The Apostles, the Old Testament and God's Law

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The Apostles, the Old Testament and God's Law

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“Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’ ” (Acts 5:29 Acts 5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
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).

As we have repeatedly seen, one of the most misguided conceptions of the New Covenant is the idea that through it Jesus Christ canceled obedience to the laws contained in the Old Testament. That inaccurate conception has been taught—with many variations—for nearly 2,000 years. Therefore it is crucial to set the record straight on what Christ’s apostles really taught concerning the laws given to define righteousness found in the Old Testament.

An index in the Complete Jewish Bible catalogs 695 separate quotations of Old Testament passages in the New Testament (David Stern, 1998, pp. 1610-1615). In dozens of additional places the Old Testament is referred to (as in cases where an Old Testament figure is mentioned), but no specific scripture is quoted.

Depending on which scholar’s work you examine, the number of quotations and references in the New Testament to the Old may be as high as 4,105 (Roger Nicole, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1979, Vol. 1, p. 617). In comparison, New Testament writers quoted each other only four times. Yet some people still argue that the teaching of the New Testament is that the Old Testament is obsolete, only valid for a specific people at a limited time in history.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary notes how much the Old Testament permeated the thinking and writing of the New Testament authors: “One very notable feature of the N[ew] T[estament] is the extent to which it alludes to or quotes the O[ld] T[estament]. It appeals to the OT in order to provide proof of statements made, confirmation for positions espoused, illustration of principles advanced, and answers to questions raised.

“Frequently, even when no formal citation is given or perhaps even intended, the NT writers follow forms of thought or speech patterned after OT passages. It is apparent that the NT writers and our Lord himself were so steeped in the language and truths of OT revelation that they naturally expressed themselves in terms reminiscent of it” (ibid.).

Those who insist the New Testament teaches that the Old Testament is outmoded and irrelevant for Christians today ignore the abundance of evidence to the contrary within that same New Testament!

The simplest way to understand how the Old Testament applies to Christians under the New Covenant is simply to see what the apostles taught on the subject. After all, these men were those closest to Jesus Christ, having spent much time with Him and been personally taught by Him.

First we’ll look at James, Peter, John and Jude, whose epistles bear their names. Their writings are called the “general epistles” because they are addressed to all early Christians as a whole and include general Christian instruction. Then we will let Paul explain for himself how he felt about obeying the Old Testament scriptures.

James’ view toward the law

James was apparently the earliest of these four writers, authoring his epistle sometime before he was martyred in A.D. 62. As the half brother of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55 Matthew 13:55Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
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), he was no doubt intimately familiar with Jesus’ attitude and approach toward the Old Testament and God’s laws.

James couldn’t be clearer as to how he understood God’s laws to apply to Christians. He refers to that law as “the royal law” (James 2:8 James 2:8If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:
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) and “the law of liberty” (James 2:12 James 2:12So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
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), recognizing that obedience to that law frees us from sin and its harmful consequences. “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does,” he writes in James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
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.

He again specifically upholds keeping God’s commands when he writes: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well” (James 2:8 James 2:8If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well:
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; quoting Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
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). He goes on to explain that we cannot pick and choose which of God’s commands to obey before concluding that we must speak and act “as those who will be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12 James 2:12So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
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).

James also tells us that simply saying we have faith and believe in God is useless—because even the demons acknowledge as much (James 2:19 James 2:19You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
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). He uses the Old Testament examples of Abraham and Rahab to show that our faith must be accompanied by actions—that faith without works is dead (James 2:17-26 James 2:17-26 17 Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 See you how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
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).

He also points out that it isn’t enough to simply avoid sin—that if we know to do good but don’t do it, that also is sin (James 4:17 James 4:17Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
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). As Jesus Christ did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:17-48 Matthew 5:17-48 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 You have heard that it was said of them of old time, You shall not kill; and whoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you; 24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, whiles you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, You shall by no means come out there, till you have paid the uttermost farthing. 27 You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: 28 But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand offend you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. 31 It has been said, Whoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorce: 32 But I say to you, That whoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery. 33 Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform to the Lord your oaths: 34 But I say to you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shall you swear by your head, because you can not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yes, yes; No, no: for whatever is more than these comes of evil. 38 You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say to you, That you resist not evil: but whoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not you away. 43 You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if you salute your brothers only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
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), James holds Christians to a higher standard of conduct than simply following the letter of the law—he expects us to live by its full spiritual intent.

Peter’s use of the Old Testament as his authority

The apostle Peter was a leader among the apostles and played a major role in the early Church. Peter’s only preserved letters are his two epistles, 1 and 2 Peter, both apparently written in the 60s before Peter was martyred in A.D. 67 or 68.

What do these letters tell us about how Peter viewed the Old Testament and God’s law? While the subject of law-keeping nowhere comes up directly in Peter’s epistles, what he does write makes his views crystal clear.

He repeats God’s command in Leviticus 11:44 Leviticus 11:44For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
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, telling us to “be holy in all your conduct, because it is written [in the Old Testament Scriptures], ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16 1 Peter 1:15-16 15 But as he which has called you is holy, so be you holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be you holy; for I am holy.
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). Quoting Isaiah 40:8 Isaiah 40:8The grass wither, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
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, he reminds us that “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25 1 Peter 1:25But the word of the Lord endures for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached to you.
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).

He compares the Church to a new temple being built for God (1 Peter 2:5 1 Peter 2:5You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
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) and describes Church members as a new priesthood dedicated to serving God (1 Peter 2:5-9 1 Peter 2:5-9 5 You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Why also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded. 7 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
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). He refers to Sarah, Abraham and Noah (1 Peter 3:6-20 1 Peter 3:6-20 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters you are, as long as you do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 7 Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. 8 Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. 13 And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that you suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: 19 By which also he went and preached to the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
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) to illustrate various points in his letter. In his first epistle, he quotes from the Old Testament more than a dozen times as the authority for what he is saying.

In his second epistle, written shortly before his death (2 Peter 1:14-15 2 Peter 1:14-15 14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavor that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
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; compare John 21:18-19 John 21:18-19 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not. 19 This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, Follow me.
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), Peter reminds us that the Old Testament prophets spoke (and wrote) under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21 2 Peter 1:20-21 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
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).

He speaks of the fearful judgment God brings on mankind for sin, using as examples the sin-filled world of Noah’s day and the degenerate cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God exterminated as “an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5-6 2 Peter 2:5-6 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample to those that after should live ungodly;
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).

He also uses the prophet Balaam as an example of the disobedience to God’s commands that brings His condemnation (2 Peter 2:15 2 Peter 2:15Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
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). And he reminds us of the need to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets” in the Old Testament, as well as the words of the apostles (2 Peter 3:1-2 2 Peter 3:1-2 1 This second letter, beloved, I now write to you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior:
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).

John teaches obedience to God’s commandments

John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 21:7 John 21:7Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat to him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea.
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; John 21:20-24 John 21:20-24 20 Then Peter, turning about, sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrays you? 21 Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus said to him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? follow you me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brothers, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? 24 This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.
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), repeatedly talks about the need to keep God’s commandments in his epistles, apparently written between A.D. 85-95 when he was the last of the original 12 apostles still living. His hard-hitting statements speak for themselves:

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4 1 John 2:3-4 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
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).

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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).

“And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22 1 John 3:22And whatever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
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).

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3 1 John 5:2-3 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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).

“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (2 John 1:6 2 John 1:6And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.
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).

Jude and the Old Testament

Jude, like James, was also a half brother of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55 Matthew 13:55Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?
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) and knew Him from childhood. Though his short epistle contains only 25 verses, he manages to include many references to the Old Testament, including Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses, Cain, Balaam, Korah and Enoch.

The record from these men who learned personally from Jesus Christ is clear. They uphold the Old Testament as God’s inspired revelation to mankind for all time and affirm that keeping God’s commandments remains a requirement for Christians today.

How Paul’s teachings were twisted

Paul wrote to the evangelist Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
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).

Since Paul had just defined “Scripture” in the previous verse as that which Timothy had known “from childhood,” this could refer only to the Old Testament—since the New Testament had not yet been written and compiled. Thus Paul’s view of the Old Testament scriptures’ necessity for Christian understanding and living is plain.

Yet most theologians and preachers today think Paul regarded the Old Testament scriptures as obsolete. They see him as the person who first taught that these Scriptures are no longer needed as an authoritative guidebook for Christians.

In reaching this conclusion, they distort some of Paul’s difficult-to-understand passages for support of their claim that Jesus Christ—by dying on the cross—abolished the Old Testament law.

