Tag Archives: james

Paul – falsely accused of breaking God’s Law

130093-004-9B9100F0Did Paul break God’s Law? Did he teach believers to do the same? one third of the New Testament writings consist of Paul’s letters, and it is a fact that his letters create most of the central doctrine of Christianity today. So it is advantageous for us to know whether Paul was indeed a breaker of God’s Law written in the Old Testament, and whether he taught the same to other believers. Or are all of these false accusations against a Law abiding Child of God? Let us look at the evidence.

Act 21:18-24 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

It is fairly clear that the accusations against him, such as – “Paul is teaching the Jews outside Judea, to forsake Moses (God’s Law), not to circumcise their children & walk after their customs” – were all false. According to James, Paul was “walking orderly, and keeping the Law”. But since there were rumors and accusations against Paul, the elders along with James wanted to publicly announce and demonstrate the truth to his accusers.

Now many would not really understand the deep meaning of the act that was performed to exhibit that Paul was obedient to God’s Law. Let us take a closer look at what Paul actually did to showcase his obedience.

Vows & Purification
It is clear that James asked Paul to “purify” himself with four others that had made a vow. But what was this “vow”, what was this “purification” and why did Paul purify himself along with these people?

Paul had made a Nazarite vow
In Acts 18:18 we see that Paul shaves his head because he had made a vow. The only vow made to God that had instructions to shave ones head was – a Nazarite Vow specifically mentioned in Numbers Chapter 6.

Nazarite Vow
The only vow of its kind mentioned in God’s Law, the Nazarite vow was all about separation and being consecrated (Nazarite – Nawzeer in Hebrew, means separation/consecration). Mentioned in detail in Numbers chapter 6, the Nazarite vow consisted of these specific instructions;

  • The Nazarite was to abstain from wine, intoxicating liquors and eating or drinking any substance that contains any trace of grapes.
  • He/she had to refrain from cutting the hair, and allow the hair to grow.
  • He/she could not become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves.
  • At the end of the period of the vow, the Nazarite was to be purified by bringing one male lamb as a burnt offering, a female lamb as a sin offering and one ram as a peace offering along with a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, with a drink offering to the priest at the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Finally the Nazarite should shave his head at the courtyard of the Temple, take the hair and put it in the fire as part of the peace offering.

James’ instructions
Even though Paul would have gone to the Temple to complete his Nazarite vow, by offering the necessary sacrifices and shaving his head once again, James saw that this was clearly not enough to make a declaration. He asked Paul to pay for the four other men as well for their purification, so they can also get their heads shaved.

Paul’s purification
In Act 21:26 Luke records “Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.” Paul finished the vow and paid for the necessary sacrifices for purification, for himself and the four men. Later Paul would tell the Governor Felix that “Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult”(Act 24:18).

Conclusion
It is fairly clear that Paul was obedient to God’s Law, both because of James’ declaration that “the accusations/rumors were nothing because he walks orderly and keeps the law” as well as Paul’s act of taking a Nazarite vow and purification at the temple. Even today, the majority of Christians believe in the rumors and false accusations that were laid against Paul. If we would only read James’ words regarding Paul’s walk with God and understand the acts that Paul did, we would clearly see that he did not teach against God’s Law or break it in anyway.

What about the Gentiles?
Now most of us who read the above and agree that Paul indeed kept God’s Law and did not teach against it, would have a question about the need to obey God’s Law as Gentiles. In Acts 21:25, James himself says that they have written to the gentiles about their decision on what they should compulsorily observe, alluding to the judgement made in Acts 15. (A lengthy discussion can be found on this topic as a complete study by clicking on this link) This decision pertained to the believers coming in from the Gentile nations, and was the absolute minimum which they had to do, to be considered part of the congregation. The four key commandments which were, abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, strangled animals, blood & fornication, are all specifically taken from Leviticus chapter 17 & 18.

What has led to this big confusion and misunderstanding about Paul and his letters?
Paul is definitely one of the most misunderstood people in the New Testament. Being so far removed from the time and circumstances, as well as reading with proper context could be pointed out as the main reasons for this confusion.

Even the apostle Peter warned the congregations about Paul’s letters when he wrote “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest(pervert), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked(lawless), fall from your own stedfastness (2Pet 3:16,17). Peter said that Paul’s letters are hard to understand, and his words are being twisted by the unlearned and unstable to be led to lawlessness.

Has the Church replaced Israel?

jewsnotallowed1Mainline Christianity believes today, that the children of Israel have lost their position as the people of God, being replaced by the Christian Church. This Christian doctrine which is generally known as replacement theology, has even led some to believe that the people of Israel, commonly known today as the “Jews” are the ones who should be blamed for Messiah Yeshua’s(Jesus’ true name) death, and that they are cursed because of it. So, has the “Church” replaced “Israel”? Has the “Christian” replaced the “Jew”? We will delve into the Scriptures for answers as usual… let us begin.

