RELEVANCE OF THE LAW
FROM THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
Is the law, as given through Moses, still to be observed by those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ? Answering specific questions will give us the relevance of the Law for the saints in these last days. The questions are: 1. When did the Law of God go into effect? 2. What is the purpose of the Law? 3. Who was the Law for? 4. What did the Law accomplish? and 5. How long is the Law intended to be in effect?
I. WHEN DID THE LAW GO INTO EFFECT?
The Law, also known as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, was given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai around 1462 B.C. after the people of Israel were led out of Egypt. At this point we need to consider the fact that there was no Law before that time. This means that for nearly twenty-five hundred years, that's 25 centuries, there was no law.
How then did man relate to God if there was no law? How was man justified? Let's consider Adam after the fall; God shed the blood of goats and made coverings for Adam and Eve. This shedding of blood by the innocent was symbolic of the coming atonement for sin by Jesus as being the perfect sacrifice. From that time on, animal sacrifice, and trust in the shedding of blood as established by God, was the means to cover sins and have a relationship with God. Examples of men of ancient times who God called just or righteous are:
Enoch (Hebrews 11:5) - By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death: and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Noah (Hebrews 11:7) - By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen yet, move with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Abraham (Romans 4:1-3) - What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works (of the law) he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness
There was no Law, but there was a faithful obedience to follow what God had set in place. Faith, that is, trust and confident belief in God, was how these men of old where able to obtain God's favor and were considered just and righteous. Here is where we begin to see that the Law was not necessary to be considered by God to be justified or righteous.
The answer to the first question is that the Law went into effect after Israel was delivered from Egypt. This leads us to the next question.
II. WHO WAS THE LAW FOR?
The answer to this question is obvious when you see that the Law was given to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. God took these people to a very remote and isolated location before revealing His Law to them. No one else was near or around to see and hear what He had for them. Thus the Law could apply to none other than Israel. They were to be His peculiar people for a particular purpose. This brings us to the next question.
III. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW?
The purpose of any imposed law is to regulate human behavior. People with a liberal mind-set have for the past half-century argued that "You can't legislate righteousness". However their view is an absolute farce since the whole purpose of law is to establish right and wrong behavior; imposing penalties on wrong behavior in order to deter it.
So it is with God's Law given to Israel; it is to regulate their behavior and impose penalties for wrong behavior; it was known as transgressing the Law, doing contrary to what God said to do and what not to do. God's Law is the establishing of what God says is right and wrong. (Note: this sometimes differs from what man says is right and wrong.) So we see that the Law was to promote righteousness - right doing and right living according to God's standard.
Following in obedience to God's Law is to make Israel a particular people, unique and separated from the rest of mankind. They would be easily recognized as God's people by their behavior, their lifestyle or way of living. The purpose of the Law was to establish an identity and recognition - people who live rightly, or righteously - Godly.
The Law was external, a code of moral and righteous conduct that people were to adhere to, even if they really did not want to. The Law was an imposition to normal selfish, fleshly, worldly traits. People could not keep the Law, as God well knew; that's why He had to set up a means for atonement for their sins, through the blood sacrifice of animals - just the same as God established for those from the time of Adam to Moses.
This introduces us to the next question.
IV. WHAT DID THE LAW ACCOMPLISH?
The Law is called "a schoolmaster" in Galatians 3:24 because the Law showed God's own people that they could not possibly live according to God's righteous standard. The Law was external and imposed on them and requiring them to conform to its standards of conduct. God's people, Israel, are no different than any other people; they were selfish, proud, stubborn and self-willed. They clearly demonstrated to the rest of the world that there had to be another way to establish a holy people as God's peculiar nation (1 Peter 2:9). The Law shows us that there has to be another way to establish God's standard for living in His people.
The Law teaches us that we are all sinners; that we all transgress God's standard of right (righteous) living; that man cannot keep God's Law.
Romans 3:20 - Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 7:7 - What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known lust but by the law: except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
Therefore the Law is not capable of justifying man or making him righteous in God's eyes.
Galatians 3:11 & 12 - But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident : for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith....
Galatians 3:24 - Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
This brings us to the next question.
V. HOW LONG IS THE LAW IN EFFECT?
Galatians 3:19, 22, 23 & 25 - Wherefore serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster (the law).
The Law was only in effect as an external standard of living imposed on God's people until the one came who was able to fulfill the Law in its entirety - Jesus. He was then qualified to become the true and final atonement for the sins of man. Since that time there is no more external Law since the Law could not accomplish the means of making man righteous. So the Law only lasted about 1500 years, until Jesus Christ fulfilled every jot and tittle of it.
Righteousness is now obtained by FAITH, just like Abraham obtained it. Remember, there was no Law at Abraham's time, yet God saw him as righteous.
Galatians 3:17 - And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
The covenant promise made with Abraham supercedes the Law which subsequently followed for a brief period of time - from Moses to Christ.
Galatians 3:18, 26 & 29 - For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The Law was the Old Covenant until Christ fulfilled it and introduced the New Covenant.
Faith is in vain if we return to rely on the Law. It's a major step backwards as well as a slap in the face to God and a rejection of what Christ did for us.
Galatians 4:9-11 - But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of (or for) you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Clearly the Law is Old Covenant while Faith is the basis of the New Covenant.
Hebrews 9:11-15 - But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works (of the law) to serve the living God?
