The Law in the New Testament – Pauline Epistles Part 3
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. NASB
In chapters 9 through 11 there is a discussion of the ethnic nation of Israel whom God had also chosen to be His covenant people through His unconditional election of them, and that He is perfectly free and just to do so (v-9:1-24). Paul uses this discussion to highlight the massive transition which has now come in the NEW covenant age. He labors to show that God has intended to save the Gentiles “by faith,” and that God has expanded His saving covenant to include the Gentiles, as He had promised in the Old Testament (v-9:22-29).
Romans 9:22-26 – 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25 As He says also in Hosea, "I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’" 26 "And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘ you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God." NASB
Then there is a discussion about Israel and their failure to attain the righteousness of God because they did not pursue His righteousness according to faith, but rather by works.
Romans 9:30-10:4 – 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed." 1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. NASB
He shows the utter ineffectual way of seeking to be justified by the works of the Law as a “way of righteousness,” and explains that Christ has brought about a definitive transition in the plan of redemption by becoming the fulfillment and “end of the Law” and providing an effectual way of righteousness by faith in Him.
Romans 10:4 – 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. NASB
He explains that in this NEW way of righteousness in Christ, that God is concerned with the inner reality of faith “in your heart,” in contrast to an outward conformity to the Law by works, as Israel had tried to achieve (v-9:30-33).
Romans 10:8-13 – 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; 13 for "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." NASB
He affirms then, that in this transition in history, that God is making no distinction between Jew and Gentile, but is in fact saving both Jew and Gentile through the preaching of the Gospel (v-10:14-17), and that He is still “calling” out His “elect” people as He always has “by grace” through faith, apart from works, highlighting the glory of His electing grace.
Romans 11:1-6 – 1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew….. 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. NASB
Because Israel, as a corporate group, was seeking to attain their own righteousness by the works of the Law instead of by faith, God has set them aside as a corporate group, in order to expand His saving grace to all the Gentile nations. This resulted in a “partial hardening of Israel” in the plan of God to therefore reach the Gentiles which He had promised in the Old Testament, until the full number of Gentiles is brought into faith and salvation, at which time God will again return and save all of Israel in the course of redemptive history.
Romans 11:25-32 – 25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." 27 "And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins." 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. NASB
See then that God has a progressive purpose through the course of redemptive history to bring about His own saving purposes. He gifted and called Israel in order to fulfill His purpose through the OLD covenant age with them, ushering in the Messiah through them, and through the Law and sacrificial system, to promise and fulfill Messianic salvation which has now blossomed and come to fulfillment through the Person and Work of Christ. In this, God has brought about the NEW covenant age of Messianic salvation in which He is saving both Jew and Gentile including people from every nation, and language, and tribe, and people, by the preaching of the Gospel. In fact in the course of redemptive history God has “shut up all in disobedience,” (that is all kinds of people…race, class, language, gender) from every nation, including Jew and Gentile, that He might “show mercy to all” (v-32). See then how God has planned the OLD to fill its functions and the NEW to be the eternal reality with the global purpose of salvation for men of every nation, and this to bring about a NEW effectual and powerful salvation that not only saves from sin, but sanctifies until it ultimately glorifies with eternal life and immortality.
It is important to point out here that even the NEW covenant age will progress through redemptive history and accomplish more purposes of God. Paul here speaks of the national salvation of the gifted and called people of Israel, and how they have received a “partial hardening” from God while He is at the business of saving the “fullness of the Gentiles.” This “partial hardening” happens UNTIL “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Paul reasons that they will be “grafted back in” (v-23-24), to the true vine of God’s saving people as a corporate group. The fact that Paul is referring to Israel as a corporate group in contrast to the Gentiles who are being saved is quite obvious from the language of the context where they are held in contrast with the you-they, you-them, you-those language of verses 11:11-32. In these verses the “you” is the Roman Gentiles to whom the letter is addressed and the [they, them, those, their] is the Jews who were “cut off” and “partially hardened.” See then Paul’s conclusion that [they, them, those, their], whom he calls “all Israel,” will eventually be “saved” when the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come in. So God has a yet further purpose in the course of redemptive history to save the whole corporate group of Jews. He makes it very clear that this happens at the second coming of Christ in verses 26-27 when he says "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob."27 "And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins. "” Learn here, that the corporate group of ethnic Israel will be saved at the second coming of Christ as a further purpose of God in redemptive history. Of course we know that this will be the time of fulfillment of all of God’s promises to ethnic Israel of land, seed, blessing and King/Kingdom that will be granted them in the Millennial Kingdom. Therefore the OLD and NEW contrast through redemptive history comes to fulfillment in God’s purpose to save not only Gentiles from every nation, but also to save the entire corporate group of Israel as He has promised.
This concludes Paul’s treatment of the OLD and NEW contrast in Romans except for the application of the moral use of the Law and how we should understand and apply the Law as New Covenant Christians in Romans 13 and 14. We will treat this section of text below as we discuss Legalism, License and Liberty. Paul does bring up the OLD and NEW contrast in a few other sections of text which are important to note.
