Paul (Shaul) uses the phrase “under the Law” throughout his letters but not in a uniform or consistent way. According to Galatians, “not under the law” relates to maturity in one’s relationship with God; the Law, which Paul calls a “caretaker” or “tutor,” is not needed for someone who already knows God’s ways (Gal 3:23-25). But in Romans, Paul uses the phrase differently. He states, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).

Based on the above verse, one may reason that the “law” (Greek: νόμος; nomos) is somehow in opposition to “grace” (χάρις; charis). But “grace” means favor or a good disposition towards someone (Hebrew: חֵן; chen), so how can it be opposite to the law (e.g., Rom 3:31; 4:16; 7:7-16; 10:5)? Shaul is not arguing for opposition, but rather highlighting a difference: benefiting from special favor is preferable to being judged by the law.

More, it may seem that “not under law” means “not under Torah,” but the apostle uses the term “law” (νόμος; nomos) in a variety of ways in Romans. For instance, he speaks of what we might call “natural” or “physical” law that governs our bodies and environment — that is, legal systems unrelated to God’s commandments given at Sinai. Furthermore, Paul speaks of “theological” laws that reflect spiritual realities. Consider how Paul refers to both natural and spiritual laws in the same breath: “I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23). Here, Paul refers to two different laws — the law of his body vs. the law of his mind — but neither of these “laws” is exactly equivalent to the Law of Moses.

The broader context of Romans 6-8 is about slavery to the “law of sin and death” (τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου), which should not have power in the lives of believers (Rom 8:2). Paul speaks of dying with Messiah as a death to sin, which is followed by a rising to new life (Rom 6:6–7). In this way, Paul calls for freedom from sin, not from the Torah. So when Paul says that we are “not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14), which law does he have in mind? In this context, it is the law of sin and death, not the Law of Moses. 

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39 COMMENTS

  1. The word law is a mistranslation, the word should be Torah. Torah means instruction not law, and Rabbi means teacher. As a Jew Y’shua is my Rabbi, and by the power of His resurrection He gives me the grace to obey Torah.

    • I commend you Allan on understanding these things. You are right in general, though at times Paul does mean law and not Torah as my article notes.

  2. Hi just enquiring if All the laws Moses gave is it still valid.then why are Christians so confused .or are they deliberately avoiding the truth

  3. I’ve heard this before and agree with it. However, is Shaul still talking about the law of sin and death when he speaks of Yeshua nailing the law with its ordinances to the cross? If you have a link to an explanation it would be great. Thanks and Shalom!

  4. Interesting! I have been reading the phrase “under the law” as meaning “under the condemnation of the Law”. I’ll consider this perspective though.

  5. I disagree. Chapter 6 is a continuation of 5 where he is talking about the written law. I am not saying that it’s ok to not follow the law which, he addresses at the start of 6. No more space to write more.

    • You are right, Mark, Rom 5:20 mentions Torah, no doubt. Yet if you re-read the second part of ch 5 the actual topic of discussion is the oppression of sin and transgression and not Torah per se. Torah was mentioned only to say that it actually added to the problem of sin in this particular thought.

  6. Thank you Prof the article is very informative and helps brings perspective to a controversial topic. In my heart I was aware of the truth but just could not find the evidence. Thank you

    • The evidence is all there, right in the text itself. The theological pre-text is what sways people from seeing the answer.

  7. Yeshua did not come to destroy the Law but to Fulfill the Law, therefore since the Laws have been fulfilled then the Law with its obligations has ended. Now Christians should imitate Yeshua and his Instructions to find Grace and guard against Sin.

  8. In Romans Paul-Shaul recognizes and claims himself as jew, Israel is the cultivated olive, but after Chris’s death as “damned of the Law”, Law is no more the regime, the way, to establish the relationship between God and human beings. It’s a complex argument but i’ts Paul’s real thought.

    • Dear Luis, your argument has a major flaw and therefore it arrives at an incorrect conclusion. The law was NEVER meant to establish a relationship with God. Among several purposes of Torah that is not one of them. It was given to those who believe and already know God experientially. The law is to MAINTAIN a relationship so that we do not sink deep into sin and destroy ourselves. It is a life guide – do this and you will have a good life.

  9. 1st thing prof. I see you like to write Paul as Shaul, why?
    Wish all christians wants to admit to this standard. The law of rituals and high priests etc. are the only law’s that is active anymore. But if GOD writes on ones heart he will know that.

  10. This is something that I know the Rauch HaKodesh (forgive my spelling, I am learning) has been dealing with me about. I have been studying the Word for 5 years now & coming to understand that many things I heard while growing up are simply not true.

    • Yes, Scott, you are not alone, here. Many in our learning community are rethinking what they have been taught.

  11. Saying relationship with God I mean the way human beings feel, understand,live, God and His Will and the way God approaches and is with us. In Paul’s thought the way of the Law is no more effective.

    Otherwise, Law itself has to do with covenant of a mutual relationship.

    • I am not sure I understand you, Luis. We may imbue the same words with a different meaning. Sorry, I am not tracking.

  12. Hi Prof. I agree with your analysis – spot on. Allow me to digress a bit. Am not sure what Rom 10:4 means. What does the word END mean?

  13. God gave the Law of Moses and rules for us to know what sin are. When Jesus died, God gave one Law. The Law of Love! Love God, love all people and do good towards all. If you really love God with ALL your heart, you will never sin again!

    • I agree, Mary. Torah is also all about love. When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment he quoted 2 passages from Torah. 🙂

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