From Law to Grace: Conclusion
After surveying the biblical evidence relating to the law, there was not a clear answer. It seemed like the Old Testament was 100% in favor of the law, as expected. But both the gospels and Acts were somewhere between 90-100%. But then Paul's epistles seemed somewhere between 40% and 60%, depending on the epistle. If God had clearly changed his program, why was Paul arguing so strongly on both sides of the issue?
It seemed to me that there were three possible explanations. (Actually four, if you consider just ignoring all the contrary evidence.) Paul may have been inconsistent or just confused. Maybe he didn't really have a position; he just took whichever side contributed to his argument at the time. I rejected that explanation as unworthy of the logical thinker that Paul is portrayed as throughout Acts and the epistles.
Another possibility was that Paul changed his mind. Many of his negative comments about the law are found in Galatians, one of his earliest epistles. So he may have realized later that the law really was valid, as Acts portrays him. But coming from his background as a Pharisee, it seems unlikely that he would change in that direction. Also this wouldn't account for the two viewpoints in two adjacent verses. This didn't seem like a possible explanation.
The third option seemed the most likely, that Paul had a consistent position, but that we misunderstood what he was saying a good share of the time. Then the question became, which side does Paul probably favor? Would he be consistent with what Jesus taught and the way that Acts portrays him? Or would he really be teaching the opposite of that?
I decided to tentatively conclude that Paul upheld the continuity of the law, and to study the Bible from that perspective for awhile. I reasoned that Acts was a pretty straightforward historical account without a particular agenda. On the other hand, the epistles were written in response to particular situations. If we didn't know just what that situation was, there could be a lot of room for misunderstanding. It would be like hearing one side of a telephone conversation, without knowing who was on the other end.
In the years since I made this investigation, I have never regretted my conclusion. My studies have since supported the idea that Paul has been greatly misunderstood. I try to show the results of some of those studies in this web site. It is somewhat ironic that my study of how we went from Law to Grace ended as it did. Instead I found that the Torah, God's instructions for righteous living were not so much an embodiment of law as they were a channel of God's grace toward his people. So it was actually the Torah that went from law to grace as a result of my study.