When Christ came on the world scene some two thousand years ago, a whole new dimension was added to the Law of God. Christ introduced what came to be called Christianity. He came to magnify and fill to the full the understanding man should have regarding the commandments and God’s way of life. He revealed a way of life that had a spiritual application. He came to help mankind live that way of life, as the Apostle Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christianity is a way of life, and its lofty goal can be attained by the help of the Holy Spirit. Those who truly follow Christ follow the example of Christ. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
The God of the Old Testament was none other than Jesus Christ. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. . . And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). He was the One who gave the lively oracles to Moses (Acts 7:38). The New Covenant relationship with God spiritually amplifies the kind of obedience that was required under the Old Covenant. Jesus Christ did not come to “do away” with the Law of God. He came to set the example, to magnify it and make it honorable. “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isa. 42:21). By means of the Holy Spirit man can live up to the requirements of the New Covenant. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6).
Christ brought Christianity. Christianity is a way of life which manifests the spiritual intent of the New Covenant in our relationships with God and with our fellow man. It is a way of life that expresses a real love for God and for our fellow man. The Ten Commandments are the guide which show us that way. The application of the Law of God in our hearts and minds is an expansion of the “letter of the law” found in the Old Testament. In no way does it contradict the letter of the law. Jesus taught that the profitable servant goes beyond what is required of him. In the Old Testament period Israel was not required to go beyond what was physically required. Not so in the New. Jesus said the man who does only what is required of him is unprofitable. The righteousness required today exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. They observed the letter of the law, not the spiritual intent of the law. Jesus said Christians must live by the spiritual intent of the law (Matt. 5:21-28). Obedience to God must be manifested in the heart and mind. True Christians express an attitude of willing obedience to live by the spiritual intent of God’s law. They make every effort to live by every Word of God. They never demonstrate an attitude of reluctant compliance to New Testament commands only.
What were the Covenants?
The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and the nation of Israel. The details can be seen in Exodus 19-24. The terms are found in Exodus 20-24. The promise to live up to the terms is found in Exodus 24:3. The promises of the Old Covenant were conditional, predicated upon obedience (Ex. 19:5-6; 23:22). The blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience are found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28. This covenant arrangement was a marriage agreement between God and the nation of Israel. The terms of the Old Covenant, based on the Ten Commandments, listed a series of statutes and judgments. These were the terms of the covenant; they were not the covenant. The covenant was the agreement between Israel and God which required Israel to observe the terms of the covenant.
With the above in mind, it should be obvious that the confirmation of the New Covenant was foretold in the Scriptures. The Old Covenant did not embody the fullness of the blessings and promises given in the New. What did the prophets forecast?
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31:31-33).
The Old Covenant was made with the nation of Israel. The New Covenant has been given to the “Israel of God”-the called of God who have become members of the Body of Christ (Gal. 6:16, Acts 2:38). This covenant did not include the Gentiles until a number of years after it was confirmed to the Jewish Christians. Gentiles must become spiritual Israelites before they can enter into this covenant relationship with God (Rom. 2:28-29, Gal. 3:27-29). The requirements of this New Covenant are found in the Sermon on the Mount. What we learn here is that today we are held accountable not only for what we do but for what we think. We are held liable for even our intentions. Under the terms of the Old Covenant the promises were physical. Those who obeyed would be blessed physically. Under the terms of the New Covenant the promises are spiritual with the assurance of eternal life.
The Failure of Israel
The nation of Israel failed to live up to the agreement they had made with God. They were like an unfaithful wife. Jeremiah wrote,
For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers (Jer. 7:22-26).
Because of this failure God instituted a sacrificial system as a reminder of their sins. It was the law that was added when the Tabernacle was raised up the year following the Exodus (Ex. 40:1,17). Peter said this law was onerous (Acts 15:10). It involved not only sacrifices but various washings, rites and ceremonies. This sacrificial system was not intended to expiate sin. It merely served as a reminder of sin and pointed to the coming Messiah who would take away the sins of the world by His own sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-14). The purpose of the Old Covenant, then, was to lay the foundation for the New.
