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Bible verses about God's Law
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The spiritual law of God works much like the physical laws of the universe. Like the invisible law of gravity, the law of God is always in effect, working at all times. When we keep it, God blesses us. If we do not, we bring its penalty upon us. To think that God has abolished His inexorable spiritual law is like telling people the law of gravity has been done away, so they may freely jump off tall buildings with no ill-effects!

The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) are not laws devised by Moses and given only to Israel. They were binding before Moses' time, as well as during and after Jesus Christ's life. In fact, the Ten Commandments have been in full force and effect since creation. They are still binding on us today! They are not just "church rituals" or "good suggestions," but the very code of conduct of our God!

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

Those who do not want to submit to God quote verses that seem to say that faith has replaced the requirement of keeping God's law. They mention such verses as Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight"; Romans 7:6, "But now we have been delivered from the law . . . so that we should serve in the newness of spirit and not in the oldness of the letter"; and Romans 10:4, "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes." On their face, these scriptures seem to support their argument.

However, they will not quote balancing verses in the same book! Paul also says, "[F]or not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Romans 2:13), and "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. . . . For we know that the law is spiritual" (Romans 7:12, 14). Invariably, they leave out Paul's emphatic statement in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

They will note that "the law is not of faith" (Galatians 3:12), but they generally avoid Romans 3:27, where Paul says that boasting about righteousness is excluded "by the law of faith." How can a "law . . . not of faith" at the same time be a "law of faith"?

It seems to be quite a paradox! In their ignorance and disobedience, the deceived fail to ask the question Paul does in the first part of Romans 3:27: "By what law?" They fail to perceive that Paul was trying to save the true brethren from wolves in sheep's clothing, Judaizers who were contradicting the faith of Christ. Their purpose was to convert the brethren to their philosophy of salvation that centered on the rituals practiced under the Old Covenant law of Moses.

In reality, then, the paradox dissolves. Paul contrasts the spiritual, Ten Commandment "law of faith" with the temporary law of physical, ritualistic duties, the keeping of which required no faith. This is vital to understand: The apostle Paul describes two distinct sets of law. When reading his arguments, we must always discern "what law" from the context.

He writes of this ritual law in Hebrews 9:9: "It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot [and were never intended to] make him who performed the service perfect in regard to conscience." These temporary laws were "concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation," which Christ inaugurated (verse 10). This law, only "a shadow of the good things to come, . . . can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect" (Hebrews 10:1).

The spiritual "law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul . . . and in keeping [it] there is great reward" (Psalm 19:7, 11), if we believe it and do it. Unlike the ritual law, our keeping God's law of faith produces the attitudes, behaviors, and character that truly please Him. It is partially by our keeping of His law that we "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).

Perfection comes by submitting to God's wisdom and believing in His eternal, spiritual law, as Abraham did. Notice James' argument, so reviled by the anti-law Martin Luther: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" (James 2:21-22). The faith of Christ in us is perfected by our works. Abraham believed God enough to keep His commandments, and that lawkeeping faith in him was imputed to him for righteousness (James 2:23).

He continues with the example of Rahab: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?" (James 2:24-25). Paul agrees with James when he writes, ". . . the doers of the law will be justified" (Romans 2:13). The doers of what law? The eternal, spiritual, Ten Commandment law!

Staff
Works of Faith (Part 2)


 

The commands of God are good because they express the righteousness of His character, teaching us (Romans 7:12) and helping us to grow in understanding His goodness. God's goodness is a fearful attribute, but that fear has a positive effect on us when we obey Him because it produces good, spiritual fruit. Those who yield to God's commands profit by it. Paul tells Titus to remind the church: "This is a faithful saying, and these things I want to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men" (Titus 3:8). The right fear of God is accompanied by the trust that God will shower His good works (His acts of righteousness) upon us.

Martin G. Collins
Fear the Lord's Goodness!


 

A hotly contested point within Christianity is what part God's law plays in the life of one who has been justified by Christ's sacrifice. The function of law within a nation is not to grant citizenship, but to guide the behavior of the citizens and define what is acceptable conduct to ensure peace and order. If an American were to travel to Canada and abide by every one of its laws, doing so would not make him a Canadian citizen, for that is not the purpose of Canadian law. Canada's government must still grant the right of citizenship. Nevertheless, abiding by Canadian law would help to ensure that he would get along with Canada's citizens and that he would not merit punishment under its system of justice.

Likewise, keeping the laws of the Kingdom of God will not guarantee full entrance, as that is not the purpose of God's law. God's law provides a guide for conduct and a definition of acceptable behavior toward the goal of living eternally. It is the way that the citizens of His Kingdom should conduct themselves so that same quality of life is possible for everyone.

With human governments, a person does not immigrate based on his good deeds. Immigration officials do not care if he does community service, is kind to his neighbors, or donates to charities. The decision—or not—to grant admission into the nation is entirely the prerogative of the government officials.

Similarly, "immigration" into God's Kingdom is not granted based on works. We cannot buy our way in or convince God that He should let us into His Kingdom because of what good people we are. The decision of who receives an application and who is granted citizenship is entirely His.

David C. Grabbe
Immigration and the Kingdom of God


 

Genesis 1:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the very beginning of the Book, God tells us what He is doing. His project, His work, began with the formation of man as a physical being in the bodily form of God, and it will not end until mankind is in the nature and character image of God.

To accomplish this, God gave men free moral agency to enable us to choose to follow His way and assist in the development of His image in us, since we cannot be in His image unless we voluntarily choose to do so. Then the character is truly ours, as well as being truly His, because it is inscribed in us as a result of what we have believed and experienced.

God is not merely eternal. He is supreme in every quality of goodness, and in Him absolutely no evil dwells. In the Bible, this goodness is called holiness, which is transcendent purity. It permeates every aspect, every attribute, of God-life. God's character is holy, and it flows out from Him in acts of love, making it impossible for Him to do anything evil. This is the state towards which He is drawing us.

Law must be seen in this context. If we tear law from the context of God's purpose, then we can come up with anything we want to say about law. We can say, "Oh, it is all done away," or "We do not need to do this." However, we cannot tear it away from the purpose of God, and there is a reason for this.

Does God abide by law? The creation screams at us that He does! Everything He creates operates by law, and it does so because it came from His wonderfully orderly and organized mind. It is a reflection of what His mind is like because this is the way He is. He is a law-abiding God.

However, we cannot see Him - not literally, with our eyes. It is here that faith enters the picture: We can see evidence of Him, and we can believe what He says. His law outlines the way that He lives. It is the way of this holy, law-abiding God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

Exodus 13:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to God's law and to His powerful deliverance from Egypt and bondage. Paul explains this significance to the Corinthians and the urgency attached to cease sinning. He says we should not even keep company with a brother involved in flagrant sin! Also, by ridding our homes of sin, we realize that overcoming sin is hard work!

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 20:8-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some ministers assert we have to keep only nine of the Ten Commandments. They teach that we do not have to keep the Sabbath commandment because God made an abrupt change upon the death of Jesus Christ. The Sabbath commandment is merely ceremonial, they say.

If it was merely ceremonial, why is it included in the Ten Commandments that God, with His own voice, spoke from the mount in the presence of all Israel? Why is it included in the Ten Commandments that God, with His own finger, wrote upon tablets of stone? Did He do these things with any lesser laws? Does this mean we are free to declare that one or more of the other commandments is also ceremonial? How about the second?

The Bible gives strong indication that the Sabbath has existed since Genesis 2. Jesus and the apostles clearly kept the Sabbath. Scripture does not indicate that they kept any other day or commanded any other day to be kept. In addition, there are prophecies that mention Israel keeping, not only the weekly Sabbath, but also the holy day Sabbaths in the future.

Even with all of this exemplary evidence, especially our Savior's and the apostles', they tell us that God changed. This is very interesting since there is no scripture saying that the Sabbath is merely ceremonial or that we may keep it according to our own discretion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Deuteronomy 12:29-31   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is it any wonder when the clergy—supposedly the guardians of religious purity—think so liberally, that the laity acts the way it does? The clergy shrug off the paganism in Christmas, claiming that it is harmless. Is it? Does it really make any difference whether we celebrate Christmas?

It certainly matters to God, the Lawgiver! It was because of these heathen practices that God drove out the inhabitants of the land. He did not—and does not—want His people to get caught in the process of judgment and punishment that results from broken law!

Notice that God says "that you are not ensnared." In the Bible, a snare is a figurative expression of destruction through deception. The snare itself does not destroy, but it leads to destruction. The Israelites heard these words in the last months before going into the Promised Land. God had set the land aside for them, but the people who inhabited it were still there. It was a ready-made nation for their use. The towns, fortifications, houses, farms, businesses—everything was ready for them to take over.

We too were born into an ready-made society. The world was already here when we came into it, and because we had no alternative, we accepted it without resistance. We absorbed the culture because our parents taught it to us. However, with our calling God now has us moving in the other direction, away from this world. We must reject the false practices of those who have inhabited the land before us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

1 Kings 18:17-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Elijah is declaring himself as one sent from God. A prophet will always have the law of God at the foundation of his message.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Psalm 119:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This scripture is saying that the way of God is defined by the law of God. This is not the whole picture, but it is a major portion of the package. This is one of the essential doctrines that cannot be left out.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Psalm 119:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 9-10 reinforce verse one—that the way is the law of God. Law refers to a broad number of laws. Commandments narrows matters down.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 11:9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are being prepared for living in a community in which no one hurts or destroys because everybody lives by the same rules—not their own rules, but "the knowledge of the LORD," God's rules! What if we are not practiced at living by God's rules or never cared to pay attention to them? What if we thought one or two of them were rather silly, so we did not need to live according to them? We would not "fit" in His holy mountain any more than a person would fit in a game in which everyone was playing by the rules except him. He would ruin the game. That is the point.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

Amos 2:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The translation of "law" is misleading. The word is torah, and in this context it does not mean a code of rules written in a book, like a book of law. That aspect is found in the word "commandments" or "statutes," which means written, in this case, on stone. The word is literally "engraved." "Law" is teaching or instruction, suggesting a relationship that exists because an instructor is teaching a pupil.

