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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74 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.

  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.

  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.

  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?

    • Greek word τέλος means “end” or “goal”, or even “a destination”. It can also mean a fulfilment, a consummation and a handful of other things, usually depending on the context and whether it is used technically “as in a temporal sense” or more idiomatically as in “time ran out” – time can’t run 🙂 We get words lite television and telescope thanks to this Greek word.

  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!

  14. Can I express this another way, see if I got it? Take a Jewish child raised with Torah at home and synagogue. He also attends Yeshiva, where he gets more Torah. By 13 he is ready, having a good understanding of the principles laid out in HaShem’s instructions to take on responsibility for his own thoughts and actions. Between him and his God some are ready earlier, some later, but 13 is the accepted age of accountability. But up to that age he was under instruction, learning the meanings, the instructions, the principles, and the commandments laid out in Torah. Afterwards Torah still applies and is still good for deeper meaning and instruction, however he is expected to know how to comport himself as a believer and follower in El Elohe Yisroel.

    For an adult Gentile just coming into the faith he learns and as he goes is more and more accountable. God will not hold anyone accountable for what they did not know. But once learned, to slip and break the law is sin. To say you’ll do it regardless, knowing it is wrong is transgression. So until we know, the law is a teacher, tutor, and guardian. Once we know, it can stand against us as an accuser. But there is grace and forgiveness available, if we ask. Then those charges are written on Yeshua’s list and washed by His blood to never be counted against us.

    • Nice reconstruction, Daniel. Now… from the perspective of Jewish theology the reason the Jewish child is taught Torah from his youth is because of the covenant. It is his right, his privilege and obligation, and destiny to be a light to the world and testify of God just by being himself, a Jew. That is a fundamental collective purpose of Israel. That is the idea of being chosen. We did not choose, God did, but we must respond to that calling. Maturity allows seeing this purpose and the Torah is no longer a guardian who constantly forces us to obey God. At some popint, we desperately want to obey on our own, so no more coercing is needed. We simply can’t stop seeking to refect God’s light in our lives, more and more. A non-Jew does not have such obligations or privileges. It is great if he worships the God of Israel but he is not obligated to Israel’s national covenant. Covenant is corporate and national, through our response is personal because we are a part of something much bigger. In Jewish theology, a non-Jew needs to believe in one God, worship him alone, live a moral and just life. A non-Jews can live his life purpose to the fullest without full adherence to the Sinai covenant and God will be pleased. He should shine his light to others around him, but that is not his fundamental purpose. He needs to follow some key and basic commandments, based on the revelation he received from Hashem and however far he wants to grow, Almighty will bless him for it. But there is a fundamental difference in how Jews and non-Jews relate to Torah. And that difference is encapsulated in the distinction of our callings and covenant obligations. Paul knows this. Most of his modern readers do not.

  15. I truly appreciate your writing and look forward to your email. I agree with you on the use of Word Law vs Torah. My study of Galatians has taken me to understand Paul as being more uniform in his use of “Under the Law”. see the following post.

  16. A strong argument could be made the use of “Wrath” and “Wrath of God” in Romans is a parallel to “Under the Law” being used as the curses prescribed in Torah for disobedience/sinful behaviors for both Jew and Gentile to their applicable prescribed Torah obligations.

  17. Hello my brother… I enjoy your comments more than you know…. I just have one complaint, I wish you lived next door…. You feed me God’s Word and I will feed you lobster ! (I know, it’s not kosher). Blessings

  18. Torah refers to all the Five Books we call Pentateuch. Part of this collection are the Ten Commandments given in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5, and which Lev. 19 reviews from the point of view of “holiness” – “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy”.

  19. The Torah is not a bad thing. Originally God’s intention was to fellowship with people. God never wanted Adam and eve to know right from wrong. Genesis 2/17.

    • No, Torah is not bad. Otherwise, we have a wicked Father who gives rotten gifts to his beloved children.

  20. What Christians often call the Law contains explanations of the Law of Love. If one needs the Ten Commandments to teach them how to love their neighbor the are clueless about love. loving your neighbor never includes murdering him. God’s commands and instructions are all rooted in love, the principle.

  21. All sin is rooted in selfishness, me first at others expense, and since we are all God’s children, sin is mean, hateful and cruel to God’s children. Those mean hateful and cruel to God’s children are his enemy. Messiah came to turn us from enemies to friends.

  22. God gave the Torah and the rest of scripture for our well being. It is the guide to happiness. Sin is the way to pain misery and sorrow. The results of following God’s instructions and the results of sin will always be the same.

