Does Romans really teach the law has been abolished? The answer is, emphatically no.
The problem that Christians have with Paul in Romans 6 and 7 is that Paul is talking about two laws, the law of God and the law of sin (Romans 7:25). In Romans 8:2, these two laws are referred to as the law of the Spirit and the law of sin and death. Christians can’t see these two laws clearly because they lack a solid foundation of Torah from a Hebraic perspective and because they have accepted incorrect teaching that has been passed down to them for many generations.
Let’s begin this discussion with Romans 2:9: “There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek.” Is the opposite of this true? It should be, but it sure hasn’t been my experience. The law of YHVH defines what is good, righteous, and holy. It defines evil by telling us what to avoid. If we don’t embrace the law of YHVH, we can expect tribulation and distress on a regular basis, especially as the end comes upon us. Of course, we can also expect this when we are surrounded by others who commit evil too. It’s just how life can be.
Paul is really not presenting a new concept. He’s presenting what Moses said in Deuteronomy 11:26-28. Basically, you will be blessed if you obey the commandments of YHVH your God, or you will be cursed if you disobey the commandments of YHVH your God.
When we think about our lives, we know that we have often given in to the sinful desires of the flesh. Just as Messiah died and was raised from the dead, we are to put to death the deeds and desires of the flesh and walk in newness of life by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
We are not to be slaves of sin but slaves of righteousness. According to John 8:34, “if you commit sin, you are a slave of sin.” Since we all sin from time to time, I think he is speaking more in terms of habitual sin. In Romans 6:6, Paul said that our old man was crucified with Messiah so that the body of sin might be done away with; in other words, we should no longer be slaves of sin. Sin came into the world through Adam; this resulted in death being spread to all men. In a similar fashion, Messiah reversed that result through one act of righteousness. Previously, Adam’s sin led to the condemnation of many, but Messiah’s righteousness led to justification of many.
So what is justification? Justification is the action of declaring someone righteous in God’s sight. It is a separate act from what the law does, and it takes place as a result of a few separate things (Romans 3:21-31).
First, there is an act of righteousness that comes through faith. For Abraham, it was a faith that God would keep His promise that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven (Genesis 15:4-6). That one act of belief was considered righteousness for Abraham. It was an act of faith that looked into the future, which he could not see with his own eyes. For us, our act of faith is believing that God raised Yeshua from the dead (Romans 4:23-25). This is an act of faith that looks into the past, which we cannot see with our own eyes.
Second, there is an act of righteousness that comes by God’s grace as a gift. This gift or act of righteousness is God’s free to us, but it was a costly gift from the Father. It was the cost of redemption put forth by God; it was the blood of Yeshua given as a propitiation for our sin.
When we believe that God raised Yeshua from the dead, we are believing/trusting that we have been redeemed from the curse of the law of sin and death with the blood of Yeshua, which was given as a propitiation for our sin. Folks, this is not the end of the story as most Christians believe it to be.
These two acts of righteousness were performed by two different parties to draw us into an ancient covenant with one another. I’m speaking of the covenant on Mount Sinai where YHVH gave the terms of the covenant to Moses to pass on to the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt.
We can see this displayed in the following chiasm:
Faith of Abraham: that YHVH would keep His promise of many descendants and give him land as an inheritance. Abraham killed and cut the offerings given for the covenant where God, as a smoking oven and burning torch walked between the cut parts (Genesis 15:4-21).
God sending Moses to lead the people out of slavery and through the waters of the Red Sea to the other side.
A seh (animal from the sheep or the goats) was offered as Passover sacrifice for the Threshold Covenant.
**Covenant on Mount Sinai
Yeshua was offered as the Passover Lamb for the New Threshold Covenant. The terms of this covenant are the same as the original; these terms are to be written on our hearts.
God send Yeshua to lead people out of slavery to sin. They are to receive the baptism of repentance. They are to cross over/be raised from death to life.
Faith of believers: that God raised Yeshua from the dead so they could walk in newness of life. Believers must receive the free gift of God’s grace with which He redeemed us; this gift of grace was God offering His son, Yeshua as a propitiation for our sin by the hands of wicked men. Believers now stand in grace because they have been bought with a price.
In Romans 3:31, Paul himself said that the law is not abolished because of man’s faith in Yeshua. Indeed, Paul upheld the law of YHVH. Not only that, Paul previously said, “all who have sinned under the law of YHVH will be judged by the law of YHVH (Romans 2:1).”
Now let me present two apparently conflicting statements Paul made:
- “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified (Romans 2:13).”
- “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).”
Which is it? Is Paul trying to confuse us? Can both verses be correct? Yes, they can! The problem is that these verses are often quoted out of context. Paul has made statements with ellipses. We must use the context of the text to insert words into the ellipses for it to all make sense.
In Romans 2, Paul is comparing and contrasting lawless, wicked people with lawful, righteous people. It’s a basic repeat of the warning Moses gave to the people long ago. If you obey YHVH’s commands, you will have blessing and life.
We can restate Romans 2:13 by filling in Paul’s ellipses as: “For it is not the hearers of the law of YHVH who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law of YHVH who will be justified.”
In Romans 3, Paul is talking about those who are all under sin. They are disobedient to the law of YHVH. According to Moses, if you disobey YHVH’s laws, you’ll have cursing and death. This is also known as the law of sin, or the law of sin and death (because sin leads to death).