When God says, "they have despised the law," in reality they have rejected Him, the Instructor. In effect, He says, "The relationship has been broken and now you are breaking My commandments," showing that it is a cause and effect process. Just in case they missed the point, He illustrates what He meant from examples out of society.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Amos 7:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A major proof of false religion is that it cannot validate its effectiveness before the witness of man, but God can and does validate the true religion. He produces evidence of His righteousness, power, purpose, and way in many forms. God has performed miracles, signs, and wonders in the sight of thousands of witnesses.

Without objective assurance from time to time, we would be living in a world of religious make-believe. God sometimes validates Himself before man by advertising His power through an undeniable occurrence like Jesus' resurrection (I Corinthians 15:1-8). Men have verified the truths of God through observation and experimentation (I Kings 18:30-39). Man is thus without excuse (Romans 1:18-25).

On occasion, God also verifies our personal relationship with Him by immediately answering a prayer or miraculously saving us from harm. On the other hand, if He needs to get our attention, He will shake us awake by allowing a test or trial to warn us that the relationship is degenerating. Because we are assured that God is with us, the testing is good. It keeps us from sinking into complacency and pride, both of which will separate us from Him.

This is what God is addressing in the principle of the plumb line. Amos understood that God was using it to test the spirituality, morality, and genuineness of the people against the standard. The test answers the question, "Are they really God's people?" God wants to know if they are exhibiting His characteristics.

This idea of a spiritual standard of measure transferred directly into the New Testament church. God uses similar imagery, a measuring rod, in Revelation 11:1. To the Laodicean church (Revelation 3:14-22), God uses fire to refer to a test instead of a plumb line.

As we can see from these examples, the end-time church will be tested. How are we going to build? What will the test reveal about our Christian growth (I Corinthians 3:9-16)? We are commanded to grow "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). From this we see that the plumb line is God's revelation of Himself as the standard.

At first, God's revelation of Himself was direct, visible, and personal, but later, as Israel grew, He revealed Himself more verbally through the prophets. They recorded His revelation for all time and all people, and we read it today in our Bibles.

God's law is the primary vehicle He uses to reveal His nature; it defines how He lives. If we want to be in His Kingdom and live as He does, we must obey His law, but obeying God's law in no way minimizes grace. God revealed Himself to Israel first as Redeemer and then as Lawgiver. He freed His people from their slavery in Egypt before He gave them the standard of His law. Grace precedes law. God gives grace first, but He does not leave His people ignorant of the life that pleases Him, which is revealed in His law.

The plumb line combines grace and law, and God will test us against both. If we rely on His grace without law, or on His law without grace, we will not pass the test. If either is abused, we will not measure up to the standard.

Leviticus 19 shows that the revelation of the law is important because it is a verbal description of God's nature. Our God is a holy God (verse 2), and He expects His representatives to be holy also. But how do we become holy?

After God redeems us from sin and extends to us His Spirit and grace—His free, unmerited election, He expects us to follow His instructions. The remainder of Leviticus 19 fills in the details—we become holy by doing these things. These actions reflect God's nature. Since God is holy, His law is holy, and if we follow His holy law, we can—with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit—grow to be holy like our holy God.

God chose Israel and extended the offer for a relationship with Him, to walk and fellowship with Him. After Israel's rejection of it, He has now extended this offer to those He has specifically called and chosen (John 6:44; I Corinthians 1:26-29).

God loves His people and gives them redemption, grace. He expects it will result in obedience to His law, the reflection of His nature, so on occasion, He holds a plumb line against them to check their progress. But when He sees that they have rejected His way of life, He has no choice but to try to guide them to repentance—by any means necessary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 8:5-6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses give an interesting insight into how far the Israelites may have gone in adding to God's commands about the new moons.

There is a small chance that the new moon in question is the Feast of Trumpets. But if it is not Trumpets, it sets up an interesting situation: As the Israelite's ruling class wallowed in wealth, it drifted farther and farther from a true worship of God. In practicing some stringent traditions that God had nowhere commanded, they had attached their own ideas to His law!

This strict observance did not at all impress God favorably! Totally out of harmony with God's aim of "justice run[ning] down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24), they missed the intent of God's law entirely! He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 12:7).

These verses strongly imply that the Israelites did not conduct business during the new moon, but God never commands such a restrictive practice. Clearly, the day was different from common days because of God's assignment of special offerings. But in their occasional bursts of zeal (Romans 10:1-3), the Israelites apparently believed that if the little God required of them was good, then more would be better!

In theory it sounds good, but we are given a twofold warning in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6 that we should not add to His Word. This casts grave doubts on following the Israelitish tradition.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The New Moons


 

Matthew 5:17-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since God gives only good things (James 1:17), and the apostle Paul certifies that "the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12), we know that His law is for our benefit.

John O. Reid
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?


 

Matthew 5:18-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The letter of the law that the Pharisees tried to keep was not enough—especially for us. We have to exceed the letter of the law. Here, Jesus was so specific about the continuance of the law from the Old Covenant to the New that He referred to the smallest punctuation and pronunciation marks contained in the written law, the "jot and tittle."

Most modern theology discards the letter in favor of the spirit, but one extreme is as bad as the other. The true Christian needs both the written letter of the law as well as its spirit to keep it properly.

To keep God's law properly, we have to learn to recognize the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law means God's original intent or purpose behind each law.

When God designed the Sabbath, for example, He intended it to be a blessing to human beings. He designed it to be a refreshing rest and an opportunity both to recuperate physically after six days of work and to draw close to Him in love and to worship Him, as well as to deepen love for the brethren through fellowship and outgoing concern.

Jesus knew the spirit of the Sabbath commandment. Therefore, He knew that the split second of divine effort involved in healing was a valid use of time on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12). Because of Jesus' insight into the divine purpose behind the Sabbath, He freed the crippled worshipper of his burden. He experienced a wonderful and exciting blessing because Jesus understood the spirit of the law. God's law is always a blessing to those who recognize the spirit of the law.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent


 

Matthew 5:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Where did the Pharisees' righteousness come from? It came from keeping Halakha, the Jewish oral law. Our righteousness, however, has to be a combination of that which is imputed - the righteousness of Jesus Christ - as well as that which is maintained by us through keeping the law of God after conversion. Jesus says that from God's law nothing would pass.

In terms of a principle, which subsequently landed them in such trouble, the Jews acted upon an uninspired interpretation or extension of the principle of holiness or sanctification. There is no doubt that they were a sanctified people. The Bible makes that clear:

For you are a holy people unto the LORD your God [Holy means "sanctified" or "set apart"]. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a special people unto Himself above all people that are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you nor choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all people. (Deuteronomy 7:6-7)

The Pharisees extrapolated on this principle and in their zeal got themselves into trouble. Their basic fault was in considering themselves to be superior to others. Yet, God's Word plainly shows that there is only one law for both the Israelite and for the stranger (Exodus 12:49). All are judged against the same standard, by the same law. All are judged against the righteousness of God. Thus, we can understand that, in one sense, there is only one class of people on earth - sinners in need of deliverance from bondage to Satan and to sin.

I Corinthians 1:26-30 is the New Testament equivalent of what God says in Deuteronomy 7. In the church there is just one class of people - rescued sinners who are justified and are by grace through faith under the blood of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Matthew 5:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus is the One who gave the laws in the Old Testament, but He says, "You have heard that it was said." He does not say, "written" but "said." He is referring to the oral law, to that which became the Halakha.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 25)


 

Matthew 5:38-40   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What kind of justice does God dispense? Is it based on a so-called cruel Old Testament law? The "Christian" churches of this world say that Jesus came to do away with that law. Preposterous! Without law as a foundation, there can be no justice. Jesus explicitly says, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).

Some think that Jesus condemns the Old Testament system of justice in Matthew 5:38-40. However, He is correcting, not nullifying, an abuse of the eye-for-an-eye principle, which the Romans called Lex Talionis. The Jews of His day were advocating it for settling personal disputes. In effect, each person was taking justice into his own hands, and Jesus says that was not His intent when He gave it to their forefathers.

Considered by many to be barbaric and primitive, the eye-for-an-eye principle is, on the contrary, the basis for God's system of judgment, of civil law, for ruling a nation (Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20). It has its foundation in equal justice as provided by equal payment for damage done. God established this principle so that a judge could be merciful in evaluating the circumstances of the crime and render a fair and just decision in cases of sin against other men.

This does not mean that if A bloodies B's nose, then B has to punch A in the nose in return. Lex Talionis requires commensurate payment for damage done, punishment fitting the crime. It is the basis for evenhanded justice, demanding fair compensation for damages. As implemented in God's law, Lex Talionis was enforced with a system of fines—with the money paid to the injured party, not to the state (e.g. Exodus 21:22, 28-32).

Though it was to be the basic law, a judge had the power to give mercy. For instance, if he determined that B really goaded A into punching his nose, he was free to show mercy along with the payment required. In His judgment of us, God does the same. When we deserve death because of sin, God shows us mercy by allowing Christ's blood to cover our transgressions. He has decided to forgo the strict application of the eye-for-an-eye principle and extend mercy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 19:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus tells him he must do something, not just believe, to gain salvation. By this, He also tells us what works He expects of us, if we would live forever with God.

We must do good works to be blessed with eternal life, and all who have eternal life do such works. Our Savior expects us to become coworkers with Him in our salvation, as well as the salvation of all mankind. Paul writes, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

God's great law is His way of life! God chooses to live by the Ten Commandments, and they reveal His excellent character. To enter His Family, we also must live by God's law, which helps us to develop godly character. This is how closely eternal life is linked to keeping the commandments.

