Sunday: The Law and the Promise
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“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:

Moses and the Law

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“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.

What mistaken concepts did Paul’s opponents have about the role of the law? Compare Gal. 3:21, Lev. 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 like Leviticus 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” (NKJV). 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. Here, again, is the great truth that propelled the Protestant Reformation.

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?

Amen!(41)

Comments

Sunday: The Law and the Promise — 26 Comments

  1. Last week I wrote this statement "Promise does not change the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom. People change the gospel of the Kingdom because they don't understand the weight, value and depth of the promise. Only the maker knows them fully." Many might not have understood my point. Glad the author realizing misconceptions which rose from last Week's lesson clears the confusion this week. For the promise of salvation can only work when there is the law.

    The law shows us how much vulnerable we are without the Messiah our promise hope for salvation. It shows our desperation for the Messiah. That is why it serves as a magnifying glass to help us see clearly how bad our sinful condition is.

    The clearly laid out description of the Messianic work can only be understood by understanding the need for the law. It guarantees the promise. It confirms the validity of the promise. It is an authentication of the promise for the salvation of man. If there is no law then definitely there is no need for the Messiah. What purpose will He save?

    Therefore the law defines what is the Messiah, who is the Messiah and why humanity need the Messiah? "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."

    Amen!(19)
    • Your way of thinking may be a little different than mine. However, I see that the Law, rightly understood, declares to us that we need a Saviour, a Messiah. I believe that was the purpose of the declaration on Sinai of a version of God's Law adapted to humanity.

      When we read Paul, it helps to remember whom he was addressing and why. He was dealing with the specific problem of certain men from Jerusalem traveling around and teaching people that they had to become Jews before they could be saved by the Messiah. They taught that people had to obey all the laws of the Torah. In this they taught that Jesus was not enough to save. It was that kind of "law" keeping that Paul was addressing - i.e. keeping the Law as a means of salvation.

      God's eternal Law has always existed and was not "given" at any particular time, but adaptations of it were given to humanity. It was on Calvary that Christ demonstrated the fullness of the eternal Law of God.

      I like the way Ellen White put it:

      In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which “seeketh not her own” has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto. (Desire of Ages, p. 19)

      Amen!(4)
      • You are correct. Our understanding is different. Existence and given means two different things. I am sure I didn't write anything about that in my comment. Please clarify.

        Amen!(1)
        • You wrote about "need for the law," which seems to imply that the law did not exist at some point in time.

          That's why I wrote that the law always existed, but that a specific adaptation of it was given to humanity and probably reiterated at Sinai. ("Reiterated" implies that it had been given before, because the evidence indicates that the patriarchs were quite aware of the 10 principles enunciated on Sinai.)

          Amen!(2)
    • Anele, according to Scripture Law cannot give life. The law is effective, with respect to life, only if we *do* its requirements. Those who do it would live long in their “promised” land, not spiritual eternal life, and their crops would be plentiful, no famine, they would be ahead of the other nations in all things etc. The Spirit, on the other hand, is life-giving in itself. It is a better convictor of sin, righteousness etc. Remember the Gentiles were without law. They were “unaware” of their condition, unlike Israel who were enlightened as to their condition because they had the covenants. They were brought to salvation, like Israel, without the intervention of Law, however.

      Amen!(4)
      • Kenny
        Anele"s entire comment is not about the law in general. It is about the work of the Messiah who came to save man because the law of God has been broken. Anele"s argument is that the Messiah's work need the law to be clearly understood. Not that the laws didn't exist. My comment does not in any way suggests that. Neither does is suggests that it gives life. It simply implies that for man to understand the work of the plan of salvation there is need for the law otherwise there is nothing to save us from if there is no law. Meaning the His work does not abrogate the law at all. I am not sure how it sent a mixed signal.

        Amen!(4)
        • I like this and totally agree:

          for man to understand the work of the plan of salvation there is need for the law otherwise there is nothing to save us from if there is no law.

          The Law is the standard of holiness, and it helps us understand our lost condition. In fact, I will go further to suggest that we appreciate the work of Christ best after having tried to meet the demands of the Law on our own. When we finally realize that there is *nothing* good in ourselves - that our very best efforts are tinged with selfishness - we have nothing left but throw ourselves on the mercy of our Savior. And oh, what freedom there is in trusting completely in Him and abandoning the striving on our own! By focusing solely on Him day by day He transforms us from the inside out. At least that's been my experience.

