What do You Mean…. Under the Law?

What do You Mean…. Under the Law?
By
James Scott Trimm

Often when I share with Christians that the Torah is everlasting, for all generations, they respond by saying, “But we’re not under the law.”

The phrase “under the law” appears only twelve times in the Greek New Testament and only in Paul’s writings:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith,
it saith to them who are under the law:
that every mouth may be stopped,
and all the world may become guilty before God.
(Rom. 3:19 KJV)

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,
that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law,
as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21 To them that are without law, as without law,
(being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,)
that I might gain them that are without law.
(1Cor. 9:20-21 KJV)

But before faith came, we were kept under the law,
shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
(Gal. 3:23 KJV)

4  But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,
5  To redeem them that were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of sons.
(Gal. 4:4-5 KJV)

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,
do ye not hear the law?
(Gal. 4:21 KJV)

But if ye be led of the Spirit,
ye are not under the law.
(Gal. 5:18 KJV)

It is important to note that the phrase “under the law” is used in the Greek New Testament in several places where it does not appear in the original Aramaic text:

But we know that what the Torah said,
it said, to those who are in the Torah:
that every mouth might be shut,
and the entire world might be found guilty before Eloah.
(Rom. 3:19 HRV)

And to those who are without the Torah,
I was like those without the Torah,
although I am not to Eloah without the Torah,
but I am in the Torah of the Messiah that I might gain
them–even those who are without the Torah.
(1Cor. 9:21 HRV)

But until Trust comes, the Torah is guarding us,
while we shut up to trust which is ready to be revealed.
(Gal. 3:23 HRV)

The phrase “under the law” was actually read into each of these three verses by the Greek translator.  But how should we understand the phrase “under the law” in the other nine instances where it appears both in the Aramaic and in the Greek:

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew,
that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law,
as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
(1Cor. 9:20 KJV)

4  But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,
5  To redeem them that were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of sons.
(Gal. 4:4-5 KJV)

Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law,
do ye not hear the law?
(Gal. 4:21 KJV)

But if ye be led of the Spirit,
ye are not under the law.
(Gal. 5:18 KJV)

This phrase may best be understood from its usage in Rom. 6:14-15:

For sin shall not have dominion over you:
for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law,
but under grace? God forbid.
(Rom. 6:14-15 KJV)

If we look at this passage carefully we can see that Paul sees “under grace” and “under the law” as diametrically opposed, one cannot be both.

The truth is that we have always been under grace we have never been “under the law”.   In fact the real truth is that men of the “Old Testament” times were just as under grace as we are today:

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of YHWH.”
(Genesis 6:8)

“…you have also found grace in my sight….”
(Exodus 33:12)

“…for you have found grace in my sight…”
(Exodus 33:17)

“…and now I have found grace in your sight…”
(Judges 6:17)

“The people… found grace in the wilderness…”
(Jeremiah 31:2)

Thus as noble Bereans we learn from the Tanak that people in “Old Testament” times were saved by grace through faith. They could not have earned their salvation any more than we could today, as Paul writes:

“Knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Yeshua the Messiah, even we have believed in Yeshua the Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of Messiah, and not by works of the law; and by the works of the law shall no flesh be saved.”
(Galatians 2:16)

In fact the “New Testament” contains more commandments than the “Old Testament”. The New Testament contains 1050 commandments [as delineated in Dake's Annotated Reference Bible; By Finnis Jennings Dake; N.T. pp.313-316] while the “Old Testament” Mosaic Law contains only 613 (b.Makkot 23b; see Appendix). Thus faith and grace are in the “Old Testament” and law and works can be found in the New Testament. People in Old Testament times were saved by grace through faith just like people in New Testament times. Now many anomians will agree to this fact on the surface, but lets follow this thought through to its fullest conclusion. Lets go beyond the surface and really think this through. If what we have shown to be true is true, then the people in the wilderness in the days of Moses were saved by grace through faith. Now lets look at the full impact of that statement. That means that people were under grace, and saved by faith alone and not by works, when Moses was stoning people to death for violating the Torah! Obviously then being saved by grace through faith in no way affects Torah observance.

So if grace and faith do not negate the observance of Torah, then what is the true nature of faith and grace? What is faith? What is grace? Let us once again turn to the scriptures for answers.

Now part of the reason that many people have come to think that there is more “grace” in the New Testament than in the Old Testament is a translation bias in the KJV and many other English versions.

There are two words for “grace” in the Hebrew Tanak. The first word is CHEN (Strong’s 2580/2581) which means “grace or charm”. The other word is CHESED (Strong’s 2616/2617 ) which carries the meaning of “grace, mercy or undue favor.”

These two words closely parallel the meanings of the two Greek words used for grace in the Greek Bible. These are CHARIS (Strong’s 5485/5463) which means “grace or charm” and ELEOS (Strong’s 1651/1653) meaning “grace, mercy or undue favor.”