Proof that the Law is no longer enforced by God is evident in Acts chapter 15, when the apostles began preaching the gospel message to the non Jews - the gentiles. Here we read of a controversy that arose after gentiles began to accept Christ. Some traditional law-keepers wanted the new believers to keep the Law also (verse 5-6). However, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the conclusion of the apostolic council was that the gentile believers were not told to follow the Law.
Acts 15:24, 28-29 - Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: For it seemed good to Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.
VI. SINCE GOD DOES NOT CHANGE - WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAW?
Righteousness is now by faith and not by the Law; just as it was with Abraham.
Galatians 4:21-24 - Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by the bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants.....
As we read the rest of Galatians chapter 4, we see that the promise, which represents the New Covenant obtained by faith, surpasses and supercedes the Old Covenant Law and its bondage, which is cast out. Verse 29 then speaks about the conflict that arises between the two covenants.
Being born of the Spirit is the means of obtaining the freedom from bondage of the Old Covenant. The Spirit is and has all righteousness that the Law requires, and when His Spirit is within us, we then have the principles of the Law resident within us.
Hebrews 10:15-16 - Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
The Law was external and had to be imposed on man under the terms of the Old Covenant. Under the terms of the New Covenant, the law is no longer external, it is now internal - it is written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We no longer have to follow the external or Old Covenant Law. However, we are required to be led of the Spirit, and the Spirit will lead us in the paths of right doing, right living and right thinking - the paths of righteousness.
We are not to return to keeping the Law, for it was impossible for mortal man to do anyhow. Returning to the Law renders faith useless and returns the practitioner to bondage of do's and don'ts accomplishing nothing even though it may make that person feel he is righteous, and that only being "self-righteous".
Galatians 5:1-4 - Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (of the law). Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you noting. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Galatians 2:16 - Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Galatians 3:2 - This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit byu the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Romans 2:28-29 - For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Faith replaced the Law. It allows one to be led of the Spirit which is the new requirement. Under the New Covenant we are commanded to love God and love our neighbor. This cannot be accomplished without the Spirit of the Lord in us.
Romans 5:5 - And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Herein we now are faced with a different struggle; not one to keep the Law, but one to keep our flesh in subjection to the Spirit of the Lord that is within everyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their redeemer and Lord.
Galatians 5:18 - But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Romans 7:4-6 - Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Romans 8:1- There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:4 - That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
The conflict now is to get rid of the old nature and to allow the new nature, that which is of Christ, to come forth from within us. The old nature is called the "old man", and the "flesh" or "self".
Romans 13:14 - But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Ephesians 4:21-24 - If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation (behavior) the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Colossians 3:10 - And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.
Romans 8: 6 - For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Even Jesus told us that we must deny the "self" which is the way of the flesh, (Luke 9:23). The "self" is the big "I"; the "I will", "I want" and "I am". These are the three areas of human vulnerability that are called lusts (John 2:15-16). These are the areas that Satan uses to temp us to sin (James 1:14-15). It is our responsibility to put away this old nature. Death to self or the old nature does not automatically occur we accept Christ, in fact, it often keeps us from being led of the Spirit. When we receive the Spirit of the Lord "all things become new"; the question then is, are we going to walk and live in the newness of the Spirit, or are we going to yield to our old selfish lusts on occasion? This is a choice we face daily; it's not just a one-time decision.
Galatians 5:16-17 - This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
People who fail to deny the flesh and its desires are trying to live in two kingdoms, the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of this world which is still dominated by Satan and his enticing lusts. The struggle with the flesh is clearly defined in scripture:
Galatians 5:19-21 - Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolarty, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not enter into the kingdom of God.
In contrast, look at what the Spirit has placed within us if only we deny self (flesh), dying to its sensual desires and allowing the character and nature of God to come forth in our lives - called the Fruit of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Notice the last part of verse 23; "against such there is no law"!
The principle of the Law and what it was intended to do is now the product of a sanctified life; dedicated, consecrated and walking in fellowship with the Lord. It is the fulfillment of the prophecy that says the Law of God is written in our hearts – it’s done by the Holy Spirit. Our only requirement to achieve this Spirit led life is to die to the flesh so that which is in our hearts by the Holy Spirit can shine forth.
Galatians 5:24 - And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh (died to self) with the affections and lusts.
Under the terms of the New Covenant, and in the Kingdom of God, the Law still is the principle of life and the general way of living. It mandates loving, caring, sharing, and all manner of benevolence toward others, just as Jesus taught in the beatitudes (the sermon on the mount - Matthew 5-6). However, the Law itself is no longer required as we are now to be subject to the Spirit instead.
Those who have been born of the Spirit - regenerated - are no longer under or subject to the external Law as were the Israelites. Those who are born of the Spirit now are to follow after the Spirit which will lead them to live a righteous, holy and separated life in obedience to God. In fact, if one is really following the leading of the Spirit, he will not only be living right (righteously) but he will be living sin-less-ly.
1 John 3:5-10 - And we know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth ritheousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed (Jesus) remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
This is not only possible, but it is commanded.
1 John 3:23-24 - And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
1 John 4:11-14 - Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at anytime. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
1 John 4:21 - And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
What is the first Fruit of the Spirit? LOVE! Love is the fulfilling of the Law and the prophets of the Old Covenant.
Romans 13:10 - Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Therefore we are not under the Law and its regulations, but we are to be led of the Spirit and conform to the image of Christ - allowing Christ to live in us and be seen in us. The Fruit of the Spirit is His character and nature that is in all who receive Him. In so doing we will live righteously and sinlessly. Selah - (think on this).
1 Corinthians 13:13 - "And the greatest of these is charity, (God's kind of Love)!