The New Covenant-Given to Correct the Old
The nation of Israel could not keep the Law of God, even in the letter. But the fault was not with the covenant; the fault was with the people. “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Heb. 8:8). The New Covenant was given to correct the Old. There was a vital ingredient missing in the Old Covenant which was necessary to accomplish obedience. This was the Holy Spirit. The failure of Israel to live up to the requirements of the law has been remedied by the addition of God’s Spirit which has been given to spiritual Israel-the church (Heb. 8:10, Gal. 5:22-24). Those who have been converted have the capability to live up to the spiritual intent of the law (Rom. 8:1-2, 4, 14). The law is now “written in the inward parts and in the heart.” Jesus came to magnify the law and make it honorable. He came to “fill it full” (Matt. 5:17). “Fulfill” is an incorrect translation here. It is from the Greek pleroo, which means “to bring to full expression.” See A Greek-English Lexicon, by Arndt and Gingrich, page 677. Jesus confirmed the New Covenant, as stated in Daniel 9:27. When Jesus said, “. . . Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18), He meant that this confirmation would be completed. The Greek for ginomia means “until all has taken place,” rather than “till all be fulfilled.” See A Greek-English Lexicon by Arndt and Gingrich, page 157. This confirmation was completed by the sacrifice and death of Christ as payment for the sins of mankind. This is the price He paid for our sins, so we can have complete confidence in the terms and blessings of the New Covenant.
Notice what Jesus instructed in the Sermon on the Mount.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire (Matt. 5:20-22).
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28).
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. . . (Matt. 5:43-45).
We see by the above that Christ did indeed magnify the law. The section of the Bible He quoted from was the Torah. It details the law which Jesus expanded. Notice how the Living Bible renders Matthew 5:17. “Don’t misunderstand why I have come-it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of all the prophets. . . .” The sacrifices, washings and various ceremonies were not what Jesus magnified. These were “done away.” Paul described this abolishment in Hebrew 9:9-10. He referred to that system as a figure for that time then present, “Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and ceremonies, [margin: rites] imposed on them until the time of reformation.”
Jesus Set The Example
Jesus came not only to magnify God’s law, He came to set the example of how to live it. If there is a model of perfection, it is Jesus Christ. One only need read the Gospels to see this clearly illustrated. Jesus did not come to live a perfect life in our stead. Rather, He demonstrated that by means of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to live a life that is pleasing to God, the Father. Jesus set the example for us to follow. By this means we can know how to fulfill the Law of God both in our conduct toward God and toward our fellow man. By the example of Christ, God, the Father could say,”. . . This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Those who truly follow Christ emulate that conduct. They work to purge out the flaws and evils in their nature and character. The Apostle John wrote, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). The law that Christ magnified sets the standard for us to follow. Without that law, and the example Jesus set, we could not know. As a result of that teaching and example those who are called of God are accountable for applying it in their lives. With the help of the Holy Spirit this indeed is possible.
Must Live by Every Word of God
Paul told the young evangelist Timothy, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The only Scriptures Timothy knew are what we call the Old Testament. When Jesus said, “. . . Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), He referred to the Old Testament. Later, the New Testament was added to the sacred canon and man is now required to live by both the Old and New Testaments. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The New Testament is full of Old Testament quotes. The two are inseparably linked. The entirety of God’s word is necessary to know and understand for salvation. The principles and requirements of both the Old and New Covenants are found in the pages of the Old and New Testaments. To obtain the full perspective, it is imperative to study the entirety of God’s word.
Israel of the Spirit
Israel of the Spirit is the Israel of God (Gal. 6:16, Rom. 2:28-29). Israel of God is led by the Spirit. Those who are Israel of the Spirit do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). As Paul illustrated, they live by the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20). Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, so that the righteousness of the law can be fulfilled in our lives. Those who do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them cannot possibly fulfill the New Covenant requirements of the law. God’s law, by means of His Spirit, must be imparted in the hearts and minds of men to enable them to obey. One cannot obey the “principles” of the law without keeping the law itself.