We can possibly restate Romans 3:20 by filling in Paul’s ellipses as: “For by works of the law (of sin) no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law (of YHVH) comes knowledge of sin.” Then again, we can read it simply as it’s written and assume both instances refer to the law of YHVH. It’s hard to be definitive here.
In Galatians, we see a similar statement. Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Yeshua Messiah, so we also have believed in Messiah Yeshua, in order to be justified by faith in Messiah and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” Some suggest this has to do with 4QMMT — one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is the only place outside of Scripture where we see the phrase “works of the law” — miqsat ma’ase ha-Torah. These laws are primarily laws concerning ritual purity. They have nothing to do with kind things you do for others or what is in Torah.
When Paul was talking about Peter, it is quite possible he had these laws in mind. However, as he moves forward, the context of Galatians shows Paul is no longer referring to these laws. This idea of being justified by following laws related to ritual purity does not coincide with Paul’s discussion of sin and justification in Romans 3 or Galatians 3:10.
At the same time, it’s not the works of righteousness themselves that justify us. They are merely evidence of our faith in Yeshua Messiah/YHVH. As we walk in righteousness as defined by the law of YHVH, we are walking in the Spirit.
We are not supposed to allow sin, as define by the law of YHVH, to reign in our lives. We are not under the law of sin, but the law of grace.
Paul reminded his readers, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)”
Based on what Moses told the second generation that came out of Egypt, Romans 6:23 now makes sense when we clarify the word “sin” this way: “For the wages of sin (lawlessness) is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.”
So what is the purpose of the law of YHVH? There are two purposes. First, it was a tutor to teach us what is righteous and what is not (Galatians 3:24-25). In other words, it defines righteousness. It was also to bring us to Messiah so we could be the seed of Abraham, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:25 seems to indicate we are no longer under this tutor. Is that correct? I think this verse specifically applies more to Paul’s original readers in Galatia than to us. The reason I say that is because the Jews and many converted Gentiles were raised on the Torah. They knew it well. For us, the opposite is often true. We either do not know it at all, or we don’t know it as well as we should. We can look at this concept in a reverse-chiastic fashion.
Torah brings people to Messiah.
**People are redeemed by the blood of Messiah and justified by faith in Messiah.
Those justified by faith in Messiah are brought to Torah, so they can learn how to live righteously (walk in holiness).
Acts 15:19-21 supports this idea. Originally, many Gentiles were turning to Messiah that had no knowledge of Torah. The Jerusalem Council submitted a letter with a judgment to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. These are the core teachings of Torah found in Leviticus. These things were the major things plaguing the Gentiles. They could learn the rest of the Torah from what was being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.
Previously, we mentioned two acts of righteousness. The first was believing that God rose Yeshua from the dead. The second was God’s act of redeeming man with the blood of His son. A third act of righteousness would be man’s trusting in the act of God redeeming people from the curse of the law of sin and death. Acts of righteousness are not supposed to stop here. There are many other acts of righteousness we are expected to do. We can’t know what all of those are unless we study the Torah and begin doing them.
Why should we be concerned with Torah? Didn’t Yeshua fulfill the law? Actually, He did NOT fulfill ALL of it yet. There is much prophecy to be fulfilled when He returns. Does that shock you? It shouldn’t. Everything won’t be fulfilled until heaven and earth pass away. Those who teach that the law has already been fulfilled or that it is not necessary to do it will be LEAST in the kingdom of God. See Matthew 5:17-19 if you aren’t sure.
So why should we be concerned with Torah? It’s because the final purpose of the law of YHVH is our holiness. This is the fruit we are supposed to bear to God. We are not to bear the fruit of wickedness.
Look at the following verses:
Romans 6:19: “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”
Romans 6:21-23: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? [My answer: Wickedness] For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Again, this is nothing new. Moses gave them same choice many years ago.
With this in mind, let’s look at Romans 7:4-6 with his ellipses filled in: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law (of marriage to YHVH) through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law (of sin and death), having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”
Now, we look at Torah, we can agree with Paul and say, “Therefore the law (of YHVH) is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 7:12).”
So, if you thought the written law was abolished, you probably don’t even know what it teaches. You need to be tutored in the written law of YHVH so you know what righteousness really is. As you learn it, go and do it.
If you’ve taught others that the law of YHVH was abolished, repent; start teaching otherwise.
Do not allow yourself to set your mind on the flesh; that leads to death. Set your mind on the Spirit; this leads to life and peace. Remember, a mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Submit to God’s law and live. This is what being led by the Spirit is all about (Romans 8:6-7, 13).
Remember that Yeshua condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law of YHVH might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the desires of the flesh but according to the Spirit of YHVH. (See Romans 8:3-4) This is not legalism as some people errantly teach. This is walking in righteousness by the power of the Ruach HaKodesh as we carry out the Father’s kingdom agenda here on earth.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 makes YHVH’s intentions clear: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Remember, when the tabernacle was erected, the Spirit/Glory of YHVH dwelled with His people until it left in Ezekiel 10. Ever since then, the people probably hoped the Spirit would return with the coming Messiah. Not only did the Spirit come back, but He now dwells in the bodies of believers who are expected to walk in the Spirit!