Explaining Paul (Part 5)

Picking up at Question 22.

22.  If the covenant at Sinai was given to the descendants of Rebecca (Genesis 24:60) and Isaac, then why does Paul try to relate it instead to Hagar in Galatians 4:25?

Paul is using an analogy here.  Not that uncommon of a thing to do.  To understand his analogy, we need to break down what he is saying, and understand the difference between Hagar and Sara.  But before we do that we need to do a little study about bondage vs. freedom.  I’ll start with bondage.

There are two type of bondage: physical and spiritual.  No doubt, the Jews were in a lot of physical bondage over the years.  As a matter of fact their release from their physical bondage in Egypt is what brought about the law of Moses.  But, the Jews also recognized that the law was practical bondage in a spiritual sense.  Peter asked in Acts 15:10 why the yoke of the law should be placed around the necks of the Gentiles when the Jews had been unable to keep it.  In Matthew 23:4, Christ talking about the Pharisees and how they had perverted the law said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders”.  As I mentioned before, not all bondage is bad, and the law was a form of bondage.  The law of Christ is also a form of bondage.  Now, anytime we see where someone is talking about bondage in scripture, we have to determine if they are talking about physical bondage or spiritual bondage.  That’s the only way that we can get the context and meaning from what they are saying.  If they are talking about physical bondage, we can’t apply what they are saying to spiritual bondage.  Please keep this in mind as we continue.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Paul isn’t talking primarily about the law, he is talking about the Judaizers he mentioned in chapter 2 of Galatians who were trying to force the law of Moses on the Gentiles.

Now, to the matter of Hagar and Sara.  I’ll start with Hagar.

Hagar was a bondwoman.  Ishmael was the son of a bondwoman.  It was a natural birth brought about by selfishness.  The children of Hagar (and descendants) where born into bondage.  The descendants were persecutors.  Expulsion resulted.

Sara was a freewoman.  Issac was the son of a freewoman.  The birth was by supernatural means and brought about by promise.  The children of Sara (and descendants) where born into freedom.  The descendants were persecuted.  They were the ones who gained an inheritance.

Paul understood this.  He is not saying that the Jews were born of Hagar, but rather he is using these traits as an allegory.  Let’s look at the law of Moses vs. the law of Christ.  I’ll start with the law of Moses.

Law of Moses (Judaizers): Born into bondage to 613 (give or take) laws, rules, regulations, ceremonies, special days, etc.  All the descendants were born into this same bondage.  Natural birth brings about this bondage.  The Judaizers were persecuting the Gentile Christians.

Law of Christ: Born free.  The acceptance into Christ is a supernatural birth brought about by faithful obedience to Christ.  The Christians were being persecuted by the Judaizers.

I’m going to say something here, and I don’t want it to sound mean, but I’m afraid it might.  Please believe me that I’m not trying to be abrasive.  But, I have noticed in a vast majority of these questions, that certain verses are cherry-picked out specifically to put Paul in a bad light when if you read the five verses before and the five verse after the one in question, the context is completely different than presented.  I beg you not to take one verse out of context like this.  This question is a perfect example.  In the question, you only mention Galatians 4:25, but if you read from 20 – 31, you get the entire context where Paul completely explains the allegory he is using.  He ends the thought in verse 31 by telling the Gentile Christians at Galatia, “So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”  In other words, he is telling them that Christ is their savior and not to worry about what the Judaizers were telling them.  He was telling them to trust in Christ and Christ alone.

I desire to complete the answers to these questions, but I want to make it clear that you will never be able to understand any reading be it Paul, Peter, Christ, or even the Law and the Prophets if the reading is done fortune cookie style as many of these questions seem to be.  Context is EVERYTHING when studying God’s word.

So, the answer to this question is that Paul was not disputing that the law was given to those born to Sara (Isaac), but just using that as a analogy because it was well known to those he was writing to.  Remember, Paul was a very learned Jew before he was a Christian.

23.  Why did Paul circumcise Timothy in Acts 16:1-3 and then tell him 1) It causes Christ to profit him nothing, 2) He is now a debtor to the whole law and 3) He is fallen from grace in Galatians 5:2-4? Why would Paul do such a terrible thing to Timothy? Did Paul hate Timothy?

Once again, verse 3 answers this question.  Paul circumcised Timothy because “of the Jews that were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”  Keep in mind Paul’s mission.  Paul’s mission was to convert people to Christ.  He did that by fitting in and then teaching (as I mentioned in a previous answer).  And once again, we have a translation problem.  Well, not really a translation problem, but rather a problem understanding what circumcision means.

Circumcision can mean two things in scripture.  Just as bondage has a physical and spiritual meaning, so does circumcision.  The physical meaning is pretty straightforward.  It is the removing of the foreskin from the penis.  That’s all.

Spiritually, the word circumcision related to those who followed the law of Moses.  In Galatians 2:12, Paul said “For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”  Does that mean they were having a party where everyone was being circumcised?  If that is what it means, then no wonder Peter was afraid of it.  lol.  But, that isn’t what it means.  It simply means those that still clung to the law of Moses.  “those of the circumcision” = “Jew” = “a follower of the law of Moses”

So, when Paul is talking in Galatians 5:2-4 Paul is talking about circumcision in the spiritual sense.  Let’s just do that as an exercise.  Let’s replace circumcision with “the law”.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept the law of Moses, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts the law of Moses that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Also, once again, there is a context problem here.  Please start in v. 1 and read to v. 6.  Notice in verse 1 that Paul uses the same analogy of a “yoke” that Peter used at the Jerusalem council.  And he sums up in verse 6 by saying, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”  Two things to note here.  Paul in this verse is talking about the physical circumcision.  And secondly, this verse does not mean that Paul is subscribing to faith-only doctrine.  He says that it’s “faith working through love” and since Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments”, Paul understands that it is a faith the leads to obedience in Christ.

So, since Christ has freed us from needing to be circumcised, and has accepted all equally whether they are circumcised or not, why shouldn’t Paul use circumcision as a tool to teach others to the glory of God?  Once again, I go back to my hockey analogy.  If me learning about hockey, going to watch a few games, and perhaps even playing might lead me to be able to bring someone to Christ, why would I NOT do that?  It’s a very small price for me to pay to give someone else the biggest gift they will ever receive.

24.  If God brought the children of Israel to Sinai to put them in bondage to the law as Paul claims in Galatians , then why did he tell them at that time he was bringing them “out of bondage” in Exodus 2:2? Was this some cruel trick God was playing on them?

Once again, this one is a misunderstanding between the physical and spiritual meanings of “bondage”.  God removed the children of Israel from physical bondage in Egypt and then placed them in spiritual bondage under the law.  Paul is talking about only the spiritual aspect of bondage, not the physical aspect that was mentioned in Exodus 2:2.

25.  If the law puts is in bondage, why does God say he “redeemed you out of the house of bondage” in Deuteronomy 13:5?

Same answer as previous question.

26.  If Jesus abolished the law as Paul claims in Ephesians 2:15, then why does Jesus say in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to destroy the law? Why does Jesus say it will not pass until AFTER heaven and earth have (v.17) passed away? Has that already happened? What does verse 18 say Paul’s place in the kingdom of heaven will be as a result?

Incomplete quoting of Christ’s words in Matthew 5:18.  You didn’t quote the whole verse.  In full, it says “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law UNTIL ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED.”  Christ told the truth here.  None of the law passed until ALL WAS ACCOMPLISHED.

Another problem I have noticed with many of theses questions is with trying to read the KJV as if it is modern English when sometimes  words mean entirely different things now than they did when the KJV was translated.  This question is a prime example.

Jesus is not saying this verse that the law would stand until heaven and earth pass away.  Nor was he saying that the law would not pass away until everything in the universe is fulfilled.  The “heaven and earth” statement was basically telling them that even if the earth was destroyed, that the law would not pass.  And the “all is accomplished” didn’t mean “all of everything in the universe”, but rather “all of the law”.  So, to put this verse in modern English: “I’m telling you the truth, even if heaven and earth pass away, not a comma or a period, will be removed from the Law until all of the things in the Law are fulfilled”

Now, just a verse previous, Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.  When you put these two verses together, it becomes clear that Jesus isn’t telling them that the law will always be the authority, he is telling them exactly when it won’t be an authority any longer.  It will cease to be an authority when “all is fulfilled.”  And on top of that, he told them that He was the one who had come to do that.

I find it of much interest that John records Jesus’ last words as “It is finished.”  What is finished?  The work that Jesus came to do.  To fulfill the law and the prophets (Luke 24:44).  To redeem man.  To establish a new covenant.  To give us a better way.  To free us from the bondage of only being able to come unto God via a high priest and only being able to find salvation through the keeping of a law that no man can keep (Acts 15) if I happen to be a Jew and if a Gentile, no hope at all, and delivering us into the freedom of a law where we can come to God directly through our mediator Jesus Christ and lay all our cares and burdens on Him.  WOW!  Praise God for His wisdom and mercy.  Without Jesus fulfilling the law and the prophets, I couldn’t do that.

27.  Paul claims in Romans 11:25, 16:25, 1st Corinthians 2:7, 15:51, Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-9, 6:19, Colossians 1:26-27 2:2, 4:3, 1st Timothy 3:9, 3:16 to have knowledge of mysteries of God revealed only through him. Nobody else confirms these same mysteries. Paul bears witness of himself even though Jesus says he himself could not in John 5:31. Is Paul superior to Jesus?

Paul liked the word “mystery” a lot.  lol.  But, once again, we have a KJV – modern English problem.  Today we think of a mystery as something we cannot know, something mystical, puzzling.  But, all it really means is that it was something that was veiled or unknown at the time.  When Paul uses the word “mystery”, he is usually talking about the gospel.  That the gospel was hidden until the proper time, that is until Jesus came, fulfilled the law of Moses and established his kingdom.  At that point, the mystery was revealed (not by Paul at first).  It was revealed by Peter on the day of Pentecost.  It was revealed by the apostles.  And yes, it was revealed by Paul as well.  Let me give you another way to think about this.

When you first saw a computer, it was a mystery.  That didn’t mean that no one knew about computers, only that you didn’t.  You had no idea what you were doing or how to use it.  It was a mystery.  But, someone taught you and revealed that mystery to you until now, it is hardly a mystery at all.

With the possible exception of 1 Corinthians 15:51, all of the scripture references you gave are referring to the gospel of Christ.  And Paul himself refutes that he was the only one given knowledge in Ephesians 3:5.  He says that the mystery was “made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed UNTO HIS HOLY APOSTLES AND PROPHETS BY THE SPIRIT”.  Paul never claimed to be the only one to know.  He says clearly that the apostles knew also.

In 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, Paul is simply answering a question, thereby revealing a “mystery” or answer to those who asked (the Corinthians).  His answer is backed up in Matthew 24:31.

28.  Paul in 2nd Corinthians claims to have three witnesses bearing witness of him. Who is the third of these witnesses in verse 1?  Who is the first witness in verse 2?  Who is the third witness in verse 3? Didn’t Jesus warn of one who bears witness of himself and comes in his own name (John 5:43)?

I do not completely understand this question.  Can you rephrase/clarify?

29.  Paul speaks in Ephesians 6:19 and elsewhere of making known a “mystery of the gospel.” Why wasn’t this mystery shared with the 12 apostles Jesus spent 3 ½ years training?

It was.  Please see my answer to 27.

30.  If Paul could be given all knowledge with a single blinding flash, then why did Jesus spend his entire ministry training apostles? Why didn’t he just zap them?

Why does God choose to do anything the way he does it?  Why did Naaman have to wash seven times in the nasty Jordan river?  Are we big enough to question God’s motives?  “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? (Job 38:2)” “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? (Romans 9:21)”

The answer is: that is the way God decided to do it.  It’s not up to me to judge God on his motives or actions.

However, I will point out that the apostles were “zapped” in Acts 2 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost and received numerous gifts of the Holy Spirit among which were the ability to speak in tongues, power to heal, miraculous knowledge that didn’t require study to obtain (gift of prophecy), etc.

Furthermore, if the record of Paul’s conversion in Acts is false, then Luke could not have been an inspired writer led by God through the Holy Spirit and therefore all of Luke’s writings are brought into question.  This strengthens my first argument.

31.  Paul says in Philippians 2:7 that Jesus came in the “likeness of men”. Paul claims in Romans 8:3 that Jesus came in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” 1st John says anyone who says that Christ came in something other than flesh is of the spirit of antichrist. This is known in theology as the doctrine of docetism. Why is Paul excused for teaching this doctrine?

Paul did not deny that Christ came in the flesh.  He states this in Romans 1:3, 9:3, Col. 1:22-23, 1 Timothy 3:16, and (if he wrote Hebrews) Heb. 10:19-20.  When Paul says “likeness of flesh”, he is drawing a very true distinction between my flesh and Christ’s flesh.  My flesh is sinful, Christ’s flesh was not.  Paul is not saying that Christ was not a man, but rather he is saying that Christ was more than a man.  He is also saying that Christ’s flesh was unlike anyone else’s in that it was sinless.  So, using any other flesh as a gauge, Christ’s flesh was just a likeness because it never once tasted sin.  This doesn’t mean that Paul is saying it was inferior, on the contrary, he was saying that Christ’s flesh was superior to all other flesh.

32.  If the law is a curse as Paul alleges in Galatians 3:10-13, then why should we “establish the law” in Romans 3:31? Does Paul want us to establish a curse?

Bad translation.  Other translations use the word “uphold”.  Paul is basically saying in this verse and previous ones that faith doesn’t overthrow the law, but actually upholds.  The law pointed to Christ.  It foretold of Him.  Every believer in Christ depends on the law in the sense that their very justification stems from Christ’s perfect fulfillment of and obedience to that law.

Paul is saying that we uphold the law because it was through Christ’s perfect obedience to that law that we are justified.

33.  If the “mysteries of God” were revealed through a single man Paul as he claims in Colossians 1:23-26 and elsewhere, then what grounds do we have for rejecting Joseph Smith, Mohammed, the Pope and many others who claim exactly the same thing?

Once again, Paul did not claim that he was the only one through whom the mysteries of the gospel came to man.  See previous answers.

34.  If the law was “against us” as Paul claims in Colossians 2:14, then why do Deuteronomy 17:19, Proverbs 6:23 and Proverbs 13:14 say it’s the way to life?

As mentioned before, it was because of the law and Christ’s perfect adherence to it that I have hope.  The law is the way to life through Christ.  Paul understands this and places his full faith and obedience in Christ.  I would ask a question back to you on this one.  If the law says it is the way to life in Deuteronomy 17:19, Proverbs 6:23, and Proverbs 13:14, then is Jesus contradicting scripture when he says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” in John 14:6?  Well, that is just ridiculous to think.  Jesus is the only way to God because He was the only one who was able to get to God by perfectly keeping the law.

35.  Why does Paul say we can do what we want with the Sabbath days in Colossians 2:16 when the Ten Commandments say, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”?

As mentioned before, I am not beholden to the ten commandments because I never have been beholden to them.  I have not ever been, am not now, and will never be able to be Jewish.  The law was written to and for the Jews.  Jesus delivered all people from the state they were in (Jews under the law, Gentiles with no hope at all) and gave them a way to God through Him.  Since God made Jesus both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), I will keep a day in remembrance of Him as did the early church (Acts 20).

Even Jesus told the Pharisees that they had become crazy about the sabbath (Matthew 12).  In Mark 2, He makes it known to them that they were thinking wrong.  In Verse 27 he says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  In other words, He is telling them that the Sabbath was a gift from God to man and that they had made it just another requirement, a chore.  And, that they were wrong for doing so.  He then says “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”  Basically, Christ is saying that His disciples are exempted from the Sabbath laws.  This is also seen in the Matthew 12 account where Jesus in verse 6 says “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.”  Jesus is the one we are beholden to, not the law.

36.  Who has authorized Paul to give new commandments as he does in 1st Thessalonians 4:2?

Who gave the other apostles authority?  The answer is the same: God through Christ.  However, no where in 1 Thes. 4:2 does it say that Paul is giving them “new” commandments.  Only that he had given them commandments.  I have no doubt that he gave them the exact same commandments as Christ and the other apostles.  Where did you see the word “new” in that verse?

37.  Who is the authority Paul is demanding people to obey in 2nd Thessalonians 3:14?

Since Paul was writing the words of God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the witnesses of this being the acceptance by the other apostles, the fact that Paul could perform miracles in the name of Christ, and that his ministry was being blessed, the authority he is working under is Christ’s.  When you pray, do you end the prayer with “in Jesus name”?  This is you calling on the authority of Christ.  In other words, it is through Christ and by His authority that we pray.  Paul is doing that here.  It is by the authority of Christ that he writes.  And it is that authority that he tells them to obey.

38. Paul commands in 3:6-7 that we obey the traditions he commands. Did Jesus ever tell us we should obey Paul?

Bad translation.  The Greek word that was translated “tradition” is “paradosis”.  It means: transmission, precept, ordinance, and, sometimes, tradition.  Paul is saying that if anyone walks in idleness and not in accordance with the precepts of Christ, then they are to keep away from that person.  In other words, Paul is telling everyone to obey Christ not the other way around as stated in the question.

39.  Exactly what did Paul do to Hymeneus and Alexander in 1st Timothy 1:20 to deliver them to Satan? Did he kill them? Is it normal behavior for a minister of God to deliver people to Satan?

What this means precisely has been lost to the ages, but I do not think that it meant Paul killed them.  In 1 Corinthians 5:5, Paul tells the Corinthian church to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”  Paul knew as well as anyone that if the man was in sin when he died, he would be lost.  How could he say to kill a sinner to “save his spirit in the day of the Lord.”  That makes no sense at all.  I tend to believe that this meant they were to withdraw fellowship from those people and let them suffer the consequences of their actions even if that meant their eventual death in hopes that the person would come back to Christ.  I have had to withdraw fellowship from some who were not following Christ.  I will tell you, it is a very emotional and difficult thing to do.  It’s never done as a punishment, but rather out of love in hopes that they will miss that fellowship and return.

40.  Is Paul’s practice of rebuking before all in 1st Timothy 5:20 consistent with Jesus admonitions in Matthew 18:15-17?

This is in regards to elders in the church.  You must read one verse up to get the entire context.  An elder is a very public figure and his sin must be corrected so that all know he was corrected.

However, you missed one important thing about the verse you referenced in the question.  The thing you missed was the first part of the verse: “As for those who persist in sin”.  This verse does not preclude doing it the way that Christ said in Matthew.

Furthermore, keep in mind that Christ’s words in Matthew are talking about if a brother sins against you.  What if that brother sins publicly in the presence of the entire church?  I’ll give you an example.