The idea that the Ten Commandments are “done away” would make it permissible to commit idolatry, to curse and misuse God’s name, to be guilty of Sabbath-breaking, to dishonor one’s parents, to murder, to steal, to lie, to covet. Yet, to keep the Ten Commandments in principle would mean it is not permissible to practice the above. So, we have a contradiction. The fact is: We cannot both obey and not obey the Ten Commandments. We cannot keep the Law of God in the letter and disobey it in the spirit any more than we can keep the law in the spirit and disobey it in the letter. It is impossible to both keep and not keep it. The New Covenant introduced the spiritual intent of the law. This means that while keeping the letter of the law, we must go beyond that and keep the intent of the law. Jesus aptly illustrated this in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). This is what the spiritual application of the law is about. God’s law must be kept in the heart and mind as well as in the letter.
So, how is righteousness defined today? In the spiritual sense, righteousness could not be achieved under the Old Covenant. Righteousness according to the letter of the law could. Some few achieved this, but Israel as a whole failed. This is why Paul wrote that God found fault with them (Heb. 8:8). As noted, the New Covenant was given to correct the Old. God’s law can now be written in the heart and mind of those called to a knowledge of the truth. This was not possible under the Old Covenant. God, through Christ, now makes the Holy Spirit available so that the spiritual intent of God’s law can be achieved in the lives of those truly converted. This cannot be accomplished by human effort. Human effort without the help of the Holy Spirit is doomed to failure. Those who turn to God, repent, and are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit. They truly are the Israel of God-the Israel of the Spirit.
This was why Paul could stand before the Sanhedrin and declare “. . . Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). What was Paul’s message about? What did he preach? “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23). Paul knew the foundation for the New Covenant was the Old. He did not exclude the Old Testament Scriptures from his teaching. An examination of Paul’s practice clearly shows he kept the Sabbath and the holy days (Acts 13:14, 42, 44; 18:21; 20:16, 1 Cor. 16:8). Many years after the resurrection of Christ, Paul never assumed for a moment that the Law of God was “done away.” He knew the basis for the New Covenant was the Old, and this is what he preached.
Did Christ’s Death Abolish Spiritual Things?
What is clear from the New Testament is that it was the sacrificial system that was done away, not the Law of God. Paul, referring to the sacrificial system, wrote,
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:9-12).
The spiritual things of God are eternal. The Bible says, “For we know that the law is spiritual. . .” (Rom. 7:14). “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” (Psa. 111:7-8). Christ’s death did not abolish any of the eternal principles and laws of God. The spiritual things of God are eternal. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
God’s Law is spiritual. Paul said so. As such it is immovable. It defines sin. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Jesus Christ did not come to do away with the Law of God. He came to confirm the covenant, and to give His life a ransom for the sins of the world. The Law of God should be deeply appreciated. The Psalmist wrote,
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward (Psa. 19:7-11).
Those who truly are grateful for the eternal spiritual law of God, and who keep it, will be the recipients of untold blessings.
What Observed After Christ’s Death?
The popular notion today is that God’s law was done away by the death of Christ. An examination of the New Testament shows otherwise. Shortly after Christ’s death the New Testament church continued to observe the feast of Pentecost. In fact, Christ told His disciples to abide in Jerusalem until the Day of Pentecost. See Acts, chapters 1 and 2. Paul admonished the Corinthians to “keep the feast,” referring to the Days of Unleavened Bread. In Acts 18 Paul hurried to keep [Greek: celebrate] this feast that cometh in Jerusalem. Most Bible commentators regard this as the Feast of Tabernacles, as the chronology of the book of Acts indicates. As noted earlier in this article Paul preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath. He set the example for both Jews and Gentile converts by doing this. Had the Sabbath been done away Paul most certainly would not have kept it. These texts point out that the Law of God was not done away and that under the terms of the New Covenant Christians are to live by every Word of God. The Sabbath, holy days, and all of God’s commandments defined in His spiritual law were kept by the early New Testament church and should be kept by Christians today.
What Done Away and What Fulfilled in Christ?
