This article is a response to certain claims, whether they be about, or against Paul, or whether they be against Christians who rely on Paul’s explanation of the Atonement. It is intended to promote and defend both Paul and his claims concerning the priority of the Law in light of the advent and atonement of Jesus Christ.
As a disclaimer, I realize that not everyone may see Paul as being a point of controversy or heresy, but merely a matter of good and bad interpretation. In other words, some interpret Paul one way, and some, another. This is understandable and differences will abound, but this article is intended to address those things which would lead to Paul being viewed as a potential enemy to the things of God and especially the Old Testament.
-COMMON CRITICISM AND CYNICISM
It can be common within the Hebrew Roots Movement, to see a “pitting” or to “set someone or something in conflict or competition with”. We can see this in multiple ways and one of the major example is the Greek vs Hebrew mindset, or perspective. This simply tries to make a culture war between those who observe the Law and those who may not, and this pitting is usually done despite the real issue at hand which is Biblical theology and scriptural truth.
More specifically, we can see this pitting done between Paul and other various “opponents”. Certain sects and mentalities in the HRM attempt to criticize Christianity by isolating Paul and his role concerning any disputes. The criticisms of Paul begin by criticizing a mild disagreement on interpretations of Paul’s writings. Then it progresses to a criticism of Christians for quoting Paul (regardless of what he says), then it progresses into criticizing Christians for relying on Paul (regardless of what he says), and then it progresses to a competition between the Christians relying on Paul in opposition the HRM’s reliance on Torah, and then it progresses to direct criticism of Paul as a liar or heretic.
In short, these are basically uneducated cheap shots of attempted discretization that subvert the material and claims at hand. Rather than make it an issue of truth and deal with the claims, it is turned into a class or cultural warfare of some kind. Even worse, it can simply become or reveal nothing more than cynicism.
-DEALING WITH THE ACTUAL CLAIMS
With all that said in order to bring some awareness to the nature of disputes over Paul, we must deal with the claims and theology at hand.
First and foremost, the claims of Paul, all reason from the basis of the uncircumcised Gentile being able to receive the actual Holy Spirit of God without any of the external signatures of covenantal entrance or acceptance which are required under Moses. It actually becomes a matter of Pauline deduction.
From this, the claims of Paul reason further, that if one is given covenantal entrance, then the prerequisites must be of a different order or plane.
From this the claims of Paul reason that if the prerequisites are of a different order and on a different plane, then the obligations are of a different order as well.
From this the claims of Paul reason that the individual must be on this different plane as well and in order to fulfill all righteousness, both the person and the manner of righteousness are brought unto the plane of the Holy Ghost.
From this, the claims of Paul reason that righteousness is a creation and impartation of the Holy Ghost on the supernatural plane, and cannot therefore, be maintained on the natural plane or by natural means. It must be maintained in the manner by which it was obtained.
It is somewhat perplexing how the HRM and especially the gentile HRM believers, will affirm covenantal admission apart from the requirements of external and bodily signatures, and yet somehow demand that continuance within the covenant must now be according to these external and bodily signatures.
This problem reveals that the HRM has not yet secured a fundamental grasp on the logistics of salvation. Salvation by faith does not simply mean “free” salvation. The idea of free salvation is more within the notion of grace, but faith implies method and means and these methods and means are immaterial and supernatural.
Therefore, while salvation is free and extended by the grace of God at any given point in history, if it is not by faith as well, then it would not be along the lines of the supernatural, and if it were not by supernatural means, then it must be by natural means, and if by natural means, then it must be according to the external and bodily requirements under Moses, and if it be according to the external and bodily requirements under Moses, then the uncircumcised gentile could not receive the Holy Spirit of God and the book of Acts and the claims of Paul would be a lie or fictional.
We need to understand that the HRM is really built on a salvation and atonement doctrine that is even more deficient than what it may commonly assume the salvation doctrine of Christianity to be. The HRM doctrine of salvation is one that sees Christ as providing the uncircumcised gentile with free and supernatural salvation into the covenant of Moses, yet somehow without the prerequisites under Moses.
The claims of Paul (and Peter) reason, that if the Holy Ghost is available to the uncircumcised gentile, then circumcision must be of that same supernatural order, and if circumcision is of a different order, then so must the Law. If circumcision is of the Holy Spirit, then the righteousness of the Law is now by the Spirit as well.
However, the HRM is guilty of, or at least negligent of the same thing which modern Christianity is, which is a belief in a supernatural entrance or “initiation” into a covenant with God, yet a return to a natural method of living out that covenant.
-KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Paul didn’t really teach grace over Torah or faith over works as much as he really taught Spirit over body.
Once Paul realized that an uncircumcised gentile could receive the Holy Spirit with signs and evidences, Paul was able to distinguish or determine what parts of the Torah were to become the office of the Holy Spirit such as circumcision. Therefore, the only difference in Paul’s gospel was that he understood the offices and duties of the Holy Spirit that were previously man’s own bodily resposibility
Paul really taught a dispensation of faith or Spirit rather than dispensation of grace. Paul simply taught against bodily rites as a methodology. Paul knew that certain parts of Torah were rites of entry, whereas the Jews wrongly saw them as ritual duty.
Paul’s message and trajectory was right in line with Christ and the rest of the moral scope of scripture and its chief principle of Spirit borne image bearing.
-THE BIG QUESTION
In conclusion, the Hebrew Roots Movement is faced with the same question as Paul, which is: “How can an uncircumcised gentile receive the Holy Spirit of God?”