Staff
Works of Faith (Part 1)


 

Mark 7:6-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the religious Jews of His time, Jesus faced man's proclivity to add to and take from God's Word. The Jews added thousands of regulations in a sincere effort to make their obedience to God as complete as they possibly could. Their traditions were different from ours, but the principle is the same. Their religious life did not depend on listening to God but upon clever arguments and interpretations of the experts, the rabbis. They substituted human ingenuity for God's law. Jesus called their ingenuity vain and hypocritical, and their additions resulted in nothing good in terms of the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption


 

Mark 7:7-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People keep the traditional holidays in God's name, but He is not pleased with them or in them.

The Pharisees' outward appearance of piety was a lie because it was not accompanied by total commitment to the true God's way. Their traditions distorted the law of God—and thus the very image of God because the law is a description of God's character. God's true holy and righteous character is the image of Him He wants us to bear and follow. Thus, Christ repudiates every addition, subtraction, and distortion men elevate to a specious "divine" authority. Their use breaks the second commandment because they are not part of the way God instructs us to worship Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Luke 4:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus Christ kept the Ten Commandments (Luke 4:8; John 15:10), and taught others to do likewise (Matthew 19:17-19). He elaborated on keeping them in Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28. Jesus emphatically says, "If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments." Could anything be clearer? John writes, "He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (I John 2:4). Paul instructs Timothy, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ [calls himself a Christian] depart from iniquity" (II Timothy 2:19).

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

Luke 4:16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Jesus' inaugural address, He is associating His work of being man's Benefactor through redemption—the freeing of man from bondage to Satan, the world, and our nature—to the beginning of the fulfillment of God's redemptive function for the Sabbath. In Luke 4:16, He was beginning to magnify the Sabbath law. At the very beginning of His mission on earth, the very first law that He begins to make clear is the Sabbath!

This should remind us of something that happened in the Exodus. What was the first law that the God of the Old Testament revealed to the children of Israel? It was the Sabbath! Does that give any indication that He is preparing to do away with it? Not in the least! In one sense, because of its position, it is the law in the Ten Commandments around which all the others revolve. Yet mankind seems to think of it as being "the least" of the Ten Commandments, but anybody who breaks it consistently is going to lose his liberty.

Until the time of Christ, the Sabbath had not really been used for the purpose that He was beginning to reveal. Christ is magnifying and re-establishing God's original intent for the Sabbath, just as He does in Matthew 5-7 for the other commandments. By identifying Himself with the Sabbath, He is actually affirming His Messiahship.

How, then, did Christ view the Sabbath? Did He actually uphold it? There are some who say that His acts on the Sabbath were intentionally provocative, designed to show that it is no longer binding. So, was He genuinely observing the Sabbath, or deliberately breaking it?

Christ did a lot of things on the Sabbath. It is very evident that, as His ministry progressed towards its end, the things that He did on the Sabbath became more and more bold, open, clear. At the beginning, He "low-keyed" what He did on the Sabbath. Being wise far beyond men, He knew that there would be an explosive reaction to Him. Luke 4 is His announcement of how He would use the Sabbath.

And then— right within the chapter on the very same Sabbath day—His announcement is followed by two healings (Luke 4:31-39) that clearly reveal God's intended use for Sabbath time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 2)


 

Luke 16:14-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus is again confronting the Pharisees. He had just given them the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which speaks about money, thus, this little section is introduced with the Pharisees described as being covetous. Does covetousness have anything to do with the commands of God? How about the tenth commandment?

The Pharisees were offended. Even though Jesus Himself did not say anything directly about covetousness, they were perceptive enough to pick up the drift of His parable. They justified their attitude of covetousness before men who would accept their rationalizations, but as Jesus says in verse 15, they could not escape the scrutiny of God, who judges the heart!

Jesus says that people were pressing into the Kingdom of God. Why? Because Jesus was preaching it, and people were believing the message and repenting. How deeply they believed it is not the point at this time. Crowds were following Jesus, and this enters into His explanation. Jesus warns the Pharisees that, just because people were pressing into the Kingdom of God due to Jesus' preaching of the gospel, they themselves would not pass blithely under the bar of judgment because God would judge them according to the standards given in His law.

Where are those standards given? In the Old Testament! Thus, He says that it is easier for heaven to pass away than for one tittle of the law to pass. Their covetousness would be judged by what was written in the Old Testament. In other words, He could perceive that they were quite sensitive to the standards written in the Old Testament.

To illustrate, He gives an additional principle that He pulls from the Pentateuch, from Genesis 2:24: "Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another. . . ." Why does He bring that in? Because the Pharisees in actuality had a very cavalier attitude toward the law of God, especially in the area of marriage and divorce. They just brushed it off.

The point is this: Our Savior did not have a cavalier attitude towards the Old Testament. He had every opportunity here to tell these people, "A New Covenant is coming, so do not worry about your sins. We are just going to overlook them." But He did not. He upheld the law and judgment according to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

John 14:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Having love does not nullify God's law. John, an apostle and close friend of Jesus Christ, emphasized love. However, not once did he say that love nullifies or supersedes the Ten Commandments. Indeed, by keeping the commandments, the love of God is perfected in us (I John 2:5). The Ten Commandments constitute a spiritual law that is inexorable and eternal, producing faith and happiness and righteous character that pleases God.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

John 14:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is nothing difficult in what He says here. Do we love God? We can demonstrate that love just by doing what He says. This is a very simple principle. It might be hard to do, but it is not hard to understand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

John 14:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We frequently quote I John 5:3, which says that love is the keeping of the law, and we often carry the concept of love no further. But there is a more precise and accurate approach that establishes that the love exists before the keeping of the commandments. Keeping the commandments is the response to what is already there. "If you already love Me," Jesus implies, "keep My commandments."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 5)


 

Acts 5:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter is saying that those who heed the gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in the sacrifice of Christ will begin to live lives of obedience to God's commandments, and thus He gives them His Spirit. However, some contend that it is not that simple.

One of the objections that has been raised to this understanding of this verse is that it is impossible to obey God before receiving His Spirit. Therefore, it would be impossible to receive God's Spirit if obedience were a requirement.

Acts 2:38 gives two basic requirements for receiving the Holy Spirit: 1) repentance and 2) faith in the sacrifice of Christ. (Baptism is an outward confession of this faith in Christ's sacrifice.) Repentance is a deep and genuine feeling of remorse over having committed sins, bringing about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is accompanied by an urgent desire to make the necessary changes in our life so we avoid committing the same sins again. In other words, true repentance brings about an earnest desire to obey God. In turn, this earnest desire causes us to begin to make changes in our lifestyle to conform to God's commandments.

When John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, he demanded that his followers make changes in their lives (Luke 3:8). When John was preaching, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, but John made it clear that God expected the people to begin changing their lives to demonstrate that their repentance was genuine. Paul preached the exact same message regarding repentance before King Agrippa (Acts 26:20).

A truly repentant person will immediately begin striving to obey God. The changes that the individual makes in his life are the "fruits" that demonstrate that his repentance is genuine. This does not mean that the repentant sinner obeys God perfectly. Even those who have received the Holy Spirit do not obey God perfectly. It means that the individual has turned his life around and is oriented toward obeying God. Upon producing the fruits of repentance and demonstrating faith in the sacrifice of Christ through baptism, God gives him His Holy Spirit. As Peter simply stated, God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him!

Some contend that the obedience mentioned in this scripture is that of obeying God's command to preach the gospel, not obeying God's laws. Proponents of this explanation argue that Peter's statement came about because the authorities called the apostles into account for disobeying their command not to preach about Jesus. This derives from Peter's comment in verse 29, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There are a number of problems with this interpretation. First, it ignores the clear requirements God lays down for receipt of the Holy Spirit—repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Nowhere in the Scripture does God require the preaching of the gospel as a prerequisite for receiving His Spirit. Rather, the power of the indwelling Spirit of God inspired and motivated the apostles to preach the gospel after they had received the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Furthermore, this interpretation ignores the overall thrust and context of Peter's statement (Acts 5:30-31).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Acts 7:38   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The speaker, Stephen, is most specifically alluding to Exodus 19:3, where

Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel."

See also Psalm 147:19, where the psalmist avers that God "declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel."

The living oracles in Acts refers specifically to the Ten Commandments, more broadly to the Torah, which were to be given "to us," to the church of God. God's Old Testament utterances are for us today.

Charles Whitaker
The Oracles of God


 

Acts 18:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here we have a mention of a holy day, which may have been the Feast of Tabernacles. Paul says, "I must by all means keep this feast." The Protestant interpretation of the book of Galatians primarily, and the book of Romans secondarily, puts the apostle Paul into the position of being a hypocrite! These commentators suggest that he tells people, on the one hand, that they do not have to keep the law of God, the Sabbath, and the holy days, yet the book of Acts shows him in every city keeping the Sabbath and here telling the people, "I must keep this feast." They make him out to say one thing but do another.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Acts 24:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is on trial before Felix, the governor. "They" refers to the Jews. Paul says, "I confess," as he is giving testimony. He is a witness before a court, as he is on trial. "The way" is Christianity, which the Jews call a heresy.

"Believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" is really an astounding statement in light of what has gone on in Protestantism over the past few hundred years. The very man whom they say wrote most clearly and lucidly that "the law is done away" is the one who says he believes all things that are written in the Law and the Prophets. There is absolutely nothing in the Law and the Prophets that says anything at all about the doing away with God's law! Paul did not have the same position in relation to the law as modern theologians do.

One might think that maybe this was said before Paul wrote that the law was done away. Oh, no. The two books that contain most of what Protestants quote as their authority for doing away with the law are the books of Romans and Galatians. This instance in which Paul was on trial before Felix took place in either AD 58 or 59, most like the latter.

In either case, the book of Romans and the book of Galatians had both already been written. Both were being circulated through the church. All those doctrinal explanations were written prior to Paul's statement before Felix, yet Paul is still saying, "I believe all things that are written in the Law and the Prophets." Obviously, the common Protestant interpretation of Romans and Galatians is incorrect.

