The second letter from Peter warns (II Peter 3:15-16) that in Paul’s writings are “many things difficult to understand…which are often twisted by the unlearned and untaught…to their own destruction.” Perhaps the most graphic example of that twisting of Biblical teaching occurs with the claim that the “law” has somehow been “done away with”, or even “nailed to the cross”. In other words, we are supposedly no longer “under the law”.
There are so many errors, omissions, and “twistings” of verses taken out-of-context in such claims that many of us who begin to see what Jeremiah meant by saying we had “inherited lies” have difficulty knowing where to begin. For example, depending on the translation, the thing that has really been “nailed” to any tree or execution stake is the “handwriting”, or indictment against all of us for rebellion against Him, rather than the “law” itself. Similarly, there is MUCH discussion in the gospels about what the “law” really is. The Pharisees, who were called “hypocrites” by our Savior for this very reason, tried to teach that their halachah, or “oral traditions” for how we must “walk”, constituted “law”. Yahushua repeatedly pointed out that what they had done by their blindness was to “bind heavy burdens” on men — including things that He had not only not Written, but prohibited (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, among others). Fallen men have continued to rewrite His commandments ever since.
When He said (Mark 7:7, Matt. 15:6-9, etc) that “by your traditions” you have made the “commandments of YHVH of no effect“, Yahushua was teaching that vital distinction — just as He did when He deliberately violated THEIR many man-made rules for the Sabbath, but NOT His own Word!
This distinction is vital, because by His perfect Sacrifice we are freed from the “CURSE of the Law” (for which the penalty for deliberate rebellion to Him was death), but not the Torah itself.
The Hebrew word “torah” is probably better translated as “teaching and instruction” than it is by the English word “law” anyway. Most people seem to think of a legalistic concept when they hear that word, which is part of the problem. But try this. When Paul uses the word “law” in those letters, replace it with the concept of God’s “instruction”, and see how much more sense it makes. And how much more consistent it is with ALL of Scripture!
But another way to understand this distinction is to observe that scientists may have a better handle on what Paul was teaching about not being “under the law” than lawyers seem to. A “law” to them is not a rule, enforced by policemen with guns, but a statement about the creation that is ALWAYS observed to be TRUE. The “Law of Gravity” is a good case-in-point. It has NEVER been observed to fail, whether one is talking about stars and planets, or Isaac Newton and the apple. Note the distinction between such a “Law”, and something described as a “theory”, which SEEMS plausible (like Relativity) and is subject to further study and observation. (The so-called “Theory of Evolution” is a bad joke in this context, since it persists in SPITE of contrary evidence — at least to the True Believers.)
As a private pilot, I find that a very simple parable serves to bring this point home — especially to those who have ever contemplated learning to fly. I know first-hand that joy of flight, and what it means to “slip the surly bonds of earth”. But does that mean I am somehow no longer “under the Law of Gravity”? Because our knowledge — of physics, of aerodynamics, of propulsion — has increased, does that mean that the “law has been done away with”? To paraphrase Paul – God forbid!
Even though the “schoolmaster” — or flight instructor — who taught me to fly is no longer in the right front seat when I take to the skies, I must not forget the lessons. YHVH’s “teaching and instruction” for how His creation works has not changed! And those who deceive themselves about the consequences of rebellion to His “laws” can certainly find that the “curse” associated with impact from a great height has not been done away with either. To know how to fly, in harmony with His “laws” of physics and aerodynamics, means to have even greater respect for such teaching and instruction, not to conclude that they no longer apply!
Gravity is still real. “Heaven and earth” still exist. It is our knowledge that has increased, not His Word that is diminished. And we still “reap what we sow”.
Do not be deceived. We are thankful to have a Kinsman-Redeemer, Who has paid the price for rebellion to His Word. But so long as heaven and earth still exist, not one yod or tiddle will pass from His “torah”, or “teaching and instruction”. And He gave us His “teachings and instruction” not to burden us, but to bless us.
The above article appeared originally as this month’s column for Crucified Life Ministries, at: