“Not Under the Law” – What Does It Mean?
Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
NOTE: We use the Creator’s original Self-given Hebrew Name, YHVH, and the original Hebrew name given by Him through the angel Gabriel (Matthew 1:21) to be the Messiah’s name, Yeshua. We also refer to what Christianity calls the “Old Testament” with the Hebrew name for it, the Tanakh; to “the Law” as Torah; and to the “New Testament” as the Renewed Covenant Scriptures. Details on request.
When the Apostle Sha’ul (Paul) taught that believers are “not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 3:19; 6:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18) did he really mean that the disciples of Yeshua of Nazareth (“Jesus Christ”) are somehow not required to actually keep the commandments to be saved, as is plainly required by all of the rest of Scripture? Or is something else at work here?
This supposed “teaching” of Sha’ul is usually only trotted out as a justification by those who prefer to observe “Sunday” as the Sabbath, instead of the seventh-day Sabbath of YHVH as commanded in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”), and which our Lord Yeshua and all of his disciples kept. Deny this teaching, and you are sure to be accused of “denying the Blood!”
But is this counter-commandment teaching legitimate? If it is not legitimate, then hundreds of millions of people who have believed themselves to be saved, were and are in fact lost, due to their unrepentant breaking of this and the other commandments. So it matters. It matters as much as anything does in this life.
The phrase “under the law” appears only in the Renewed Covenant (“New Testament”) writings of the apostle Sha’ul (“Paul”). It is not to be found in the Hebrew Tanakh/“Old Testament”. Because of the novelty and ambiguity of the expression, and the words chosen by the translators of the earliest English language Bibles in the following passages, the phrase has given risen to entire theologies and “un-Christian” denominations, down to our own day. In fact, the true meaning of “under the law” has been effectively reversed from what Sha’ul actually taught!
Consider that Sha’ul was one of the most respected Torah (Hebraic “Law”) authorities of his time, having been the star pupil of Gamaliel, who was himself one of the most revered rabbis ever, and a Pharisee, as was Sha’ul. So Sha’ul well understood the lessons of both the written Scriptures, as well as the so-called “oral Torah” or “oral Law” by which the Pharisees, Sadducees, etc., sought to rule the Jews. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the scattering of the Jews among the nations of the world (the “Diaspora”), the exiled rabbis began to write down this so-called “oral Law”. It became what is today called the Talmud, Gemara, Mishneh Torah, Zohar, Gematria, Kabballah, etc.
While some of those Pharisees and Sadducees had accepted Yeshua as being the promised Messiah, they also insisted that new Gentile converts to the faith of Yeshua had to go through their “oral-Law” (man made) Pharisaic requirements for conversion to Judaism, for them to be accepted into fellowship with the predominantly Jewish church of that time. But because there were no such requirements for conversion to Mosaic Judaism in the written Torah, Sha’ul and Kefa (“Peter”) vigorously rejected this teaching of these Pharisee converts, contrasting their rigid performance requirements with the much simpler requirements that Sha’ul, Yacov (“James”), Kefa, and the rest of the apostles had derived from the teachings of Yeshua and the inspiration of the holy Spirit of YHVH. (Acts 10:11; 11:5)
Sha’ul and Kefa were vehemently opposed to the idea that any new converts (or anyone else) had to obey any “commandments of men” in order to be saved! But Sha’ul and Kefa were surely NOT opposed to the written Torah of Moses (“the Law”), any more than their Master Yeshua was! Rather, it was the Pharisees’ “commandments of men, taught as doctrine” that Yeshua himself had opposed throughout his earthly ministry, while strictly upholding the essential nature of obedience to the written commandments of YHVH:
Yeshua: “Whosoever 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 whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19
Yeshua: “You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you [quoting the words of his Father YHVH Elohim in Isaiah 29:13], saying, “This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:7-9
Sha’ul: “Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to regulations (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using) according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
[Is it not obvious from this that Sha’ul is here describing the pre-Talmud “oral law” of the Pharisees (“ touch not; taste not; handle not”) when he explicitly adds “according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” Is he not here directly contrasting the Pharisees’ “Oral Law” with the requirements of the written Torah, and validating the written Torah with the contrast? What else?]
These (man-made requirements) have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” – Colossians 2:20-23
Sha’ul: “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the Circumcision (a reference to the the Pharisee & Sadducee converts). They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Titus 1:10-16
But today’s “Christianity” has effectively turned upside down, inside out and backwards what Sha’ul and Kefa (“Peter”) actually taught on the subject of “the Law”/Torah. Where they and all the rest of the Renewed Covenant writers are actually deploring the requirements of the “oral law” of the Pharisees, these same Scriptures are being generally interpreted by “Christianity” as being directed against the written Torah itself, against the very Constitution of the Covenant, against the Ketuvah/Wedding Contract between YHVH Elohim and His chosen people, which Ya’acov (“James”) calls “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25 & 2:12), and Yochanan (“John”) says is “not burdensome” (1 John 5:3)! The key to this MISunderstanding is the phrase “under the Law”.
