Tuesday: The Law as Our “Guard”
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Paul gives two basic conclusions about the law: (1) the law does not nullify or abolish God’s promise made to Abraham (Gal. 3:15-20); (2) the law is not opposed to the promise (Gal. 3:21-22).

Image © Steve Creitz from GoodSalt.com

What role does the law actually play then? Paul writes that it was added “because of transgressions” (Gal. 3:19), and he expands on this idea using three different words or phrases in connection to the law: kept (Gal 3:23), shut up (vs. 23), and schoolmaster (Gal 3:24).

Read prayerfully and carefully Galatians 3:19-24. What is Paul saying about the law?

Most modern translations interpret Paul’s comments about the law in Galatians 3:19 in wholly negative terms. But the original Greek is not nearly so one-sided. The Greek word translated as “kept” (vs. 23) literally means “to guard.” Although it can be used in a negative sense, as to “hold in subjection” or to “watch over” (2 Cor. 11:32), in the New Testament it generally has a more positive sense of “protecting” or “keeping” (Phil. 4:71 Pet. 1:5). The same is true of the word translated as “shut up” (Gal. 3:23). It can be translated “to close” (Gen. 20:18), “to shut” (Exod. 14:3Josh. 6:1Jer. 13:19), “to enclose” (Luke 5:6), or “to confine” (Rom. 11:32). As these examples indicate, depending on its context, this word can have either positive or negative connotations.

What benefits did the law (moral and ceremonial) provide the children of Israel? Rom. 3:1-2; Deut. 7:12-24; Lev. 18:20-30.

While Paul can speak about the law in negative terms (Rom. 7:6Gal. 2:19), he also has many positive things to say about it (see Rom. 7:12Rom. 7:14Rom. 8:3-4Rom. 13:8). The law was not a curse that God placed upon Israel; on the contrary, it was intended to be a blessing. Though its sacrificial system could not ultimately remove sin, it pointed to the promised Messiah who could, and its laws guiding human behavior protected Israel from many of the vices that plagued other ancient civilizations. In light of Paul’s positive comments about the law elsewhere, it would be a mistake to understand his comments here in a completely negative way.

Think of something good that is misused. For example, a drug created to treat a disease could be used by some people to get high. What examples have you seen in your own life of this principle? How does our knowledge of how something good can be misused help us understand what Paul is dealing with here?

Amen!(44)

Comments

Tuesday: The Law as Our “Guard” — 13 Comments

  1. As simple as water, something necessary to the body, drinking too much can be deadly... Thus it is with the Law, which also has to be balanced! Strictly by the Law we are all sentenced to death! But we have our safe pass, which we can find in the sacrifice of Jesus! The only thing we must do is to accept it, and claim it! The Law does not need to be changed, and also It cannot change anyone! After accepting Christ, the miracle of change can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to continually act in our own lives!

    Amen!(25)
  2. If Jesus is the only way to salvation then why did God give the law first? Would it not have been more beneficial to have Jesus be born sooner? Or was it good to have the law first so we could see a need for a Savior?

    Amen!(3)
    • As I understand it, God gave the promise of the Savior first - before He pronounced the Law from Sinai. Right in Eden God promised that the offspring of the woman (Jesus Christ) would crush the serpent's (Satan's) head and thus overcome him and create a way of salvation for humanity.

      The Law of God - i.e. the law of self-renouncing love - always existed, because it is a description of the character of God. The version of the law given at Sinai was an adaptation to match human need. As Paul pointed out, the law from Sinai did not nullify the promise given to Abraham - nor the promise given to Adam and Eve, for that matter.

      Amen!(18)
    • Jesus once said he did not come to change anything but to fulfill ,am not just familiar with that verse , i believe Jesus came for my sins and all that seek for peace ,love and happiness, but the law is to guide, leads us to the truth of God though Jesus who kept the law too

      I Albert muyoba in namibia
      .

      Amen!(3)
    • It is easy to fall into an either/or mentality. Satan loved divisiveness and that breeds it. Which came first, law or salvation? In reality the question is meaningless (unless you narrow it down to a specific codification). The plan of salvation was created from the foundation of the earth--it was just culminated in the incarnation. Likewise God's law is a transcript of his character--it was just contextualized as needed throughout history. Salvation never came by law. But we would not have known our need of a savior without the law showing us, so making us aware of salvation before making us aware of the law would not have been beneficial.

      Amen!(1)
  3. There has to be a reason of eternal proportions for creating a type, Adam(Rom 5:14), before the “real”, the Son of God. Why did God deem that necessary? Look at what that caused. Of course many of us don’t consider Adam a type in spite of Scripture.

