AiG: “As mentioned earlier, the HRM often ignores relevant passages in the New Testament epistles. In some cases, the text is not technically ignored; rather its meaning is flipped on its head. Downplaying the teaching contained in these letters is unwise, particularly since most of these letters were specifically composed to instruct the various churches or individuals on matters of Christian doctrine and practice. The Gospels and Acts, on the other hand, are more akin to historical writings. That is, their emphasis is on what happened whereas the epistles’ focus is on how one should live.”
Me: As far as I know, we are not ignoring any passages. It’s true that we are interpreting some passages in an opposite manner than mainstream Christianity. Torah-observant believers are interpreting those passages in light of the whole Word of God – in light of everything that the Father ever said, and in light of what Jesus said regarding God’s Word: “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We will get to some those passages in the upcoming paragraphs.
I don’t know of any Torah-observant believers who are guilty of downplaying the teachings contained in the letters to the early church. And I’m not sure what Mr. Chaffey, the author of the original article, is trying to say when he mentions that the gospels and Acts are more akin to historical writings. Is he saying that we shouldn’t depend on them for doctrine? I understand that there are many sins recorded in the historical books, such as Peter’s denial of Christ, Judas’ betrayal, Simon’s desire for power, etc. But the Gospels and Acts contain much good doctrine, specifically when we focus on how Christ lived His life. He was the Living Torah, and we can rest assured that we can use His life as the example for how one ought to live: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (I John 2:6). Also, Mr. Chaffey himself used the Jerusalem Council from the book of Acts to try to make the case that Gentiles have no need to concern themselves with learning the Law. (For more details, see part 5 of this rebuttal). However, I don’t want to put words in the author’s mouth. Perhaps that’s not at all what he meant by pointing out the difference between the historical writings and the epistles.
AiG: “Written close to the same time as the convening of the Jerusalem Council, Paul’s letter to the Galatians was penned primarily to deal with the same type of issues. A group of people known as Judaizers had troubled the churches in Galatia with the idea that believers in Christ must submit to the Mosaic law, with circumcision being highlighted throughout the letter. In fact, it is probably not a stretch to say that the HRM would end today if each of its followers properly understood the main argument of Galatians.”
Me: Galatians addressed those who were relying on circumcision and keeping the Law for the purpose of justification, or in other words, as a requirement for salvation. Read the whole book today – it’s pretty short, and it’s obvious what’s being discussed. Some highlights: “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Paul is not saying that there is anything wrong with the Law, merely that we cannot earn our justification through keeping it. (We couldn’t, but Christ could and did.) “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21).
AiG: “Paul makes some extremely strong statements against such teaching. Following his introductory comments, he twice condemned those, whether man or angel, who would preach any other gospel than what Paul had preached to them (Galatians 1:8–9).”
Me: I am not preaching another gospel. I agree wholeheartedly with Paul, but only because He agrees with the rest of scripture. If he didn’t, then he would be the false prophet preaching another gospel. Thankfully, he’s a true apostle, and his doctrine is sound. The Bereans were commended for checking everything Paul taught them against the scriptures that they had at their disposal right then: the Torah, the writings, and the prophets: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).
AiG: “The HRM follower might respond that they do not believe they are justified by the law, but through faith in Christ.6 Instead, many of them view the works of the law as being required of believers for the purpose of obedience and sanctification. Paul bluntly addresses this idea as well:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–3)”
Me: Obedience? Yes, it’s true. You cannot obey the Father without obeying His Words – His Torah. Jesus was the perfect example of obedience. We remember that the New Testament definition of sin is “transgression of the Law” (I John 3:4). Do you cheat on your taxes? Sleep with your neighbor’s wife? Gossip? Do you feel it is sin to do these things? Why? Obedience is completely different from justification, and many, many times, Paul taught obedience. Read any of the epistles. Just pick one and open it up. See if he is teaching us how to obey the Father. Paul’s big point (and this is why people misunderstood him so badly) is that we are not justified through obedience, but by faith alone. “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. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:15-17). Undoubtedly, Paul preached salvation by grace through faith. Some people mistakenly thought this was a license to sin. But Paul wasn’t preaching lawlessness by any means. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).
