reproduced from The New Testament Validates Torah
Pastor: 1 Timothy 1:9: The Law is not made for a righteous man.
“[R]ealizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers.”
On the basis of reading 1 Timothy 1:9, many Christians claim that “the Law is not made for a righteous man,” and then conclude that God’s Torah has no importance in guiding the conduct of born again Believers. Is it really true that the Torah or Law of Moses has nothing to tell those who have experienced the salvation of the Messiah? If so, this would certainly nullify the Psalmist’s edifying word: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The Psalmist has a great regard for the Torah or the Law of God, whereas today Messiah followers are often told that it is unimportant. Is there anything within Paul’s instruction to Timothy that has been overlooked?
The Epistles of 1&2 Timothy were written by the Apostle Paul to his dear friend and close ministry associate, mainly in order for Timothy to help stop the effects of a false teaching that had been circulating among the Believers in Ephesus. While the false teaching was largely disorganized and random, it did give a great deal of significance to myths and various speculations and genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4). In all likelihood, the reference to “genealogies” being a part of the Ephesian false teaching regarded speculations of obscure Tanach figures who are only mentioned once or twice in the Bible (i.e., the genealogical lists of Genesis chs. 5&11), but for whom there was a great deal of extra-Biblical information available in various sectors of Second Temple Judaism. The Ephesian false teaching also errantly advocated that the general resurrection had taken place (cf. 2 Timothy 2:18). The false teachers apparently used the Torah or Law of Moses as a basis for the ideas which they disseminated, but Paul is clear to assert that they completely misused the Law:
“For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:6-7).
Paul directly criticizes these so-called teachers’ modus operandi of speaking confidently and with great assertiveness—even though they ultimately really have no clue about the subject matter(s) they try to discuss: “they fail to realize the meaning of their own words still less of the subject they are so dogmatic about” (Phillips New Testament). Yet, the problems that have arisen in Ephesus are no fault of the Torah, because Paul is certain to inform Timothy that in contrast to the false teachers’ abuse of Torah, there is a proper way to use it, saying,
“But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8).
Although Paul has just told Timothy that there are some foolish individuals out there, presuming that they have the right to call themselves “Torah teachers” (1 Timothy 1:6-7), he does not at all want to give those in Ephesus who will encounter his letter the impression that he is anti-Torah. 1 Timothy 1:8 in the NASU preserves a wordplay that is seen in the Greek: Oidamen de hoti kalos ho nomos, ean tis autō nomimōs chrētai. Obviously, though, the usage of nomimōs is intended to convey a little more than just “lawfully,” as the term more fully means, “pert. to being in accordance with normal procedure, in accordance with rule(s)/law” (BDAG). Other translations of 1 Timothy 1:8 try to capture the varied dynamics of what this represents:
- “the law is good if one uses it properly” (NIV).
- “we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately” (NRSV).
- “We know that the Torah is good, provided one uses it in the way the Torah itself intends” (CJB).
A proper usage of the Torah is summarized by Paul in Romans 7:7-12, in describing how the righteous statutes of God’s Law reveal the sin in one’s heart, and cause spiritual death and exile from Him:
“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET’ [Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21]. But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”
In finding oneself condemned and effectively executed by one’s violation of the Torah, the only answer is to turn in repentance toward God and receive the salvation provided by Yeshua the Messiah.
The description of the Torah’s proper usage as nomimōs essentially would communicate to the Ephesians how there was indeed an appropriate way to apply its instructions—which would be quite contrary to the worthless speculations of the false teachers. In his further communication to Timothy, nomimōs is used to describe how an athlete “is not crowned unless he competes lawfully [nomimōs]” (2 Timothy 2:5, LITV) or “according to the rules” (NASU). A. Duane Litfin, a dispensationalist, correctly comments, “Paul wanted to be sure that he was not misunderstood. He was not disparaging the Law…There is an inappropriate, legalistic use of the Law which Paul disavowed; but there is also a proper use of the Law that Paul embraced.”
What Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:9 sometimes catches many of today’s Messianic Believers off guard, as the NASU renders it with “law is not made for a righteous person…” Some of the thoughts of various interpreters do not exactly help with us trying to understand this assertion, and are compounded by some poor translations like “law does not exist for the righteous” (Witherington).
