The Law of God
Nothing is more important to the Christian (or to all humanity) than the Law of God. The Law of God ought to be held in the highest esteem by everyone in the world, and that should include all parts of the Law, not just sections that some people consider more significant than others. Indeed, the whole Law represents the foremost teaching of the Holy Scriptures. This is why the doctrines concerning the Law and its holiness are the most profound and meaningful in the Scriptures. Such doctrines reach this stature of importance because the Law is nothing less than the dictates and commands of God the Father. It is God who legislates the Law to govern and to educate humanity.
The type of attention by human beings to that Law (and the amount of obedience they show to its dictates) is the standard by which God the Father and His Son Christ Jesus will view humans on Judgment Day in all matters of rewards and blessings (or, alas, also in affairs dealing with punishments and curses.) Because of this, it is of utmost importance that Christians should know their legal positions before the Father in all factors relating to God’s holy Law. As a matter of fact, and in the simplest of terms, the Law of God is the vehicle by which sin is defined (1 John 3:4). It is the written code for conduct by which mankind will be judged at the divine tribunal of God the Father and of Christ Jesus. This means that the Law is a serious thing to consider. In this book, the Law is given continual respect and honor, and I hold it in the highest esteem. It is recognized as holy, just and good. In a word, it is sacrosanct.
Look at some essential aspects of the Law of God. The Scriptures speak about a particular “day” as important to God. To illustrate a point, let us for a moment look at that “day.” Without controversy, one of the most important segments of the Law is the command to obey the Sabbath day of God (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). Among all the laws of the Bible, the Sabbath is one of the most significant and holy commandments that anyone can find.
It is time that all Christians (and all people in the world) understand just how important is the Sabbath day (along with all the other laws of God). These biblical laws should be acknowledged by mankind and strictly obeyed if they pertain to you and to me. Indeed, the Jews counted the number of laws that God gave to Moses and they came to 613 commands. All of them were God’s teaching to Israel to help them in their obedience to Him, and they all define what sin is (1 John 3:4). Since the Law is of such paramount issue, this book, of necessity, will pay utmost attention to all the divine faculties that comprise God’s holy Law, including matters about the Sabbath.
How must Christians reckon the Law of God in their appraisals? Paul tells us in no uncertain terms how important and how holy, righteous, and good the Law of God is to all Christians. Paul’s teaching also extends to all humans on earth. So, let us fuse together from Paul’s writings in the Book of Romans a montage of facts on the permanence and use of the Law.
“Do we then make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law. ...
The Law has dominion over a man as long, as he lives. ...
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good. ...
for we know that the law is spiritual. ...
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. ...
So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God. ...
that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us. ...
for the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
Romans 3:31; 7:1, 12,14:7, 22, 25; 8:4, 7
To the apostle Paul, the Law was at the highest pinnacle of worth and importance. It not only defined what sin is, it was also (as was well known at the time) the channel through which all mankind will be judged when mankind stands before the judgment seat of God. That’s right, the Law of God will be your judge.
Yet in spite of these wonderful and true teachings about the holiness, righteousness, and permanence of the Law of God — and its effect over all humans until they die — the apostle Paul also taught that all Christians are no longer “under the Law.” By that negative statement, as we will see, he even meant under the Ten Commandments, as well as under the whole Law in the main context found in Romans chapters 6 through 8. Though Paul held the Law of God in utmost respect and esteem, he strangely appears to contradict (so it seems) those very teachings of the permanence, heedfulness, and holiness attached to the Law of God.
Look at another montage of texts. Starting in Romans 6:15 note how Paul said that Christians “are not under the Law, but under grace.”
“If the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband ... she is free from that Law ... wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ.”
“But now we are delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held.”
“Knowing that a man is not justified [Greek: MADE RIGHTEOUS] by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ that we might be justified [Greek: MADE RIGHTEOUS] by the faith of Christ, and not by works of the Law: for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified [Greek: MADE RIGHTEOUS].”
“Is the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a Law which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law.”
“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified [Greek: MADE RIGHTEOUS] by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster [that is, no longer under the Law].”
“Tell me, you that desire to be under the Law, do you not hear the Law?”
Paul continues in Galatians to cite an allegory to explain this negative aspect from the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Law. And, as if these references were not enough, Paul throws his last volley of negative comments with two verses about the Law. He states:
“Stand fast, therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [the Law].”
