Monday, July 21, 2008

Whatever the law says... (Part 1)

I've had this in draft mode for over two months, waiting to put some finishing touches on it. But since this is not a formal thing, I decided I'd just go ahead and post what I have. You'll find a few similarities here to my recent "2,500 years" and "430 years" posts. After all, it's the same subject matter.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law..." (Rom 3:19a, emphasis mine).

I have known this verse (and the entire surrounding section of scripture) for a long time, but a few years ago as I was reading it, the above emphasized part stood out to me like never before. Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law. Lights went on in my head and I pretty much spent the next six to twelve months camped out on those words, and I began to understand so many other passages of scripture that had previously confused me. I eventually came around to the second part of the verse, which I'll get to shortly because it's very important in understanding the "why" of the first part, but it was that first part that really began to illuminate so many things for me. Please follow me all the way through.

If the law has anything to say - and it has a LOT to say - it is speaking to those who are under the law (not to those who aren't under it). This has always been true. It didn't become true just when Paul wrote those words. He was simply revealing a truth to the Romans (and eventually us) that was already true. It was true when the law was given. It was true when the prophets (and any and all other Old Testament characters) spoke the words of the law. It was even true when Jesus spoke the words of the law. Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law.

Remember, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matt 5:17). He then went on to say, "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt 5:18).

Paul tells us in Gal 4:4-5, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (emphasis mine).

We see at least two things here. 1) Jesus, born under the law, came to fulfill the law. 2) Jesus came to redeem those who were under the law.

Which actually brings us to the second half of the first verse mentioned here. Here's the full verse:

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19, emphasis mine).

In the full verse we see two things that the Law was given to accomplish. 1) The law came to stop every mouth. 2) The law came to make the world guilty before God.

So whatever the law says, it says to those who are under it. Why? (Or for what purpose?) To stop the mouths (of those who are under it) from justifying themselves in front of God and to make them guilty before God. (Rom 5:13 says that sin was in the world before the law, but the law was needed in order to actually impute sin - to make people guilty by putting sin on their account).

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Addendum (a few hours after original posting):
In the comments, the question came up of what "make the world guilty before God" means. I thought this was important, and I realized that I had mentioned Romans 5:13 in the above paragraph, but hadn't gone into any detail about the word "impute," so here's what I said in the comments:

That key word, "imputed," makes all the difference. It means to add to one's account. Sin was in the world, but the world had not yet been actually charged with sin. It had not been put on their account. When the law came, man was actually charged with sin, and "made guilty before God." This was necessary, in order for Jesus to come and take the guilt of the world upon Himself.
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We find the law all over the Bible, in both the Old Testament books and in the New Testament books. But no matter where we find the law, we must keep in mind what Paul said: Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under it. And whatever the law says to those who are under it, it says for the purpose of stopping their mouths and making them guilty. The law aids in no way in helping a person to be righteous nor to redeem them or give them life.

16 comments:

  1. Great words Joel!

    Another thought, as I read: "2) The law came to make the world guilty before God" is that I think the word "make", might mean "may become viewed as guilty". That we were already guilty, yet now it was being revealed to all.
    What do you think?

    So interesting how religion had convinced me that I was one under the Law (as a believer). Yuck, get me out of THAT cage!

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  2. Free Spirit,

    You've brought up something that I should probably add to this series of posts that I'll continue posting during the next day or two.

    In the very next verse, Romans 3:20, Paul does indeed say, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." So I think it's absolutely true that our guilt is revealed by the law.

    An important component is revealed in Romans 5:13. Paul says, "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law."

    That key word, "imputed," makes all the difference. It means to add to one's account. Sin was in the world, but the world had not yet been actually charged with sin. It had not been put on their account. When the law came, man was actually charged with sin, and "made guilty before God." This was necessary, in order for Jesus to come and take the guilt of the world upon Himself.

    So interesting how religion had convinced me that I was one under the Law (as a believer). Yuck, get me out of THAT cage!

    Preach it! We really need to get the word out that Christians are not under the law! In fact, we had to die to the law in order to be 'married' to Christ. I hope and pray that His Bride really comes to understand this.

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  3. Ah...You did it again, Joel. You pulled even more out of that verse. I love it when you do posts on these things. You're so great at it.

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  4. And I'm only getting started...

    LOL :)

    Really this is the stuff I love to look at and study and discuss. I can't get enough of it.

