Monday, July 14, 2008

430 years

As I mentioned in the last post ("2,500 years"), most people in the history of mankind have never even heard of "God's laws" that He gave to Israel. If God had intended for His laws to be the staples that held mankind together in salvation and right living, don't you think perhaps He'd have done a little better of a job of making His commandments known to all of mankind? But as I also said in the last post... that was never the point of the law!

The law did have a point and a purpose - a very legitimate and necessary purpose. I mentioned last time that Rom 5:12 says that sin entered the world through one man (Adam) and sin spread to everyone. The next verse contains a key to the purpose of the Law. "For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom 5:13). In other words, sin was in the world but it had not been charged to man's account (imputed to him). The law entered, not to help man live right or as something for man to follow as a way to inherit eternal life. The law was "weak and unprofitable" because it could not do that! (Heb 7:18-19). Rather the law's purpose was to charge the world with the sin that they already had, but had not yet been charged with.

A dozen paragraphs earlier, Paul had begun to make this point: "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). In short, the law's purpose was to charge the world with sin. It made all of humanity guilty. As Paul also said in Gal 3:19, "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made..."

And so what's this about a "Seed?" It all has to do with a promise God made to Abraham (when he was still known as Abram), four hundred and thirty years before the law. An inheritance was promised to Abraham:
Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him," So shall your descendants (Hebrew word Zera`, meaning 'seed') be."
Paul illuminates: Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ (Gal 3:16).

Paul continues, "And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ [the promise to Abraham], that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Gal 3:17-18).

In other words, "Here's what it's all about. Life with God is not about Law, it's about living according to the promise of God." The law charged everyone with guilt, but God's promise was an inheritance and a life that was lived by faith, not law.
But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Gal 3:22-25)
Abraham's response to God's promise in Gen 15:5 is what those who are of the faith also live by: Gen 15:6 - "Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness."

Abraham is known as "the father of all those who believe" (Rom 4:11) because the blessedness of life and righteousness that is imputed (accounted, credited) to man apart from works came through him. He received the promise long before the law came, and that promise supersedes the law! We have absolutely no need for "law" in order to have a full-on relationship with God. In fact, "the law is not of faith" (Gal 3:12). We had to "die to the law" in order to "live unto God" (Gal 2:19). "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith" (Gal 2:20) just as Abraham did.


  1. Joel, I am grinning! This is such a hard thing to get across to people who are still bound up in the religious fear of getting it wrong. My ex-pastor used to say that unless it (an item in the law) was explicitly done away with in the NT, it was still in effect. Then he would list animal sacrifice and circumcision as the main things done away with.

    The funny thing is, the original statement was actually correct, he just didn't see that the whole thing was done away with. People are afraid to let go of the law - and some religious leaders use it to control their congregations, so why would they want to let go of it? But in Hebrews 8, the writer says that the Old was completed, served its purpose and was put away and a new was in effect. That sounds like the whole law to me. There is so much I am seeing in the Bible with this new light as a guide that is so freeing and amazing and... well, aggravating, too, when I look at how I was deceived and controlled with fear.... but now - - - FREEDOM! :-D

  2. Thank you so much for this. I don't think I have ever seen this broken down so well. I am going to link to it on my blog. I am going to copy and paste it into a document that I can carry on my PDA and read to others.

    I feel like Katherine. I am so aggravated by the was Jesus was presented to me in the past, but so thankful for the freedom I have found in Christ now.

    Thank God for his grace.

  3. Great post and rightly dividing the word of God!

  4. Katherine,

    Yep I know many people who will only accept the laws mentioned explicitly in the NT (another example: Jesus said, "you have heard that it was said an eye for an eye...") as done away with.

    It's true that certain ones are mentioned by Jesus, Paul and others, but the truth is that the whole thing was never meant to be what life with God is about.