  23. Can you perhaps clarify then what the “law of sin and death” is? I’d come to consider this a reference to Torah given Romans 5:20-21….It has been my reading, that while Torah (the law of Moses) was a grace at the time, they were the “basic principles of the world” (as in Galatians 4) for those in immaturity, but the fullness of Christ brings a deeper understanding by the spirit….

    It also seems to parallel the two trees in the garden of Eden; the fruit of Christ being life, but the fruit of law (transgressions against) brings death? Torah, then, was necessary because of the fall, but pointing to a future reconciliation made possible through Messiah. But through the failings of the Mosaic covenant in regards to justification, it made clear the freedom possible through Messiah’s path of life? Thus the tension between the two laws at work?

    And I always read Galatians 4 (and especially verses 21-31) through that lens….Torah was fruit of the “wrong tree”, but a grace from God to point us back to the Tree of Life (Messiah)?

    Please help redirect me if I am way off here….Or reason with me if it could be one way of looking at it? For the sake of peace and perhaps clarity, please know I read Galatians 3:19 onwards as also being about Torah, so perhaps I’m misunderstanding something?

    • Shaun, I am glad you are recognizing that you have been looking at these passage from a completely different vantage point. Briefly the “law of sin and death” – I do what I do not want to do, and that which I want to do I do not do. It’s our failure in resisting sin on our own even when we try. Why do you see things from such a different perspective? Here is the culprit – a Christian idea that the Torah is something bad and negative. No Jew (NT writers included) had this idea in their mind. That is a non-Jewish cultural notion. It is a pervasive and pesky idea, though. You see the “basic principles of the world” (Gal 4) cannot be Torah because Galatians did not know Torah or even God till Paul introduced them (Gal 4:8). So what are these principles? Paganism. And the whole time people think that Pauls is talking about Torah. A simple misidentification based on ignorance, but the damage is done. The praise of what Messiah has done is not a rebuke of the precious things God has done. This is merely a comparative/contrasting rhetoric, not a binary repudiation. Liftin up of Messiah is not meant to discredit/put down Moses. Apple’s latest iPhone does not discredit Alexander Grahm Bells invention of the telephone. It is built on it! My advice, root out this idea that Torah is bad when you re-read the Scriptures and this will help you to see things more organically. It may take time, but it will change what you see!

  24. Thanks so much for your reply Professor Pinchas. Your patience and gracious words always encourage.

    Firstly, I’ve long done away with the “Torah/Law” is bad notion and have definitely come to see it as a grace; taking a group of slaves on a journey towards the new, shared, humanity revealed in Messiah. They were set apart to bring hope to the whole world and shine a light amidst darkness. The progressive nature of revelation and the revolutionary cultural reforms that set Israel apart make clear how Torah was a grace. You are probably right, however, in how previous notions have influenced the lens I view scripture through, regardless of how far I’ve come in recent years (and especially months)!

    If I may bring to the forefront of discussion, Acts 15 and Galatians 2….It seems clear to me that the context was Torah/Law of Moses in these discussions cus they’re explicitly referred to. When Peter amd Paul had their disagreements and the “Council of Jerusalem”, messianic Jews were absolutely debating how far gentile believers needed to take their conversion (not becoming as full proselytes so God would be shown as not God of the Jews only, thus fulfilling the promise to Abraham of “blessing to the whole world”).

    It seems to me that Paul was wholly concerned with this conflict between Jewish orthodoxy and the light of a new way to be human because of the resurrection. Now I understand in Paul’s Jewishness he was most likely wholly observant of expected Jewish cultural norms (my understanding being, “law of his land” was Torah so to remain above reproach and “all things to all men” he would have maintained the important stuff), but I’m also aware of the tension between Paul and the other disciples who framed him as “the Egyptian” so Rome would arrest him then they could “undo” his damaging theology and tell Paul’s churches “how they ought behave” while Paul was in prison.

    If Paul was telling everyone to act fully “Jewish” (and was indeed not viewing Torah as “law of sin and death” and the “basic principles of the world”, a temporary guardian), then I don’t see why they would’ve taken such an issue with his teachings or viewed him as a trouble maker.

    Maybe I’m mish-mashing concepts or confusing language, but when read in context of the big picture and the whole scripture I find it hard to see Paul as referring to Paganism given “the Law of Moses was taught in every city for many generations” to paraphrase a key point in Acts 15. If “circumcision” was a key euphemism for everything “Jewish”, becoming a proselyte, it wouls absolutely seem to me that “the guardian” associated with the “basic principles of the world” would be Torah and Paul was advocating for a new way to worship God in light of the resurrection (perhaps what Jesus was referring to with the Samaritan woman at the well, though I do not wish to seem overly eisegetical).