Certainly, salvation is by grace, but salvation in no way, of and by itself, does away with any of the law of God. Salvation is something that must be given. First of all, God's justice demands that there be a penalty for sin. Since His justice demands that the law be satisfied - that His own government be satisfied for crimes against it - He must follow through. He cannot wink at disagreements in a person's conduct against His rulership over His creation.

Secondly, once one of His laws has been broken, there is no way it can be undone. It has to be accepted according to what was done. Consider two simple examples of this:

If somebody is murdered, can that be undone? His life is gone. He is lying on the ground, dead. What is done is done. A person cannot resurrect him. The clock cannot be turned back. Nothing can be done to undo that act, unless there is a a power mightier than we are. So the law is broken. Another clear illustration might be a person's virginity. Once the virginity is taken away, or given away, it cannot be undone. The clock cannot be turned back. It is gone, never ever to be recovered.

The same is true with any act done, even when we are not considering law. However, we are considering law here, so we have to understand that it is God who has provided a solution for the breaking of law. What He has determined is to allow the death of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty, and then, in His mercy (called "grace" in the Bible), He will freely give the sinner relief from the penalty hanging over his head. We cannot make up for what has been done in the past. It can only be covered by a perfect sacrifice and God's willingness to accept that sacrifice.

If one studies the New Testament, and especially the writings of Paul, it is good to examine carefully the context in which the word "law" appears. Paul uses it very broadly. In fact, he uses the word "law" 110 times. Sometimes, he uses it to indicate a single law. At other times, he uses it to indicate the Mosaic law. There are other times when he uses it to indicate the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Yet at other times it refers only to the Ten Commandments.

A couple of interesting references are in Romans 2, where he uses "law" to indicate the will of God written in the hearts of Gentiles. Why Gentiles? Because they had not been given the law by God, yet he says they did the things contained within the law by nature. What it amounts to, in modern terminology, would be that he uses "law" in the sense of "natural law," that it is a standard that people consider to be in force without having been formally instructed by it. This became an issue, incidentally, in the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States, because he professed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he believed in natural law. The liberals on the Committee did not like that at all, because liberals like to be free of the constraints of natural law; they do not feel responsible then.

Another way Paul uses the word "law" is as if God Himself were speaking. He does not use the name or title of God, but the term "law," as in Romans 3:19. At times, Paul appears to contradict himself when he uses the word "law." In one place, he says, "Yea, we establish the law," but in another, he says, "Yea, we abolish the law." He uses it in the sense of it being both necessary and unnecessary. If one is careful, he will begin to become adept at figuring out how Paul uses it.

Paul's use of "law" appears in two general categories. If the subject of the context has to do with justification, then it is likely he will use a "no law" approach. That is both logical and right: No man can justify himself. All the lawkeeping in the world will not undo that murder or the loss of virginity. We cannot justify ourselves by what we do after we have broken a law. We cannot make up for it.

However, if the subject is sanctification - which has to do with a person's conduct, with right living, with discipline or character building - then Paul will say the law is valuable and necessary. It must be kept.

If we will just keep our eyes on the context, it will help us greatly to understand how Paul uses "law."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Romans 2:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Why is this term, "law," so repulsive? Law implies authority, and human nature likes no authority over it, even if the law expresses the authority of God and defines love. It is especially interesting that Paul says we will be judged according to what we actually know. Know of what? The law of God. The good works he mentions earlier include the works of keeping the law. Obviously, it is God's will that we live moral lives. Morality must have standards, or there is no such thing as morality. Laws define morality. We will be judged against what we know of the laws of God. Thus, he says in verse 13 that the doers of the law will be justified.

Despite what these verses say, theologians attempt to justify their "no-law" theology by claiming that Paul writes here of the natural man, not converted people. While partially true, it avoids the fact that this epistle was written to a church of God congregation (Romans 1:1-7) and that Paul repeatedly uses the personal pronoun "you"—as in "you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge" (Romans 2:1). This usage, combined with the fact that it is written to a church of God congregation, easily catches the converted in its purview.

In addition, it also avoids the fact that one reason God gives His Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). This includes the truth regarding morality, lawkeeping, and good works. As God leads us to greater depths of knowledge and understanding of His truth, it builds in us a more responsible knowledge of God's will. This raises the stakes in judgment because "to whom much is given, from him much more will be required" (Luke 12:48). Growth results in closer scrutiny against a higher standard of morality.

In the broader context of Romans, it becomes clear that each person—Jew or Gentile, converted or unconverted—is judged against what he knows, and God holds him responsible for working to produce obedience at that level. This is similar to what teachers expect of school children. They hold children in the higher grades more responsible for knowing and doing than those in lower grades. Courts use the same general system, holding adults more responsible for their crimes than children. Thus, for the same crime, an adult will receive a sterner punishment.

The called must realize that, because of their calling, the requirements—and thus the judgments—are much stiffer since they know so much more. This is why Paul says in Romans 3:31, "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." Faith upholds law or makes it firm because the law points out what righteousness, love, and sin are, and guides us in how faith is to be used.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Romans 2:12-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We cannot be justified before God except through faith in the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and then God gives us grace. This does not excuse us from keeping the law because He says those who keep the law will be justified; therefore, keeping the law cannot justify. It cannot save a person, but those who keep the law will be justified and saved—not because they are keeping the law in order to be saved but because they are faithful in showing God that they are preparing their lives for His Kingdom, where everybody will live the same godly life, according to the same rules. That is what God's law outlines—His way of life.

This section, up to verse 16, shows that both those with a formal ignorance of God's law (say, the Gentiles) and those with knowledge of the law (in this case, the Jews, or in our context now, Christians) will be judged by the law. Why? Because the law defines sin! Sin brings God's judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Romans 2:14-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Everybody will be judged by or against the same law. God is impartial in His judgments; He uses the same standard for everyone. Just in case one wonders what law Paul means, verse 21 identifies it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Romans 2:14-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People "who do not have the law" cannot do things in relation to God. In fact, they do not consider certain things in relation to God at all.

Nevertheless, every nation on earth supports the keeping of certain laws of God because they know by experience, by history, that they are good for their societies. No government on earth openly supports the murder of their own because they know from history that, if they did, the whole society would be torn apart. For instance, they do not want people to murder because it is not good for the nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 22)


 

Romans 2:21-22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is clear what law the apostle Paul is referring to. In fact, the New Testament Commentary admits that the law here is at the very least the Ten Commandments. Paul might be talking about the whole Pentateuch, in which the Ten Commandments appear.

Paul has at least the Ten Commandments in mind. Since God is impartial in judgment, those in ignorance of the law will still be judged according to what they know. Those who are privileged to know the law—in Paul's time, the Jews, and in our time, us—must never allow themselves to think that knowledge of the law will save them. What it does is make them subject to more severe judgment because they know.

"To whom much is given, from him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). Those who have the law, however, have a tremendous advantage over those who do not, because they have the opportunity to make their lives exceedingly better by following the way of life that God sets out in the law. That is a privilege that God has not given to those who do not yet know the law.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Romans 3:19-21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.

Once a person has sinned, they are under the penalty of the law, and their righteousness is not sufficient to justify them before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.

Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.

Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Romans 3:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Together, Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15 produce a general principle that covers, not just biblical morality, but also secular. Laws reveal to us our religious and/or civic duties. In reference to God, law awakens us to a consciousness of sin. Through God's laws we become aware of the contrast between what we do and what we ought to do.

By enacting laws, our legislators tell us what is moral, right, and good in secular areas of life, but instead of calling a transgression of the state's laws "sin," we call it "crime." In many cases, crimes are also sins. The difference between secular law and God's law is that the latter contains clear moral values and reveals our duties toward the Creator God. Where do people get their ideas regarding what is moral?

We must conclude that religion, law, the state, and morality are each parts of the same family. Thus, every system of law is a system of ethics and morality. Since law establishes standards of conduct, those standards are the establishment of religion, a way of life we are to be devoted to following. Therefore, in truth, there can be no absolute separation of church and state.

This point escapes most Americans, but not every American. For instance, some journalists have clearly identified communism as a religion. In such a system, the government is the god. At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans made no bones about this principle, declaring and demanding under the penalty of death that Caesar be worshipped as a god. This is part of the "divine right of kings" principle. Beware, because this idea is about to be reborn:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (Revelation 13:11-12)

When the Beast arises, he will be accorded this honor that belongs only to God.

In the Western world, a new religion is rising. It is not really new, but it has a fairly new name: secularism. It is a type of idolatry, one that has been increasingly challenging this world's Christianity over the past century, and it is gaining ever more strength in numbers and devotion here in America. The war between it and this world's Christianity is virtually over—with Christianity rapidly becoming irrelevant. Persecution in the courts is already an established fact, and outright persecution on the streets cannot be very many years away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

Romans 3:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The glory of God" in this context is the way He lives. Hamartia, sin, is to fall short of the ideal, to miss the mark in the way we live. Combined with sin's definition in I John 3:4, hamartia ties what we might think of as rather minor, unimportant, and secondary issues directly to the law of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Romans 3:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Every human being who has ever lived - except Christ - has broken God's laws. Therefore, everyone needs to be saved from sin's consequences.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 5:6-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.

Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.

Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:

» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .

» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?

Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.

As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.

If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.

Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.

Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."

At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Romans 6:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). This means that there will not be contradictions in God's Word. Jesus says that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law (Matthew 5:18). Paul says here, "Do not sin," and sin is the transgression of God's law (I John 3:4). Nonetheless, Protestants say that the law is done away. This raises a contradiction.

If Jesus' death combined with the New Covenant does away with the law, then there is no such thing as sin, and Christ died in vain—especially as far as those who have lived since His death are concerned. Romans 6:1-2 states plainly that Christians are not to sin, that is, break God's laws. Therefore sin—and thus God's law, which tells us what sin is—must still exist.

It cannot be both ways. If they say that the law is done away, then in the biblical context, it is logical to conclude that there can be no sin. It is therefore illogical for them to claim that it is still wrong for a person to murder or to commit adultery because those sins would not exist without the laws that determine they are immoral or illegal acts.