The first thing we must do before anything else, is to define what the words “Church“, “Jew“, “Christian“, “Israel” really mean in the Scriptures. Please see a brief definition of each of these words, given below.

A Jew is a descendant of Judah – one of the 12 sons/tribes of Israel. After the Assyrian Exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, The Southern Kingdom of Judah was also exiled to Babylon – but returned to the land after 70 years. From that time onward, all of Israel are also referred to as Jews sometimes, as the majority of the tribes were lost and scattered as per prophecy. (Please read this post for a detailed account of this summarized definition) 

Israel was the new name given to Jacob by the Almighty, and was later used to refer to his descendants – the Children of Israel or the Tribes of Israel. Israel is referred to as God’s People Forever, and consists of not only the native born, but the stranger who joins himself unto them. Israel of the Scriptures, is not a land or country, but a group of people.  (Please read this post for a detailed account of this summarized definition) 

Church is the body of people, the “called out” ones – and not a building, institution or place. It is an assembly of people, and is not a new entity created in the New Testament (Please read this post for a detailed account of this summarized definition) 

Christian was a word coined by the world of the 1st Century to refer to believers of Yeshua. Only used 3 times in the whole of the New Testament, other names like “The Way” & “The Nazarenes” were used by believers, to refer to themselves. Furthermore, there was no new religion borne as Christianity in the 1st Century, and all believers were considered a sect with the only difference being belief in Yeshua as Messiah.  (Please read this post for a detailed account of this summarized definition) 

Looking at the above definitions, you may be able to see already that there is a major disparity between Biblical Definitions and the meanings of these words in mainline Christianity today. Further study will reveal that the proposition of “Christians replacing Israel” is both absurd and unbiblical, going against the Old Testament Scriptures, Yeshua’s words, as well as the letters of the Apostle Paul.

Before we delve into the subject in hand, we must understand that most of us are blind, even though we read our Bibles and hear amazing sermons. Spiritual Blindness is the major hurdle that each believer must get over, if they are to run the good race.

Spiritual Blindness
Many of us have been successful in reading the Bible (at least the New Testament) a few times over, And all Christians from all the different denominations with their diverse doctrines, believe what they each know or have read, to be the final truth.

The apostle Paul was similar to us in this way. He was a learned student of Gamaliel, with an unparalleled zealousness towards God(Act 22:3). He believed that imprisoning all who believed in Yeshua to be Messiah, was a service towards God. As we all know, it took a divine intervention to open Paul’s eyes. With all his knowledge, he had been blind – but now the scales had fallen off, and he could see.

After the Resurrection, the disciples went through a similar experience. Yeshua explained how all things concerning Him had to be fulfilled according to Moses (5 books of Moses known as Torah), the Prophets (All prophetic books known as Nevi’im) & Psalms (Other writings inclusive of the book of Psalms, known as the Ketuvim) (Luk 24:44). Luke writes that “He then opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures”(Luk 24:45). Similar to Paul, the disciple also received divine understanding of the Scriptures from that point onwards.

The Kingdom of Israel restored in the future?
After He rose from the dead, Yeshua appeared to the disciples for a span of 40 days, and was finally ready to ascend to the Father. And as the disciples gathered around Him, they asked Him an all important question that all Christians seem to gloss over, when reading the book of Acts. The question was:-

Act 1:6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

The disciples who had divine understanding of the Scriptures by this time, were asking Christ about the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. Christians would think of this as an absurd inquiry. And if it was absurd, Yeshua would have reprimanded the disciples for sure, calling them “fools” or “ones without understanding”, as He had done many times before. But what did He say?

Act 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

It is beyond any doubt, according to the above verse, that the Father will Restore the Kingdom of Israel, in His own Time. Anyone who believes or teaches “Israel” was replaced by the “Christian Church” is not only mistaken, but in grave danger of going against God’s own Word.

To understand the “Restoration”, we must know about the “Scattering/Exile”
A Christians’ answer to the question “who did God make the New Covenant with” –  is usually the “church” or “christians”. But the Word says otherwise; “the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah(Heb 8:8). If the New Covenant is made with “the house of Israel” and with “the house of Judah”, shouldn’t we be part of it? Shouldn’t we at least know what these two houses are?

If you do not know about the 2 Houses of Israel (also known as the Divided Kingdom of Israel, please read this study) I will attempt to give a very short summary for your benefit:- After Moses and Joshua led the people into the promised land, the people were under judges until the time Saul was anointed King of Israel. After Saul, David came to the throne and Solomon after that. When Solomon was in his old age, he was seduced by his many wives to disobey God’s Commandments (1Kin 11:4-13). As punishment, God divided the Kingdom of Israel into 2 parts (1Kin 11:30). Ten tribes were handed onto Jeroboam – the servant of Solomon (1Kin 11:31). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam ruled over the other two tribes which were Judah & Benjamin (1Kin 12:17,23). From this point onwards, Israel became divided into 2 parts/kingdoms known as “The House of Israel” & “The House of Judah” (Jer 3:18) both were led astray by most of their rulers. This continued until finally according to all the prophets “The House of Israel” was taken into captivity by Assyria (2Kin 17:6,18,23), and scattered among the nations(Hos 8:8, Jer 31:10). Approximately 150 years afterwards “The House of Judah” was taken into Babylonian captivity (Dan 1:1,2), but was let back into the land by God after a 70 year exile period (Jer 29:10, Ezr 2:1, Neh 7:6).

God had prophesied the scattering/exile way before it happened (Lev 26:33, Deut 4:27, 28:63-68, 32:26, Jer 9:16, Ezek 20:23, 22:15). In the same way, He had also prophesied that He will gather/restore His people (Deut 30:1-5, Isaiah 11:10-13, 27:12, 43:5-7, Jer 3:12-15, Amos 9:9, Ezek 11:17, Ezek 37).

Yeshua came for the scattered and lost House of Israel
Even though it is hard for us to believe, Messiah’s own words and the Gospel account of John both proclaim that He was sent for the scattered and lost House of Israel. It is the two divided kingdoms of Israel – namely, the House of Israel & the House of Judah, which were called “Lost Sheep” in the Scriptures (Jer 50:4-6, Mic 2:12, Eze 34:6, Jer 50:17).

Mat 15:24  But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.   

Joh 11:49-52 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Joh 7:33-35 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

It is also clearly evident that the Apostles understood that the message needs to go out to the scattered, as we see below.

Jas 1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

1Pe 1:1  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,

Israel is never replaced, but is prophesied as part of future events in the New Testament writings

Mat 19:28  And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel

Luk 1:32,33 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob* for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. (*The House of Jacob is the collective of the two houses of Israel)

Luk 22:30  That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel

Act 2:36  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Heb 8:8  For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah

Rev 7:4  And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel

Rev 21:12  And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 

Surely if the Church had replaced Israel, the names of the seven churches should have been written on the gates of heaven instead of the names of the tribes of Israel. If the Church had replaced Israel, the disciples would have sat judging the church instead of the 12 tribes of Israel. If the Church had replaced Israel, the angel Gabriel should have told Mary that He will reign over the church instead of the House of Jacob, equivalent to the 12 tribes of Israel. And finally, if the Church had replaced Israel, the new covenant should have been made with the church instead of the House of Israel & the House of Judah.

If the “church” does not replace “Israel”, where does the “Christian” fit in all this?
The Apostle Paul, is the main spokesperson on how new believers fit into the overall plan of God. The Father has had only one plan – and that was to scatter His people and reap a wider harvest from the ends of the earth.

Paul who understood this perfectly, through his newly opened eyes, knew that “Israel” was not discarded, but that “the strangers or gentiles” were also allowed access to be part of His people along with the returning Children of Israel. His words were that Gentile believers were “fellowcitizens” and of the “commonwealth of Israel”, being “built together” and made into “one”.

Eph 2:12-14 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

Eph 2:18-22 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Eph 3:6  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

This is why he spoke of one body with Jew and Gentile worshiping together as one with no separation or difference.

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom 10:12  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Col 3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Paul was quick to correct the Roman Congregation of believers, of the error of “Replacement Theology” in his letter to them. In Romans Chapter 11, he tackles the question head on. The following are a few snippets from his corrective words, where he explains how the Children of Israel cannot be cast away. How they can be grafted back into His people. How not to be high-minded in thinking they have been cut off so the Gentiles can be grafted in as the new people of God. And how all of Israel shall be saved.

Rom 11:1,2 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

Rom 11:11,12 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Rom 11:16-26 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Rom 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

The Restoration of the Kingdom of Israel explained by James
At the Jerusalem Council, as the Apostles got together, James explained the restoration of the Kingdom using the Scriptures to the whole congregation.

Act 15:14-17 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

In it, he quoted Amos 9:11,12 speaking of how the rulership of the Davidic Messiah Yeshua would return and how it will contain not only the Children of Israel, but also the gentiles. It was never the “Children of Israel” OR the “Gentiles”. It was never the “Gentiles” replacing  the “Children of Israel”. But that the “Children of Israel” would contain the “Gentiles” who believed as one people.

Conclusion
In the eyes of God, there is no “Christians”. No “Church”. No “Jew”. There is only His people – Israel. We are either citizens of the Biblical Israel or not. (I want to make it clear again, that the Israel mentioned on this post is not the same Israel we see on the News. It is not a country or a geographical location – It is His people). As our Messiah Yeshua himself proclaimed:

Joh 10:14-16 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Let us not be high-minded like Paul said. Let us not think that we have superseded the Children of Israel in anyway. Let us ask our Father in Heaven to lift our Spiritual Blindness, so that we may see His truth – His Word. Only then will we clearly see, that there is only one group. One people. One shepherd. One plan. No replacements. No Plan B’s. No divisions. Only restoration of the Kingdom of Israel!

Can we eat all meats? Food sacrificed to idols and misunderstandings regarding 1Cor 10:25

As most of Paul’s words, another common misunderstanding of his writings is the fact that he gave permission to eat anything and everything – effectively making void God’s decree of what is to be eaten and not, written down in Leviticus Chapter 11.

So was he making the law void? If so, why does he say “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law“(Rom 3:3). Is he contradicting himself, or have we misunderstood his words; as Peter wrote “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction”(2Pe 3:15,16). Let us see whether Paul was telling the believers to “eat all meats” or whether we have misunderstood his writings.

The below study is broken down into 7 sections for your ease.
1. A personal connection to this misunderstood verse
2. What happened in Corinth after Paul left?
3. A historical background of Corinth and the environment Paul lived in
4. Examination of Paul’s words: where to start
5. A brief look at 1Cor 8:1 to 10:33 as one topic/theme
6. Now we finally come upon the verse in question 1Cor 10:25-33
7. Conclusion

1. A personal connection to this misunderstood verse
I was brought up in a traditional Christian family background where we were free to eat anything we liked. “Paul had given specific instructions that Christians could eat anything”. “We were free”. “Christ had died so that we could have these freedoms”. These were the doctrines I had learned at sunday school.

When I first understood the Scriptures in their entirety, many of my earlier beliefs were questioned. I struggled within myself to look at things afresh, without preconceived ideas or notions. Putting things into context, both historically and textually, I was met with one question after the other. As I progressed in my studies, proving myself wrong, and coming to the understanding that I had believed in un-scriptural teachings for so long –  one of the questions that kept coming up was “can I eat what I have been eating all this time? Bacon, prawns, cuttlefish, crab and the like?” Instantly, the answer would pop into my mind – Paul said “Whatsoever is sold in the meat market, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake”1Co 10:25. It couldn’t get clearer than that – Paul said we could eat anything! Right? I had to make sure I was right.

In my studies, I learned something obvious. Paul was writing “letters” to specific congregations. These letters were targeted at particular groups in history, with specific problems and questions. You can’t read a line off an epistle such as this, separate! It’s a letter which is meant to be read from beginning to end. Paul did not mark verse numbers and break his letter down into chapters. These were done much later in time, to make reference easier. So now I had to read each of these letters in one go. And that is what I did.

To further understand the Historical context of the Corinthian congregation, I turned to an expert. Namely Dr. Bruce Winter, who has written a book named “After Paul left Corinth”, which as the name suggests, explores the historical atmosphere of Corinth after Paul left the congregation following his stay with them for one and half years (Act 18:11). I would highly recommend every Christian who wants to know the true meaning of Paul’s words, to read this book.

2. What happened in Corinth after Paul left?
It is important to understand the historical context of the Roman Colony named Corinth, at the time Paul wrote this letter. Without understanding what they went through and what circumstances they lived in, how can we, who live 2000 years after them, hope to understand the true context of Paul’s words?

We know that Paul stayed at Corinth for one and a half years(Act 18:11), which would have been enough time to train and teach the believers in the ways of God. He also commends the congregation for still “following the traditions” that he passed on to them(1Cor 11:2). So the question we should be asking now is, why does Paul suddenly have to explain about eating food from the market? Did he not teach them about food for 1½yrs? Why hadn’t he passed on a tradition on what to do in this regard? Or had circumstances changed in Corinth, so that he needed to give them new instructions?