The sacrificial law was not an original part of the Old Covenant. It was the added law Paul referred to in Galatians 3:19. We have already seen that God did not command sacrifices originally (Jer. 7:22). When the tabernacle was raised up in the second year (Ex. 40:2, 17), the sacrificial system began. This was the law that was done away. The spiritual law of God lasts forever (Psa. 119:160). We have seen in Hebrews 9:9-12 the law that was done away. The meaning of meats, drinks, and divers washings is clear enough, but what is meant by “carnal ordinances?” The margin here is also accurate enough. It states “rites,” or “ceremonies.” A Greek-English Lexicon, by Arndt and Gingrich, translates “carnal ordinances” as “regulations for the body.” These were various rules that applied to ceremonial cleanliness. There were many rites that were involved in this process. They no longer apply. They were done away. These and the others mentioned above have no bearing on the spiritual Law of God. This text in Hebrews 9:10 clearly shows what was done away and it was not the Law of God.
What, then, was fulfilled in Christ? The prevalent idea today is that Christ fulfilled the law by living a righteous life in our stead. All we have to do is to accept Christ and we too become righteous. This concept is unscriptural. Jesus came to “fill up” the law, to magnify it and make it honorable. Since the blood of bulls and goats could not take away man’s sins, there had to be a more effective atonement. Only a perfect Saviour could pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. What Christ did was to die in man’s stead-to take upon Himself the penalty all of us have deserved for our sins. Peter wrote, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (1 Pet. 1:18-20). The perfect sacrifice was fulfilled in Christ. He was made to be the sin offering for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul explains, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:14-15). The fact is: Christ did not come to live a perfect life in our stead. He came to set the example, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).
Man was redeemed from the penalty of sin by the death of Christ. Is it logical to assume Christ would do away with the very reason man has come under the death penalty-disobedience to the Law of God? If this were the case it would mean the law is done away and people are not required to obey any law at all. According to this line of reasoning, people were held accountable for violating the letter of the law in the Old Testament period, but now after the death of Christ no one is held accountable for anything. Does this make any sense? Of course not! Christ did not die for what His death would abolish. He did not die for the sacrificial law or for the spiritual law of God. He died to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. His death would have served no purpose at all if He came to do away with the Law of God. In the New Testament period we do have an Advocate if we sin (1 John 2:1), so we can and do sin. What is sin? According to the Bible, sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). So, clearly the Law of God is not done away.
The Curse of the Law
What does the Bible mean when it states, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (Gal. 3:13). Some interpret this to mean Christ redeemed us from the Old Covenant, even from the law itself. An examination of the above text makes the meaning clear. Notice verse ten. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The curse resulted from the inability to do the works of the law. Those who failed to do so were under a curse. What was the curse? The answer: death for disobedience. This is why Christ was made a curse for us. He has redeemed us from the death penalty which falls upon those who fail to live up to the requirements of the law. And who has failed to live up to the requirements of the law? Read Romans 3:23. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Christ was perfect. He never sinned. As a result He could die for the sins of mankind and take upon Himself the curse for our disobedience. What was the curse? “. . . Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” When Christ was crucified He hung upon the stake until death. Christ did not redeem us from the obligation to keep the Law of God, but from the penalty that has fallen upon all of us. If we accept His perfect sacrifice and obey the Law of God, the penalty for our past sins has been paid and we are in right standing with God. Christians are then under grace-God’s free undeserved, unmerited pardon. But Christians are not free to break the law, that is, to sin.
Grace does not give us a license to sin. In fact, Paul said just the opposite. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Rom. 6:15). “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Sin no longer has dominion over those who are under grace. But what happens should they return to a life of sin? They will again be under the curse of the law-the sentence of death. Christ has redeemed us from the penalty of the law. He did not redeem us from the need to keep it. James wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10).
Does the Book of Galatians Repudiate God’s Law?