But the true answer lies elsewhere: Their conclusion that the law is done away is wrong!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Romans 6:14-15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What does it mean to be "under the law"? The apostle Paul says that we are "not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4, KJV), and every human being who has ever lived—except Jesus Christ—has sinned (Romans 3:23). Once the knowledge of the law comes, there is no excuse, and the law condemns all who break it to eternal death. Paul personifies the law as the instrument that points the finger of condemnation at each of us: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Romans 7:9). Therefore, to be "under the law" means to be "under the condemnation of the law."

The phrase "under the law" is also used in Romans 3:19; I Corinthians 9:20-21; Galatians 3:23; 4:4-5; 4:21; 4:18.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

Romans 7:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul states that the law has "dominion" over a man only as long as he lives. Some have interpreted this to mean that, now that we have died with Christ, the law is no longer binding on Christians. Indeed, some modern translations of the Bible translate this verse to say just that. However, note how Paul uses this word "dominion" in other places.

In Romans 6:9, Paul speaks of Christ's immortality now that He has been resurrected, saying, "Death no longer has dominion over Him." During the period that Christ was a flesh-and-blood human being, He could die, and He did die on the cross. Now, however, death no longer has any power over Him, because He is an immortal Spirit Being.

In Romans 6:14, Paul uses the same word to describe our relationship with sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Here he shows how our past sins have been forgiven, and we have access to Christ's atoning grace for forgiveness of future sins. Therefore, sin no longer has the power to condemn us to death.

Throughout Romans 6 and 7, the Greek word translated "dominion" is kurieuo, meaning "exercise lordship over." Paul uses this term in the context of having power over something. In Romans 6:9 and 14, he states that death and sin no longer have power to harm us or to cause any adverse effect in our lives.

Now we can better understand Paul's meaning in Romans 7:1. In this verse, Paul explains how the law has "power" over a human being only while he lives. He means the law has power to condemn us as a sinner and, consequently, condemn us to death only as long as we are alive. Once we have died, the penalty for sin has been paid, and the law has no more power to condemn us.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul continues to discuss our relationship to the law and begins to draw the analogy from a human relationship, marriage, which illustrates the points that he was making in Romans 6. He explains how a woman is bound by the law to her husband for as long as he is alive. However, marriage is "till death do us part." Death breaks the marriage bond. Therefore, if the wife marries another man while her first husband is still alive, the law has the power, the authority, to condemn her as an adulteress. However, if her husband dies, the marriage bond is broken, and if she remarries, the law cannot condemn her as an adulteress.

Note that the law to which Paul is referring in these verses is clearly the Ten Commandments. The seventh commandment is the law forbidding adultery. Here Paul plainly states that this law against adultery is binding on Christians! Contrary to the antinomian persepctive, the law is still in effect.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Peter admits that many of the things that his fellow apostle Paul wrote are hard to understand, and because of this, he warns, some people distort Paul's writings to their own destruction (II Peter 3:15-16). This is still happening today. People—some sincerely and some not—are constantly twisting what Paul said in an attempt to show that the law of God is abolished.

A favorite target of the "no-law" advocates is Romans 7:4. In this scripture, Paul writes that a Christian is "dead to the law" and is now "married to another." From these statements, some conclude that God no longer requires a Christian to obey His laws. Unfortunately, those who force such an interpretation on this verse fail to understand the profound truths that the apostle is explaining.

In verse 4, Paul further explains the marriage analogy (Romans 7:2-3) and how this relationship of a woman to her husband bears upon our relationship to the law and Christ. "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ." Just as the woman in his example cannot be condemned by the law as an adulteress if her first husband dies, so we cannot be condemned by the law because our "old man of sin" has died (Romans 7:1).

In other words, we have become dead in the eyes of the law! At the time of our baptism, the old man of sin was put to death and buried in a watery grave (Romans 6:4). Because Jesus Christ died in our stead, and we have been buried with Him in baptism, the law regards us as having died. Therefore, the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23) has been paid, and the law no longer has power to condemn us to death for our sins.

Paul continues in verse 4, "...that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God." In the analogy of the woman and her husbands, the first husband is the old man of sin to whom we were "married" prior to conversion. After the old man of sin died at baptism, we are now free to marry Christ. Just as He died and was resurrected, so our old man of sin has died, and we have been raised out of the watery grave of baptism a new man, empowered to bear righteous fruit in service to God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul explains how that before we were converted, our sinful natures brought us under the death penalty. He shows that the carnal, sinful mind is so hostile toward God (Romans 8:7) that knowledge of God's commandments actually stirs a desire in an unconverted person to commit even greater sins.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have now been delivered from the power of the law. The law no longer has authority to condemn us to death because our old man of sin has died, and Christ has paid the penalty for sin in our stead. Now that God has given us His Holy Spirit, we now "serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." In other words, we now keep not just the letter of the law, but we also keep God's laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose as Jesus Christ magnified them throughout His ministry (Matthew 5:17-20).

Far from being abolished, the laws of God are now even more binding on Christians. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, our sins have all been forgiven, and we now live transformed lives in which we keep God's laws of love through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?


 

Romans 7:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Law shows us our duties. In reference to God, it awakens us to a consciousness of sin. Through law, we become aware of the contrast between what we ought to do and what we actually do. Our civil legislators enact laws, and thus they tell us what is ethical, right, and good in a particular, secular area of life.

Instead of calling a transgression of the state's laws "sin," we call it "crime." Many crimes are also sin. The difference between secular law and God's law is that God's law relates directly to the divine. It reveals our duties to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 7:9-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that it was not the law that killed him but sin! Plain, simple truth—sin slew him. By contrast, Paul says that the law was ordained to life. It is holy, just, good, and spiritual. That is very clear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Romans 8:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the core of our entire Christian walk is government—not the government of a nation but the issue of whom we will allow to govern us. For example, either we can govern ourselves by "deciding" when it is permissible to kill, or we can submit to God's benevolent authority and His explanation of morality. In the final analysis, we are not allowed to determine what is right and wrong—God has already done this. Our only decision is if we will act in accordance with God's law!

What we decide demonstrates what we hold in the higher regard, that is, what we worship. For example, if we break the Sabbath or deny its importance in our lives, we are choosing the self over God. Likewise, if we intentionally—non-accidentally—take another man's life in defense of our own, we are worshipping the self rather than God.

Romans 8:7 describes this power struggle perfectly. Human nature puts its own cares and interests above God, and the result is that the carnal man will not submit himself to God's clear commands. The carnal man will be willing to harm, even kill, another created human being to protect his own interests, in spite of God's law and Jesus Christ's striking example to the contrary.

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Romans 13:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Of course, God's spiritual law is of prime importance and takes precedence over all other law. As Peter said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) when a conflict between the two occurs. Though breaking man's laws may not always be sin, a rebellious attitude against what God appoints over us will in time lead to transgressing God's law. One who will not submit to law in one area will not submit to it in others.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

Romans 13:1-2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under normal circumstances, we understand this perfectly. But what if obedience to human government would lead us to sin? Acts 5:29 clearly delineates our responsibility: "Peter and the other apostles answered and said: 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'" Comparing the principles involved leads us to conclude that we should obey God without qualification. If our obedience to God causes us to commit a crime against the state, our submission to the crime's penalty also constitutes submitting to human government.

God rules supreme over human government on every level, but as with individuals, He gives governments free-moral agency. They are thus free to reap what they sow. They are free to enact laws that are contrary to God. In such a situation, a Christian can find himself on the horns of a dilemma. Do we understand this and love God deeply enough to make the choices necessary to maintain our relationship with Him, despite being placed at a disadvantage?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Romans 13:8-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In these verses, Paul injects love into the context of law, showing that it is the sum of all duties. He does not say love ends the need for law but that it fulfills—performs or accomplishes—the law.

Notice love's relationship to law in context with what immediately precedes it. The context is a Christian's response to government. He should submit to and honor human government as God's agents in managing human affairs. A Christian is indebted to the government to pay tribute and taxes. When we pay them, a Christian is no longer financially indebted to the state until it imposes taxes the following year.

Regarding men, we are not to be in debt. He is not saying a Christian should never owe anybody money, but that there is a debt we owe to every person that we should strive to pay every day. This debt is one of love, paid by keeping God's law, and this Paul illustrates by quoting several of the Ten Commandments! Inherent in this debt is that no matter how much we pay on it each day, when we wake up the next day, the debt is restored, and we owe just as much as we did the day before!

This sets up an interesting paradox because we owe everyone more than we can ever hope to pay. The paradox, however, is more apparent than real because this is not what Paul is teaching. He is teaching that love must be the driving force, the motivation, of everything we do. This points out a weakness of law regarding righteousness. Law, of and by itself, provides neither enough nor the right motivation for one to keep it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

Romans 13:10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, mentions the commandments frequently in his writings (Romans 1:18-25; 13:9; I Corinthians 10:7; Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:8; Hebrews 4:9). He summarizes the keeping of the last six as how to love our neighbor (Romans 13:10). If it is sin to break any of the last six that show love toward fellow man, most certainly it is sin to violate any of the first four that show love toward God.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

1 Corinthians 7:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That tells us that we are to keep the Ten Commandments under the New Covenant. It cannot be refuted. The Ten Commandments were part of the Old Covenant too. That part is not obsolete; we are still using it in the brand new model. The moral law is still in force and effect. To break the commandments is sin, while to do them is righteousness.

That includes all ten - not just nine. Remember Jesus' declaration that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law. If Jesus speaks the truth, how can people say that the fourth commandment is done away? They directly refute their Savior. It is really quite silly.

Most of the rest of the law, that is, part of the terms of the Old Covenant, still directly apply. How about tithing, part of the Old Covenant? We find that tithing supersedes the Old Covenant. What about the food laws, also is part of the Old Covenant? The New Testament records that they were still being kept by people who should have known better if they were done away. Many of those laws still directly apply.

Even those that may only indirectly apply are still applicable in their spirit, in their intent. Intent suggests "the stretching out." Those laws help to define sin and righteousness in specific situations. Their positive intent is always to bring us to holiness - to the image of God.