Even though Paul’s letter to Corinth has been preserved, we do not have the letter which the Corinth congregation sent to Paul. The believers had written to Paul about at least six main matters which they needed answers on, which were addressed by Paul in this letter(7:1, 7:25, 8:1, 14:1, 16:1, 16:12) as we see, Paul himself writing “Now concerning the things you wrote about”(1Co 7:1). Furthermore, Paul had received reports of the issues at Corinth, from other sources as well(1:11, 5:1). It is also important to note that this was not the first time he had written on such issues to Corinth, as he says “I wrote to you in my letter….”(1Co 5:9), which they had misunderstood previously(1Cor 5:10)

3. A historical background of Corinth and the environment Paul lived in
1. Jews had been expelled from Rome under the order of Claudius around 49AD (Act 18:2)

2. The imperial cult where emperors and dignitaries were deified, and regarded, as well as, worshiped to as gods were also on the rise[A]. The “gods on earth” mentioned by Paul, in reference to “so-called gods and lords” could be speaking of such worship (1Cor 8:5)

3. The Isthmian games, a festival of athletic and musical competitions in honour of the sea god poseidon, was also held in Isthmus of Corinth[B]. The president of the Games, was known to have given multiple civic dinners to all who had Roman citizenship [C]. The “right” mentioned in 1Cor 8:9, could very well be the right to eat at Poseidon’s sanctuary at Isthmia, which was open to all who had Roman Citizenship at Corinth.

sanctuary-students working

The Santuary of Poseidon at Isthmia (Click to learn about the excavations done by the Ohio State University

“Archeological evidence suggests that the games did not return to Isthmia until about 50 AD. At that time, the temple and the facilities for the games were repaired, and in 67 AD the Emperor Nero took part in the panhellenic games.” (It is more than possible that the Isthmian Games and the dinners at poseidon’s temple started after Paul left Corinth, requiring him to write to them on how to act accordingly in these changed circumstances.)

4. The city authorities controlled the marketplaces, and special provisions were made for Jews to obtain meats which were slaughtered according to their standards[D]. (The Corinthian congregation would have also had to buy the meat separated for the Jews as per regulations made in Acts 15:20,29).

5. There was no such religion called Christianity at the time of Paul. In fact, the name “Christian”, mentioned only 3 times in the New Testament (Act 11:26, 26:28, 1Pet 4:16) would have been a derogatory term, at the time, as we see it’s use being connected to shame by Peter (1Pet 4:16).

6. Even-though believers in Christ, had significant theological differences with Jews who did not believe in Christ, they were all regarded as part of Jews and one belief system, being called a sect (Act 24:5,14, 28:22).

4. Examination of Paul’s words: where to start
As I have mentioned above, it is important to read the whole of the 1st letter to the Corinthian congregation in one go, to really understand the instructions Paul is providing the Church of Corinth. But, as such a study might not be possible in a short post such as this, we will focus our attention to the the particular part of the letter in concern. Even though the verse in question is 1Cor 10:25, Paul starts addressing this single topic in 1Cor 8:1 and goes upto 10:33. As such, this whole part of the letter needs to be read without interruption, to understand the context of 1Cor 10:25.

5. A brief look at 1Cor 8:1 to 10:33 as one topic/theme
As we will see in this study, from 1Cor 8:1 onwards till 10:33, Paul addresses only one topic. And this topic is none other than, “food offered/sacrificed to idols”. In 1Cor 8:1, Paul starts by saying “Now concerning food offered to idols and this theme continues on till the end of chapter 10(besides a deviation in chapter 9) where he is still speaking on the same topic when he writes “But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it”(1Cor 10:28). Following is a summarized version of the 3 Chapters in concern: (Although reading through the complete section is advisable, the main/important sections are marked in red for quick reference) 

1Cor 8:1-3 Paul enters into the topic saying that we all have knowledge regarding things offered to idols. It is important to note that “abstaining from meat offered to idols” was one of the four key judgements that was commanded by the Jerusalem Council to be adhered by all believers (Acts 15:20,29). [please read this study for an in-depth understanding of these four main rulings made by James]. Paul reproves the Corinthians not to be puffed up by the things they know, but to act in love.

1Cor 8:4-5 Paul says that everyone of you know that an idol is nothing, as there are no other gods but ONE. He then goes onto mention that there are many who are known to be gods and lords on earth as well as heaven, possibly making reference to the “imperial cult” which worshiped the emperors as divine beings alongside the other idols which were worshiped, such as apollo, poseidon and aphrodite in Corinth.