This negative was followed by another: “But if you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law” (Galatians 5:18). These negative comments by Paul confuse some students of the Bible. They look to be so contradictory to what he stringently said before.
On the surface one might imagine that the profound differences in emphasis by the apostle Paul in the above paragraphs (when compared to one another) are in utter contradiction to teachings by the same apostle. They seem so diametrically opposite in meaning from one another. How can he be so negative about the Law of God when formerly he was so positive by saying it was holy, righteous, and good? Paul also said the Law was the very instrument by which sin is determined. But then he turns around and states with dogmatism — Christians are no more under that Law!
We need to understand why Paul insisted on such negative judgments concerning the relevance of the Law of God for those who are Christians. The answer is simple and plain if one takes a common sense view of the whole issue that the apostle Paul presents. We will see that there is not the slightest contradiction in Paul’s teaching. Indeed, it is the most wonderful and logical instruction that could be presented to Israel and mankind. Let us see.
Paul stated in the books of Romans and Galatians that if humans accept Christ in faith for the forgiveness of their sins, then God the Father reckons that they all died with Jesus Christ when He died on the tree of crucifixion. To Paul, Christ had become a substitute sacrifice for all Christians. Christ performed a special “dying” for other people when He died on their behalf. Paul said:
“For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me [that is, Christ died in Paul’s place].”
Paul looked on himself as one who already died. He believed all Christians also already died. The central doctrine he boldly presented was that the whole of the human race had already died; they were now all “dead to the Law” (Galatians 2:19).
In no way was Paul getting rid of the Law when he said that we were “dead to the Law.” He simply said that the circumstances by which God judged humans had now changed. Mankind had DIED! To Paul, the Law did not apply any longer in any factor regarding the Christian because the Christian was now reckoned to be dead “in Christ.” So, we Christians are like Paul’s illustration in the Book of Romans that if a husband dies, then the Law, that bound that husband and wife was no longer in force because the husband died. This meant that the wife was no longer married to the man.
“But if her husband be dead she is free from that Law. ... wherefore, my brethren, you are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ [when Christ died and became a substitute for us]. ... but now we are delivered from the Law that being dead wherein we were held.”
Paul stated that we had been legally in a marriage state, by being attached to Israel; but now the husband of that marriage had died and we were being called, collectively, a “widow.” The Old Covenant was such a marriage relationship between Israel and God, but when the “husband” (Christ) died, that death ended the Old Covenant between Israel and God. The nation of Israel is now considered “a widow.”
So look at PRINCIPLE ONE. There is utter simplicity in Paul’s meaning. Whereas the first marriage of the woman of Paul’s illustration was holy, righteous, and good, and lasted until the death of the husband, so too the Law of God that the Father gave to ancient Israel was a very holy thing. It was righteous and good, and lasted until Christ died for mankind. Yet, and in spite of the Law being holy, righteous, and good, the Law had some powerful and unwelcome negative aspects associated with it.
Negative aspects? That’s right. Paul in the Book of Romans spent considerable time rehearsing what were the negative factors in the Law of God, and they were very upsetting indeed. In fact, to get rid of these negative features surrounding the Law, Paul said that all Christians died in Christ when Christ died on the tree of crucifixion. This was the central core of Paul’s teaching.
Now, the apostle Paul did not consider anything wrong with the first marriage of the widow in his illustration, for while that marriage was in force, Christ had not yet died for the sins of the world. But there were negative factors associated with the Old Covenant because all people (including Israelites) were held in bondage to the consequences of breaking that Law of God that the Old Covenant demanded be kept. Paul knew that not only Israelites, but all in the world were condemned and headed for severe judgments and chastisements for their sins that they committed under that Law of God.
These were the principal negatives attached to the constitutional framework of the Law of God. There was no way to be saved from those negatives as long as the Law held a person captive to its holy and august requirements. Mere animal sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, or any other sin offerings, were not sufficient to solve the problem of recurrent sins (breaking God’s Law) that humans consistently found within their normal lives while they were “under Law.” After each sacrifice for sin, all knew (as Paul pointed out) that people kept on sinning and death sentences continued over each person who found him or herself breaking the Law.
It is important in a theological sense to know just what Paul considered to be the Law of God about which he wrote. To show this, in Galatians 4:21–31 Paul gave the illustration of Sarah and Hagar, the wife and concubine of Abraham mentioned in the Book of Genesis. It is interesting that Paul even called his illustration a teaching of the Law. In Jewish and biblical terminology the first book of the Bible is called the initial book of the Law. So, when Paul thought of the Law of God, he included laws given to Adam, other laws given to Noah, those given to Abraham and also all those given to Moses and Israel at the time of the Exodus. All these laws were commands that were good and right, but Paul found them impossible to keep in a perfect sense.
There were many negatives to human welfare associated with the earlier Law of God. This is what Paul indicated when he said:
“And the commandment, which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it [the commandment] slew me.”
Indeed, everyone who lived under the Law of God (before the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion), was utterly condemned by that very Law ordained to give life to those who would keep it perfectly. The word “perfectly” easily condemned all humans.
This was the profound negative attached to the Law. And, alas, no one was ever able to keep God’s commandments from the time of Adam to that of Christ. Paul stated a cardinal truth when he taught that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And there were no degrees in lawbreaking in the eyes of God. It was not that some laws were more important to God than others, or that some were reckoned by Him to be severe and others as mild in interpretation. In no way was that true. In God’s view, even a minor transgression of the Law meant that all the Law (in its entirety) had been broken (James 2:10).
Under the Law, man was in a hopeless state because he found himself consistently sinning, with perhaps a few brief periods of temporary relief. Unrelenting, the Law of God habitually reminded mankind of his degenerate and desperate state. The Law always revealed to man (in a negative sense) his sinning nature and that the Law issued a death warrant that continually loomed over man and awaited him (eventually) because of persistent sins. This disclosure to man of man’s unrighteousness by statements within the Law was a profound negative appraisal. It disturbed Paul (and other apostles) with remorse.
Keep PRINCIPLE ONE in mind. While the former “marriage” of the widow in Paul’s illustration was fine and holy and good, there was no way to get out from under the Law’s definition of sin and its negative consequences until the death of one of the parties to that former marriage relationship. So, when Jesus died on the tree of crucifixion, He took with Him all the sins of Israel and also all the sins of the world on His back (John 3:16–17). Christ died in place of all Israelites and all human beings as a substitute (on their behalf) so that all are now reckoned dead to that old relationship that humans had with God before Christ forgave humans of their sins. Paul sums up this teaching in an admirable way in 2 Corinthians 5:14–21. Note how Paul showed that all humans (not just Israelites) are reckoned to have died with Christ when He died on the tree of crucifixion.
“For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all then were all dead: and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. ...
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [a new creation, not an old man], old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us [to the apostles] the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself [the whole of the world, not just Israelites alone], not imputing their [the world’s] trespasses unto them: and has committed unto us the word of reconciliation ...,for He has made Him to be sin for us [He was a sin offering for all in the world], who knew no sin, that we might he made the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:14–15, 17–19, 21
So, PRINCIPLE ONE tells us that Christ died for all humans on earth (including all Israelites). This means that God the Father no longer imputes to the world the sins and trespasses they were subjected to before Christ died for all in the world. Now, those who are in Christ are new creations of God. They are to live in newness of life — as though they had died and been resurrected from the dead. They are no longer subject to the Law of God that pertained to their former lives before their “deaths” in Christ. They died to that particular Law with its negative aspects found in its judgments and curses. Paul said that humans have in a sense been “widowed” to that former Law because Christ (the “husband”) died. They are now subject to another Law that Paul mentioned in Galatians 6:2. “Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” It is now the LAW of Christ that governs them.
Paul taught that the whole world “died” to the former Law of God in order to accept another law that is better, the Law of Christ. Paul just said: “But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the Law [the former Law of bondage]” (Galatians 5:18). When Christ died, they also became “dead in Christ” to that old Law. This does not mean that Christians are abandoning law. No, they are not giving up law. They have simply paid their debt to the old law and are now under a new Law of Christ in which they perform the fruit of the Spirit. The Law of Christ is represented by those nine fruits (virtues or principles) of the Spirit which are so interlaced with one another in importance that they coalesce into being a single “fruit.” Paul said:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no Law.”
Nor does any law or commandment define each of them. To discover what each of them means, you have to become “one” with the Father and with Christ Jesus who made them for us to walk in.
These nine principles of the Spirit are not “against” (or they do not “contradict”) any law no matter what it is. These nine principles are the very embodiment of all laws that come from the hand of God. Indeed, no proper laws can exist without the adoption of these nine spiritual virtues or principles. And notice this important point, each of those principles is NOT defined with written legislation like the written Ten Commandments or the other written codes of Moses. Not one of those principles is thoroughly defined in dictionary format or in a written legal code-form within the Holy Scriptures (though scores of examples illustrating them are given). These are the UNWRITTEN virtues or principles that represent the Law of Christ. That Law is “written” on the heart, not on tables of stone, or even written as laws that thoroughly explain each principle written in a book (even in the Scriptures).