If I’m sitting in worship and the preacher says something wrong.  I’m not talking about him making a mistake (calling out the wrong scripture reference for instance), but teaches something that is truly false doctrine.  Am I to wait until after service, take him behind a closed door, and tell him his sin privately?  If so, then what about all those people who heard what he said?  What about all those people whom he led astray by his teaching?  What about those visitors I will never see again?  What about the people those visitors tell that we are teaching false doctrine?  No.  In a case like that, the sin was committed in front of the entire church and needs to be corrected in front of the entire church immediately.  Christ was talking about a brother sinning a private sin against in individual.  Paul is talking about a public sin.

41.  Why was Paul seeking a prophet in 1st Corinthians 14:37 to endorse his commands? Is there a prophet on record ever having done so?

There were many who had gifts of the Spirit in the early church.  One of those gifts was the gift of prophecy.  Now, once again, prophecy had a different meaning in the KJV than we think of today.  Today we think of a prophet as a fortune teller or someone who can see the future.  And, some prophets could tell the future.  But, all prophecy is is supernatural miraculous knowledge for which you did not study to obtain.  This was a required gift in the early church because the full word of God had not yet been compiled.  There were also those with the gift of discernment as is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10.  These people were able to corroborate that what a person was saying matched God’s will.

In 1 Corinthians 14:37, Paul was telling the Corinthian church that if they had someone there with the gift of prophecy or the gift of discernment, that they could corroborate that what he was writing to them was true.  In other words he was submitting himself to examination by the Holy Spirit.

42.  If the men that were on the Damascus road heard the voice that spoke to Paul in Acts 9:7, then why does Paul change his story in Acts 22:9 saying they didn’t hear it? Is it possible these men refuted his earlier story?

Mistranslation in Acts 22:9 in the KJV.  It should have read “Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.”  Newer, more accurate translations say “understand”.

43.  Why does Paul claim in Acts 9:10-16 that his mission to the Gentiles was delivered through Ananias but then refute it later saying it was told to him directly by Jesus without going to Damascus later in Acts 26:16-18? Could it be that Ananias refused to support his earlier story and he had to change it?

Neither account keeps the other from being true.  It could be that Paul was recognizing the words of Ananias as the word of Jesus, which they were since Jesus directed Ananias.  Or, it could be that Jesus also gave Paul the same message.  Neither makes the other untrue.  Look at how many times the gospel accounts are given in a slightly different order with slightly different wording.  Some gospel accounts leave things out that other put in.  This doesn’t make them untrue at all.

Also, Paul was before Agrippa the second time.  You don’t waste a king’s time.  Paul cut to the chase and told the story quickly, so I tend to believe that Paul recognized the words of Ananias as the words of Christ in this instance.

44.  Why does Paul say he is ready to die at Jerusalem in Acts 21:13 and then instead “appeal to Caesar” in Acts 25:11?

In the very verse you quote in the question (Acts 25:11) Paul affirms that he will not seek to escape death.  This completely meshes with Acts 21:13.  What Paul wasn’t willing to do was to be wrongly accused.  Because he was being wrongly accused, he appealed to Caesar which was his right as a Roman citizen.  Paul was never afraid of death, but he still had more work to do.

45.  According to Acts 21:20-21, Paul stood accused by believers in Jesus. That means they believed in his resurrection. Paul was accused by them of teaching believers to forsake the Law of Moses. Why did Paul lie in Acts 23:6 he was being accused instead of believing in the resurrection? Did Jesus ever lie to save his hide like Paul did? Could it be Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11) and Paul is the hireling?

Paul did not lie.  He was on trial because of his teaching on the resurrection of the dead (Jesus is the one resurrected).  Paul stated this fundamental belief in Christ in such a way as to divide his foes.  This was a stroke of genius.  Notice that just a few verse past this in verse 11, Jesus stood by him and said “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”  Jesus didn’t condemn Paul here.  Jesus didn’t censure Paul here.  If Paul had lied, would Jesus have said he “testified the facts”?  No.

By the way, Jesus’ words here are another reason that Paul appealed to Caesar in the previous question.

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