In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul mentions his own relation to the Law in the context of his evangelism efforts. He states “though not being myself under the law.” Of course Paul had stated this in Romans where we saw that we are “no longer under the law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14). Paul is here simply restating that he is freed from the Law and therefore free to live and interact in different cultural situations in order to benefit those whom he seeks to evangelize “win” for Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. 20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. NASB
He also here states “though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ.” Notice how even though Paul states in this passage that he is “not under the law,” he also here says that he is “not being without the law.” Paul maintains the fact that the law cannot bind him in any situation, it nevertheless serves to inform him continually of the will of God. He further adds though that he is bound “under the law of Christ.” This of course is a reference to the new commandment that Christ gave His disciples to “love one another” (John 13:34). Paul sees himself obligated to love others (Rom 13:8) and thus being “under the law of Christ” and fulfilling the Law’s ultimate goal.
Galatians 6:2 – 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. NASB
Romans 13:8 – 8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has
Fulfilled the law NASB
Paul has an extensive treatment of the Law in the book of Galatians. There he is writing to refute the Judaizers who were falsely teaching that one must be circumcised and keep certain Jewish customs on order to be saved. In chapter 2 Paul treats the doctrine of justification by faith alone in a very similar way to Romans chapter 3. Galatians 2:16 is one of the clearest statements of justification by faith in Holy Writ.
Galatians 2:16 – 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. NASB
He goes on to make plain that he has in fact been convicted by the Law, and sought justification in Christ and therefore has begun a new life free from sin and living “to God.” This new life is a life empowered by union with Christ and lived “by faith in the Son of God.”
Galatians 2:17-21 – 17 "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. 21 "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." NASB
Having been “crucified with Christ,” Paul shows that he is then in fact living by “the grace of God,” and by “faith in the Son of God,” and therefore in “righteousness,” (right standing with God) which has not come “through the Law,” but rather by grace through faith in Christ. This of course is the thrust of Paul’s whole argument in Galatians. He labors to show that righteousness does not come “through the law,” but rather “by faith” in Christ. In fact in chapter 3 he shows that seeking to be justified by the works of the law puts one “under a curse,” because the law demands perfect blameless obedience to which no one can conform.
Galatians 3:5-10 – 5 Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them." NASB
Contrasting then “the works of the law” with “faith,” he explains that “no one is justified by the law,” but rather “the righteous man shall live by faith.” He explains that the “Law is not of faith,” because it will demand perfect obedience in order for one to “live by them.” Instead he maintains that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.” See yet again the Law being contrasted with faith, “the Law is not of faith.” What the Law could not do, God did (Rom 8:3) through Christ. Christ bore the “curse of the Law,” for us, that we might “receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Galatians 3:11-14 – 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, " The righteous man shall live by faith. " 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" — 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. NASB
See here the great contrast of the OLD and NEW. The Law brings the “curse” of sin and death, but faith brings “the promise of the Spirit.” Paul then explains what the purpose of the Law was in the course of redemptive history.
Galatians 3:19-21 – 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. NASB
See here “the Law was added because of transgressions” so that we could clearly see the nature of sin and how far short of righteousness we really fall, and further, that “righteousness” is not “based on the Law,” nor can it “impart life.”
Galatians 3:22-25 – 22 But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. NASB
Therefore in the course of history, “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Christ might be given to those who believe.” Before the “faith” of the New Covenant came, “we were kept in custody under the Law,” awaiting the freedom that would come in the “faith that was later to be revealed.” In this way then “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” And now that we have come to Christ and been justified by “faith,” then “we are no longer under a tutor.” The Law then was temporary and intended to show the nature of our sin and our utter inability to be in right standing with God UNTIL, in the course of redemptive history, Christ would come and we could be justified by faith in Him, an eternal benefit. See here the OLD Covenant and NEW Covenant contrast in crystal clear terms.
Paul then has a lengthy discussion on how the Law is rightly understood and applied in this new age of faith in chapter 5. He urges the Galatians that returning to the Law to be justified would be “subject again to a yoke of slavery” and explains then that Christ has set us free from the constant and unending demand of the Law.
Galatians 5:1-2 – 5 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you NASB
In verses 13-24 he shows that love is the fulfillment of the Law and that now believers are to live governed by love for one another. This he calls the “Law of Christ” in chapter 6:2. Effectively he explains that Christians are now “led by the Spirit” v-18 and therefore “not under the Law.” He sets out a contrast between the Spirit and the flesh, which are at enmity with each other, much like Romans 8:5-8. We therefore strive to “walk by the Spirit” and in love for one another and so fulfill the Law.
Galatians 5:13-24 – 13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, " You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. NASB
He explains then that walking in and being led by the Spirit truly, we bring forth “the fruit of the Spirit” (v-22-23) in contrast to the “deeds of the flesh” (v-19-21). This is in fact the reality of the true Christian life wherein all true Christians “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” See then the freedom of the Spirit that Christians now live under where being led by the Spirit we learn to fulfill the Law and love one another.
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