Various arguments, many of them having to do with the Covenants, have been promoted in an attempt to do away with God’s law. The book of Galatians has been cited to prove this view. Let us begin in Galatians 2:16. Here we read, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16). The reasoning behind this argument is that since man cannot be justified by the works of the law, the law is invalid. Since the Galatians were Gentiles the requirements of the Old Covenant could not have applied to them. The fact is, when Paul wrote the Galatians he was writing to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul raised up the New Testament churches from the Jewish synagogues. Both Jews and Gentiles made up these churches. Gentile converts to Judaism were required to offer sacrifices. See the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, article “Proselyte.” So, the works of the law did apply to them as well as to the Jews. The problem with the “works of the law” is that those who performed them had the belief that these works could justify them, that is, remove their guilty past and place them in right standing with God.
Paul did not address what the Galatians did or did not do with respect to the “works of the law.” Rather, he addressed the reason behind these works. Paul made it plain that a man cannot be justified or made right with God by these works. Any kind of obedience, whether to the sacrificial law or the legal law, which overlooked the sacrifice of Christ, was of no avail. There was one way and one way only that Paul emphasized-men can be justified by the blood of Christ alone. Galatians 2:16 does not do away with God’s law.
Paul then asks the question in Galatians 3:19: “Wherefore then serveth the law?” He answers: “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Gal. 3:19). This text has been interpreted by many to mean that since the added law was “till the seed should come,” the law is now done away. We have already seen that the sacrificial law was added because of transgressions. While Galatians 3:19 can certainly refer to this law, it does not exclude the other commands of God. What is important here is that the promise of salvation through Christ was given 430 years before the codified law was given on Mount Sinai and before the sacrificial law that was added nine months after that. Paul said the law was given “because of transgressions, til the seed should come.” The purpose of the law is to define sin (Rom. 3:20; 4:15). The codified law given on Mt. Sinai defined sin. The sacrificial law served as a reminder of sin. So, both laws were given “because of transgressions.” The codified law defined sin and made man aware of his need for a Savior. The sacrificial law served as a reminder of sin and pointed to the coming sacrifice of Christ.
Justification and being made right with God could come through the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ only. Galatians 3:19 does not support the notion that God’s law is done away. Paul merely tells the Galatians the purpose of the law. Christ made it plain in the Sermon on the Mount that the spiritual application of the law is what is now required. There is no longer a need for a codified law ensconced in civil penalties. The penalty for breaking the spiritual law of God is much more severe.
Galatians 4:9-10, another text referred to for the purpose of repudiating the Law of God, states: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” (Gal. 4:9-10). The usual interpretation given this text is that the Galatians were desiring to keep the Law of Moses. This included the Ten Commandments, the statutes, judgments, the holy days, circumcision, etc. These “weak and beggarly elements” should not be practiced, according to Paul.
But what does Paul really say?
Notice what Paul tells the Galatians, “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are not gods” (v. 8). Could this refer to the Jews? Of course not! God had given the Jews the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). This text is directed to the Gentiles who had come from heathenism. However, both Jews and Gentiles were in bondage to the fundamental elements (rudiments) of the world. Why? Because all their religious efforts were in vain without the sacrifice of Christ. Verse nine specifically addresses the Gentiles. Paul says, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” (Gal. 4:9). Here is what Arndt and Gingrich have to say about this text. They point out that the meaning of “weak and beggarly elements” is much disputed. Some scholars take the view that it means the elements of learning, fundamental elements which apply to elementary forms of religion, both Jewish and Gentile, which have been superceded by the new revelation of Christ. On the other hand, others take it to mean the heavenly bodies, that is, the signs of the Zodiac which were regarded in the Gentile world as personal beings and given divine honors. The fact is: No one really understands the meaning of “weak and beggarly elements.” The text does not state, “weak and beggarly elements of the law.” So, there is no validity to the notion that Paul was speaking of the Law of God in this text.
