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Was Paul under the law?

Paul told his Corinthian followers that in order to persuade people who were under the law, he would sometimes act as if he was under the law. But he said he wasn’t actually under the law.

Then he said in order to persuade people who weren’t under the law, he would sometimes act as if he was not under the law. But he said he actually was under God’s law, and not free from it. Which is just the opposite of what he just said in the previous verse.

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Do Gentiles have to obey the Law?

The Bible says God requires his chosen people, the Jews, to obey the laws he gave them. But what about people who aren’t Jewish? Do Gentiles need to obey God’s laws too?

Yes.

When the kingdom of Israel was overthrown, the Israelites were deported to Assyria. Then people from other nations came to live in their land. But God didn’t like how those foreigners didn’t do what he required. So he started sending in lions to kill them. Then the king of Assyria had to send an Israelite priest back there to teach the new inhabitants what God required them to do.

Ezra praised God for giving the king of Persia the idea to severely punish (sometimes with death) anyone in his kingdom (not just Jews) who didn’t obey God’s Law.

Paul required Timothy, who had a Gentile father, to be circumcised before he could go anywhere with him. Paul said Jesus wanted him to call all the Gentiles to obedience. He said God judges and punishes everyone the same way, regardless of whether they’re Jews or Gentiles. And the way he judges them upholds the Law, rather than nullifying it. Paul told his Gentile followers to put someone to death for breaking one of the Jewish sex laws. He did not think it was okay for Gentile Christians to do whatever they wanted.

No.

God’s Law itself says Jews can give Gentiles things to eat that would be forbidden for the Jews themselves to eat.

The apostles declared that Gentile Christians should not be required to keep the law of Moses, which even the Jews had been unable to fully obey. They rejected the idea that people could only be saved if they were circumcised. They said anyone could be saved by the grace of God.

Paul took this further and said that all believers, no matter if they were Jews or Gentiles, could be saved by grace and by faith apart from the Law. He said no one can be justified or saved by keeping the Law, since everyone inevitably sins. Paul didn’t think Gentiles should be forced to follow Jewish customs. And he didn’t require his Gentile companions to be circumcised.

Paul said anyone who relied on the Law was cursed, and could not be justified before God. He taught his Gentile followers that they were not under the law, because Jesus had set aside the Law and set them free from that curse. Paul’s followers tried to follow the law anyway, which he thought was foolish. He said there would have been no point in Jesus dying if following the Law was what people needed to do to be saved.

According to Paul, even if the Gentiles were under the Law, it would kill them, and then dying would release them from the Law. If Paul’s claims are true, it’s impossible for anyone to remain under the Law!

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Did Jesus want people to obey the law?

Yes.

Some people claimed that followers of Jesus were speaking against the law and saying that Jesus was going to change the customs given by Moses. But those were false witnesses. Paul didn’t believe Christ promoted sin. Jesus himself said he had not come to abolish the law. He said as long as the world exists, not even the smallest bit of the law will disappear. After he healed a leper, Jesus told him to go through with the rituals that the law of Moses requires.

According to Jesus, the law is still very important. Keeping the commandments is how you get eternal life! So you must be careful to do everything the teachers of the law tell you. You can’t get into the kingdom of heaven unless you’re even better at obeying the law than law-obsessed people like the Pharisees. (Even they didn’t keep the law thoroughly enough to satisfy Jesus.) And even after you make it into the kingdom of heaven, he says your status there will be determined by how strictly you keep the law.

No.

A lot of the things Jesus taught were in contrast to the Jewish law given by Moses. Jesus would specifically mention one of Moses’s laws,1 and then contrast that with how he thought people should behave. Sometimes he was just adding to what Moses taught, but other times he was telling people not to do what Moses had told them to do.

For instance, Jesus thought the command to love your neighbor also said you should hate your enemy. It doesn’t actually say that, but that’s what Jesus seemed to think the law was. And he said you should do the opposite. Then there’s the “eye for an eye” rule, which actually is in the Old Testament law. Jesus told people to disregard that law, and to instead encourage people who mistreat you to mistreat you even more.

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