Sunday: The Law and the Promise
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The Advocate“Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?”(Gal. 3:21, ESV).

Sensing that his comments might lead his opponents to conclude he had a disparaging view of the law or that his comments about the priority of God’s promises were just a veiled put-down of Moses and the Torah, Paul asks the very question they were thinking: “Are you saying the law contradicts the promises of God?” To this Paul responds with an emphatic, “No!” Such a conclusion is impossible, because God is not opposed to Himself. God gave both the promise and the law. The law is not at odds with the promise. The two merely have different roles and functions in God’s overall plan of salvation. 1

What mistaken concepts did Paul’s opponents have about the role of the law? Compare Gal. 3:21Lev. 18:5, and Deut. 6:24



These people believed that the law was able to give them spiritual life. Their views probably arose out of a mistaken interpretation of Old Testament passages likeLeviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 6:24, where the law directs how life should be lived by those abiding in God’s covenant. The law did regulate life within the covenant, but they concluded that the law was the source of a person’s relationship with God. The Bible is clear, however, that the ability to “make alive” is a power exercised by God and His Spirit alone (2 Kings 5:7Neh. 9:6John 5:21Rom. 4:17). The law cannot make anyone alive spiritually. This does not mean, however, that the law is opposed to God’s promise.

Seeking to prove the inability of the law to give life, Paul writes in Galatians 3:22, “Scripture has confined all under sin” (ESV). In Romans 3:9–19, Paul draws from a string of verses extracted from the Old Testament to show just how bad we are. The passages are not strung together in a haphazard manner. He begins with the heart of the sin problem—the selfish attitude that plagues human hearts—and then moves to verses that describe sin’s pervasiveness and finally its universality.

His point? Because of the extent of sin and the limitations of the law, the promise of eternal life can come to us only through the faithfulness of Christ in our behalf.

Though the law cannot save us, what great benefits does our adherence to it have for us? That is, what practical good have you experienced in your own life through obedience to God’s law?

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Sunday: The Law and the Promise — 16 Comments

  1. Though the law cannot save us, what great benefits does our adherence to it have for us? That is, what practical good have you experienced in your own life through obedience to God’s law?

    Can anyone imagine living in a country where there are no laws? A world where anyone is free to kill, steal, lie, bear false witness, commit adultery, and … etc?! Would you feel free to walk around? Or imagine living in a community with no rules? A community where anyone is free to cross the traffic lights at their own discretion? Would you feel safe as a driver? Obviously the laws are for our own protection.

    Here are some of the practical good I have personally experienced:

    Exodus 20:12 – “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long…” I remain forever thankful to my parents for their persistent guidance that has saved me what would have turned out to be painful or even a lifetime disaster. Looking back, I can only imagine, if it were not for the disciplining I received, I would have been in a very bad shape or probably not even alive today. So, thanks to those parents who do not spare the rod!

    Isaiah 58:13-14 – “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my Holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the Holy of the LORD, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thy own ways, nor finding thy own pleasure, nor speaking thy own words; Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth…” The LORD is faithful! What He’s done for me, He can do for you! In case you haven’t tried this out, you have no idea what you are missing!

    Malachi 3:10-11 – “… and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer or your own sake, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground…” If you haven’t checked this out too, do not delay! You’ll be glad you did.

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    • @Angeline, great comment and nice points. Keep posting.

      It is interesting that the 10 commandments is at the core of all our government's constitution but because of sin, we have to create a law to help another law keep another law in check.

      Funny thing that there are laws of nature which I would use in attempt to solve engineering problems. The laws that are proven, never fails.

      It is also interesting that as someone who taught, tutored or mentored kids for most of my life thus far, I realized from that perspective that no game or classroom is no fun, when there are no rules to govern behavior. Even the "bad" kids need those boundaries to know how close to walk the line.

      Even when I look at my life, I played board games where as kids, we decided there were no rules. It ended after 1 min or so. Worst is those games where no one really follow the rules; fights or quarrels usually followed.

      The law is an amazing guide to happiness.

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    • God bless you for your response, very well said. I think if I had not met and understood the Sabbath I would also be in a different situation right now. Knowing about it has brought me a lot of blessings that will be difficult to count. And I thank God for that.

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    • Mudzingwa, you are right on!!

      In fact, it is totally impossible to keep the Law without first accepting Jesus Christ as the personification of the promise.

