Wednesday: The Duration of God’s Law
avatar

Sermon on the MountDoes Paul’s statement about the law being added at Mount Sinai mean that it did not exist previously? If not, what was the difference before and after Mount Sinai? Read Gen. 9:5, 618:1926:539:7–10Exod. 16:22–26. 1



God did not need to reveal His law to Abraham with thunder, lightning, and a penalty of death (Exod. 19:10–23). Why, then, did God give the law to the Israelites in that manner? It was because, during their bondage in Egypt, the Israelites had lost sight of God’s greatness and His high moral standards. As a result, they needed to be made aware of the extent of their own sinfulness and the sacredness of God’s law. The revelation at Sinai certainly did just that.

What does Paul mean when he says the law was added “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made”? Gal. 3:16–19 (ESV). 



Many have understood this text to mean that the law given at Mount Sinai was temporary. It entered 430 years after Abraham and then ended when Christ came. This interpretation, however, conflicts with what Paul says about the law in Romans, as well as other passages in the Bible, such as Matthew 5:17–19.

The mistake readers often make with this passage is to assume that the word until always implies a limited duration of time. This is not the case. Describing the person who fears the Lord, Psalm 112:8 (ESV) says, “His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.” Does this mean that when he triumphs he will become afraid? In Revelation 2:25 (ESV) Jesus says, “Only hold fast what you have until I come.” Does Jesus mean that once He comes we no longer need to be faithful?

The role of the law did not end with the coming of Christ. It will continue to point out sin as long as the law exists. What Paul is saying is that the coming of Christ marks a decisive turning point in human history. Christ can do what the law could never do—provide a true remedy for sin, that is, justify sinners and by His Spirit fulfill His law in them (Rom. 8:3, 4).

Have you ever thought to yourself, If only the Lord did this for me, or that, or the other, then I would never again doubt or question Him? Think, though, about what happened at Sinai, about how powerful a manifestation of God’s power the Israelites saw—and yet, still, what did they do? What should this tell you about what true faith is and how we get and maintain it?(See Col. 2:6).

Share Button

Comments

Wednesday: The Duration of God’s Law — 4 Comments

  1. When Peter says that Paul wrote, “some things hard to understand” (2 Pet 3:16 NKJV) I don't think he was kidding. This lesson simply proves that point. Furthermore the lesson author doesn't seem to help in making anything clearer. Even though I am not a theologian nor am I a pastor I will attempt to clarify this whole section the best I can as I understand it.

    First of all in order for us to be communicating on the same level--if you have not read my article, "What Is a Covenant", please do that before going any further in this comment. It is important to understand the difference between the actual covenant and the objects that the covenant deals with. An illustration of this might clarify things just a bit better. Suppose you want a carpenter to build something. It really doesn't matter what the thing is, the important thing is that you have to make a contract with him in order for the job to be done. After some discussion, both you and the builder come to an agreement, he is to build the object that you want built and you are to pay him so much money in order to do it. Now the question is what is the contract? Is it the object that is to be built? Is it the money that you are to pay him for the job? The answer is really quite simple; it is the agreement that was made to do those things. That agreement involves two promises your promise to the builder and the builder’s promise to you. Both the thing being built and the money you pay are simply objects of the contract. They are the things that the promises get involved with.

    I'm going to handle Paul first and then after I get through with that I will try to explain what I think the lesson author is talking about.

    While Paul is concerned about the Gentiles in the churches in Galatia he also realizes that there is a larger problem with the Jews that were attempting to force legalism. The first five verses of Galatians 3 deals with the Gentile’s experience in becoming Christians. After that we see more of a Jewish orientation to the argument he is making for justification through faith alone.

    He does this through one of the Jews’ favorite icons, Abraham. What he does with Abraham is to show that the covenant God made with him was purely based on faith, which resulted in justification. He argues that because the covenant involved the generations after him, those that believe as Abraham believed also become partakers of the benefits of that covenant and are justified as he was. Paul is constantly contrasting justification through faith versus the attempted justification through works of the law. So, from verse 10 through verse 14 Paul contrasts those who are under the curse because of things they do with those who receive the blessings of God because of whom they trust.

    From verse Ga 3:15 on Paul talks about the covenant and the law that is involved with it. “Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it” (Gal 3:15 NKJV). This is something which is practiced even to this day. For instance, if you get a loan at the bank and you find a little later that you are having trouble making the payments, sometimes you can go into the bank and renegotiate the contract. Because they want to keep you on a payment schedule, rather than ending up with a defaulted loan, they will agree to reduce the payments. What they will do first is complete the original contract by signing it off and then they will negotiate a new contract with you. The old one is never allowed to remain active while they try to enforce a new contract in its place. To me verse Gal. 3:16 seems to be parenthetical, yet seems to be important to Paul. So we will move on to verse Gal. 3:17.