Obviously Hebrew CHEN = Greek CHARIS and Hebrew CHESED = Greek ELEOS. Now the KJV tends to translate CHEN/CHARIS as “grace” but tends to translate CHESED/ELEOS as “mercy”. Now when we think of “grace” in biblical terms we are ussually thinking of the concept of CHESED/ELEOS “undue favor”.

Now if we follow with the KJV translation scheme then it appears that there is much more grace in the New Testament than the Tanak, since CHEN only appears 70 times in the Tanak while CHARIS appears 233 times in the New Testament. But remember, the concept of “undue favor” is actually CHESED/ELEOS. CHESED appears 251 times in the Tanak, while ELEOS appears only 50 times in the New Testament. If anything there is far more “grace” in the Tanak than in the New Testament.

Now let us turn to the Tanak to get a better understanding of what grace really is. According to the Scriptures there is a close connection between “grace” and the “fear of YHWH”:

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his grace (CHESED) toward those who fear him.”
(Psalm 103:11)

“Oh let those who fear YHWH say, ‘His grace (CHESED) is everlasting.’ “
(Psalm 118:4)

“By grace (CHESED) and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of YHWH one keeps away from evil.”
(Proverbs 16:6)

And the fear of YHWH, according to the Tanak, includes Torah observance:

“…that he may learn the fear of YHWH his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to do them:”
(Deuteronomy 17:19)

“…that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear YHWH your God, and observe to do all the words of this Torah.”
(Deuteronomy 31:12)

Therefore there is clearly no conflict between grace and Torah. In fact the Torah is closely connected to grace.

This is because the Torah was created for man, man was not created for the Torah.  This is taught in the Talmud in regards to the Sabbath:

For it is holy unto you;
I.e., it [the Sabbath] is committed to your hands,
not you to its hands.”
(b.Yoma 85b)

Likewise the same concept was taught by Yeshua:

And He said to them: The Sabbath was made for a son of man,
<and not a son of man for the Sabbath.>
(Mk. 2:27 HRV)

By contrast the Essene Halacha concerning Shabbat was the strictest of any sect of Judaism. Josephus writes of the Essenes:

…they [Essenes] are stricter than any other of the Jews in resting
from their labors on the seventh day; for they not only get their food
ready the day before, that they not be obliged to kindle a fire on
that day, but they will not remove any vessel out of its place, nor go
to stool thereon.
(Wars 2:8:9)

There is a lengthy discussion of the Sabbath in the Damascus Document, I will include here only some key points:

No man shall eat on the Sabbath day aught save that which is prepared
or perishing (in the field). Nor shall one eat or drink unless in the
camp. (If he was) on the way and went down to wash he may drink where
he stands, but he shall not draw into any vessel. … No man shall walk
after the animal to pasture it outside his city more than two thousand
cubits. None shall lift his hand to smite it with (his) fist. If it
be stubborn he shall not remove it out of his house. No man shall
carry anything from the house to the outside or from the outside into
the house, and if he be in the vestibule he shall not carry anything
out of it or bring in anything into it. … Let not the nursing father
take the sucking child to go out or to come in on the Sabbath. … No
man shall help an animal in its delivery on the Sabbath day. And if
it falls into a pit or ditch, he shall not raise it on the Sabbath. …
And if any person falls into a place of water or into a place of… he
shall not bring him up by a ladder or a cord or instrument. No man
shall offer anything on the altar on the Sabbath, save the
burnt-offering of the Sabbath, for so it is written `Excepting your
Sabbaths’.
(Damascus Document 10:14-11:18)

Note that the Essene Halacha was so strict as to place Sabbath observance above human life.  The Essenes believed that man was positionally “under the law” and could only earn his salvation through Torah Observance.  While Yeshua and the Pharisees taught that the Torah was under man, and not a path to salvation.

“Under the law” then, is not an obsolete Old Testament system, but a false teaching, which was never true.

When Paul speaks out against the “under the law” it is like a Baptist preacher speaking out against “Latter Day Saints”, he does not mean the words according to their literal meaning, he has nothing against “Saints” who live in the “Latter Days” he is using the Mormon’s theological technical term to refer to their theology.

At this point we must address Galatians 4:4-5:

4  But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,
5  To redeem them that were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption of sons.
(Gal. 4:4-5 KJV)

Here Paul uses irony to tell those that are in the false “under the law” theology, a theology that taught that salvation must be earned through Torah observance, that there is only one man who was actually born “under the law” in that he did actually earn salvation; the Messiah Yeshua.

There can be no doubt that Paul sees “under the law” as categorically bad, yet Paul calls the Torah itself “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12), certainly Paul does not use the phrase “under the law” to refer to the Torah itself.

 

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