2 Peter 3:15–16, Paul…hard to understand. If the writings of Paul are confusing as Second Peter 3:15-16 affirms, then why did the Holy Spirit write confusing things through Paul and not through others?
Why Paul Is Difficult to Understand
Paul was hard to understand in the first century as Peter states in 2 Peter 3:16–17, and he’s hard to understand now in the twenty first century, as we will discuss below. In fact, it might be said that if it was hard for Paul’s contemporaries (those who knew him and ministered with him) to understand him, then, logically, it follows that it will be even much harder for those of us to understand him who live 2000 years later and who didn’t know him or work with him. To the former point, Peter writes,
And account that the longsuffering of our YHVH 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. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
Again, if Paul was hard to understand in his day, how much more 2000 years later!
For those living and working with Paul, he was hard to understand because of his intellect and education. He was one of the top Jewish scholars of his day with an intellect to match it. You weren’t taught by Gamliel, the grandson of Hillel the Great, the founder of the Hillel School of Phariseeism and considered by some modern Jews to be the greatest sage of the common era, unless you were the top of your class in Judaism! This was the same Paul who was well-travelled, multi-lingual, could debate with the Greek philosophers of Athens, could quote Greek literature from memory and was from a wealthy and prominent family who were Roman citizens because of their wealth and influence. By contrast, most of Yeshua’s other disciples were from the backwoods regions of the Galilee and were common tradesman. Today it would be analogous to a logger from Oregon or a fur trapper from Alaska suddenly linking up into a working relationship with a PhD professor in physics or philosophy from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale universities.
Now scroll forward 2000 years. Since then, we have nearly 2000 years of church history with all of its institutionalized traditions, syncretistic belief systems, man-made doctrines, anti-Semitic theologies and so on to have to wade through. The very purveyors of these church traditions are also the same people (the Christian leaders and “scholars”) who are translating our Bibles. This means that they’ll often be translating the biblical text in ways that agree with their best (often anti-Torah) understandings of Scripture.
It is this Babylonian mixture of truth and error (man made doctrines and traditions of men along with questionable if not faulty Bible translations) out of which most of us have come. We have to somehow weave our way through this tangled religious theological web and mess and figure out what is truth and what is error, what to keep and what to toss out, who is right and who is wrong, what is wheat and what is chaff. This isn’t easy to do especially when we’ve been indoctrinated, even brainwashed by the church to view Paul, the Torah-law and the rest of the Bible in a certain way through the lenses of those who have taught us their viewpoints be they right or wrong. One’s attempt to separate the precious from the vile and the holy from the polluted promises, justifiably so, to be a daunting and frightening proposition. That’s why the majority of people will prefer to stay in the comfort zones of their churches and man made traditions, rather than to step out into the unknown and unexplored wilderness of being a truth seeker, and, like a modern-day archeologist, to dig down to the bedrock of biblical truth. To step out of the boat of the church system means that, like Peter, you have to have a higher measure of faith than those who will remain safely and comfortably in the boat of their religious traditions. It means that one has to keep their eyes on Yeshua and follow his voice, or else sink into the spiritual watery depths of spiritual confusion. It means that you have to role up your sleeves and get to work, and put on your rubber muck boots and slog through the muddy dung in the barnyard of men’s religious traditions, some of which are good and many of which are vile, to get to the solid high ground of biblical Truth.
Unlocking the Mystery of Understanding Paul
Now let’s discuss Paul specifically to unlock the mystery of how to understand him. This is not a complicated task if done in a logical way. The way NOT to do it is to cherry pick Paul’s difficult-to-understand scriptural passages out of the larger contest of Scripture and then to explain them one-by-one. To attempt to understand Paul in this manner becomes an impossible knot to untie—especially in light of how many Christian scholars have translated his hard sayings through the grid of their faulty understanding and biases.
Rather, the best way to understand Paul is to step back and to view his writings from the larger context of Scripture—to see the whole forest instead of merely focusing on the individual trees. For example, Paul told the saints in Corinth to imitate him as he imitated Messiah Yeshua (1 Cor 11:1). By the way, Paul’s statement here lines up with John’s instructions to all the saints in his first general epistle to do the same (1 John 2:6). If we’re to imitate Yeshua, then we must, logically, ask ourselves what our Master did, so that we can imitate him as Paul (and John) instructs. For sure Yeshua followed the Torah-law. If not, then he was a sinner, for we read in Scripture that “sin is the violation of the Torah-law” (1 John 3:4), that sin is unrighteousness (1 John 5:17) and that YHVH’s Torah-law defines what righteousness is (Ps 119:172). On the contrary, we know that Yeshua kept the Torah, for he was without sin, for if he had sinned, he wouldn’t been our perfect, sin-free Savior or Redeemer. He kept the Torah in all points and never violated a single command, which would have been sin (Heb 4:15; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Not only did Yeshua obey the Torah, but he clearly upheld its validity again and again (e.g. Matt 5:17–21; John 14:15, 21), and he commissioned his disciples to carry his instructions in this regard forward to the whole earth (Matt 28:20, 18–20 for context). So according to Paul, this is what he imitated, and what he expected the saints of his day (and us) to imitate.
Next, we read in numerous places that Paul spoke favorably of the Torah law.
Wherefore the law [Torah] is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Rom 7:12)
For we know that the law [Torah] is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. (Rom 7:14)
For I delight in the law [Torah] of Elohim after the inward man… (Rom 7:22)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin [i.e., violation of the laws/Torah of YHVH, see 1 John 3:4], that grace may abound? Elohim forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Rom 6:1–2)
Do we then make void the law through faith? Elohim forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom 3:31)
But we know that the law [Torah] is good, if a man use it lawfully…(1 Tim 1:8)
But if, while we seek to be justified by Messiah, we ourselves also are found sinners [i.e., violators of the law/Torah], is therefore Messiah the minister of sin [lawlessness/Torahlessness]? Elohim forbid. (Gal 2:17)
And when they heard it, they glorified YHVH, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe [in Yeshua the Messiah]; and they are all zealous of the law [Torah]: 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 [Torah]. (Acts 20:20–24)
While he answered for himself, neither against the law [Torah] of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. (Acts 25:8)
And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, [i.e., the Torah] yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. (Acts 28:17)
So with all of this overwhelming evidence (and more could be given) from Scripture itself that not only proves Paul’s favorable disposition toward the Torah-law, but that he actually lived according to it himself and taught both the Jews and the non-Jewish saints to do likewise, how is it that so many Christian scholars believe and teach the opposite? This is a discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, two Bible verses sum up the indigenous and general antipathy that all carnal humans have toward the commandments of Elohim because of their sin nature:
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