Sanctification? Sanctification means to be set apart: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6942.htm
In order to be set apart, you have to be different from the rest. Again, this has nothing to do with justification. But yes, if you wish to be set apart, then you can achieve that by keeping God’s holy Torah. And if for some reason, you fear that’s it’s a sin (or dangerous) to keep Torah, to obey the very Word of God Himself, remember that Jesus (our perfect example) did it. Remember that the New Testament definition of sin is transgression of the Law. And if you’re really hung up on Paul, as though his doctrine has more weight than the Father’s and Christ’s put together, I assure you that Paul never preached against keeping the Law. “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). “If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good” (Romans 7:16). “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). Paul’s protégé, Timothy also acknowledged the goodness of the Law. “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully” (I Timothy 1:8). And folks, I’m mostly quoting the New Testament here because I am doubtful how much weight and authority you may believe the Old Testament to have. However, if you would just lay aside all man-made doctrine and read through the Old Testament, you would quickly discover how very beautiful and righteous the Torah actually is. It is God’s righteousness, revealed to man. Jesus Christ is the living Torah, also God’s righteousness revealed to man. The written and the Living Torah. They are the same Torah. Psalm 19:7: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”
AiG: “Paul stated that those who think they can be sanctified by the works of the law are foolish and have been bewitched.”
Me: That’s not what he said. Read the passage again. He is asking if we think we can perfect ourselves through our own efforts. No, we don’t think that. Some of the Galatians did, and that’s why this epistle was written, but the Torah-observant believers that I am acquainted with believe that it is Christ alone who perfects us. We cannot perfect ourselves because we are already ruined, already imperfect. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There’s no going back. You can’t right a wrong. Even through the works of the Law, you can’t erase sin once it’s been committed. The Law gives us instructions for LIFE, therefore, when you ignore or disobey those instructions, DEATH goes to work in your body. It stands to reason then, that the just penalty for sin is death, and our God is always just. Without Christ’s perfect life (according to Torah) and perfect, spotless sacrifice, we would all be doomed. We don’t obey out of a delusion that we are perfecting ourselves. We obey out of a desire to please the Father, to live according to the things He called righteous. We obey because we love Him, not because we are trying to earn favor or salvation or anything like that. And please don’t feel so sorry for us, as though we have placed an unnecessary burden upon ourselves. The Law is not burdensome – it’s quite the opposite. But you won’t believe me unless you try it. The Law has been a great blessing to us. The blessings are the reason that I am sharing this with you – I want all believers to walk in the perfect Law of liberty, to get free from the bondage of sin.
AiG: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:16–18, emphasis added). How much plainer does Paul need to say it? What can we unreservedly say about those who are led by the Spirit? They are “not under the law.””
Me: You might want to read another verse or two, instead of stopping at verse 18. When Paul speaks of the works of the flesh, he is not equating them to God’s holy Torah. The works of the flesh are transgressions against the Law. Here is Paul’s list of the works of the flesh, beginning in the very next verse: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
When we are being led by the Spirit, we are not under the tutelage of the Law. It is no longer our schoolmaster because now we have a desire to do those things that it had been teaching us before we were mature enough to understand them. The Spirit is a gift to us from the Father, to enable us to walk according to the Law with desire instead of merely ritual obedience: “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27).
AiG: “Instead of being under the law, Paul stated that in Christ, we have liberty and do not need to rely on law-keeping.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. (Galatians 5:1–3)
Me: What freedom does Christ bring us? Freedom from sin: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:32-34). We were slaves – we sold ourselves under sin. Therefore, we were under the condemnation of the Law. (The penalty for sin is death.) We do not believe that one must be circumcised in order to attain salvation. That notion is incredibly silly, because like I said before, we have already sinned. Mr. Chaffey draws our attention to the similarity of Galatians 5:3 and James 2:10, and when it comes to earning our own salvation, he is correct: it is all or nothing. That’s the very reason that Christ came and took on flesh and died in our stead. But before doing so, He had to walk innocently, perfectly according to Torah. It is not a sin to obey the Father’s Law and walk according to Jesus’ example. But it is ridiculous to believe that by doing so, we are justifying ourselves or making ourselves perfect. This is the point of Paul’s letter to Galatians.