In making that judgment they ignore Peter’s cautionary warning that “Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written . . . some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16 2 Peter 3:15-16 15 And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; 16 As also in all his letters, 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, to their own destruction.
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).

When we examine Paul’s writings carefully, it is absurd to presume that he used as his primary authority the very writings he was supposedly dismissing. He consistently appeals to the Old Testament scriptures as the main authority for what he taught!

Paul defends his faithfulness to Scripture

The first accusations that Paul was disregarding God’s law came from certain Jews who vigorously objected to his preaching that gentiles could be saved without submitting to the rite of circumcision. They falsely accused him of abandoning God’s law and his Jewish heritage. Paul denied the charge vigorously and set forth clear scriptural authority for his teachings and behavior.

To help Paul demonstrate that all allegations of his spurning of God’s law were untrue, some of the Christians in Jerusalem requested that he accompany four particular Christian Jews in performing purification rites at the temple as set forth in biblical law (Acts 21:17-26 Acts 21:17-26 17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 And the day following Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had worked among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said to him, You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21 And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that you are come. 23 Do therefore this that we say to you: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24 Them take, and purify yourself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning you, are nothing; but that you yourself also walk orderly, and keep the law. 25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
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). Paul embraced the opportunity, eager to silence his critics and publicly confirm his faithfulness to the Scriptures.

However, “when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia [opponents of Paul], seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place’ ” (Acts 21:27-28 Acts 21:27-28 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teaches all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and has polluted this holy place.
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).

They were lying. Nevertheless, a riot erupted and the Roman commander had to rescue Paul from the hostile Jewish mob that was attempting to kill him.

Paul requested permission to speak in his own defense to the assembled crowd. Permission was granted (Acts 21:40 Acts 21:40And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand to the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
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) and he spoke. Afterward he was taken before the Sanhedrin, the high council of the Jews, and from there transferred to the city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast to appear before the Roman governor Felix. The Roman commander of the Jerusalem garrison, in a letter to Felix, included this explanation:

“This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman [that is, Paul possessed Roman citizenship]. And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council [the Sanhedrin]. I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains” (Acts 23:27-29 Acts 23:27-29 27 This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. 28 And when I would have known the cause why they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: 29 Whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds.
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).

Notice Paul’s rebuttal of the false accusations made against him: “Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: ‘Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city.

“Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that . . . I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men’ ” (Acts 24:10-16 Acts 24:10-16 10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned to him to speak, answered, For as much as I know that you have been of many years a judge to this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 11 Because that you may understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offense toward God, and toward men.
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).

How unequivocally plain! Years after he first became a Christian, Paul could declare that he still believed “all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets”—a Jewish term for the entire Old Testament. This testimony, from Paul’s own lips, removes all doubt about where he stood in regard to the law of God.

Paul’s second court defense of his teachings

Two years later Paul was summoned again to appear in court before a new Roman governor, Porcius Festus (Acts 24:27 Acts 24:27But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.
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). “When Paul appeared, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Then Paul made his defense: ‘I have done nothing wrong against the law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar’ ” (Acts 25:7-8 Acts 25:7-8 7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove. 8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
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, NIV).

These official court appearances are significant. They establish, in Paul’s own words, that he continued to be firmly committed to both believing and doing all of God’s laws—the same laws the Jews claimed to obey. And none of his accusers could produce any provable evidence to the contrary. All allegations made against him were untrue—just like all modern claims that he taught against Old Testament laws are equally untrue!

Nevertheless, those same inaccurate and slanderous rumors that started with Paul’s false accusers so long ago are still circulating today. They have become the basis of what is now commonly referred to as “Pauline theology.”

This theological philosophy still presents Paul as someone committed to separating Christianity from its Jewish roots. It portrays Him as one who rejected his biblical heritage and initiated changes in teaching that repudiated all Old Testament laws.

But, as was explained above, that’s a far cry from what Paul actually believed and taught. Throughout his life Paul defended Old Testament scripture as not only inspired but also profitable for “instruction in righteousness” for all Christians (again, see 2 Timothy 3:15-17 2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
).

That Scripture contains God’s law, which distinguishes righteousness from sin. It is little wonder, therefore, that Paul would exclaim, “Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law” (Romans 7:7 Romans 7:7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

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