Most believers would consider their answer to the question “Are you under the Law?” was pretty easy. It would be “No.” They would reach for Romans 6:14 and rightly proclaim that as followers of Messiah, Paul has clearly stated they are not “under the law.”
Rom 6:14 states:
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. (KJV)
The vitally important question leading from this is: What does “under the law” actually mean?
Given Rom 6:14 is probably the most quoted verse to explain the doctrine that Yeshua (Jesus) died to free the church from the laws (Torah) of the Tanakh (Old Testament), we need to ensure we have gotten this correct, as there is a lot riding on this interpretation. Let’s go back to some biblical definitions and get some context for what we’re discussing. The first definition I want to look at is “sin” as this is what is being contrasted with “Grace” in Rom 6:14.
1 John 3:4 states:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
Sin is the transgression of the law (Torah).
So breaking Torah is sin (often referred to as “lawlessness”). The devil is well known for this behaviour, his first act in the garden was to promote lawlessness against God’s command not to eat of the fruit. And he’s been deceiving us on this one ever since... “Did God say…?”
Whenever you read the word “sin” in the New Testament, remember it is talking about breaking Torah. That will help put things into perspective and probably change your New Testament forever.
Immediately after verse 14 Paul goes on to say in verse 15:
What then? Shall we sin (= break Torah) because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!
If we are not to go on sinning, by definition we are not to transgress the law (Torah)! (1 John 3:4).
Therefore “Not being under the Law” is not a free pass from observing the law. Let me say that again:
Not being “Under the Law” does not exempt us from observing it.
This has massive implications for those who call themselves followers of Messiah. In fact, if you take that blinder off, your New Testament will read very differently.
So what evidence is there for the law applying post Calvary?
Paul openly proclaims that he follows the law:
Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
Acts 21:24 – James defends Paul’s keeping of the law
"Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.”
Acts 24:14 – Paul defends his own keeping of the law
"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.”
Paul talking about end times warns about a lawless (Torah-less) one and the end of those who follow him …
2 Thessalonians 2: 9-12
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
We also find in the end times prophecies of the Tanakh (Old Testament) that Messiah will reign in Jerusalem and teach His laws (Torah) to the nations.
Isaiah 2: 2-4 (see also Micah 4:1-3)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
We see that the “New Covenant” doesn’t replace the law, it just writes it on people’s hearts.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,” says the Lord. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
This is repeated in Hebrews 8:8-10
Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them,” says the Lord. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days,” says the Lord, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
You will note that Hebrews 8:8 says God found fault with them (Israel) not with the law (Torah). God is not replacing Torah, He is writing it on their hearts (i.e. they are now following Torah because they love God).
So all through scripture we see that the law (Torah) was not done away with at the cross. It was followed by Paul post-Calvary, spoken of as active in the end times by the prophets and the New Covenant doesn’t do away with it either, in fact it brings us closer to it, by writing it on our hearts.
Amos 3:7 says:
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
This teaches that God won’t act if He hasn’t already revealed it through His prophets. And yet nowhere in the prophets can we find talk of the law passing away. Rather, when speaking of the law, scripture says:
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord!
Life and freedom are connected to keeping the law:
Psalms 119: 44-45
So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.
Matthew 19:17b – Yeshua (Jesus) speaking
“… if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.''
Scripture goes on to tell us that the way we love God is by keeping His commandments (Torah):
1 John 5:3
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
John 14:15 – Yeshua speaking
"If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
If we’re not keeping His commandments (Torah), we’re not loving God!
Let that sink in…
Yeshua had His own commentary on His Torah:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil (fully preach). For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Brackets mine)
If you want God to call you great in the kingdom of heaven, you’ve just been given the recipe!
Part of Yeshua’s mission on earth was to fully preach (explain) His commandments (Torah) because the Pharisees and teachers of the law had done such a great job of corrupting God’s laws. Many of Yeshua’s discourses with them were exercises in correction. So why would Messiah spend so much of His time on earth correcting the law’s teachings just to nullify them on the cross a short time later?
Yeshua by both His life and teachings expounded on His Torah and showed us what having His law written on our heart would look like. In this very same passage he does just that…
Matthew 5: 27-28
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Here Yeshua has just explained what the law written on our heart would look like.
So what on earth does “Under the Law” mean then?
Being “under the law” is Hebrew idiom for being under the consequences of breaking the law. We already know that breaking the law is sin and the wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23). Christ paid this price and freed us from the curse of the law. Hallelujah! Whilst we are freed from the curse of the law (= not under the law) we aren’t freed from obeying it, because then we couldn’t love God (1 John 5:3), we’re just free from the consequences when we fail.
So a paraphrase of Rom 6:14 might read:
For sin (i.e. breaking Torah) shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the curse of the law (i.e. the consequences of sin/Torah breaking), but under grace.
This would then align with verse 15:
What then? shall we sin (break Torah), because we are not under the (curse of the) law, but under grace? God forbid! (brackets mine)
Otherwise these verses end up with the logical conundrum that we shouldn’t sin (break Torah) because we are not bound by Torah.
The doctrine of salvation by grace through faith remains intact. It’s how we live our lives once we’re saved that needs revisiting. Perhaps James can help us here.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
For further study I recommend:
Shalom and God Bless,