1Cor 8:6-8 He then explains that there are no other gods other than the Father, and no other lords other than Christ for them. And that some do not possess this knowledge, being accustomed to idol worship and offering sacrifices in the past, still think eating meat at such a place would be equal to idol worship. (This was exactly what was happening at the Isthmian Games mentioned above in section 3. The President of the Isthmian Games was hosting large dinners at the temple complex of poseidon for the Roman citizens of Corinth. Even-though the food at these dinners were not offered to poseidon, eating at such a place could be seen as idol worship by new Christians because of their “conscience being weak” as per Paul’s words.)
1Cor 8:9 The “Liberty” or “Right” spoken in this verse, would have been the right Christians with Roman Citizenship at Corinth, received to participate at the civic dinners held in honor of the Isthmian Games. Participating at such an occasion would have been a highest honor one could receive in Corinth. Paul advises the people who had this right to be careful that they do not put other believers at risk.
1Cor 8:10 Paul speaks to the ones who had the “right” to participate at the civic dinners to be careful, as a new believer could easily see them at these idol temples, and think that participation in eating of meats offered to idols is an acceptable thing to do. We should especially note that Paul is not approving anyone of eating “meat offered to idols” as this goes against the ruling made by the Jerusalem Council in Act 15:20,29. He was simply saying that the Corinthians who had Roman citizenship should think twice before they participated at the Isthmian Game dinners (which were hosted at the idol temple of poseidon) as new believers could see them dining there, and think that it is acceptable to eat things that were offered to idols. The ones who had this “civic right” knew that the dinners hosted at the temple of poseidon did not have food offered to poseidon, but an outsider would not know this, and could be tempted to think participating in idol worship was acceptable.
1Cor 8:11-13 Paul ends the first part of his argument saying, that just because a seasoned believer understands what is right from wrong, he/she should be careful in how they guide their actions, as they could lead another to sin by what they do and how they act. He furthermore argues that if he is making a brother sin through his actions, he would rather eat nothing at all.
1Cor 9:1-27 Paul diverts for a moment from the subject at hand, to answer the ones who questions his authority (1Cor 9:3) explaining the service he is involved in, expecting nothing in return.
1Cor 10:1-11 Paul returns to the subject on hand, by giving a host of examples from the Old Testament Scriptures. He explains how God was with the children of Israel in the wilderness, the same way He is with them now. And how God was not pleased with many of the israelites because of their lusts, idolatry, fornication, provocation and murmuring. He explains that all of these situations came to pass as examples for them. 
1Cor 10:12,13 Paul advises the Corinthians to be careful of being arrogant to the extent where one thinks that they cannot fall into temptation. And that with temptation, God provides a path of escape.
1Cor 10:14 Paul makes a clear statement, coming back to the topic on hand “flee from idolatry”! basically have nothing to do with idolatry.
1Cor 10:15-18 Paul asks the Corinthians to judge his words, and see whether it is right, explaining how partakers of the wine and the bread become part of Christ. Similarly partakers of the sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple become partakers of that Altar.
1Cor 10:19-21 He explains that an idol is nothing. And that the “sacrifices offered to such idols” are also nothing of concern. But the sacrifices made to these idols by Gentiles are done towards demons, and that a person cannot be a partaker of the body of Christ and also be a partaker of such, done towards demonic beings. 
1Cor 10:22 He points back at the example he gave earlier about the Children of Israel, by asking whether we are trying to provoke God, and attain the same fate as them?
1Cor 10:23-24 He points back at 1Cor 8:9 here, saying things that are “lawful” or received as a “right” (speaking of the right of dining at the Isthmian Games) are not always profitable or edifying in regards to the congregation and other believers. He appeals to the Corinthians asking them to do whatever they do, for the good of their brothers and sisters in the congregation.

6. Now we finally come upon the verse in question 1Cor 10:25-33

1Cor 10:25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles(meat market), that eat, asking no question for conscience sake: 

In this study so far, we have seen that the topic in concern still remains “meat offered to idols”. As per section 3- point 4, we know that special provisions for meats were made at the markets of Corinth, as the Jews were known to not eat meat offered to idols, meat with blood or animals which were strangled to death. These were the exact requirements set forth by the Jerusalem Council in Act 15:20,29 for all gentile believers to follow. So it is safe to presume that believers in Christ would have also purchased meat from the same vendors who provided meat for the Jews. The Corinthian congregation would have had to buy meats which were specially separated and prepared for the Jews, as eating anything else would have been going against the words of James and the Jerusalem Council.

The fact that Paul who was with the Corinth congregation for 1½ yrs, and had given them many traditions that they were still adhering to(1Cor 11:2), had to now write to them saying “eat anything sold at the market, without question” can lead us to conclude that some circumstances had changed in Corinth. It is possible that the special provision for meat made for the Jews would have been revoked as the Romans were becoming agitated with them. Claudius had deported all Jews from Rome(Acts 18:2) and Gallio the deputy of Achaea was more than hostile towards Jews(Acts 18:16,17). From 40AD onwards there were tension building against the Jews, with uprisings happening in Judea in 46-48AD which were put down by the Roman authorities. All of these factors would have pushed authorities to draw back special provisions provided to the Jews such as what was provided in the meat markets.