We need to discipline ourselves never to look at a law of God - whether it is civil or ceremonial - and assume it has no application for us, as if God just intended it for the Israelites back then. Far from it! God's law (and its intent) is always love and eternal, which is why Jesus says that none of it would pass until all is fulfilled.

Obedience to those laws can neither justify nor save us, but they are the wisdom and the love of God, given to guide us. We should be studying them to understand how to make our lives holier than ever before.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

1 Corinthians 14:34   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

An examination of the whole context reveals that God's law was Paul's sole authority. One could be misled by the word also, as if it were just an aside or a secondary confirmation. No, Paul relied on the law to guide him in his decision.

But is he not the man who said that the law was "done away"? However, in I Corinthians 9, concerning the remuneration of the ministry, Paul's authority was again the law. Does God care only for oxen? No! Paul used that law to be applied to the New Testament ministry.

Here, regarding order in church services, Paul again appeals to the law. All of this confirms that the Old Testament was written with the New Testament church in mind. Yes, it covered situations of immediate concern to people in the area and at the time in which it was written, but it is more concerned with the New Testament church, as Paul writes, "on whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Corinthians 10:11; see also Romans 15:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Galatians 2:20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Even though the law had no power to condemn him to death—he was "dead" to it, as verse 19 says—Paul was still quite active! His life continued to contain a great deal of activity. When Christ was crucified, He then also became "dead to the law" in the sense that it held absolutely no power over Him. The law's power, its threat to a human being, lies in being able to condemn him to death. But once a person has died, as Paul shows in Romans 7, the law no longer has any power over him.

The phrase "I am crucified" shows that it is a continual thing, an ongoing process. Through Christ's intercession, the law's condemning power is held at bay. This is what Christ does in His role as our High Priest. But Paul then clarifies it by saying that he still is very much alive and kicking—he does not simply roll over and relegate all responsibility to God.

He then shows another facet: Once we have made the covenant with God, we have signed ourselves over to Him, and suddenly our lives are not our own anymore. We still have to go through this life, but it is Christ living His life in us that makes us alive spiritually.

Jesus Christ gave up His physical life so that, through His sacrifice, we could be brought into alignment with God; this is what is called "justification." We respond by yielding to the direction that He now gives to us. We are to have faith in Him and the entire process that He is bringing us through—not merely that we are forgiven for our sins, but also that we will be brought to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It would not be faith if we were resisting Him throughout this life by disobeying Him! It would be a contest of wills: Can God still save me even though I am rebelling? Trusting in God to bring us to a state of completion while refusing to obey Him are mutually exclusive. God simply will not allow someone into His Kingdom who will not willingly submit to living the way God requires (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 5:10; 5:19-20; 6:33; 7:21; 13:41, 47-50; Acts 28:23; Romans 14:17; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; II Thessalonians 1:5; II Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 119:172)!

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Those who say that Paul's words mean that one does not have to obey God in order to receive His Spirit simply do not understand what he was talking about. They also do not understand the circumstances that the apostle was addressing. The main problem in the churches in Galatia was that people were being taught that they could be justified—have their sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—by lawkeeping. The people's minds were being turned away from faith in Jesus Christ. Paul was reminding them that the only way anyone can receive forgiveness of sins is through faith in Christ's sacrifice.

To drive his point home, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive God's Holy Spirit by lawkeeping while ignoring faith in the sacrifice of Christ. He points out that, without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, no one can be justified, no one can be forgiven of sins, and no one can be given the gift of God's Holy Spirit.

This does not negate the fact that there are still basically two requirements for receiving God's Spirit, namely, repentance and faith in Christ. Both of these requirements must be met before one can receive the Spirit. Repentance involves turning from sin and turning toward obedience to God's commandments.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Is Obedience Required Before Receiving God's Holy Spirit?


 

Galatians 3:2   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is continuing his stern rebuke here, and it seems he intends his argument to settle the question ("this only would I learn of you"). His rhetorical question is whether the Galatians received God's Spirit through their personal accomplishments or by hearing and believing. This is in no way a condemnation of "works of the law," as Christ Himself commands that we display "good works" to set the proper example to the world, after which He says in no uncertain terms that He did not come to destroy the law (Matthew 5:16-17). These are the same works that Jesus did (Matthew 11:2) and praised (John 3:21; 8:39; Revelation 2:26). Acts 26:20 shows that there are works involved in repentance, and much of James 2 shows the place that works have within our responsibility. To each of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, Christ says He knows their works—and they are judged accordingly.

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with following God's law; indeed, the New Testament is filled with verses that show that lawbreakers will not enter the Kingdom of God. The question in this verse is not about whether the law is still in effect, whether following it is still required, or whether there is anything wrong with the set of laws that God codified. Rather, the critical point is what part the law plays within our conversion and sanctification, and consequently, what part God plays in the process as well.

On the one hand, there is the implication here that a person does not receive the Spirit by the works of the law, and on the other hand there is the definite statement in Acts 5:32 that the Spirit is only given to those who obey God—those following His law. As with the apparent disparity between Galatians 2:16 and Romans 2:13, these statements are easily rectified when we separate the means by which something is accomplished from the requirements.

According to Acts 5:32, one of the requirements for a person to receive the Holy Spirit, even in a small measure, is obedience to God (lawkeeping). God will not give a measure of His life-giving Spirit to someone who is rebellious or disobedient to Him! The story of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) illustrates this. Simon had the gospel preached to him, and he "believed" and was baptized. These events seem to fulfill Paul's statement in Galatians 3:2: He heard the gospel, and he believed. Would this not qualify as "the hearing [having the gospel preached] of faith [he believed]"? Should he not have then received the Holy Spirit?

Simon the Sorcerer did not receive the power of the Holy Spirit because he did not fulfill the requirement of Acts 5:32. Simon was not obedient to God—he did not submit himself to God but tried to bribe the apostles to lay hands on him. His heart was not right in the sight of God; his actions and intents were "wickedness"; he was "poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." This was not someone that God wanted to entrust with a measure of His mind and power! God only gives His Spirit to those who obey Him.

Even though keeping the commandments is a requirement, it does not entitle one to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift (Acts 2:38; 10:45; Hebrews 2:4), something freely given and not earned. This is the point the Galatians were stumbling over: They did not understand, or did not want to believe, that God's forgiveness, justification, sanctification, Holy Spirit, etc. are all things that God is responsible for. These are His prerogatives, and nothing we do can force Him into doing anything! Romans 9:11 shows that it is by God's election that determines who has his mind opened, not the choice (or the works—same verse) of the individual. John 6:44 shows clearly that God chooses who will enter into the covenant relationship, and without God drawing a person to Him, it is impossible for that person to even know God. I Corinthians 1:26-29 also illustrates that God does the "calling," and He purposefully chooses the weak, the foolish, the base things of the world. A large part of the reason is that nobody can boast (glory) that God called them because they were exceptionally righteous or in any way deserved to be called.

The Galatians seem to have rejected the overwhelming part that God and Jesus Christ play in the salvation process. They thought they were righteous enough, on their own, to have been justified, to receive the Holy Spirit, to attain salvation, etc. The reality is that we are God's workmanship, and He is the only one that can bring our salvation to pass (Ephesians 2:10). While we have a responsibility—to yield, submit, obey, overcome, etc.—even if we perfectly fulfill this responsibility, we are still then doing only the bare minimum. Our works are necessary, but they are not the means by which we are saved, nor, as Paul is saying here, are they the means by which we receive the Holy Spirit.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:17-25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Galatians 3:17 confirms that, when Paul was talking about the law, he was also talking about the entire Old Covenant. He uses "law" synonymously with "covenant."

The translators have difficulty deciding whether the "covenant" refers to the Mosaic covenant or the one made with Abraham. Most modern translations connect "covenant" to the one God made with Abraham. However, the more literal translations such as the King James version and Young's Literal Translation put the word "covenant" in the sentence so it refers to the Mosaic covenant. The Emphatic Diaglott translates it as, "Now this I affirm, that a covenant-engagement previously ratified by God, the Law, issued four hundred thirty years afterwards does not annul, so as to invalidate the promise." Thus, Paul viewed the law as the symbol and embodiment of the Old Covenant and used the terms "law" and covenant" synonymously.

This agrees with the way the covenant was sometimes referred to in the Old Testament. In II Chronicles 6:11, Solomon says, "And there I have put the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with the children of Israel." Only the two tables of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments were in the ark (II Chronicles 5:10).

Moses writes, "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone" (Deuteronomy 4:13; see Exodus 34:28). Even without this evidence, it is very clear that Paul refers to the two covenants, not just to what we would consider the law itself.

Further, notice how Paul uses the term "law" in Galatians 4:21-23. The births of Ishmael and Isaac are recorded in Genesis 16 and 21. Though this happened long before the Ten Commandments and the other laws were given through Moses, Paul refers to this portion of Scripture as the law! Obviously, Paul uses "law" to mean the entire Pentateuch or Torah (the first five books of the Bible), not just the Commandments. In Galatians 4:24, he specifically mentions the Old and New Covenants.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 3:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At this point in his epistle, it occurs to Paul that it would only be normal for someone to ask the question, "What, then, was the purpose of the Old Covenant?" Thus, verse 19 begins with, "What purpose then does the law serve?" This broad question covers many more specific ones: Why was it needed? Why did God call Israel out of Egypt? Why did God write His Ten Commandments on tables of stone with His own finger? Why did God have Moses write the statutes and judgments in a book? Why did God establish the Levitical priesthood, the Tabernacle/Temple worship, the washings, oblations, and the sacrifices? What was the purpose of all the rules and regulations of the Old Covenant? Such questions would naturally come to the mind of anyone reading Paul's letter since he emphasizes that our salvation through Christ fulfills the promise made to Abraham. What need is there for another covenant?