          Would love to hear the experience of others.

          Amen!(0)
  2. The author's question - "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?"

    The Children of Israel were required to keep the law in its fullness and entirety. It was a way of life and a requirement to be part of the covenant people as they approach the earthly Canaan. Deut 5:33 - You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess. It was part of their "works" - Deut 6:25.

    Paul rightly said in Gal 3:12 - Yet the law is not of faith, but the man who does them shall live by them.

    The practical good for me is the peace and rest I have in God, arising from leaning on Him and trusting Him for the sealing work His Spirit (Eph 1:13, Eph 4:30) is doing in my heart and life.

    Amen!(14)
  3. The point is, the Law does not save us, It is a standard for us. If we try to live by the Law only we will fail! We have to live by Christ! He has just shown to us how His Law is perfect in love. By loving Jesus we naturally live by the Law.

    Amen!(5)
  4. when we obey the law, it helps us not to destroy ourselves by sinful practices like those who live without its protection. So the law of God is a great wall of protection .To the people of God It is a blessing.

    Amen!(12)
  5. The law has nullified God's promises. They help us to know sin. Then though faith we abide in the promises of God while we live a sinless life

    Amen!(1)
    • I am not sure that I understand what you are saying here Kabugo Alex, but as it stands that first sentence seems inconsistent. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that when emphasize law-keeping as our effort towards salvation, then it nullifies God's promises. The other concept that you mention, "living sinless", is also often misinterpreted. We like to preface use of this idea with the notion of "abiding in Christ". Both these phrases are used frequently but sometimes I wonder if we really know what they mean.

      Amen!(8)
  6. Kabugo

    Gal 3:17 clearly says that the law, which came 430 years later, CANNOT annul the covenant and the promise.

    Daniel

    you said that "when we obey the law, it helps us not to destroy ourselves by sinful practices ... the law of God is a great wall of protection."

    The law is not our protector. It does not keep us from destruction. These concepts are contrary to scripture. The Spirit of God in us is our protector and the keeper of our souls.

    Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

    Rom 8:4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Gal 5:16 Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

    Gal 5: 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit

    Amen!(4)
    • Fred, why else would the law tell us not to commit adultery unless it was to guard us from broken relationships and broken hearts? Why else would the law tell us to honor our parents unless it was to guard us from broken relationships and broken hearts? Why else would the law tell us to rest on the Sabbath unless it was to guard us from overwork, and even more importantly guarding us from trusting our works to save us, instead of resting our faith in God's work and amazing grace. Daniel is absolutely right. You are right in that the Holy Spirit is what makes it all possible.

      Amen!(10)
    • Daniel wrote:

      when we obey the law, it helps us not to destroy ourselves by sinful practices ... the law of God is a great wall of protection.

      Fred Roberts replied:

      The law is not our protector. It does not keep us from destruction. These concepts are contrary to scripture. The Spirit of God in us is our protector and the keeper of our souls.

      Inge responds:
      And yet we read in Scripture:

      Ps 37:23-31 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.
      ...31 The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

      That sounds like protection to me. 🙂 So the situation is not that clear-cut.

      Any attempt to "keep the Law" to save us or even to add to the work of Christ in saving us is worse than futile. It denies the efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ. That is what Paul is writing about.

      On the other hand, the new-covenant promise is to write the Law the believer's heart. Jer 31:31-33 Since the Law of God - the law of self-renouncing love - is a transcript of the character of God, it seems to me that God's writing His Law in the believer's heart refers to the transformation of character that the Spirit brings about.

      And when our characters are transformed by Christ within us, we will love His Law/statutes/commandments:

      Psalm 119
      10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
      11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
      12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.
      13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
      14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
      15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
      16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
      17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
      18 Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
      19 I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.
      33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
      34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
      35 Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
      44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
      45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
      46 I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.
      47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.
      48 My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.
      77 Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.
      97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
      98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
      99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
      100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
      101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
      102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
      103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
      104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
      105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
      106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
      107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.
      108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments.
      109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

      There's more, but I think you get the idea. Paul spends considerable time in Romans to make clear that there's nothing wrong with the Law. It is our attitude towards the Law that needs fixing.