If the special meat provision was revoked, the Corinthian Congregation would now need to have questioned Paul whether it would be acceptable to eat from the meat market, as they were unsure of the quality and origins of the meat they bought. The meat could have been brought to the meat markets from the temples, as we see such a case in 1Cor 10:28, where meat offered to idols were served at dinners.

Paul’s judgement was “to eat from the meat market, as their was no way to clearly know what was offered to idols or not”. But then he continues his discussion quoting Psalm 24:1 “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof”, known to have been a blessing which was recited before meals by all Jews[E]. Then in 10:27,28 he asks the congregation to eat what is set before them if they go for a function hosted by a non-believer, but to not partake if the non-believer informs them that the food is in fact, what is offered to idols as a sacrifice. Paul writes to them saying, not to partake for the sake of the non-believer (possibly to also showcase to the non-believer that Christians do not partake in idol worship, thereby gaining a chance to speak to them about the gospel) and also partly because eating what is sacrificed to idols, knowingly, is a sinful act as per the Jerusalem Council judgement. He further explains in 10:29-33 that the refusal to consume meat that is offered to idols, is not only a personal issue, but something that effects other believers as discussed above under 1Cor 8:10. He ends his words saying whatever you do, to do it for the glory of God, not offending Jew, Gentile or the Church, seeking to save others in all that they do.

7. Conclusion
The letter written by Paul to the Corinthians, like any other letter, needs to be read from beginning to end without pause. Plucking a verse out of context, such as 1Cor 10:25 could be used to argue that eating any food is permissible – but this would not be the reality behind the words of Paul. Like many of his writings which are misunderstood, this verse needs to be examined in its historical and textual context, for us to know its true meaning. The historical background of the Isthmian Games and its dinners hosted at the temple of poseidon as well as the special meat market provisions made for the Jews, shed light on the background of the questions the Corinthians would have written to Paul about. Paul in return explains why believers should not engage themselves in idolatry and eating sacrifices made to idols, and how they should act upon the discontinuation of the specially separated meat in the Corinthian Market. Nowhere does the topic of “eating against God’s instructions” come to play, in this epistle to the Corinthians. The written instructions of Lev 11 was never revoked by Paul; he simply said to eat the meats at the Corinth Market, as there was no way to know whether a particular meat was offered to idols or not. If a believer got to know that a meat was in fact offered to an idol as a sacrifice, he/she was not to partake in such a thing, as per the ruling of the Jerusalem council.

References ———————————————————————————————
[A] Pseudo Julian Letters 198, 407Bff. Also read ‘Achaean Federal Imperial Cult, Part II; The Corinthian Church’, TynB 46.1 (1995) 169-78
[B] E.R. Gebhard, ‘The Isthmian Games and the Sanctuary of Poseidon in the Early Empire’, in T.E. Gregory ed., The Corinthia in the Roman Period, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supp.8 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994), pp.78-94
[C] Plutarch Moralia 723A
[D] P.R. Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor, SNTSMS 69 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p.17. See also Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews Book 14, Ch 10.24
[E] T. Ber. 4.1.

Is it Law vs Grace and Faith vs Works?

Modern Christianity pits Law against Grace and Faith against Works. Is this doctrine Scriptural? Was this the plan and wish of our Heavenly Father? Did our Messiah put an end to Law and Works? It is important for us to understand the biblical definitions for each of these terms as well as learn the connections between these 4 biblical terms. If you are seeking the roots of our faith, and you are a person ready to be reproved, corrected and instructed by Scripture, I invite you to test the following study.

Definitions of Law, Grace, Faith & Works

Law – God’s Law lets us know what Sin is, in His eyes. Breaking God’s Law, is considered Sin.

  • Rom 3:20  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
  • Rom 7:7  What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
  •  1Jn 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law

Grace – Grace is God’s unmerited favor on our lives. We are saved and made righteous by His Grace towards us

  • Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Rom 3:24  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
  • Tit 3:7  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Faith – We gain God’s Grace through our Faith in Him. It is the belief that “He is the Creator & Redeemer, and there is no Life in us, without Him”

  • Heb 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
  • Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
  • Rom 4:5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Works – Works Is all that we do. Our obedience to his Word/Law brings us blessings. We will be judged according to our Works

  • 2Ti 3:16,17  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
  • Jas 1:25  But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
  • Rev 20:12,13  … and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Is Law against Grace?

Many presume that God’s Law is against Grace, and that by keeping God’s Law, we fall from Grace. These are common misconceptions which have risen from misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses which have been taken out of context and study them further.

Rom 6:14  For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
For one who quotes the above verse as proof of God’s Law is against His Grace, we have to read the very next verse to understand Paul’s thoughts. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. (Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law : 1Jn 3:4). So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What then? shall we BREAK GOD’S LAW, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid”. But why then did he say we are not under the Law? this will be addressed in the next point.