    “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, that it should make the promise of no effect” (Gal 3:17 NKJV). But I say again, the law is not the covenant; it is an object of the covenant. Because the law is only pronouncements of the things that God would have his creatures do and not an agreement or a promise it can in no way by itself modify any covenant whether it was made prior to its declaration or not. Furthermore, as we have already stated in the last paragraph a covenant once it is ratified cannot be modified by any other covenant subsequent to it, which is really the point that Paul is making here. Unfortunately Paul is using the word law here rather than covenant, which only causes confusion even though it maintains consistency with his theme of faith versus works of the law.

    Going on to verse 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 it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator” (Gal 3:19 NKJV). The law that was stated at Mt. Sinai did not originate at that time; it was only a repeat of what his people were given long before. Because of that the Ten Commandments are eternal and never end. So what purpose then did the law (covenant) serve? Paul explains that in verse 24.
    Now we need to handle what the lesson author said in Wednesday's lesson. What we need to understand here is that the covenant that was made at Sinai that involved the law as an object was the thing that was essentially terminated when Christ (the seed, verse 16) came. In other words, God essentially signed it off as a dead agreement that was superseded by the new covenant.

    Because Paul uses the word law rather than covenant the lesson author apparently felt compelled to get tangled up in an argument concerning the longevity of the law itself. If we would simply keep two things in mind we should have no trouble with these verses.

    The law (an object of the covenant) that was pronounced on Mount Sinai by God and heard by the entire congregation will always be in effect because it is a transcript of God’s character which we should emulate.

    The covenant that was made at the foot of that mountain became obsolete when Christ died on the cross

    Like(0)
  2. hallo Tyler, i have tried to follow your comment, but can you please help me describe to me that covenant which was made at the foot of Mt.Sinai (i mean the one which became obsolete when Christ died at the cross. thank you.

    Like(0)
    • Tusuubira, I will be glad to do that for you.

      First of all I hope you understand that a covenant is a promise or if it is two sided it is a combination of two promises. Before ratification (Ex 24) God laid out what He demanded of the people in order for them to receive the blessings He promised. In other words, the promised blessings were conditional on obedience. The people agreed to those conditions and said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exo 24:7 NKJV). That statement by them was their promise in the covenant while God’s promise was that if they would obey Him then He would bless them. Two promises one by each of the parties of the covenant.

      What God demanded was obedience to the Ten Commandments and the set of judgments given to Moses which he wrote in a “Book of the Covenant” (Ex 24:7 NKJV). They did not include instructions concerning the sanctuary which was given after the covenant was ratified (Ex 24:6-8) from chapter 25 on.

      One other thing needs to be said here. The covenant at Sinai was broken a little more than a month after it was ratified. Essentially then, the covenant became obsolete at that time even though the book of Hebrews states, “He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8:13 NKJV). The last part of this verse has been explained to me as a communication to those immersed in keeping the law at the time of writing which to me seems reasonable.

      I hope this helps, if not, add another comment with a more specific question.

      Like(0)
      • One must remember, that this very book of Hebrews was written about 6 or 7 years before the utter destruction of the Temple and beautiful Solomon's Porch! This ended the sacrificial part of the covenant, were thousands upon thousands of lambs were killed and gifts given in an attempt to make the conscience perfect. Thus there remained no way of dealing with the sin issue! But, thanks be to God , Jesus had already dealt a final blow to the sin issue in that He sacrificed himself ! Hebrews 9:14 "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 to serve the living God?"
        So, now if our righteousness is by Christ and our conscience is cleared by his blood, what need we of ordinances? Colossians 2:13,14,15,16,17. The law is good, but for what and whom ? 1 Tim.1:9 "Knowing this, that the law is not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners for the unholy and profane ...", None of which pertains to a believer , to a new covenant man or woman, as we are the righteous! This is what Jeremiah's prophesy was speaking of were he says, a new covenant, "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers...."Jere.31:31,32. This is because He was going to the heart of the matter, by giving the law straight to the heart , The "Royal law"(which is the law of love), James 2:8. Notice here (Jesus half brother) said "... ye do well." Brings to remembrance of Acts 15:28,29 "...,ye shall do well. Fare ye well." Why would the disciples think thy would do well with out the law , unless thy knew they had something better, Hebrews 7:19 ! These scripture do relate to each other , in that this is how it is 'well with your soul' , by trusting only in Christ , by faith. Romans 4:16, "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;....". We are complete in Him, see Colossians 2:10.
        Shall we then sin since we are not under the law? Not according to Galatians 5:16,18 ",,,walk in the Spirit and and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." Verse 18, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." By staying close to Jesus and filled with His Holy Spirit, we can avoid the list, Galatians 5:19-21 ! But the opposite is the 'fruit of the Spirit' Galatians 5:22,23 , "...: against such there is no law."
        Remember, 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are a new creature, by a new covenant !

        Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.