know Paul, their faith is false built on a lie, and they are in danger of making Christ to no effect.

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