      When we accept Him into our lives, we can say with Paul, "I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I lived, yet not I, but Christ lives in me." Gal 2:20

      We see Isa 42:21 as prophetic of Christ, and Isaiah prophesied that Christ will "magnify the Law and make it honorable." He did that by living out the spirit of the law - and that's what Paul called the "law of the Spirit."

      When we focus on allowing Jesus to be Lord of all areas of our life, He will keep His law in and through us.

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  2. "We don’t keep the law to have the promise but we keep the law because we have the promise."

    This is an "either/or" false dilemma. The promise is based on a condition. And the condition is "if we obey".

    "Neither do I condemn thee....." But this statement is based on this condition "go and sin no more."

    Another "condition" that had not yet been fulfilled was the atonement. These words of Jesus preceded His death as an atonement for sin.

    Faith reaches into the future and appropriates a future reality. That is why it is called "faith".

    Or, as Paul would say, "If we hope for what we already have, why do we yet hope for it?"

    And so, "God calleth those things which be not, as though they were."

    Even our present forgiveness is based on the formal final judgment. And thus, we are on probation.

    I fear the way "faith" is used today, is not always in harmony with how it is presented and used in the bible.

    Bill Sorensen

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    • Bill, there are some things that I would certainly say, for one thing; God is not going to save rebels. Those who choose to break God's law are nothing but a danger to society and I cannot see how they could possibly be in heaven.

      However, I do see a great amount of truth in what Mudzingwa is saying. I think that Jesus made it quite clear, as do other Scriptures, that without him we are totally unable to do anything good. In order to get that promised help we must do a few things. First, we must accept what he did on the cross as atonement for our sins. Second, we must accept him and everything that he stands for, which means that we must accept his government along with all his laws. Accepting his laws means that you honestly intend to do them.

      The problem is that if a person stops there without realizing the need for strength from God to do his will then he will fail completely, “for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NKJV). When we realize this and go to God in faith to fulfill in us what we cannot do for ourselves then we will succeed and be perfect and his sight. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phi 2:13 NKJV). “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27 NKJV).

      I think that is what Mudzingwa is saying. Without the promises that God offers attempting to keep the law is useless, therefore, the promise comes first then the law can properly follow after.

      “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4 NKJV).

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  3. I thank God for all the comments posted to contribute to Sunday's study. and just like we learnt last week that the law acts as a magnifying glass, to show us how sinful we are, then i see a great benefit of adhering fast onto the law because that's when i can realize how helpless I am as concerns being saved, then I fall at the feet of Jesus and there, I find life eternal through faith in Him who paid it all.

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  4. Real enlightening comments everyone. I myself I'm grateful to God for the law. In addition to the fact that it points me to Jesus thus revealing to me my need of a Saviour, but that it also protects me from myself.

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  5. What then is the promise? The promise is eternal life if we keep the law. Yes, hopefully we agree that is by God's power and as Paul says, "I can do all things through Jesus Christ which strengthenth me."

    Can we trust God's promise? Yes, if we keep the law.

    So, we keep the law because of the promise, and the statement.....“We don’t keep the law to have the promise but we keep the law because we have the promise.” is a false dilemma as I suggested.

    The point is this, the promise has conditions. And we fulfill the conditions in order to receive the promise of eternal life. No one "has" eternal life today, except by faith. Faith is believing you will receive what you don't have by the promise of God. See Rom. 2:7

    So we keep the law to obtain the promise of eternal life, not because we already have it.

    Bill Sorensen

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  6. In the context of the lesson, the "promise" to Abraham, which we inherit, was that in his "Seed" should all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Gal. 3:16) And, yes, that blessing includes eternal life in Jesus Christ.

    Bill writes:

    What then is the promise? The promise is eternal life if we keep the law. Yes, hopefully we agree that is by God’s power and as Paul says, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ which strengthenth me.”

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds as though Christ is a means to an end, the end being obedience to the law, by which we earn eternal life. And that was exactly the attitude that Paul was addressing in Galatia.

    The Apostle Paul writes:

    "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident, for 'The righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Gal 3:12) And "a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal 2:16)

    Bill writes:

    "The point is this, the promise has conditions. And we fulfill the conditions in order to receive the promise of eternal life. . . .

    "So we keep the law to obtain the promise of eternal life, not because we already have it."