As an illustration, consider that you are driving down the street in your car. The insurance is paid up, your driver’s license is current and appropriate for the vehicle you are driving, the vehicle is not overloaded or mechanically deficient in any way, you are well under the posted speed limit, and you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Are you “under the law”? That is, are you subject to the penalties of the motor vehicle laws of your state? You are not. Why are you not “under the law”? Because you are obeying it! You are surely NOT “under the law” unless and until you break it, at which point you are liable to the punishments prescribed for your violation, whether you are caught at it or not! And this is exactly the sense of what our Lord Yeshua, Sha’ul, and all of the other writers of the Renewed Covenant Scriptures (“New Testament”) were trying to convey.
But “Christianity” would have us believe that we are “under the law” when we are obeying it! In fact, anyone who believes that they are free to break the commandments because they are “not under the law, but under grace” is in the very process of being tricked into the Lake of Fire!
To fully appreciate the depth of the deception involved in this, you must re-read these scriptures while at the same time trying to keep these two opposed senses of “under the law” in mind:
Rom 3:19 Now we know that whatever things the Law says, it says to them who are under the Law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
[That is, the purpose of the Law/Torah is to show those who are breaking it that they are breaking it. So one is “under the Law” when one is breaking it!]
Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Rom 6:13 Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace.
[Note: The ONLY WAY that one is “not under the law”, is to be obeying it. And it is ONLY when one is obeying the Law/Torah/commandments that one is “under grace”! Then, whenever we fail to keep the law, we must repent, ask forgiveness, and “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him (YHVH Elohim) a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:9-10) ]
Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under grace? God forbid.
Rom 6:16 Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
[Note: Sha’ul here plainly equates obedience to Torah with righteousness. If this is true, and it is, then HOW can any post-apostolic “commandment of men” free us from this responsibility? It cannot!]
Rom 6:17 But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you.
Rom 6:18 Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness.
Rom 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
1Co 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the Law (Gentiles), I became as under the Law, that I might win them that are under the Law;
1Co 9:21 To them that are outside the Law [ignorant of it, not in covenant with YHVH through His Son, Yeshua], I became as outside the Law myself, (being not outside the Law to God, but under the Law subject to law in Christ) [Note: the underlined phrase “subject to law” is usually translated as “under the Law”, but it is actually a completely different phrase in the Greek, the meaning of which is closer to “subject to law”, as we have rendered it. Sha’ul was being obedient to the specific commandment of the risen Yeshua to him to go to the Gentiles, while still keeping the spirit of the written Torah. So, although he was technically guilty of breaking the normal rules of behavior that governed the Jews, such as not fellowshipping with pagans, he was actually being faithful to both mandates.] that I might gain them that are outside the Law.
Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Gal 3:12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them.
Gal 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:
[NOTE: “The curse of the Law” is the second death – annihilation in the Lake of Fire – as a consequence of lost mankind’s unatoned sin. (Revelation 21:8) “The curse of the Law” is surely NOT having to keep the Law, which Yochanan (“John”) tells us “is not burdensome” (1 John 5:3), and Ya’acov (“James”) calls “the perfect Law of liberty”. (James 1:25) So it is surely NOT the responsibility to obey our Father’s commandments which Yeshua has removed from us, but the penalty of sin!]
Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Yeshua Messiah; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Gal 3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
Gal 3:22 But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Yeshua Messiah might be given to them that believe.
Gal 3:23 But before faith came [in the physical person of Yeshua], we were kept under the Law, shut up until the faith which should afterwards be revealed. [They were made aware of their sins through the written Torah, which beliefs and behavior were passed down from generation to generation, and became their identity as a separate people, chosen by YHVH Elohim for that purpose. The animal and other sacrifices required by the written Torah served to cover their sins but did not wash them away. Their faith that the coming Messiah would accomplish that, was what will finally save “all who believed” prior to Yeshua’s arrival.]
Gal 3:24 Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Messiah, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Messiah Yeshua.
Gal 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differs in no way from a servant, though he be lord of all;
Gal 4:2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Gal 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Gal 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, [Everyone is born “under the Law”, i.e., under the penalty of sin, even Yeshua, in that if he had sinned, he would have had to pay the same price that all the rest of us do, and his sacrifice would have been ineffectual for our salvation.]
Gal 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Gal 4:21 Tell me, you that desire to be under the Law, do you not hear the Law? [This is addressed to the predominantly Gentile (ex-pagan) Church in Galatia, some of whom were apparently lapsing back into their pagan practices, which would bring them “under the Law” because they were breaking it.]
Gal 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
Gal 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Gal 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which leads to bondage, which is Agar.
Gal 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Gal 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Gal 5:18 But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the Law. [You are not “under the Law” because you are walking in obedience to it, by the power of the holy Spirit of YHVH!]
We pray that this study has helped to clarify the original intent of the Apostle Sha’ul in his use of the phrase “under the Law/Torah”, and encourage you to keep the commandments, and be saved.
Forwarded by: Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
Exposing Satan’s ‘Left Behind’ – A Handbook for Surviving the Tribulation
Available in paperback (6×9, 400p), or as a PDF download (8½x11, 200p) from:
Also available as a Kindle e-book download from Amazon.com: