Monday: “Kept Under Law”
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In Galatians 3:23, Paul writes that “before faith came, we were kept under the law.” By “we” Paul is referring to the Jewish believers in the Galatian churches. They are the ones acquainted with the law, and Paul has been speaking to them in particular since Galatians 2:15. This can be seen in the contrast between the “we” in Galatians 3:23 and the “you” in Galatians 3:26 (ESV).

 

God's Law

Image © Review & Herald Publishing from GoodSalt.com

Galatians 3:23 reads, “Before faith came”; but in the literal Greek it reads, “before the faith” came. Because Paul is contrasting the place of the law before and after Christ (Gal. 3:24), “the faith” is most likely a reference to our faith and not a reference to Christian faith in general.

Paul says the Jews were kept “under the law” before the coming of Christ. What does he mean by “under the law”? Compare Gal. 3:22-23 with Rom. 6:14-151 Cor. 9:20Gal. 4:4-5Gal. 4:21Gal. 5:18.

Paul uses the phrase “under the law” twelve times in his letters.

1. “Under the law” means under the power, or penalty, of the law (Gal. 4:21). The opponents in Galatia were trying to gain life-giving righteousness by obedience. However, as Paul has already made clear, this is impossible (Gal. 3:21-22because without Christ we are unable to obey the Law. Paul later will even point out that, by desiring to be under the law, the Galatians were really rejecting Christ Gal. 5:2-4).

2. “Under the law” includes being under its condemnation (Rom. 6:14-15). Because the law cannot atone for sin, the violation of its demands ultimately results in condemnation. This is the condition in which all human beings find themselves. The law acts as a prison warden, locking up all who have violated it and brought upon themselves the sentence of death. As we will see in tomorrow’s study, the use of the word guard (Gal. 3:23, NKJV) indicates that this is what Paul means by “under the law” in this passage.

A related Greek word, ennomos, normally translated “under the law,” literally means “within the law” and refers to living within the requirements of the law through union with Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). By “the works of the law,” that is, by trying to keep the law apart from Christ, it is impossible to be justified, because only those who through faith are righteous will live (Gal. 3:11). This truth doesn’t nullify the law; it shows only that the law can’t give us eternal life. It’s way too late for that.

Amen!(43)

Comments

Monday: “Kept Under Law” — 15 Comments

  1. If we take the author's comments that “under the law” means under the power, or penalty, of the law (Gal. 4:21); that “under the law” includes being under its condemnation (Rom. 6:14-15), then coming from under the law would seem to be the logical destination for the born again child of God. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit, where there is NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk according to the Spirit. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made us FREE from the law of sin and death, namely, the law of penalty and condemnation. Rom 8:1-4.

    The author's further statement that " “under the law,” literally means “within the law” and refers to living within the requirements of the law through union with Christ (1 Cor. 9:21)" is not supported by the context of the scripture. Paul is saying in 1 Cor 9:20-23 that he became all things to all men - those under law, those without law, so that he might point them to the way of salvation. He is not calling for "living within the requirements of the law through union with Christ."

    Paul is saying that before Christ, the law served to lead us to Christ. The law has therefore done its job and we are now under the power of the Holy Spirit to live a holy life. That holy lifestyle is not maintained or driven by law, but by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

    Amen!(11)
    • Fred, doesn't the Holy Spirit write the law on our hearts?

      But this is the new covenant I will make
      with the people of Israel on that day,[c] says the Lord:
      I will put my laws in their minds,
      and I will write them on their hearts.
      I will be their God,
      and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:10 NLT

      Here is what Jesus had to say about the law meeting its purpose but never losing its force.

      “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in. But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned. Luke 16:16-17 NLT

      Don't let that word "until" throw you off. in 1 Timothy 4:13 NLT Paul says, "Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them." Of course Paul did not mean for Timothy to stop doing those things once he got there even though he said until. Like Paul does not mean for the law to be done away with just because he says "until" and Jesus makes it very clear the law does not lose its force just because He said "Until."

      Amen!(19)
  2. Instead, keeping the Law must be a consequence. A consequence of living with Christ. Christ is the living Law!

    Amen!(9)
  3. Either we are under the law or covered by the Promise of salvation.

    Under the law as a means of salvation and it's curse. We will have to listen to what the Law [really] says. For it is written "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. . ." [Deut 27:26]. Though the law is holy, good and honorable, it does not have saving powers. Ellen White says "It is ordained to life; those who walk in harmony with its precepts will receive the  reward of obedience. But it brings bondage and death to those who remain under its condemnation" (The Review and Herald, April 22, 1902). 6BC 1094.

    Under Christ there is no condemnation because He has taken our punishment upon Himself. Instead of establishing our own righteousness we accept His righteousness. The way of salvation has already been provided. He alone is the way to salvation. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." [ Isaiah 1:18]

    In the old dispensation, under the law, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" [Ezek 18:20].

