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The Apostle Paul mentions being “under the law” in 7 places in his letters. All uses of this phrase are in Romans or Galatians, except for one which is in I Corinthians.
I will address each of these scriptures in different teachings but today I will address only the two scriptures in Romans.
But first, what is the relationship between the New Testament to the “law” of the Old Testament?
The commonly applied name “old”, in fact, implies that it has been replaced with something “new”.
The relationship between the two has been discussed and disputed since the time of the apostles and no one gives this fiery discussion more “fuel” than the Apostle Paul. After all it is in Paul's writings that we find all of the controversial references to “under the law”, “works of the law”, “law of sin and death”, “law of righteousness”, law of Christ”, “law of God”, as well as some others, so no wonder we could have such confusion and chaos over the matter of “the law”.
I wish I could sit down and have a discussion about these things with Paul (Shaul) but since that is impossible, how do we decipher all of these obscure passages?
What exactly is the law anyway?
The word “law” in English translations is the Greek word nomos. The word nomos refers to the Hebrew word Torah (teachings and instructions) of God which were given to Moses at Mt. Sinai and then passed on to the people.
However, complications arise because there is another nomos or torah of the Jews which Paul speaks about. This is the oral torah which they say was handed down to Moses orally and was not written down until well after the life times of Yeshua's first century disciples. The Oral Torah was the “traditions of the fathers” and it was considered to be on a higher level than that of the written Torah of Moses.
There are many “teachings and instructions” contained within the written Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) so exactly which “teaching and instruction” is Paul referring to when he speaks about “the law” or being “under the law”.
The only way for us to understand his “law” analogy is to step back and critically analyze Paul's belief system: who was he, how did he live his life, what did he say about himself, and what was his “gospel” to the nations, and how did this “gospel” differ from the message that was being delivered to the Jews of his day?
I can't cover all of these questions in one teaching but, I can start by covering some basics to start us on our journey of understanding:
What is the Law
As I said already the word nomos comes from Hebrew word Torah. Torah comes from the root word “yarah” which means “to set up as an archer shooting at a target”.
The target is the teachings and instructions of God or the way that God directs mankind to live holy before Him.
The Hebrew word for sin as well as the word for sin in Greek means “to miss the mark”, “to go astray”. Therefore, we can see the “archer” in this. When the target is missed the arrow goes astray – we have sinned.
Mankind has never been able to keep God's teachings and instructions. It is our problem now and has always been the problem. We are all guilty of “missing the mark”.
Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
Ezekiel 18:20 “the soul that sins shall die”
Is 64:6 Our righteousness is as filthy rags
In Romans 3:9-19 Paul begins quoting from OT Scripture about our guilt of sin.
Verse 9 - “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all, for we have previously accused both Jews and Greeks that they ARE ALL under sin.”
Verse 19 ends with “And we know that whatever the Torah says, it says to those who are Under the Torah, so that every mouth might be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD come under judgment before Elohim.”