The answer he gives is a key to understanding much of everything else he says in Galatians: "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." "It was added" means that the Mosaic covenant was in addition to the one God had made with Abraham. But what "transgressions"? Abraham obeyed all of God's laws, commandments, statutes, and ordinances (Genesis 26:5). He taught God's laws to Isaac, who taught them to Jacob. However, after Israel was in Egypt for many years, they forgot them and lived in ignorant transgression of them. Having absorbed so much Egyptian culture in their sojourn, they were even ignorant of the Sabbath day. Paul explains that God "added" the Old Covenant because Israel had gone so far into sin when they lived in Egypt.

Therefore, God had to call Israel out of Egypt and teach them His laws all over again to prepare them for the coming of Christ. He wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, and Moses wrote the statutes and judgments in a book so that Israel would have a permanent record of His laws and statutes throughout the centuries. God gave them rituals of worship that made them different from other nations, and He forbade them to have anything to do with foreign, pagan customs. Circumcision identified them as a separate and distinct people. These rules and regulations put a hedge around Israel (Isaiah 5:5; Matthew 21:33) to preserve them pure for the coming of Christ.

Just prior to the scripture Paul quotes in Galatians 3:12, God says in Leviticus 18:3,

According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.

For years, people have wondered how anyone could have transgressed the laws before they were given. Simply put, Paul is talking about the laws of God which have been in full force since creation! When he writes that the Old Covenant was added "till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made," he means that the Old Covenant was temporary; Christ would replace it with the New Covenant. Rather than saying that any of God's laws had become obsolete, he is explaining how important it was to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ!

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 3:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word is at the beginning of this verse is not in the original Greek. This is significant, because the rest of the verse is entirely in the past tense: "had been," "given," "could have given," "should have been." Given that the context has been the Old Covenant, and not God's eternal codification of right and wrong, if a word needs to be added to make the meaning more clear, the word "was" fits the context better: "Was the covenant against the promises of God?"

God's promises to Abraham were not contrary to the covenant. God's promises to Abraham and God's covenant with ancient Israel accomplished different things! The Old Covenant was a temporary agreement, given until the Seed arrived. It had health, wealth, national strength, and military protection and dominance as its benefits. The promises to Abraham had physical components as well, but with the promise that includes eternal life (see the notes at Galatians 3:14) comes a plethora of other benefits. The promises and the Old Covenant were not in disagreement with each other, but rather the Old Covenant was an auxiliary to the promises, to further the plan inherent within the promises so God would have a nation to send His Son to in order to begin the church—the Body of Christ, which will become His Bride.

God's Law is an extension of His very character and nature. When He codified it and set it before Israel, one of the results was that it showed anybody who was willing to look that mankind does not naturally gravitate to God's way; it is exceedingly difficult to live God's way because our human nature wants to fight it at every turn. The Old Covenant demonstrated to Israel, and to anybody who reads Israel's history, that man needs a different heart in order to come into alignment with God's intent for him. It also demonstrated that the blood of innocent animals was not sufficient to really take away the sins of the people. Those animal sacrifices were only a shadow of the reality to come—Jesus Christ. The whole system was on a physical level, without spiritual promises. The Holy Spirit was not generally available, and so all of Israel's experience also demonstrates that without the right heart, without the same intent and desire as God, it is impossible to come into alignment with Him. And that new heart is only available to those with whom He makes the New Covenant.

God is faithful in His promises. For Abraham to have a "great nation" come out of him, and for him to have a "great name" through his posterity, and for him to be a blessing, God had to enact a system by which an unlearned people could live in accordance with the natural laws that would bring about the desired results. The Israelites, after living in Egypt—sin—for so many generations, had that sin implanted into their national character, and it was perpetuated by their generations even after they left Egypt. God made the Old Covenant because of their sins, to show them just how far off course they had gotten.

This covenant also was to be a preparation for Christ's first coming and the New Covenant. If they had used the covenant properly, it could have given them a head start when the Seed arrived, and they could have seen what God was working out. Paul shows in his writings to the Romans that the Jews (Israelites) had "first dibs" (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10), but that the opportunities were no longer exclusive to the chosen people. Paul also shows that the Old Covenant was a means by which to preserve the knowledge of God's laws in Israel to prepare them for the coming of Christ! In this way Christ could return to a people already familiar with His laws and statutes, rather than coming first to a Gentile nation that He would have to teach essentially from scratch.

When He came as a man, He came to a people and a culture that had a long history of at least familiarity with His laws, if not complete obedience. They clearly did not understand the true intent behind the laws, and even abused them to the point of thinking they could be justified by keeping them, but this way of life was not entirely brand new to them in the way it would have been if Christ first appeared in Africa or the Orient. There would have been no hope of those Gentile nations recognizing how Christ fulfilled and personified the law. Without the history of the Old Testament, Christ would have meant very little to them, although He would have undoubtedly been worshipped as a type of deity because of the miracles He performed. But He was not seeking worship—He was seeking a people who would live as He lives.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:21   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is not the purpose of law to give life. God did not create it for that purpose. Life comes from what is already living, so a law cannot give life. Paul makes it plain that it is not the purpose of law to give life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Galatians 3:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Old Covenant - the agreement between God and ancient Israel - was a "guardian" or "custodian" for the children of Israel. It provided a means by which the Israelites could have health and wealth and many of the good things this life has to offer - if they would have followed the laws contained within that covenant. For example, the law of the Sabbath has tremendous physical benefits, for man, animals, and even the land. The law of tithing teaches good financial handling, and when it is done in faith it ensures financial stability. The laws which were a part of the covenant agreement would have kept Israel heading in the right direction, and would have helped prepare a people who should have recognized and accepted their rightful Ruler when He was born a man - except their hearts were not changed. God wants a change of action that proceeds from a change of heart - not a change of action just for the sake of the action.

The Old Covenant was a legitimate system, ordained by God, with fantastic physical benefits - if Israel had obeyed. That contractual agreement was meant to be a means to an end, and not the end in itself. It was meant to teach the people and hedge them in, to prepare them for the next stage of their existence - just like a guardian teaches and prepares a child to take over a business or inherit an estate. The covenant - not God's holy, spiritual law - was a step in the process, but that agreement became obsolete when the Master arrived and began His instruction. However, many of the laws contained within that covenant pre-dated the agreement with Israel, and thus are just as relevant today as they were for Israel.

Even though God's law is eternal and thus still required to be kept, justification has always been by faith. Abraham was justified by faith, even though God says he also "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws." (Genesis 26:5) His obedience to God's law did not justify him, for his obedience was not perfect. Justification has always been on the basis of faith, because the instant a man sins - as all men have (Romans 3:23) - it becomes impossible to come before God on the basis of sinless perfection. Faith in the Savior is thus required for justification, and the law then lights the path the repentant and justified sinner must walk in order to keep from sinning further.

The Old Covenant was a system ordained by God to include His "royal law" (James 2:8) for the purpose of teaching Israel how to live. Even though the Old Covenant is obsolete, that same royal law is at the core of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13) because it teaches us how to live. But since we have transgressed that law, faith in the Savior is required for our sins to be forgiven and for us to be justified before God.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 3:24   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

All of God's law is a teaching vehicle. The Hebrew word most frequently translated as "law" is torah, but torah more closely translates into the broader meaning of "instruction." Instruction spans a wide spectrum of information and methods of increasing understanding, including law but also principles, symbols, and examples from people's lives. For example, the way Jesus kept the Sabbath should be understood as torah by those determined to follow in His steps. The goal of this broad teaching approach is to reveal God and His plan to us as clearly as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering


 

Galatians 3:25-27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since Christ has come, the Old Covenant rules and regulations that isolated Israel from other ethnic groups are no longer needed. Israel no longer needed a guardian. The time had come to put away the need for the practices that separated Israel from other nations and caused such hostility between the Jews and the Gentiles. Christ had brought a totally new approach. The church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), is a spiritual organism made up of people of all races and nationalities who repent and keep the spiritual laws of God as Jesus had magnified them.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?


 

Galatians 3:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With the arrival of Jesus Christ on the scene, there was no need for the agreement—the Old Covenant—to continue. This does not mean God's laws are obsolete, but that the agreement between God and the physical children of Abraham is no longer necessary because there is now a New Covenant that far exceeds the old one in terms of promises and benefits, in addition to the fact that God has divorced Israel (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 3:8). No longer is property or homeland a goal but the entire earth. No longer is physical health an aspiration but a new spiritual body that is not subject to disease or decay.

Christians are not bound by the Mosaic covenant, that "guardian" that was intended to keep Israel pointed in the right direction until there was a means by which they could receive a new heart and have access to God through the Holy Spirit. So the Old Covenant is not what we have agreed to, but it should be noted that the laws contained in "the law" (Pentateuch) still have paramount merit, because they are an extension of God's character and mind. There is no need for animal sacrifices, because Christ has fulfilled that, but there are still many lessons that can be learned through contemplating those laws. Other laws, such as the purity laws, may indeed still have a physical application as well as a spiritual one. God recorded those statutes and judgments for our admonition (I Corinthians 10:11), and they help us to see how God lives when we examine them in the light of Christ's ministry and teaching. Obeying them does not make us righteous in God's eyes or earn us salvation, but "a good understanding have all they that do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10). By them, we can learn to live as God lives (Matthew 5:17).

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:1-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verses 1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin and Satan.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Galatians 4:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Was Jesus Christ born under the law and thus bound to keep all of the Old Covenant rules and regulations? From this verse, some attempt to show that Jesus Christ was under the law from His birth. They conclude that Christ was duty bound from His birth to do many things that we do not have to do.

However, this assumption overlooks the true meaning of this verse, which is often obscured by the interpretation given by modern translators. The word translated "born" in modern translations is from the Greek word ginomai, which can have many different shades of meaning depending upon the context. It primarily means "to cause to be" or "to come into being." The King James Version translates it: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law."

Jesus Christ was physically born through the normal process of human birth to the virgin Mary. But God did not inspire Paul to use the Greek word for "born," gennao, in Galatians 4:4 because He wanted to focus on the miraculous conception of Christ and the overwhelming significance of Jesus' sacrifice.