      Amen!(6)
    • I have to agree with Kabugo,l although his point may have been misunderstood. The law does protect us. Let me start from basic principles. Sin is inherently destructive-both to the perpetrator and to those affected by the perpetrator. I could site some examples, but many should be obvious. God gave us the law . . . well, because sometimes it isn't as obvious as it should be. Keeping the law, even if imperfectly, will make us happier, healthier, live longer, etc. It will not save us. Only Christ will do that. And a relationship with him will cause us to become more like him and therefore naturally follow the law more closely.

      Amen!(1)
  7. "Though the law cannot save us, what great benefits does our adherence to it have for us." I do believe that the law, that is the ten commandments ,wheither you call the ten 'the law' or 'law' both are the ten commandments, are a thermometer to guage our relationship with Christ. Are we hot or cold, we tend to think of our temperature as relating to our witness. It relates to our walk with God also, our relationship with Christ is inseparable from our witness. As far as Abraham not having the law, he had it in his heart, passed down from generation to generation, and refreshed on His heart by the Holy Spirit. He just didn't have it in stone. Back to the benifits of the law. It is a guide to my conscience of right or wrong. Abraham did not have the law in stone. But he knew it was wrong to lie when he went to Egypt. The law was his guide, which he deviated from, the law did not save, him, God did by reminding him he disobeyed. The law does not keep me from sinning, my choice to follow His example does. But the law is written in my heart, reminding me what sin is that's all. What the law does not benifit me, is easier to articulate. Frankly it does not save me. Putting my hand on Christ does and keeping it there.

    Amen!(6)
  8. It makes me feel happy, that I am at least doing what Jesus asks me to do, living the kind of life that He laid out for me! Being obedient to his word, and desires be like Him. Is this wrong?

    Amen!(1)
    • Jean, I think Jesus wants us to be happy in following Him. I believe the angels also delight in your efforts to follow Him. When we love Jesus, we will want to be like Him, and we will want to live the way He wants us to live. 🙂

      Amen!(0)
  9. I gave this feeble example before - it is not a perfect parallel, but hopefully the point comes through. If you have a self-driving car and you engage the mechanism on the car, you can sit back and not have to worry about any of the laws of the road, because the vehicle will execute every one of them flawlessly for you; turns, twists, acceleration, stopping and starting, maneuvering, etc. In the meantime, you have put your complete trust in the car and can enjoy the ride. That is an imperfect human example of the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the born again child of God. He does not have to concern himself with law, the Spirit ensures that his every move is in harmony with God's will. With God in control, he is not going to be taking God's name in vain, embracing idols, breaking the Sabbath, stealing, etc. So with God in full control, there is no lawlessness in operation.

    Our attempt to advance the law-keeping concept above the work of the Holy Spirit, is in effect our taking control of the vehicle away from the God. WE have to be in charge. WE are the ones keeping the law. It follows the false doctrine of "God helps those who help themselves." When we grasp the power available to us through the Comforter, our Helper, we would see the amazing things that can be accomplished for God. John 14:12. We limit ourselves by confining ourselves to living within the Ten Commandments. God is waiting to blow our minds with what He can do through and for us, if we would trust Him where we cannot trace Him. It would not be in violation of law, but it would be greater than we can imagine and greater than the boundaries we have set.

    The law is not doing the work of keeping us - God is. The law is not the protector - the Holy Spirit is. God in us is the victory at work. Col 1:27. Any attempt to see the law as greater that God Himself in us - the hope of glory, is putting something in place of God.

    Concerning the example of David - he lived under the old covenant - before Christ and before Christ gave His Holy Spirit as explained in John 16. His examples of the law and the sanctuary were his foreshadowing experiences before the appearance, life and work of the Messiah. Much more can be said about that, but time and space would not permit.

    Growth and appreciation of the omniscience and omnipotence of God allow us to see Him for who He is, and not confine Him to the Ten Commandments. There are many aspects of behavior not covered in the Ten Commandments. 1 Tim 1:9, 1 Cor 6:9, Prov 6:16-19, Gal 5:19-21 are a few of the texts that can be mentioned.

    Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am not trying to nullify the Ten Commandments. I am simply saying that if we allow God through His Holy Spirit to be in full and complete control of our lives, all of the requirements of the Ten Commandments along with all other warnings about devious behaviors not covered by the Ten Commandments are properly handled through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We would move from the "thou shall not" to the "we can and we shall" through Christ who dwells in us and who strengthens us. Phil 4:13

    2 Cor 1:20 - For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

    Amen!(10)
    • Thank you for your example Fred. I like it! Thank you.

      As far as David goes, wasn't David living under the New Covenant when he prayed,
      "Create in me a clean heart, O God.
      Renew a loyal spirit within me.
      Do not banish me from your presence,
      and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me." Psalm 51:10-11 NLT

      I think David understood the New Covenant which is why we don't read of him falling back into the same bondage, making the exact same mistakes over and over again, like most of those in the Old Testament which kept going from revival to apostasy back to revival and apostasy over and over. David relied on the Holy Spirit instead of making his own promises, like the others who kept falling back into apostasy.

      Amen!(4)
    • Fred wrote " There are many aspects of behavior not covered in the Ten Commandments."
      But i was taught and i believe that every sin is covered under the ten commandments. Someone please clarify!

      Amen!(0)
      • Not everything we are taught is correct (even though it may be well intended). We are constantly learning.

        It is impossible to "codify" morality. Just look at human laws. We attempt to, and sometimes we succeed, but people always find loopholes. And in the attempt to fill the loopholes, we invariably create cases where the laws prevent innocent activity in the process of (sometimes unsuccessfully) preventing unethical behavior. I don't think I need to supply an example. They are everywhere.

        The Ten Commandments are the best attempt that has been made (after all they were made by God). They are brief, yet broad. But still, the Bible is full of examples where thing that are prohibited in general by them are, in certain circumstances, OK. Christ, for instance, points out that the priests are working on the Sabbath--but are innocent--It is a necessary part of their God given job. He also showed how the Ten Commandments mean more than what they might appear to say. If you hate your brother you are a murderer, even if you don't kill him like Cain did.

        The gospels differ on a few details, but tell the story about what is the greatest commandment. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (i.e. the whole Old Testament scripture). "Love is the fulfillment of the law."

        Some of us get scared by that, because our distorted (often self-centered) view of love allows us to do wrong things. But love as demonstrated and described by God will never lead one to do wrong things. The Ten Commandments are a description of love in action. But no description can cover all possible cases.

        So no, every sin is not covered under the Ten Commandments--at least not in any legal or linguistic sense of the word. (In fact, Satan's original sin, pride, is not specifically addressed, although some of the results are). The basics are covered amazingly well. But ultimately God's character, who's fundamental attribute is love is the only thing that accurately covers everything, and we come to understand and assimilate it by being in relationship with Him. That is what Paul is trying so hard to get across to the Galatians. No set of rules will give them a heart of love. Only by beholding Christ will they become changed so that they don't need a code of law as a checklist, but indeed will do what the law requires naturally. And only by accepting Christ's sacrifice on their behalf will their falling short of this ideal--past, present and future--be forgiven, and the free gift of salvation and eternal life be given to them.

        Amen!(1)
    • I appreciate this:

      Our attempt to advance the law-keeping concept above the work of the Holy Spirit, is in effect our taking control of the vehicle away from the God. WE have to be in charge. WE are the ones keeping the law. It follows the false doctrine of "God helps those who help themselves." When we grasp the power available to us through the Comforter, our Helper, we would see the amazing things that can be accomplished for God. John 14:12

      Amen!(0)
  10. The law benefits me according to Tim 3:16,17: "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

    Amen!(1)
  11. Yes, William, David understood the New Covenant.

    Actually the New Covenant is not really new. It is really the Everlasting Covenant that goes back to Genesis. Noah understood it. So did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and many others. All these had God's eternal principles in their hearts. They in effect had the Holy Spirit cemented in their hearts.

    As a matter of fact, Moses had to live under the old covenant because through him (as the mediator) the covenant was given. But he had that one-on-one with God Himself, such that his face shone as he left God's presence.

    Moses got to see both sides - first the New Covenant, then the "Old" Covenant.

    Amen!(2)

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