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  5. Great post, Joel.

    Hmm.. Something Papa has been saying to me lately along these lines is... the Gentiles were never under the law - unless they were proselytized and chose to submit to it.

    In Acts 15, this very subject is discussed as some Jews believers were going around trying to force the Gentile believers to submit to the Law. James said, essentially, that it was not good to lay that burden on them.

    In Romans 2:12-16 has some interesting things to say...

    I am not sure where, exactly, Papa's leading me with this thought - the Gentiles were never under the Law. Then there's Galatians 5, where Paul strongly entreats them not to submit to the Law or a system of rule-keeping. Hmm...

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  6. :-) Sorry about the grammar... It is late...

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  7. Katherine,

    Those are all great examples. Gentiles were never subjected to the covenant that God made with Israel, requiring them to keep the law. As I pointed out in my "2,500 years" and "430 years" posts, most of the people who have ever lived upon the earth since the day of Adam have never even heard God's laws, never mind been under a covenant to keep them!

    The thing about Paul's writings is that he mentions how, even though all people have not been part of the covenant that included God's law, it was God's law that imputed sin to the world (charged the whole world with the guilt of sin).

    That's very important, because Jesus then came to fulfill the law, and then by subjecting Himself to the cross He became a curse for us (through the law came the curse, Galatians 3:10-14). In fulfilling the law and becoming a curse for us (all of mankind), Jesus was able to effectively open up redemption for all of mankind... "to all and on all who believe" (Rom 3:22).

    As Paul goes on to say in Galatians 3, the inheritance of God's promises is not through law, but through faith. The law had a huge part in all of this, but it wasn't what most people make it out to be!

    Gal 3:22
    But the Scripture [the law] has confined all under sin, [the result being] that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

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  8. Joel,
    Are you serious?
    Stop giving people the license to sin!

    :) Just kidding...

    A great post! You bring a lot of clarity...

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  9. Bino... LOL. The funny thing is, even if you don't give a legalist a license to sin, he will still find himself sinning. But if you get a person truly grounded in God's love and grace, you can give him not only the license, but the car, the keys, the gas and the extended warranty, and he will never purposefully use it. Yes, he'll sin, but it won't have anything to do with license. :)

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  10. This was very good, and helpful. It just goes to show the more you dig in the Word, the more you unveil grace.....I love it!

    I guess you could say, the law really is for the self-righteous religious folks......huh!

    I found what Katherine shared, interesting and I have never realized that, the Gentiles were not under the law......that helps me to be confident I don't want to use the law to train my kids -

    Great thoughts here!!

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  11. This has nothing to do with this post, but I was thinking of maybe doing some posts on the less popular (among the grace community) books of the Bible and let us try to interpret them through the lens of grace. Books like 1st & 2nd Timothy, Titus, 1st & 2nd Peter, Jude. All those seemingly scary books.

    Just a suggestion.

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  12. Joyfullydia,

    We have another joyful Lydia around here (Lydia Joy), and I'm assuming your a different person than her. :) Welcome, and thank you for your comment! Indeed the Bible is a rich grace book, if we only look into it and find the treasures by God's leading.

    Matthew,

    You're scaring me with all those scary books. LOL. Seriously though, I've thought about stuff like that, too. I find a lot of rich stuff in books like Galatians, Romans, Hebrews, etc, but I know that all those other epistles also contain lots of grace as well, but sometimes may seem more legalistic, or harder to understand. It would be wonderful to look at them through the lens of grace.

    I think Steve McVey recently wrapped up his Old Testament book series - looking at grace in each OT book - and I'm guessing he'll be moving on to the NT books soon.

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  13. Yes, I heard he finished doing the OT studies. I'm excited to see if he does start the NT soon. I will definitely be picking up those!

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  14. Joel actual that was me, Lydia Joy.....heehee, I accidently posted logged into my wordpress account.....!!!

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  15. Ha ha, Lydia! I was thinking that was too much of a coincidence. :)

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  16. Matthew,

    I've gotten a lot of good info from Steve's writings over the years regarding grace in the OT, and at various times I thought of buying some of his OT grace teachings, but never did. I'm hoping to get in on some of the NT action, and like you I'm hoping it comes out soon!

    I did buy his Garments of Grace teaching (mp3 download), which focuses greatly on some OT verses. It's a great teaching series.

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