One reading of 1 Timothy 1:9 would view it as Paul saying that the Torah is only “made” or intended for those who break it. But if the Torah is only intended for Law-breakers, would it then mean that those who do not violate it are not to know what it says? If people are in right standing with God via the salvation available in His Son, should they remain willfully ignorant of the Torah’s instructions, commandments, and historical accounts?
It is commonly thought that the Torah is, in fact, not needed or applicable for righteous people who have been saved, who are to live according to different principles. Fee says that “those who have the Spirit and bear its fruit have entered a sphere of existence in which the Law no longer forms its legal functions…” William D. Mounce is slightly more measured though, in concluding, “To use the law lawfully is to recognize its necessary limitations. The law is only for sins and sinners who stand opposed to the healthy teaching of the gospel that reveals the glory of God, the gospel that God gave Paul to proclaim.”
Many of today’s Christian readers encounter 1 Timothy 1:9 and see “it is designed not for good citizens” (REB) or “the law was not intended for people who do what is right” (NLT), and so there are various (immature) Believers who think that God’s Torah has no relevance for them. A very bad application of this passage results in some of today’s Christians being abysmally ignorant of the Old Testament; they don’t think the Torah was “made” for them, so they don’t bother to read it.
It should be recognized immediately how many of today’s theologians who think that the Torah was only for a previous era are not at all immoral, God-less people. For the most part, they absolutely believe that the moral statutes in the Law are to be followed by Christians, because Jesus reemphasizes them in His teachings. Yet, any reading of 1 Timothy 1:9 has to be held in concert with how the Torah and Tanach Scriptures are inspired of God for training and discipleship (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and Paul’s previous writing, “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good…[and] I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good” (Romans 7:12, 16). What is actually addressed in 1 Timothy 1:9, in view of the wider issues present in Ephesus of Torah manipulation by false teachers who promoted various myths and speculations (1 Timothy 1:4, 7), is that there is a proper usage of the Law of Moses that such false teachers have entirely missed. The thoughts of I. Howard Marshall & Philip H. Towner should be well taken here:
“The condemnation of those who wished to be teachers of the law ([nomodidaskaloi]) could be regarded as implying criticism of the law itself ([nomos]). The writer, therefore, proceeds to comment that, however much the law is misunderstood by his opponents, it is basically good, provided that it is properly understood and used as a means of bringing into the open whatever is evil in human conduct.”
If the Torah originates from the Creator, and as Deuteronomy 28:9 says, “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways”—then justified or redeemed people are to consider the perspective of Yeshua the Messiah who explicitly came to fulfill the Torah, and who bid His followers to keep it (Matthew 5:17-19). Surely for the unredeemed, the Torah pronounces condemnation and penalties upon them if they fail to receive salvation in the Messiah. But, the Torah does play a role far beyond only identifying and condemning sin, as it includes the foundational narratives of Biblical history and is to instruct God’s people about where they have been—so they can know where they are going in the future! God’s Teaching in the Pentateuch is something to be studied and consulted as born again Believers earnestly strive to know Him and His ways, just the same as any other part of Scripture.
While Torah-keeping is not intended to merit salvation, and a major purpose of the Torah as seen in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 is the identification of sin—is there something that many readers might overlook? Too many read 1 Timothy 1:8-10 from the perspective that with the arrival of Yeshua, the Law has now been superseded and totally replaced with the gospel. A negative consequence of this can be that the Torah is often not considered in one’s regimen of Bible study, and in a failure to grasp how much of the Torah is to instruct God’s people how to be blessed and prosperous in their lives on Earth. Proverbs 28:19 is keen to remind us, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.” How many of today’s Christians, in dismissing the relevance of God’s Torah, are really living the happy lives that He wants them to have? Even if they are redeemed from their sins, how many of them because of an ignorance of God’s Instruction are not being all of the things that He wants them to be?
The key to properly understanding what Paul asserts in 1 Timothy 1:9a will be found in one’s theological presuppositions. Does the Torah play any kind of role for born again Believers? An interpreter like Mounce thinks, it is not as though “the Christian and the law have nothing in common. It means that the Mosaic law is not the key to righteous living, and the commandments are summed up in the command to love God and one’s neighbor” (cf. Romans 13:9-10; Galatians 5:14). It is true that loving God and neighbor are imperative, and that a Believer’s source of righteousness is what the Messiah has achieved and not what humans can do with the Law (cf. Philippians 3:9). Yet even Christian interpreters like this recognize that obedience to God involves far more than just some vague “love,” but is to be substantiated in performing positive acts. These include principles such as how we are to be honest in our business dealings (Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:13) or how we are to be courteous to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:10-11)—which all good Christians recognize as valid commandments that remain true for any generation. And for today’s Messianic community, we do very much believe that all of God’s people can derive benefits and blessings from things beyond just following the Torah’s instruction on humanitarian deeds, but also in them remembering the seventh-day Sabbath, appointed times, and eating kosher.
The RSV, NRSV, and ESV all clue in readers to what Paul is really trying to say: “the law is not laid down for the just [or, innocent, NRSV] but for the lawless and disobedient.” Among English Bibles, someone comparing a version like the NASU which uses “made,” against “laid down,” immediately should see what the point is—as it concurs with Romans 7:7-12 and how one of the main purposes of the Torah is to identify and condemn sin. The verb keimai means “To lie upon,” which although can imply some kind of establishment, can also imply some kind of negative usage. AMG details how “In Matt. 3:10 and Luke 3:9, in regard to the ax that lies at the root of the trees, it does not simply mean that it is lying there, but also implies the necessity of its being taken up and used.” It is quite obvious that those who have been redeemed via the sacrifice of Yeshua, are not going to have the Torah “laid down” upon them—condemning and crashing down on them as sinners worthy of being cast into eternal punishment. Rendering 1 Timothy 1:9 with “The law doth not lie against a righteous man,” Wesley concluded that this meant “Doth not strike or condemn him,” and all he had to do was refer to the common human disobedience to the First, Second, and Third Commandments—the guilt of which people are to be released from in the gospel.
It is, however, important that we recognize how not all interpreters of 1 Timothy 1:9a agree with this assessment; they really do think that hoti dikaiō nomos ou keitai means that the Torah is probably not intended for redeemed people. Commentators who feel that “made” is a proper rendering of keimai point out how this verb is an ancient legal term akin to “being given.” In Philip H. Towner’s estimation, “Gk. [keimai], here with ‘law,’ means ‘to enact’ or ‘establish,’” and he finds support for this rendering in how “It forms a wordplay with [antikeimai] in v.  that serves to heighten the contrast and force the issue of the law’s real intention.” Witherington also argues from this position: “There is further rhetorical wordplay in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 with the contrast between keimai and antikeimai, the latter clearly meaning ‘standing against.’” So, it might be said that God is thought to make (or establish) His Law to regulate the activity of sinners, and yet they try to un-make (or un-establish) it by doing things completely opposed to it.
The problem with the view of keimai being rendered as “made”—versus being rendered as “laid down”—is in how the Torah plays a positive role for redeemed, Law-abiding persons, and not just unredeemed Law-breakers. Paul observes in Romans 8:4 how Yeshua was sacrificed “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The specific issue in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 is how the Torah relates to sinners and Law-breakers. Paul details in Romans 5:20a that with the formal giving of the Torah, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase.” With Moses being given the Torah at Sinai, given natural human proclivities, people would then break it—even in spite of knowing that there was capital punishment associated with its high sins. 1 Timothy 1:9-10, in describing how the Torah’s condemnation is “laid down” (RSV/NRSV/ESV) on sinners—also indicates the sad reality that many human beings, even when confronted with the severity of God’s Law, do all they can to oppose and overturn it. As strong and direct as the Torah’s penalties may be for Law-breakers, Law-breakers have a tendency to fight back and rebel with the same fierce resolve.
With this in mind, it is appropriate for us to be aware how some, who argue in favor of keimai being rendered as “made” in 1 Timothy 1:9a, do think that the Torah’s condemnation upon sinners is principally what is in view here. It is acknowledged how “law is not made for a righteous person” need not at all mean the errant extrapolation, “The Law has no relevance for a righteous person…” Marshall & Towner confirm, “When the writer states that the law is not for the righteous person, he means that it does not condemn believers who live godly lives and was not laid down to bind them.”
Also to be considered is what 1 Timothy 1:9a means in conjunction with how the false teachers promoted myths and strange genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4), an original context that need not elude us. George W. Knight III suggests that the Torah being “given” (his view of keimai) implies that it relates as a contrast to any of the myths that Timothy had to confront in Ephesus. He rightly observes, “Paul is saying that the law is not given to apply in some mystical way to people who are already ‘righteous,’ i.e., those already seeking to conform to the law. It is, rather, given to deal with people who are specifically violating its sanctions and to warn them against its specific sins.” He goes on to state, “So concerned is Paul to make this ethical point that he does not even mention the law’s soteriological use here.”
With keimai better translated as “laid down,” one can more easily recognize that Paul is not saying that the Torah is irrelevant for Believers; the issue is what the Torah means for those who violate it (cf. the uses of keimai in Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9 with the axe that cuts down a tree). This is why Marshall & Towner can conclude, “For the righteous person…is the person who keeps the law and does not need to be told what to do…They keep God’s law from the heart…” From this vantage point the Torah is specifically “for those who oppose the gospel.” Yet, their unfortunate conclusion is, “the vices [of 1 Timothy 1:9-10] are so far removed from the readers’ way of life” that it “demonstrate[s] the irrelevance of the law for them.” Marshall & Towner are right to state how many in 1 Timothy’s audience are not committing the sins of 1:9-10, but their comments would have more force here if they favored the “laid down” rendering of keimai, in how those who do not violate God’s Torah are spared from its condemnation.
Men and women, who have acknowledged Yeshua as Savior, have been redeemed from sin, and are filled with the Holy Spirit—should naturally have impressed upon their conscience a repulsion of the sins detailed in 1 Timothy 1:9b-10 via the power of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Born again Believers who have been forgiven do not have the Torah’s condemnation “laid down” upon them (even though they may err at times, having spiritual issues to work through with the Lord); the Torah is instead “laid down” upon anomois de kai anupotaktois. These people are “those who are lawless and rebellious.” Anomos immediately hits as a term that means “without law,” but more notably might be anupotaktos: “pert. to refusing submission to authority” (BDAG). Those who disregard God’s Torah and refuse to submit to Him as a Higher Authority will pay a heavy price for their insolence—especially “immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers” (1 Timothy 1:10)—if they remain unrepentant.
While the high sins of 1 Timothy 1:9b-10 are widely known aspects of the Torah’s instruction, standing against the myths of the false teachers—it has definitely been probed as to what degree the false teachers in Ephesus could have been associated with these sins. Did the false teachers Timothy had to confront actually practice any of the high sins of the Torah detailed here? These people might have been experts when it came to babbling off random speculations, but when it came to the high matters of importance in the Torah—did they find themselves not only ignorant, but significantly guilty sinners? Towner is reserved in his conclusion, “It may be that Paul implies that misuse, misunderstanding, and false teaching of the law are precisely what gives rise to such sinful behavior—that he thus accuses the false teachers of heading inevitably in this direction.” So, perhaps the false teachers were not guilty of practicing these sins themselves, but their speculations certainly did not deter or stop potential sinners, and they were on a probable path toward these sins themselves. Witherington, however, thinks that “the very ones touting the law are breaking its most essential commandments and encouraging others to do so as well.”
The Torah is laid down upon unrepentant sinners, including those who promote things “contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:10b). The definitive “sound teaching” that is going to bring all of the spiritual nourishment, contentment, and blessings that people desire is going to be found in the gospel. It will be found in knowing Yeshua the Messiah as Lord, and being instructed in teachings that enable people to focus on Him, His completed work, and the mission He bids His followers to perform. Paul implores this sound teaching as “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted” (1 Timothy 1:11). Having such a message entrusted to him, as one of the Lord’s servants, brings with it a sober responsibility to confront false teachings should they enter into the ekklēsia.
Too frequently, many of today’s Christians think that the Law and gospel are at odds with one another. But, if there is a proper, “lawful” use of the Law (1 Timothy 1:8), then there should certainly be a place for the Torah in association with the “sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:10) of the gospel. Unrepentant people are those who are condemned by the Torah, even when they to some degree claim to be “Torah teachers.” In the case of the false teachers in Ephesus, they were completely unable to exposit upon any kind of “sound teaching,” including those very big issues that require human beings to change their ways and submit to their Creator. Fee correctly notes how given the list of sins Paul has provided (1 Timothy 1:9b-10), “This, Paul says, is why God gave his Law, not for idle speculation and meaningless talk” as promoted by the false teachers. One of the big reasons the Torah was given was to regulate sin in definite terms—not to provide a venue for confusion. A proper usage of the Torah in association with the gospel, versus an improper usage, is aptly described by Knight:
“[W]hen the law is rightly applied as an ethical restraint against sin, it is in full accordance with the ethical norm given in the gospel as the standard for a redeemed life. A different use of the law, for example, in a mythological or genealogical application to the righteous, is thereby shown to be out of accord with the law’s given purpose and the gospel and its teaching.”
This description fits the circumstances Paul was writing to Timothy about in Ephesus quite well. Within 1 Timothy 1:8-11 Paul has not at all dismissed the relevance of the Torah’s instruction, but has made the point that its condemnation is not “laid down” (1 Timothy 1:9, RSV/NRSV/ESV) on those who are redeemed. On the contrary, such a condemnation is enforced upon Law-breakers, which to some degree would include the pseudo-Torah teachers (1 Timothy 1:7). The Torah does have a proper usage in association with the good news of salvation (1 Timothy 1:8, 11), particularly as it informs us about the Messiah who had to come and save sinners from its penalties (cf. Colossians 2:14). Marshall & Towner offer some useful summarizing remarks for this section of 1 Timothy:
“Paul would have said that Christ delivers us from being under the law and places us under grace; therefore, it can be argued that the law is not needed for the person who does God’s will through faith in Christ; nevertheless Paul understood it to have a continuing function in relation to the conviction of sin (Rom 7.7-12)…So here also, the writer has already shown in 1.5 that the gospel leads to love in association with purity of motive; it follows that Christians do not come under the condemnation of the law.”
Today’s Messianic Believers should heed the instruction Paul issues to Timothy in Ephesus, when we listen to various people identifying themselves as “Torah teachers.” Such persons need to demonstrate a significant ability to expound upon the key ethical, moral, and foundational principles of Moses’ Teaching, which are to convict people of their sins and lead them to the Messiah Yeshua. If, however, all such “Torah teachers” do is promote various curiosities and speculations that tickle ears and help them to gain a following (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10; 2 Timothy 4:3-4), then at least according to 1 Timothy 1:4-11, they will prove to be incapable of demonstrating forth the Law’s true and lawful functions.
 While often rendered with “some men,” all the Greek has is tines or “Certain persons” (RSV/ESV). This is important to recognize, especially as some of the Ephesian women were involved in disseminating and promoting the false teaching (1 Timothy 5:13-15).
A close reading of the pronouns in the Greek source text within the Pastoral Epistles is in order, because while various English translations may provide “men,” “certain persons” or “individuals” from both genders are more likely in view. Cf. Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 299.
 BDAG, 676.
 A. Duane Litfin, “1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; Titus,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 732.
 Ben Witherington III, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 191.
 Gordon D. Fee, New International Bible Commentary: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 45.
 William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Vol. 46 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 44.
 I. Howard Marshall with Philip H. Towner, International Critical Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 373.
 Mounce, 34.
 Zodhiates, Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, 855.
“The axe is already laid [keimai] at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).
“Indeed the axe is already laid [keimai] at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:9).
 Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, 772.
 George W. Knight III, New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 82; Marshall & Towner, 377 fn#45; Mounce, 35.
 Philip H. Towner, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 124 fn#7.
 Witherington, Titus-1-2 Timothy-1-3 John, 196 fn#84.
 Marshall & Towner, 373.
 Knight, 83.
 Marshall & Towner, 377.
 Ibid., 378.
 It is important to be aware of the NASU rendering of Nehemiah 9:14, which actually is completely unrelated to the translation issues of 1 Timothy 1:9:
“So You made known to them Your holy sabbath, and laid down for them commandments, statutes and law, through Your servant Moses.”
Here, the verb rendered “laid down” is tzavah, appearing in the Piel stem (intensive action, active voice) and meaning “lay charge (upon), give charge (to), charge, command, order” (BDB, 845), also translated as “command” (RSV) or “ordained” (NJPS). Tzavah was translated with entellomai in the Septuagint, a verb simply meaning “to command.”
 BDAG, 91.
 Towner, 125.
 Witherington, Titus-1-2 Timothy-1-3 John, 196.
 Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 46.
 Knight, pp 91-92.
 Marshall & Towner, 382.
 Consider some of the author’s thoughts in his article, “The Effect of Mysticism and Gnosticism on the Messianic Movement.”