Gal 2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Gal 5:4  Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
The above verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatians explains what his whole ministry revolved around. Contrary to popular belief, Paul never said God’s Law is done away with. The misunderstanding lies in the concept of “Righteousness by the Law” or “Justification by the Law”. Paul is not saying that the “Law is against Grace”, or that whoever that obeys the Law has fallen from Grace. He is simply saying that “Righteousness” / “Justification” cannot be attained through the Law. He is saying that whoever tries to “attain righteousness” by the Law, has fallen from Grace. A good example of this, is the doctrine of the Circumcision Party which taught that a person needs to be circumcised to be saved/ receive salvation/ attain righteousness/ be justified. We are not made righteous through the Law, which is there to guide us. This is why we are not under it. But does this mean the Law is done away with? by no means. If that was so, what would we be judged by? God’s Law was never meant to be against His Favour/Grace.

Grace enables us to live according to God’s Law

The Grace of God clearly cannot be against the Law of God. This idea is further endorsed by Paul as we see in the verses below

Rom 6:1  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Remember that Sin = Breaking God’s Law according to 1Jn 3:4. So effectively, what Paul is saying is “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in BREAKING GOD’S LAW, that grace may abound?”. Grace came to us through Messiah’s blood Sacrifice because we were “Law Breakers” or “Sinners”. What Paul explains here is whether we can say, that we are no longer under Law and continue in Sin, because Grace has been poured on us. Grace has been poured on us, so that we no longer continue in Sin (Breaking God’s Law). (Refer Rom 6:15 as well)

Is Works against Faith?

Similar to the notion that God’s Law is against Grace, some presume that Faith is all that we need. The common misconception here is that works is “dead” where faith is “alive”. Many of these thoughts have also sprung up through misunderstandings of Pauline Letters. Let’s look at some of these verses as well, and study them further.

Gal 2:16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
As per the definition of the word “Works” given above, “Works” of the Law, means what you do in obedience to God’s word. For example not committing Adultery or Murder are Works of the Law. Just as we saw in the verses regarding Law & Grace, Paul again focuses his attention in telling the reader that you are not justified through your obedience to God’s Law, but by the Faith you have in God.

Rom 3:28  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Here again, Paul’s focus is justification through “Works”. He is not saying that one should not Obey God’s Law, but he is simply saying that one is not Justified through the good/obedient works he does. We are saved/ made righteous/ justified because of our faith – because we believe that God will give us the Grace we need to move from death to life. Just because we believe in God’s graciousness, can we now say that we do not need to be obedient to Him? To keep and do the Words of God? Obedience to God’s Words was never supposed to be against the Faith we have in God.

Works is what perfects our Faith

Even though no one is justified through “Works” alone, obedience to God’s Word or Works of the Law as it is known, does perfect our Faith in God. In other words. when we obey Him, we show the amount of Faith we have in Him. Let us see the explanation given by James in this regard.

Jas 2:21-24  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
James explains the connection between Works and Faith in a few words. He shows how Abraham’s Faith became perfect in the eyes of God, when he was willing to do what was commanded by God, even to slay his only son. In Gen 15, when God promised him an heir and a countless amount of descendants, Abraham believed. Gen 15:6 reads “And he believed in YHVH; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” God counted Abraham’s Faith as righteousness the moment he believed in God. But James shows how this verse of Scripture was fulfilled only when Abraham obeyed God in offering up his son. (And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:) As much as we have faith in God, without obedience to Him, that faith is not perfected. In other words, if we say we have Faith in Him, but keep on disobeying Him, how can we prove our faith like our father Abraham did? Let us obey Him and show how much faith we have in Him.

Conclusion

As we have seen through the passages above, we cannot pit “Law” against “Grace” and “Works” against “Faith”. We are not made righteous through the “Law” or our “Works”. It is only through our “Faith” and His “Grace” that we are saved. This doe not mean that God’s Law is done away with and we do not have to do the Works of the Law. God’s “Law” shows us how to be obedient in doing the “Works”, as much as “Faith” in Him, produces “Grace” or His Favor towards us. “Grace” in turn helps us keep his “Law” as well as our “Faith” becoming perfect in His sight through the Obedient “Works” we do.

We have to break down the wrong doctrines taught to us and start reading God’s Word through the help of His Spirit. Let us be perfect before God (2Cor 13:11, 2Ti 3:17, Heb 13:21, Rev 3:2) adding Works to our Faith and keeping His Law because of His abundant Grace.

There are many more misunderstood verses regarding this subject which we will study in the coming days. Meanwhile, I also invite you to read this study for more clarity on this topic.