    In the new dispensation, the Son, the Seed of the promise bore the wickedness of the wicked. His blood atones for our sins. His obedience is accepted for us Him who "humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" [Phil 2:8]. We can go to Him and have our sinful past cleansed, and stand before the law with no shame and fear of condemnation.

    Amen!(8)
    • Was mercy and forgiveness not offered in Ezekiel and the rest of the Old Testament as well? What is even more dangerous than thinking there is no law in the New Testament, is thinking there is no grace in the Old Testament.

      Amen!(13)
      • I am not sure what makes you say that because that is not what I wrote. But what I can say is that there were curses for violating the law and also pronunciation of blessings for keeping it.

        Amen!(3)
      • The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus is about forgiveness, mercy, love, holiness, righteousness, eternal life etc. That law functioned in the OT and was typified in the sanctuary rituals, the festivals, the 10 Commandments and all the animal sacrifices. Jesus just came to embody in himself and fulfill all that the 10 Commandments required and all that those festivals and sanctuary rituals also required and typified.

        Amen!(2)
    • I think we have to be a little careful with the word "dispensation," since dispensationalism teaches that there was a "dispensation of law" that is completely done away with. (See “Dispensationalism & New Covenant Theology” in the Marcos Torres post, "Are Adventists Old-Covenant Christians? Part 3?")

      Although not immediately clear to us today, Paul was writing about two approaches to salvation that existed since the days of Cain and Abel - the approach of offering our own works (Cain) or depending on the grace of God through the Messiah (Abel). According to Paul, we can't marry the two approaches. Even trying to be saved by grace and works effectively nullifies the work of Christ.

      We can never take any credit for our salvation. The Redeemed will ascribe all the glory to Christ and none to themselves.

      Amen!(9)
      • Before Christ came ,were people who broke the law stoned? Maybe we are still living in the stoning era. My use dispensation is contextual not related to what the person you mentioned wrote.

        Amen!(3)
        • I do appreciate your contributions, and I agree with the points you made in the original comment above. But I'm not sure what stoning has to do with Paul's letter, since stoning was a civil punishment under the theocracy. It is my understanding that it wasn't often carried out.

          As for "dispensation," I pointed to Marcos Torres' post as an example of the common meaning of "dispensation" in English-speaking Christian circles in our time. (It gets a bit complicated, since this is an international forum.) I believe you mean "old covenant," which is a biblical term and a good basis for discussion. (It is my understanding that "old covenant" essentially refers to the human response to God's covenant promise - an attempt to "do what the Lord said" to obtain salvation.)

          I looked up the word "dispensation" in the biblical context and found only 4 mentions in the KJV, none in the NIV, none in the ESV, and only 2 in the NKJV: Eph 1:10 and Eph 3:2.

          In each of the 4 cases in the KJV, it is a translation of the Greek "oikonomia" which occurs 7 times in the NT. The other 3 times it is translated as "stewardship." (See BlueLetterBible )

          I believe that "stewardship" would be an appropriate designation of the time "under the law" because it is similar to Paul's use of "schoolmaster," and it doesn't suggest a time period when the law was God's means of salvation as the modern meaning of "dispensation" suggests.

          Since the KJV speaks of the "dispensation of the grace of God" in Eph 3:2, I wonder whether dispensationalists assumed from that there must also be a "dispensation of law"?

          My concern is only that it is challenging enough to parse out what Paul means relative to "the law" in his letters, without complicating the matter by using modern terminology that does not fit the biblical context.

          Again, thank you for your contributions.

          Amen!(7)
  4. The writer says,

    “However, as Paul has already made clear, this is impossible (Gal 3:21-22) because without Christ we are unable to obey the Law.”

    Scripture says, however, “For 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 for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Rom 8:3 (Rom 7:18; Heb 7:18). It is the weakness of the flesh, our fallen condition (Jer 17:9; Dt 5:29; Rom 8:5-9; 7:5; Gal 5:17). The law requires that we do or obey the rules in order to reap its benefits - external blessings like long life, prosperity etc. The law does not have life in itself to give. So the Law is dependent on my fitness in order to benefit me. Not so the Spirit. The Spirit, which is Life itself, quickens us, give us life and all things in order to glorify God, to do His prepared works. So the Law was weak because of my condition, not weak of itself. Adam, as created, could observe the Law perfectly.

    Amen!(2)
  5. I would ask this. With all of the comments about the importance of the law, what do you do you think Paul had in mind? I would return to Galatians 2:16. and turn to Romans 6:14,15 and Galatians 5:4-6. How does any of this apply to us today?

    Amen!(0)
  6. Using the scripture we are not under law but under grace tells me that God\'s pardon has removed us from being sentenced to death for breaking the law. By accepting God\'s grace we are covered in Jesus righteousness. No longer stand accuesed but stand justified through our raith in Jesus Christ our saviour.

    Amen!(7)

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