Paul tells the Galatians, “. . . how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements.” The Gentiles did not know God. How could they turn again to the Law of Moses when they never had that revelation in the first place? Only the Jews had that truth. The Gentiles were turning again to that which they had formerly embraced-paganism! Paul stated in verse eight, “. . . when ye knew not God, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods.” This could not refer to the Law of Moses. This is a reference to their pagan state before their conversion to Christianity. The “weak and beggarly elements” has to refer to their pagan concepts and practices prior to accepting Christianity. Paul tells them, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4:10-11). Does Paul say that they observed God’s holy days and Sabbaths? Of course not! He says, “days, months, times, and years.” Notice what Arndt and Gingrich says of year in Galatians 4:10. “The meaning of eniautos in the combination kairoi kai eniautoi Gal. 4:10 is not certain. It could be an allusion to the so-called ‘sabbatical years’ (Lev. 25), but it may also mean certain days of the year . . . as the New Year festival. This authoritative source says the meaning is unclear, so how can anyone prove Paul is referring to any aspect of God’s law in Galatians 4:9-10.
Also, note the word “observe” in verse ten. It means “to watch, inspect.” It does not mean to observe in the sense of celebrate. This means that the signs of the Zodiac, as was pointed out by Arndt and Gingrich, is a very real possibility of the meaning of Galatians 4:10. The superstitious heathen were cognizant of many special occasions. Coming from a pagan background, it would not be unreasonable to assume pagan days, not God’s holy days, are what is meant by this verse.
Now notice Galatians 4:21-26.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:21-26).
This text is interpreted to mean those under bondage are the people who keep the Law of Moses, which is interpreted again to mean the Ten Commandments, statutes, judgments, holy days, Sabbaths, etc.
Paul tells these Galatians in verses nineteen and twenty, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (Gal. 4:19-20). They failed to comprehend the significance of Christ’s sacrifice. They desired to be “under the law.” Christ came to magnify the law, to make it honorable. He came to impress upon mankind the spiritual application of the Law of God. The codified form of the law and the sacrifices were the schoolmaster, designed to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Why? So that we could be justified by faith! But some of these Galatians had lost the true way to be justified. They thought this could be accomplished by the works of the law. Those who came under the law were obliged to perform all of it (Gal. 5:3). To them, circumcision was the identifying sign which distinguished righteousness. John McDonald, in his book Theology of the Samaritans, page 294, says that the Samaritans, like the Jews, believed “He who cuts the foreskin possesses the faith and is saved from his evils.” Some of the Galatians had adopted the Jewish practice of justification by works, that is, circumcision and the works of the law.
Paul called this another gospel in Galatians 1:6-7. Judaism was not the true gospel; it was false as far as obtaining a right standing with God. A right standing with God could come only through accepting the shed blood of Christ and repenting of sin. What should be clear from Galatians 4:21-26 is that an entirely wrong approach for justification was being practiced. Paul tells them that the various works of the law could not possibly justify them; it was a yoke of bondage. Those who attempt to gain justification by the works of the law are under a curse. Why? Because they were not able to do all the things written in the book of the law (Gal. 3:10). By means of the Holy Spirit the true children of God are able to live God’s law in heart and in mind. They are justified by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, not by the works of the law. The Galatians were attempting to gain righteousness by the works of the law, a false and obsolete concept foisted off on them by Judaizers. Galatians 4:21-31 in no way does away with the Law of God.
What Does 2 Corinthians 3:7 Say?
This text states: “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:” (2 Cor. 3:7). This text is interpreted to mean the Ten Commandments are now done away. Notice carefully, Paul does not say the Ten Commandments. Nor does he say the statutes and judgments. He simply says the “ministration of death” that was written and engraven in stones. What did he mean? Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai. When Moses was on Mount Sinai for the forty-day period much more than the Ten Commandments were given to him. He was given statutes and judgments at the same time. When he came down from the mount his face shone for glory. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God on two tables of stone. Were the Ten Commandments the administration of death? Not at all. The administration of death was the civil penalty attached to the Ten Commandments and certain of the judgments for various violations against them. The Ten Commandments were not engraven on stone, but the civil law was (Deut. 27:1-6, Josh. 8:30-35). When the civil law was read to the people, blessings and curses were pronounced. The curse for disobedience was death (See Deut. 27:20-26 and Lev. 20:10-21). What was done away, Paul says, was the civil penalty attached to the Old Covenant laws. Christians are now under grace, not the penalty of the law. There is no need for a civil law with the death penalty. The civil law was glorious, but it has been replaced by the “ministration of the spirit.” Paul taught the New Covenant Christians to obey the Ten Commandments (Rom. 13:9, Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Col. 3:5-9, Rom. 7:1-3).