The nine fruits of the Spirit in action in a person’s life supersede the necessity of having written laws (any written laws), no matter what they are or were. No law ever made (even the holiest) is against these nine principles of life that should be manifested within each Christian. As I have said, these nine fruits now represent “the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). All should keep that Law of Christ. Paul said that even living in the fashion of the Gentiles, who walked without the Law of God mentioned in the Scriptures, those Gentiles could still be said to be “under [or, within] the Law to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21) when they observe the nine fruits of the Spirit. Paul fully believed that he and the Gentiles were living “within the Law to Christ” even when Paul himself was walking after the manner of the Gentiles and not acting like a Jew under the Old Covenant.
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law. To them that are without law [that is, to those outside the pale of Judaism, and those who are non-Israelites], as [living] without law, [but] being not without law to God, but [living within or] under the law to Christ.”
1 Corinthians 9:20–21
This “Law of Christ” is one motivated in the heart, and not in written words on external tables of stone where Moses had placed the constitution of Israel.
“You [Gentile Corinthians] are our epistle [like an outward letter] written in our hearts, known and read of all men. Forasmuch as you are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ [but like an open letter from Christ himself] ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God not in tables of stone but in fleshly tables of the heart. ...
Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament [the New Covenant]; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:2–3, 6
What does Paul mean when he said that the written Law engraved in alphabetic letters on two tables of stone was a Law that “kills”? This is simple because this fact was its chief negative aspect. Recall that Paul told the Roman Gentiles that the
“commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”
That’s right. The commandments of God (no matter how good and holy they were) revealed to Paul that he was a sinner and one without a Savior before the death of Christ for all mankind. This was a profound negative aspect associated with the Law of God. Indeed, the Law actually “kills” a person even though it was ordained by God to give life.
To overcome this negative feature of the Law, Paul went on in 2 Corinthians 3:7 with the following deduction.
“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: how shall not the ministry of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation [the Law which killed people] be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory ...
For if that which is done away was glorious ... the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that [glory] which is abolished. But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same vail [that covered the glory] untaken away in the reading of the old testament [the Old Covenant]; which vail was done away [being done away] in Christ.”
2 Corinthians 3:7–9, 11, 13–14
Thus, the “ministration of death and condemnation” which was the Old Covenant and its glory (with many negative aspects), has been replaced by a more glorious relationship with God through Christ. The negative features of the Law were abolished and were replaced with highly positive attributes and promises. Matters of the heart (based on faith) governed the New Covenant, not laws on two stone tablets. The exercise of faith in Christ (or, the faith of Christ), which was the reliance on the efficacy of Christ’s death, resurrection, and salvation power, brought in a New Covenant relationship to Israel. This was the establishing of a new Law. Paul said that showing a faith in Christ meant “we establish the Law.” Paul said that Christians actually establish a law based on faith (not a Law that is carved on stones and one that remains external to the human heart). The law that Christians now establish is a “Law of Faith” (Romans 3:31).
Paul said virtually the same thing in the Book of Hebrews. The old Law had become no longer applicable to Christians.
“Now has he [Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
For finding fault with them [the weaknesses of the Israelites who could not keep any part of the Law properly and the Law became death to them], he says,
‘Behold, the days come,’ 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 continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not,’ 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 into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. ...
In that he says, a new covenant, he [God] has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away.’”
Hebrews 8:6–10, 13 (quoting Jeremiah 31:31–34)
Paul said that the Old Covenant had not yet vanished away for most of the Israelites because they were still under its banner and they were not yet accepting Christ and His death on the tree of crucifixion for the forgiveness of their sins. But it was ready to vanish away. This means that the Old Covenant will remain in force for all people who do not wish to accept the terms of the unwritten “Law of the heart” (the “Law of Faith”), the “Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Only when people, including the Israelites and Jews, accept the death of Christ and His forgiveness of their sins (which banishes the negative consequences of the Law of God embedded within the Old Covenant legislation) will they be granted a new relationship with God through what God calls the New Covenant.
[Later I will show how Paul reckoned it was necessary for the Gentiles to join Israel to take part in the New Covenant promises, because the New Covenant was made only with the nations of Israel and Judah.]