    The Apostle Paul writes:

    "For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise." (Gal. 3:18)

    Then he goes on to describe the purpose of the law, which is to lead us to Christ.

    Paul also argues that if we attempt to obtain the promise by law keeping, we put ourselves back under a curse of death. (Gal. 3:1)(We can never keep the law well enough to "deserve" the promise.)

    Bill writes:

    "No one “has” eternal life today, except by faith. Faith is believing you will receive what you don’t have by the promise of God."

    It seems to me that that statement is a direct contradiction of the words of Christ who said:

    “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." (John 5:24 NLT)

    John the Beloved also makes it exceedingly clear when he writes, "“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 Jn 5:12)

    Eternal life begins here and now in Jesus Christ. He who as the Son has life!

    Let us open our hearts to the Son!

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  7. We obtain eternal life notby the law, but through the righteousness of Christ.
    “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin . But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law andthe Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Romans 3:20-22).
    God gives eternal life to those who trust in Christ’sdeath to obtain forgiveness for sin

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  8. It would seem to me, that at least some of you would appeal to the divine factor, or, what God does, to negate or at least play down the human factor in salvation.

    Everything the bible says concerning the blessings of the life of the age to come is not based solely on what God does. Or, what God has done.

    It is equally on the condition that we accept Jesus and all that this implies. Meaning, we must return to loyalty and obedience to God's law.

    "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life........"

    Hopefully, you are not accusing John of "legalism" because he states obedience to the law is the condition of eternal life? Or Paul, who says we must "Work out your own salvation........" Are these bible writers legalists?

    Our obligation to obey God has not been negated by the law of grace. So, what does Paul mean when he says, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified?"

    He means the ceremonial law. All of Paul's letters contrast "the law" (ceremonial) with Christ and His heavenly ministry. The ceremonial law is no longer in effect. But it would seem you want to add the moral law in this context, and by so doing, you negate the moral law.

    We must read Paul in context and understand what he is saying in context.

    We can even super-impose another application as long as we make it clear that this is what we are doing. Is there any possibility of showing that we are not justified by the moral law? Yes, if someone thinks they can keep the moral law without Christ. Or apart from His heavenly ministry.

    Even in Romans, when Paul speaks of the moral law in the negative sense, he is placing it in the context of the ceremonial law. At no time does Paul, or any other bible writer attack to moral law in its biblical function in a relationship with Christ.

    The law justifies any and all believers. Not unbelievers.

    Paul states plainly, "The doers of the law shall be justified." But never apart from a biblical relationship with Christ.

    How can you have a judgment according to works, if this judgment is not for the purpose of deciding who goes to heaven, and who don't?

    The moral law condemns those who do not keep it, and justifies those who do. It is the only "evidence" considered in the heavenly court on which a decision is made for life or death. Any and all viable court decisions are based on evidence. And the heavenly tribunal is no exception.

    Bill Sorensen

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    • Bill writes,'all paul's letter contrast 'the law'(ceremonial)
      In Paul 's context of 'the law',he mearnt both the law of God as given to Moses,ceremonial and moral law inclusive.

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  9. Bill Sorenson concluded with:

    The moral law condemns those who do not keep it, and justifies those who do.

    And, of course, that is true. The rub is that by the standards of the Law, not a single human being can be saved. (Gal. 3:10-14; Rom 7:14-24)

    The Good News is that "what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Rom. 8:3,4)

    Bill, I think you are trying to say some of the same things I am saying, but you repeatedly emphasize the Law instead of the work of Jesus Christ. That emphasis can only end in condemnation. Any suggestion that we can perfectly keep the Law in order to be justified reveals a very limited view of the holiness of the Law of God.

    Our only hope is to recognize our innate helplessness and inability to meet the requirements of the Law and cling to Christ for our very life. When we do that, we are dead to self, and Christ lives in us, thus fulfilling "the righteous requirements of the Law" in us. (Also so Gal. 2:20)

    The requirements of the Law, correctly understood, are nothing less than perfect Christlikeness. It is not something we can achieve "hopefully with the help of Christ." Only Christ can do it in us, when we fully surrender ourselves to Him. And to learn to do that is truly the work of a lifetime, as we learn more and more what that surrender means.

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  10. For me the promise is eternal life that is found in Jesus. When I accept Him through faith I accept the promise and He lives out His life within me. Christ is not a law breaker, therefore when He lives through me, I keep the law.

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