    I think there are lots of reasons people still cling to the law in churches today. One simple reason is ignorance. I walked in it for a long time. I just didn't "get" what the Bible actually said! Another reason is control and manipulation. I'm sure there are other reasons. The main thing, though, is that we are now walking in FREEDOM and we can help others find the same freedom!


    Go ahead, spread the freedom! :) A lot of people are not receptive to this type of talk, but there are people out there who are longing for freedom, and we have the truth of the Bible to share with them! Indeed, thank God for His grace!


    Thanks and Amen! :)

  5. I just started reading, but I have to comment:

    Did God have to give us His commandments? Wouldn't we have figured it out eventually? I mean, they kinda seem to be common sense.

    I get the point of Him giving them to us: to make it PERFECTLY CLEAR, but I'm just wondering if it would be really necessary.

    That's what I thought of when you said that "don't you think perhaps He'd have done a little better of a job of making His commandments known to all of mankind?".

    So far so good!


  6. People did (and do) need to hear from God Himself that they are doing wrong, even though they know in their hearts what is Right and Wrong.

    I also think (going back to the first paragraph) that the laws DO govern what is and isn't right. It's what God says. Follow it or not. Like the New Testament says somewhere (sorry, I don't remember the exact place, and I'm paraphrasing): "Either you're for me or against" or "you can't be for the world and for Christ", something like that.

    So I think that the laws' purpose was to hold people (His chosen people, the Israelites) together. At that point in history, almost ever since the beginning of time, the majority of the world was not on God's side. For all we know, Israel was the only nation that was charged with following God's law. Why? Because they are the people that God chose; everybody else was waiting for Christ.

    So, as far as humanity (at that ancient time in history) is concerned (and again, all we know is what is in the Bible, which is mostly concerned with either Israel (chosen people with law) and her enemies ("heathen", uninformed, unlawful, "Godless" people)), there was no salvation at that time, because it was only offered to the Israelites. The rest of the world turned its back on God a long time ago (there are probably exceptions that I can't think of right now), so God... in a manner of speaking... turned His back on them (What hope did the world have back then, before Jesus?).

    Now, I'm not very experienced in theology, but that's my understanding. If there are any flaws in my reasoning, please, from one Christian to another, let me know.

    Thank you (for the thoughts this post gave me, and for your apparent dedication),


  7. Hi Kris,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your comments. I'm writing with a short amount of time here, so I won't be able to address all of what you've said right now but I'll be back later.

    In your very first comment, you asked, "Did God have to give us His commandments? Wouldn't we have figured it out eventually? I mean, they kinda seem to be common sense."

    My thought on that is, even though God actually has given the commandments, people still don't keep them! Even those to whom the laws were given did not keep them. Even after the Law was given, it was said "There is none righteous, no not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They together have become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." (Romans 3:10-12 - The Apostle Paul quoted from several Old Testament sources to come up with all these truths, and he continued with several more as well).

    The point is, even with God's laws and commandments, even His own people, Israel, didn't keep them! It's not just the Gentile world, but everybody, including the Jews, who have turned their backs on God. The writer of Hebrews quoted from the Old Testament in Hebrews 8 - "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord."

    All over the New Testament we see the truth that either with law or without law, everybody falls short of God's righteousness.

    And that brings me to what I was saying in these two posts, that the point of the Law wasn't even to get people to stay in line or to live right. I'll address some of this and what else you said when I can get back to my computer later today (hopefully).

    Again, thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Good Joel,
    I just saw, as I was reading this, that the cage (Law) also served as MY protection from the enemy (the roaring lion, who roams about, seeking whom he may devour). Maybe, it was not to protect the world from us sinners (from our corrupting it), but to protect us His people from the devourer.

    Prior to His pointing it out, we were oblivious to the cage, but once we saw it, we wanted out, but we had to wait, all those years, for the only Man with the key to unlock us and lead us to freedom, but it had to be only after he had defeated the devourer.

    Wow, this is getting good for me. Thanks for the jump start!!