    If my reasoning is offensive, please accept my humblest apologies, I don’t mean to stir up any strife or contention but would absolutely appreciate your continued efforts to reason with me on this.

    Shalom, friend 🙂

    • No, Shaun, no offense. You are a fellow seeker looking to make sense of things. I am not familiar with Paul being referred by anyone as “Egyptian” or of any conspiracy of other apostles against him or his teachings. He may have embraced minority opinion on some matters, but still within the borders of Judaism of his day. I know that some of what I say may not make sense. That’s OK, let’s keep studying together. There are many historical realities that do not mash with popular Christian commentary, mainly because it is so theological and at times polemical. I do not approach ancient texts or even faith that way.

  25. I guess my point of bringing up Acts 15 and Galatians 2 (if it wasn’t clear) is that they seem to hold weight and bear consideration when interpreting Paul’s meaning in Romans 5, Galatians 3-4 etc I don’t see how Paul (and Luke in Acts) would make it clear that the Law of Moses/Torah is being referred to and then make subtle allusions to something else while on the same topic and even in the same “conversation”. If Luke was truly Paul’s travelling companion, it would stand to reason that they had a shared understanding of what a Jewish messiah from the line of Abraham meant for the whole world in light of His resurrection and subsequent re-imagining of scripture given the revelation of Jesus “in the present age”.

    He appears to be realising that certain things were always true and trying to convey that meaning in light of the resurrection. What was once thought to be the full reality, turned out to be a mere shadow of the reality which was revealed through Christ. And yes, I understand it doesn’t negate or abolish, it is rather “grace upon grace”, but if this reality is possible because of the resurrection then certain things once considered necessary, protections we were once “guarded” by, seem redundant given they were merely physical pictures of spiritual truths.

    Ie. “The kingdom of heaven isn’t eating or drinking”, yet there are still bodily regulations governing eating and drinking? It seems the heart of why they were given were to set Israel apart as a beacon of light to the nations, but with Messiah revealed the light is now come. The image gentile believers needed to convey was considerably different to those “of the circumcision”, otherwise there wouldn’t have been such contention between Paul and other Messianic Jews would there? Wasn’t Paul advocating for what was actually important in this new reality? That God would not be God of the Jews only?

    In which case I’d see the law of Moses as “the basic principles of the world”, the base starting point that points to Messiah….I don’t have negative connotations associated with Torah in the same way I don’t believe “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” could’ve been bad, indeed it was good to behold and all things of God are good. But was it a temporary guardian? The “shadow of the reality”? And now we’re called to maturity?

    I’ve read Dr. Eli’s comments on the premise surrounding “Bar Mitzvah” and the prayer of a Father to thank God for releasing them from the “responsibility of judgment over this one”; is the final picture of that revelation Torah? Or could it be Messiah holds a different picture? If Torah was guardian until the revelation of Messiah, don’t we then engage with the Kingdom in a new and different way (though still mindful of, but not restricted by the old way)?

  26. Acts 21:38 infers that the accusation levied against Paul was that he was the shadowy “messiah” figure known in antiquity from extra-biblical sources, Acts 21:27 states (albeit obscurely out of humility and I’d wager respect – but does mention, “James and the elders” earlier) who was responsible for his arrest, in Galatians 2 (and elsewhere – in fact the whole book of Galatians seems to be addressing some conflicting viewpoints amongst the early Jesus movement) it mentions some of those who were “of the circumcision” causing contention/disputing the message including James/Jacob and then while imprisoned it seemed Paul was worried about other teachers going around “undoing” all his hard work in proclaiming the gospel “revealed to him”. There’s some allusions to this in Philippians but I’m struggling to find exactly where it said they wished Paul imprisoned so they could go and tell “his churches” how to behave (more “Jewish”).

    It takes a complete look at Paul’s letters to see this, and while the elders and council might have thought Paul was advising people to “do away with Moses/Torah”, I do understand that wasn’t Paul’s intent, it was just their accusations.

    As for “common church teachings”, I wouldn’t say any of my statements are reflective of that; whilst my credentials may be as a Pentecostal minister, our family’s circumstances and trials this year have afforded me plenty of time to hit “reset” on many previously held beliefs. Around 4-5months of this year have been spent in “dawn to dusk” studies of the word, cultural context and history surrounding biblical and extra-biblical writings.

    So my attempts to reframe language and delve deeper is more a result of my stripping away what isn’t necessarily a true representation of scripture and my now trying to rebuild what is.

    So I deeply appreciate your journeying with me on this and your gracious patience towards me!

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