The New Covenant for all Israel will only be made with them when Christ returns. But for a few “spiritual Israelites” it can be ordained now if they express faith in Christ and agree to partake of the Lord’s Supper (which was designed as a precursor ritual symbolizing the enactment of a “pre-New Covenant” relationship that God now has with those of spiritual Israel). Christians, however, through Christ, can now enter the New Covenant relationship that Israel will obtain when Christ returns. Even now for “spiritual Israelites,” Christ Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant. As Paul said,
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal [eonian, age-lasting] Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he [Christ] is the mediator of the new testament [the New Covenant], that by means of death, for the redemption for the transgressions that were under the first testament, they that are called might receive the promise of eternal [age-lasting] inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives.”
So, when Christ died on the tree of crucifixion for all of us, Paul reckoned that all of us died with Him.
“For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.”
2 Corinthians 5:14
In simple terms, the Old Covenant relationship which was found in the Law of God, that had as its constitution the written commandments on the two Tables of Stone, is no longer applicable in having a proper and holy relationship with God the Father. This is because Christians have “died” to that Law and its requirements when they embraced Christ. They are NOT under any of that Law any longer. They are now widowed to their former marriage relationship. That particular Law (that God gave to Moses) is thoroughly abolished for the Christian.
But let us not think that the Old Covenant has yet been done away for all people. Why, the Jewish people still want to be under it, as do Christian people in denominations that demand that the works and rules of the Old Covenant are still adhered to. So Paul did not unilaterally dismiss the earlier “Law.” He did show how mature Christians are no longer under that earlier Law (no matter how good it was) because all Christians have now died in Christ to that Law and its negative consequences. They are now “widowed” to it. This means that spiritual Israelites are no longer “married” as stated by that Law. Paul was showing how God was substituting another unwritten “Law” (the Law of Christ) for the earlier one because the old one had no means of salvation associated with it (which represents a very negative demerit). But Christ now provides a positive alternative that bequeaths to mankind an unvarnished salvation and hope.
This brings us to PRINCIPLE TWO. Paul used another illustration besides a husband dying and the wife now being free because that Law of marriage ended with the husband’s death (or our “dying” to the Law with our own “deaths” that occurred when Christ “died” for us). Paul continued in Galatians to explain why Christians are no longer under the earlier Law of God that existed before the crucifixion of Christ. This other illustration is that we Christians are now grown up spiritually and we are no longer children in the faith. Paul reckoned that all people in the generations before the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ were reckoned by God to be children and under the Law that was then in force.
“Before faith came we were kept under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster [as an adult educator who educates a child] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified [Greek: made righteous] by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster [the earlier Law of God]. ...
Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differs nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until such time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law [also that Christ could die for us] to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons [that is, to be full grown and mature sons].”
Galatians 3:23–25; 4:1–5
The earlier Law of God before the crucifixion of Christ was a very important legal constitution that was holy, righteous, and good. However, it had no salvation (or a Savior) associated with it because no one could keep that Law of God perfectly. And though it was holy, righteous, and good, it was still a Law meant for those who were children in their understanding and they could not comprehend real spiritual and mature truths. This did not make that Law bad. Indeed, it was very good. But the apostle Paul showed that the former Law was specifically designed for the use of spiritual infants who were reckoned to be young children in their spiritual development. So, PRINCIPLE TWO shows the former Law was for infants in the faith and NOT for us adult Christian believers.
Let me illustrate. Every day here in Portland, Oregon, when I drive my small truck to the office I pass two elementary schools. One is private and has outstanding academic credentials in providing education to school children and the other school is a public one but is still very near the other in academic excellence. My wife and I have no young children in either school (or any children in school), but we willingly pay our taxes to support our school system for youngsters here in Oregon. You do the same thing in your area of the world and all of us should do so willingly because such elementary teaching is necessary for the children who will be the next generation of adults to keep our society operating smoothly and harmoniously.
Now in both these elementary schools the students are subject to be in attendance on certain days, to have recess at certain hours, to study both in the library and at home and are committed to certain disciplines for children. These standards of conduct do not pertain to anyone who graduated from elementary school and is now an adult. Moreover, we adults do not have to perform any of the disciplines that the schools impose on the children who attend. We adults do not have to observe the days or periods of time that those children are required to perform.
This is what Paul is telling the Galatians about the early Law that governed Israel before the crucifixion of Christ. It was a Law of God with “days, months, times and years” (Galatians 4:10). These were periods that Israel was required to observe as minors (mere children in the faith). They were ordered to keep the Sabbath day and other holy days. They were commanded to tithe. They were required to eat certain foods and to refrain from others. The enforcement of the Law was strict and all Israelites were expected to fulfill these written dictates of God.
Now note carefully. Paul showed that the Law at that earlier time was ordained for children, not for spiritually mature adults. Paul was inspired by the Father and Christ to teach that this Law of God was in effect when schoolmasters (tutors and governors) were ruling over Israel and the world. This is because the Law that Paul talked about reached back even to include events in the Book of Genesis and that was long before Moses. Simply put, the Law of God that we find in the Old Testament, given before Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, was a valid and proper Law of God for school children, but it was not a Law suitable for adults who now have the Holy Spirit. We are now in a different status than children in elementary school. This is the simple teaching of Paul about the earlier Law of God.
As for me, I uphold all the disciplinary laws governing the children enrolled in the two schools that I drive by each morning. I gladly support their activities, but none of those laws guiding the children in those schools pertain to me, my wife, or to any other adult who graduated from elementary school. And interestingly, those basic laws of discipline intended for minors in elementary school are PERMANENT TYPES OF LAWS. They are permanent laws FOR MINORS. As long as there are children who are minors in elementary school, those laws for minors are in force. They are laws ordained “forever,” but they are only forever FOR MINORS.
The Law of God was first shown to Adam, then with added laws to Noah, then laws were added at the time of Abraham, and then finally to Moses and the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. These laws were ordained “forever.” They were laws intended to be in effect “forever” for people who are minors. But when minors grow up in Christ, as Paul said we Christians have, then those earlier commandments that represented the Law of God for minors no longer are applicable to us. And note this point. The laws are not actually done away. It is really that minors GROW UP and the laws become irrelevant to those who are adults. Paul was showing that the laws that govern children in elementary schools are still very much in effect, but they are not applicable to you and me who are adults. In another context, Paul explained the principle. He said:
“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
1 Corinthians 13:11
This is what Paul was teaching the Galatians in chapters 3 and 4.
As a matter of fact, if people today wish to keep the Law of God pertained to Israel (when Israel was in elementary school and needed a schoolmaster), then that is fine with me. But they then become Jewish folk. The Jewish people still to this day are subjecting themselves to the earlier Law of God that governed Israel before the crucifixion of Christ (and they are some of the most intelligent people on earth). Nevertheless, Paul would reckon them as minors (as mere children) by being subject to the schoolmaster who was hired to guide children.
Those Christians today who want to live under the Law are still attending elementary school with their observance of all the days, times, seasons, and years that pertain to children in school. Paul would remind them to grow up and accept the mature teachings of Christ (and accept the new unwritten “Law of Christ”). If they do, they can then graduate out of elementary school. They can leave behind the Laws of God that were designed for spiritual minors.
A second illustration will further clarify Paul’s teaching that the Law of God before Christ’s crucifixion was for school children and not spiritual adults such as ourselves. In most states of the United States it is illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to purchase alcoholic beverages. It is a permanent Law of the Land that a person has to be 21 years of age to buy any liquor, even a low alcohol beer. Now let us say that a young man who will be 21 at midnight walks into a liquor store at five minutes to midnight and asks the clerk to sell him a beer so he can celebrate his new adult life.
The clerk asks for identification and finds that he will not be 21 for two more minutes. The clerk informs the lad that it is against the Law of the Land to sell him alcohol until he becomes a man at age 21. The lad then says (looking at his watch) “but it is only about one minute to midnight.” The clerk still answers that even if it were 5 seconds before midnight, the Law demands that he not sell liquor to a lad. But then, the clock strikes midnight! The time has come. The lad at the twinkling of an eye becomes a man. The clerk then says to him: “Sir, you are now an adult man. I have several cases of whiskey in the back room that I’ll be happy to sell to you if you have the money to buy them.”
Now some may not like my illustration of using alcohol. 1 Still, the illustration serves the purpose that is analogous with the teaching of the apostle Paul in regard to the earlier Law of God. Paul showed that the former Law under which Israel was required to live was intended exclusively for spiritual minors who lived before the crucifixion of Christ. Israel and the world were then children and subject by God to His Laws that pertained to children, not to adults.
With Christ, however, something different emerged. People were given the opportunity to “grow up” in a spiritual sense. They were now given mature and adult teaching. It was not that the Law changed. No, it was the people who changed — they grew up into adulthood. The Law remained very much in force — for all minors. And in the case of the lad, it was not the Law that changed when he became 21 at midnight and was able to buy alcoholic beverages. It was the lad who changed at that very moment of time. The boy became an adult man. And when he became an adult, all the laws of the land that pertained to minors disappeared for him. They all of a sudden became irrelevant and unnecessary for him.
Remember that all the laws of a society, physical or spiritual, that pertain to minors (even laws ordained by God) are still very much in force for minors. But adult humans are no longer subject to any existing laws for minors. Yes, laws for minors still stay very much on the law books and they are designed to stay in force “forever” for all minors. But none of the laws for minors apply in the slightest to a person who becomes an adult. And so it is with the Law of God intended for Israel when they were infants and children, before spiritual faith through Christ was given to Israel and the world. That earlier “Law of God” was designed by God the Father to provide instruction and guidance for minors in the faith. But the unwritten “Law of Christ,” based solidly on principles found in the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is for mature adults in Christ. The matter is simple to explain and highly reasonable.
This is why Paul was upset with the Galatians for keeping the days of the earlier Law of God, given to Israel to govern their infancy. To Paul, the Galatians were returning to works intended for children, not going to the grace that God had given which was based on an adult and mature faith in Christ, and in God’s forgiveness and salvation in Christ through His death on the tree of crucifixion. In fact, every one of those holy days of Moses that the Galatians were returning to had spiritual fulfillment (and completion) in Christ — in what He performed on the tree of crucifixion for the world and in the prophecies connected with Him and the emergence of His Kingdom.
Look at the Day of Atonement. Israelites in their infancy were required to fast on that day and abstain from all manner of work. Why did they fast? It was for the sins they had committed the previous year. But in Christ, God the Father views all the sins of the world (as well as Israel) as forgiven and they have no legal sins upon them any longer. So why should people subject themselves to fasting and humiliation before God when God the Father has told them (since they are now spiritual and mature adults) that all their sins have been taken away by the death of Christ on the tree of crucifixion?
It would not only be silly to fast for sins that no longer exist for Israel or the world, but it would be blasphemous to pay no heed to Christ’s mature actions for us in the forgiveness of all our sins. It would also be wrong for any Christian to return to laws governing those in spiritual infancy (and without Christ). After all, the Father now tells the world that they no longer have any sins reckoned on their persons if they are in Christ. Even young children today should be taught that the old laws were given by God as a primer for elementary education, but children can now learn what Christ has done for us in a mature and reasonable sense. We should all be able to understand the final and mature teachings that the Father has given us in the Scriptures.
So, the apostle Paul got angry with the Galatians for returning to the laws intended by God the Father to govern youngsters in elementary school. It would be like a man, sixty years old with a university degree (a doctorate) in astronomy, returning to an elementary school of first graders who are 5 or 6 years of age and sitting in the front row wanting to be educated by the grade school teacher (the schoolmaster). What silliness! This, however, is precisely what Paul saw the Galatian Christians attempting to do. Paul was appalled!
The Galatians were returning to infancy and going back to living like Israel of old before the crucifixion of Christ. This was the period when Israel was receiving their infantile teaching and still in their sins (Hebrews 10:4). The Galatians were so foolish that they did not accept the mature teachings of the apostle Paul and the consequent freedom from ritualistic religious principles that the crucifixion of Christ afforded them. The Galatians wanted to return to being children; they did not want to grow up and become spiritual “Israelites” (the “Israel of God,” Galatians 6:16).
There is one other glorious thing that has happened to each of us in Christ. Paul taught even in his earliest teachings that we are no longer reckoned as citizens of any nation on this earth (other than the “Israel of God,” see Galatians 6:16). We have all been exalted into a divine citizenship that has its jurisdiction and laws in heaven (and not here on earth). Paul said:
“For our citizenship [wrongly translated in the KJV as “conversation”] is in heaven; from whence we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.”
Yes, our citizenship is now a heavenly one. Paul said in his earlier epistles that all Christians had become members of the celestial “Israel of God” that was a very different political and religious entity from the earthly “Israel” (Romans 9:6–8). Simply put, in these early writings Paul stated categorically that Christians were no longer citizens of any earthly country or people. We are now citizens of a new country — a country that has its abode in heaven.
With this teaching of the apostle Paul in mind, we can now look at a further illustration that can explain the matter of Law to any Christian. Look at the following illustration. A person born in France, a citizen of that country, decides to move to the United States and apply for citizenship of our country. Five years later he is granted a citizenship in the United States. Now, while all the laws and statutes that govern French citizens in France may be reckoned good, proper and admirable, those laws and statutes only apply to citizens of France who live within the jurisdiction of the laws of France. When the Frenchman became a United States citizen and lived permanently in the United States, he was then no longer “under the Law of France.”
France has her own patriotic days and times that all Frenchmen in France are required to celebrate such as Bastille Day, July 14th. But, once the Frenchman becomes a United States citizen and living in the United States, he leaves behind the need to celebrate Bastille Day and he is expected to give heed to the United States Independence Day on July 4th. This is simple to understand. When one leaves French citizenship and accepts that of the United States, he leaves behind all the official days and times (and other laws) of France and adopts those of the United States.
And so it is with us who have become citizens of heaven. As far as God is concerned, Christians are no longer citizens of this world with all its earthly governments and nations; this includes the physical nation of Israel. We are now a part of the “Israel of God” who have their citizenships in heaven.
And though the laws of France are excellent for citizens of France (and many are similar to our own laws), none of those laws pertain to us unless we step foot inside French territorial jurisdiction. The early nation of Israel had as one of its cardinal laws that all male members of the nation had to submit to circumcision. It was a part of the covenant Israel inherited from their father Abraham. But Paul made a strong case that the laws of physical circumcision did not apply to Gentiles who joined the commonwealth of Israel, because they could enter the society of Israel by being “circumcised in heart” (Romans 2:28–29).
With Paul, its Law was applied differently for Gentile converts. There were even laws meant only for Levites, and even greater laws meant only for the priests of Aaron that normal Israelites were not required to observe. (Indeed, some laws for the priests were meant only for priests and if ordinary Israelites did some of them they could be put to death.) The fact is, not all laws in the Bible are meant to be kept by all people on earth. Paul said:
“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [partitioning correctly] the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
We should NOT indiscriminately keep all laws of the Bible, because some laws are meant only for particular people to observe; and God is jealous about this. Not all biblical laws are meant for us.
Here is a good example of this principle. Suppose King David engaged in war with the Philistines and had four companies of soldiers on the front line, which he numbered A, B, C and D companies. If he told Company C to carry out a certain maneuver outside their trench while the other three companies were ordered by David to remain in their trenches, it would be very wrong for any of the other three companies to join Company C in their activity. Indeed, disaster could result.
But, if King David told four men of Company A to join with Company C, it would have been proper for them to obey the rules meant only for Company C. This illustration (or anything similar) is what Paul meant when he said that all of us should “rightly divide [correctly partition]” the word of God because some commands of the Bible pertain to us and many do not!
In the 1st century, when many Gentiles were beginning to accept Christ, the Gentiles began to look at the national society of Israel and they thought it was proper to join “Company C” (that is, the physical nation of Israel). This was permitted, but only marginally and with reservations. Paul said there were a variety of things that physical Israelites did normally (like physical circumcision) that were no longer necessary for Gentiles who became “Israelites”; that is, they had joined “Israel” but without the physical requirements expected of native-born Israelites. It is that simple.
Really, even for physical Israel, things began to change in what God required of them once Christ Jesus was crucified and the Holy Spirit was sent back to earth to govern those who were converted to Christ. We find that even physical Israel was to become the “Israel of God” and have a heavenly “citizenship” that made necessary a different set of religious requirements from “Israel on earth.”
All of us are now “in Christ” and subject to His laws. We will see as we progress in this book that the “laws” we are now required to observe “in Christ” are all UNWRITTEN laws. They are actually spiritual principles and virtuous concepts that are far better to accomplish and more satisfying (to us, to our neighbors, and even to God) than any WRITTEN laws — laws that God once gave to Israel and to mankind in their infant stage of spiritual development. Those common sense principles are given in detail in what Paul called the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” in Galatians 5:22–23. In a word, we mature Christians should discern and understand what biblical laws pertain to us and what laws are not meant for us. In understanding biblical laws and principles, nothing is more important than “rightly DIVIDING the word of truth.”
“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [partitioning] the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
1 Jesus’ first miracle was re-opening the bar at a wedding in Cana with a great abundance of water being turned into wine — real, fermented wine (John 2:1–12). ELM
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