This text reads as follows:
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Col. 2:14-17).
The interpretation given to “prove” the Ten Commandments are done away is that Christ nailed the Ten Commandments to the cross. Christians, therefore, should not keep the Sabbath or holy days since they are commandments and doctrines of men and shadows that have been fulfilled in Christ.
An examination of Colossians shows otherwise. For example, at the beginning of the second chapter, Paul urges the Colossians to adhere to that which they have been taught. He warns them against philosophy and vain deceit, traditions of men, rudiments of the world. Then in verse 14 he wrote that Christ had blotted out “. . . the handwriting of ordinances [dogmas] that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Was this a reference to the Ten Commandments? Notice what Arndt and Gingrich say. They say cheirogaphon tois dogmasin [handwriting of dogmas] refers to “a (a hand-written) document, specif. a certificate of indebtedness, bond . . . a bond that stood against us. . . .” A look at the text gives no indication that the Ten Commandments are meant. What is meant, then? The text states a bond or debt was nailed to the cross. What was this bond or debt? Paul says it was the bond or debt of dogmas. Ordinances in the Authorized Version is from the Greek word dogmasin, meaning decree, ordinance, decision, command. What, then, was nailed to the cross? The answer: the debt of dogmas. What is this debt of dogmas? The answer: The debt owed because of dogmas. What dogmas? Philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, rudiments of the world, commandments and doctrines of men!
The Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) Why have so many human beings sinned? The answer: They have followed the pulls of the flesh and the traditions and commandments of men that have been contrary to the Law of God. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). All men have incurred the death penalty. What Christ nailed to the cross was the debt all men have brought upon themselves for violating the Law of God. Christ paid this penalty in our stead. He died for us and removed this debt.
For this reason Paul could say, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:” (Col. 2:16). What he meant was now that Christians have been set free from the debt of sin, they should not allow any criticism to hinder their keeping of the holy days or the Sabbath. These are a God’s commands, not the commandments of men. They reveal the plan of salvation. As such they are shadows of things to come, but they were not fulfilled in Christ. Let no man judge you in these matters but the Body of Christ (the church), Paul says. We need not be concerned about the dogmas of men (touch not; taste not; handle not which will all eventually perish (v. 21). Our primary concern should be the desire to practice obedience to the commandments and laws of God and not to place a stumbling block before a Christian brother. This chapter gives no support to the notion God’s law is done away.
Holy Days and the Covenants
What one can plainly see from the Old Testament is that the holy days were put into effect before the Old Covenant was ratified. The ratification of the Old Covenant is recorded in Exodus 24:3-8. But the holy days were observed some time before this. See Exodus 12. Some argue that while this is true it applies to the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread only. Yet, Christ, the New Testament church, and the Apostle Paul kept the other holy days-Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, Last Great Day. The fact is: The Holy Days stand or fall together as a unit. To observe only a few of them would be meaningless. All of them are essential in understanding the plan of salvation. That they were ordained before the ratification of the Old Covenant indicates a New Covenant application. What the Old Covenant did not establish cannot be taken away when the Old Covenant itself was replaced by the New.
That the holy days were observed after the crucifixion of Christ is ample proof they were not done away by the New Covenant. In fact, they are essential to it. Both Christ, the New Testament church, as well as the Apostle Paul, set the example for us to follow. They kept the holy days. If they are done away as some say, Paul’s observance of the holy days presents a serious obstacle. As late as ad 52, more than twenty years after the time of Christ, Paul is found observing the holy days (Acts 18:21). Furthermore, the Bible reveals the holy days will be kept in the Millennium. (See Ezekiel 45:21-25 and Zechariah 14:16-19). Let us all recognize the importance of keeping them now!