In Deut 7.9, we read, “Know therefore that Yehovah your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his Torah.”
Most Christians, and most pastors, seldom if ever, take the time to study the Old Testament. The Old Testament is deemed irrelevant for Christians under the New Covenant, and the reason for this is they have a wrong impression of Paul.
Over the years, we Christians have come to see Paul as the law-abiding legalistic Jew who gets saved on the road to Damascus and rediscovers salvation by grace through faith. In our minds, Paul rejects his former life as a law-abiding Jew; now, he rejects everything Jewish, including the entire Old Testament, and focuses only on grace. Because he has been given this “revelation of grace” on the road to Damascus, he sets out to write an addition to the Old Testament, attempting to teach us how to live by grace and not law.
I have just described how most Christians understand Paul the Apostle, but they have misunderstood Paul. Their misunderstanding of Paul comes from a choice they have made to reject the Old Testament. Paul, on the other hand, believed in the OT and preached from it. He saw the Old Testament as being very relevant and the only God-breathed scripture. If we reject Paul’s Bible (the Old Testament) or see it as irrelevant, we will have no way of understanding what Paul meant in his letters. Paul even goes as far as to say we will have no way of knowing how to be righteous if we reject the Bibel he used. We see this in 2.Timothy, where Paul says to Timothy the Old Testament is God-breathed, and it gives wisdom needed for salvation. According to Paul, in 2.Timothy, the Old Testament is the only way for us to know how to be righteous and how to be saved. So Paul even says we can not be saved if we reject the Old Testament.
Paul’s letters were all about grace and how we as believers are under grace and not law. To understand what he meant, we have to use his Bible, the Old Testament. So let us begin in Deut 7:9:
Here Yehovah says if we keep His Torah (the written law of Moses), He will keep His covenant and give us grace. What grace looks like is best described in Deut 28:1-14. Grace means Yehovah will be our God and meet all of our needs if we do what He told us to do: obey His Torah. So in the Old Testament, grace is reciprocal grace.
Jesus’s understanding of grace is best described in Matthew 6:25-34, John 14. Here we see Jesus repeating Deut 7:9 and 28:1-14; if we obey the Torah, we can trust Yehovah will give us grace. What grace looks like is best described in Matthew 6:25-34 and John 14. Here Jesus says if we obey the Torah, Yehovah will meet all our needs. He will not only meet our needs, but He will also come and live within us by His Spirit. Grace in the Gospels, and grace according to Jesus, is reciprocal grace.
So what is Paul’s understanding of grace? Is it any different from Yehovah and Jesus?
In 2.Timothy 3:15-17, Paul says, “15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Here in 2.Timothy 3:15-17, Paul is not referring to his letters or the new testament when he says all scripture is God-breathed. Paul did not have a New Testament; there would be another 3-400 years before it existed. So when Paul says all scripture is God-breathed, he is only referring to the Old Testament. This shows us how Paul is 100% in agreement with the Old Testament. Now we know Paul’s understanding of grace is reciprocal grace.
So we have Yehovah, Yeshua (Jesus), and Paul all in agreement. Grace is and will always be reciprocal grace dependent on what we do. All three agree that if we want grace, we have to obey the Torah (the written law of Moses.)
In Deut 7:9, we read, “Know therefore that Yehovah your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his Torah.” Now we know this is Paul’s understanding of grace; if we want to be under grace and not law, we have no choice but to obey the Torah. If we reject the Torah and believe it was “nailed to the cross,” we have rejected grace. According to Paul, in Galatians, if we reject grace, we choose law. If we choose law over grace, we make Christ of no effect.
Is Paul preaching salvation by works?
In Deut 7:8, we read, “8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
Here we see how salvation from Egypt was not because Israel had done anything to deserve it. They were saved from Egypt because of Abraham, Isaacs, and Jacob’s love for Yehovah. Because these three men loved Yehovah and obeyed the Torah, Yehovah gave them, and their descendants grace to be saved from Egypt. After they had been saved from Egypt, everyone had to choose whetever to stay saved or to reject salvation. The choice was between obeying or rejecting the Torah. If they obeyed, they stayed saved; if they rejected it, they lost their salvation. And as we know from the book of Exodus, only two people who left Egypt kept their salvation, Joshua and Caleb.
Because of 2.Timothy, we know for sure this is Paul’s understanding of salvation. Salvation is not something we can earn; it is given to us on account of our forefathers’ obedience. This is why salvation is a gift; we did not earn it. But salvation is dependent upon reciprocal grace. If we reject grace, we reject salvation. So, just as with the Israelites, Paul says we have a choice. It is a choice between rejecting salvation by rejecting the Torah or obeying the Torah and staying saved, living a life of reciprocal grace.
Is preaching salvation by works? No, as we have just seen, Paul preaches salvation by reciprocal grace. This is no different from salvation in the Old Testament; it was always based on reciprocal grace. This is why we see Jesus, in Matthew 7:21-23 rejecting those who did great and mighty things in His name, but at the same time, they rejected the Torah.
What it all comes down to is this, Paul says, if you reject the Torah (the written law of Moses), you reject grace. If you reject grace, Paul says in Galatians and 1.Chor 1, you have made Christ of no effect. If you obey Torah, you have rejected the law and come under grace. If you are under grace, Paul says you will not only be saved, but you will also live a life of grace where Yehovah meets your every need.
This is a choice between law or reciprocal grace. If you want to be saved and live a life of grace, you have to do what Paul says and start obeying the Torah. If you want to live a life of legalism and end up in hell when you die, you have to choose to reject the Torah.
Make the right choice today; choose grace by deciding to obey the Torah.