    Amen!(0)
  4. When the Bible speaks of "the law" it is referring to Part 1 of the Hebrew Bible, the "Torah". "Who has bewitched you Gentile Christians to put yourselves under the law by obeying its commandment to be circumcised?!" Paul knows who and we know who if we have studied Acts 15.

    The 3 parts of the Hebrew Bible are "The Law/Torah", "The Prophets" and "The Writings". Anyone who submits to obedience to the Torah/law is trading in practising Judaism. No wonder Paul was so upset.

    Paul says that Judaism was given to Israel, nobody else, to discipline them until Jesus, the Promised Seed arrived. And the law's imprisonment/slavery had been superseded by the Spirit/faith even for them. He preached the same expiration to Jewish Christians. (See Acts 21}

    "Now before faith came,we were held captive UNDER THE LAW, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was OUR [not yours] guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we [Jews] are no longer under a guardian." (Gal 3:21-23)

    Early Catholics decided to change the law (sound familiar?) by fracturing it into so-called "moral" and "ceremonial" laws (sound familiar?)that have confused Christians ever since.

    Amen!(4)
    • Harry the following is a definition of a gentile.

      GENTILE, n. [L. gentilis; from L. gens, nation, race; applied to pagans.]
      In the scriptures, a pagan; a worshipper of false gods; any person not a Jew or a christian; a heathen. The Hebrews included in the term goim or nations, all the tribes of men who had not received the true faith.
      Didn't Paul say in Galatians 3:7 "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." The above definition of gentile tells who are gentiles. Which verse in the whole bible says gentile refers to race ño matter you are a child of God.
      Waiting brother.
      Unless if we are worshiping false gods then we are still gentiles.

      Amen!(0)
    • I am not sure that the separation of the law into moral and ceremonial components was an essentially Catholic idea. My guess is that separation was understood by the Jews long before, even if they did not use that terminology.

      Amen!(1)
      • Please provide scriptural support for that "understanding." Or is it our interpretation of what we think their understaning was?

        Amen!(1)
        • The fact that the stone tablets on which the 10 commandments were written were the only part of the law that were placed in the ark of the covenant is an indication that there was some separation of thought about the two parts of the law.

          The main point I was making is that I don't think that the separation was an essentially Catholic idea, bt I freely admit that the question about the separation probably warrants further study.

          Amen!(2)
          • Good point about the ark of the covenant. The concept of the separation is an old and interesting one. It was a key element in the 1888 controversy (whether Galatians was talking about one or all). Ellen White weighed in with Jones and Waggoner that Paul was referring to all. Yet at the same time, There are obvious differences between the civil, ceremonial and moral. It appears to be, at least in part, a divisive tactic of Satan to get Christians to argue over that and avoid what God is trying to tells us. Even the law versus grace controversy readily plays into that divisiveness. Both are from the beginning, both are from God, but for different purposes, and likewise, the three types of law are likewise unified in purpose in pointing use to Christ, but different in method, applicability, etc.

            Amen!(1)
  5. “The Law as our ‘Guardian’” would better convey Paul’s intent in his letter. At Mount Sinai, the Word of God to the children of Israel was, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2) It was by the awesome power of his Word that the Lord brought his children of promise out of bondage to sin, and it was by that same power that he promised keep them: You will not put other things before me; you will not worship and serve self-made idols; you will not murder, steal and commit adultery; et cetera. (Exodus 20:3-17)

    The Lord said, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called My son out of Egypt.” (Hosea 11:1) This was a repetition of the basis on which God made his promise to Abraham: “I am the LORD who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” (Genesis 15:7) And it is by a similar call that God invites all who will answer to follow him from the captivity of sin to his promised land: “Babylon the great has fallen, has fallen! ... Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.” (Revelation 18:2-4)

    It is by answering God’s call to follow him by faith in the accomplished work of his Christ that we recognize his saving work is his alone. This is made very clear by the God’s words to his people (and by extension to us) through the prophet Ezekiel:

    “You have disgraced my holy name among the nations where you now live. So you don't deserve what I'm going to do for you. I will lead you home to bring honor to my name and to show foreign nations that I am holy. Then they will know that I am the LORD God. I have spoken. I will gather you from the foreign nations and bring you home. I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean and acceptable to me. I will wash away everything that makes you unclean, and I will remove your disgusting idols. I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings.” (Ezekiel 36:22-27)

    It is all God’s work and none of our own. I find the love of God very humbling.

    Amen!(2)

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