God emphasizes His Son's humanity in this verse. Like all other men, Jesus was born of a woman; He was flesh and blood. Hebrews 10:5 verifies this: "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: 'Sacrifice and offtering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.'"

Another point of note is that the original Greek text does not read "the law," but simply "law." The definite article is missing! Paul is speaking of law in general, not specifically the law of God. The apostle thus means that, when Jesus became a man, He was subject to the same terms, forces, and conditions that any other man is. It simply becomes another reference to His humanity like Hebrews 2:10-18.

The verse does not support the idea that Jesus was bound by the Old Covenant because He was born into it. The deeper meaning of Galatians 4:4 is that Jesus Christ came into being through the divine miracle in which God the Father caused Mary to conceive by the Holy Spirit. Also, by another miracle, God the Father caused Jesus to be placed under the law - under the death penalty - at the time of His crucifixion. Note the King James' rendering of Galatians 3:13: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made [ginomai] a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

Jesus Christ was never under the law except at the time of His crucifixion when God the Father laid the entire burden of the sins of the world upon His head (II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:4-12). He led a perfect life. Therefore, the Old Covenant rules and regulations did not apply to Him because they were designed to remind the people of Israel of their sins and their need for a Savior (Galatians 3:19).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was Jesus Christ Born Under the Law?


 

Galatians 4:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Galatians 4:22   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Abraham actually had more sons through Keturah, but for the purposes of Paul's allegory, he focuses on Ishmael, the son through Hagar, and Isaac, the son of promise through Sarah.

Given that the false teachers were trying to convince the Galatians to turn to a Gnostic form of Judaism, Abraham would have been a character who would have been highly respected in their eyes (the Jews in Jesus' time trusted in descent from Abraham for salvation). Paul uses the example of Abraham throughout this epistle because he (Abraham) simultaneously served as someone that they would have looked up to, as well as a testament that they (the Galatians) were approaching this the wrong way—different from the way Abraham did.

Physical descent does not matter as far as the spiritual promises are concerned; Christ castigated the Jews for thinking that they could rely on being physical descendants of Abraham as a means of gaining favor with God. Christ showed that where it really counted was in behaving like Abraham—which the Jews did not.

Paul, in an attempt to help the Galatians to understand the covenants, is likening the Old Covenant to being born to a "bondmaid" (a female slave or servant) while the New Covenant is compared to being born of a "freewoman" (someone who is a citizen; unrestrained; not a slave; exempt from liability; at liberty). The carnal mind, as described by Romans 8:7, leaps to the conclusion that the New Covenant gives freedom from the confines of law, while the Old Covenant keeps one in bondage to a set of archaic rules. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The apostle James twice refers to the law as the "law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12). He could do this because when God was giving the Ten Commandments to Israel, He prefaced them with the declaration, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). This—bringing Israel out of bondage—set the context, the foundation, for the giving of the law. Clearly, it is not God's definition of right and wrong that keeps us in bondage; the law was given as a guide to the right way to live. The "bondage" that we are subject to derives from Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:12; II Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9), this world (Exodus 6:5-8; Deuteronomy 5:6), sin (John 8:33-36), and our own human nature—our carnal mind and heart. Our bondage is to sin (John 8:33-34)—not to God's definition of it.

The Old Covenant did not provide a way to overcome these things. Even though the Old Covenant included God's royal law of liberty, it had no provision for ever truly escaping the clutches of sin. God's law, which is also a part of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34), merely defines what sin is, so that one may avoid it (Romans 3:20; 4:14-15; 5:13; 7:7, 12, 14). It neither enslaves, nor frees. The Old Covenant—the agreement, rather than the law that was its core—provided no means for overcoming the evil heart of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12, 19; 8:7-8), and so Paul compares it to a bondwoman. In verse 24 he says that it "engenders"—gives birth to—bondage. He does not mean that the agreement between God and Israel was bondage, nor that God's definition of right and wrong keeps people in slavery, but rather that the temporary covenant made no provision for true spiritual freedom. It "gave birth to" bondage because, without addressing the incurable sickness of the heart, the only possible outcome was human degeneration back into the bondage from which they had been freed.

The New Covenant addresses these problems:

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them [the weakness was with the people, not the agreement or the law], He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when 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 when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Hebrews 8:7-12; see Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The New Covenant allows God's way of life (law) to be internalized (put into the mind and heart). It allows for a personal relationship with God, rather than going through an intermediary. It allows for complete forgiveness of sins through repentance and accepting the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

In another place, God promises,

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

Through the justification and forgiveness of sins available under the New Covenant, it is possible for the heart to be changed, and for human nature, which drives us to sin, to be overcome. Thus, true spiritual freedom is offered under the New Covenant, while absent under the Old.

David C. Grabbe


 

Colossians 2:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In their struggle to find a New Testament scripture that supports their misconception that God's law is "done away," antinomians point to Colossians 2:14 to "prove" that Christ nailed the law of God to the cross. Proponents of such a teaching say that the "handwriting of requirements [ordinances, KJV]" refers to the law "that was against us." They further claim that Christ "took it out of the way" or abolished the law.

The phrase "handwriting of requirements" is translated from the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin. Cheirographon means anything written by hand, but can more specifically apply to a legal document, bond, or note of debt. Dogmasin refers to decrees, laws, or ordinances, and in this context means a body of beliefs or practices that have become the guidelines governing a person's conduct or way of life.

What Paul is saying is that, by His death, Christ has justified us—brought us into alignment with His Law—and wiped out the note of guilt or debt that we owed as a result of our sins. Before repentance, our lives had been governed by the standards and values of this present, evil world—the "decrees, laws and ordinances" of the society in which we lived. After repentance and acceptance of Christ, we embark on a new way of life and live by God's standards and values. Consequently, God wipes out the debt we acquired as a result of our sins and imputes righteousness to us.

Also notice that the phrase "handwriting of requirements" restates the phrase immediately before it. "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us" parallels "having forgiven you all trespasses." Thus, Paul could not be referring to the law itself but rather to the record of our transgression of that law—sin!

The last sentence in verse 14 reads: "And He has taken it out of the way..." In this sentence, the word "it" is a singular pronoun and refers back to the singular word "handwriting." "Requirements" could not be its antecedent because "requirements" is plural. So, some kind of handwriting—a note, a record, or a citation—was affixed to the cross.

Historically, only two objects were nailed to the stake of crucifixion: 1) the condemned person and 2) an inscription naming the crimes for which he was being punished. Thus, when Jesus was crucified, only His body and Pilate's inscription ("This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews"; see Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19) were nailed to the cross. Normally, the inscription would be more accusative, saying something like, "This is Jesus of Nazareth, who rebelled against Caesar." Pilate's complimentary inscription replaced the customary note or record of guilt—the "handwriting of requirements" that would have been found nailed to the crosses of the two malefactors crucified with Him.

Just before He died, when the Father forsook Him (Matthew 27:46), our sins were symbolically nailed to the cross in His body. "Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed" (I Peter 2:24). At the time of His crucifixion, Jesus Christ became sin for us. "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21). Our note of debt that we owed God as a result of our sins is what was "taken out of the way" and "nailed . . . to the cross."

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Was God's Law Nailed to the Cross?


 

2 Timothy 2:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle takes this metaphor from athletics. He advises Timothy that, if he is striving to win in his ministry, he will not be crowned unless he disciplines himself to follow the rules.

In games (whether it is a card game, croquet out in the backyard, basketball, or whatever), one is often confronted with the opportunity to bend or to break the rules. The player must discipline himself, or face the penalties - or even find himself disqualified. If one breaks the rules in football, he receives a 5-yard, 10-yard, or 15-yard penalty. In some games, the rule-breaker just gets thrown right out! The athlete, then, must discipline himself.

Yet, Paul is using this in regard to members of God's church. If we desire to be crowned, we will have to strive within the rules. We will have to discipline ourselves. In Timothy's case, the rules are scattered throughout Paul's epistle to him. In terms of the Sabbath and the annual feast days, they are the only days in the entire Bible that God designates as "holy." They are part of "the rules."

God never gives His approval to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but only the seventh day, the Sabbath. He never gives His approval to Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and all of the other manmade holidays, but only the ones He points out to us in Leviticus 23. If we are going to strive for the mastery within the rules, they are what we will have to live with and use in the proper way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 22)


 

Hebrews 5:12-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"First principles" are fundamental, rudimentary, elementary things. There are things with which we begin, but we have to get off the dime, as it were. Something must be done in order to increase, because if we remain at the starting point, we prove to be not very usable. How much good to human society is a baby? Even so, a newborn Christian is not a great deal of use to. This situation is remedied by growth.

From unskilled to skilled, from oblivious and uncomprehending to discerning—a process happens? It is an integral part of the way of God. It is how He writes His laws into our hearts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 19)


 

Hebrews 7:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since God names individuals what they are, that, then is what this man is: "King of Righteousness."

Think of it! King of Righteousness.

Jesus Himself said: "There is none good but one, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17). Human self-righteousness is, before God, as filthy rags. None can be righteous but God—or one made righteous by God's power—Christ in a person! And certainly none but One of the God Family—the divine Kingdom of God—would be King of Righteousness. Such an expression, applied to any but God, would be blasphemous. Why?

Righteousness is obedience to God's law. Since God made all laws (James 4:12), He is Supreme Ruler or King. He determines what righteousness is. "All thy commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). When speaking of one of the points of that law, Jesus placed Himself superior to it. He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). No man is Lord or King over God's law. Only God could be! All human beings have sinned and broken that law of righteousness (Romans 3:23).

To continue with Hebrews 7. Note, too, that this man was King of peace. "Salem," from which Jerusalem was named, means "peace." And remember, Jesus is called the Prince of peace! No human being could be King of Peace. Men know not the way of peace. Read Romans 3:10 and 17: "There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . And the way of peace have they not known."

Observe further: Melchizedek was "without mother, without father, without descent," or as the Phillips translation renders it: "He had no father or mother and no family tree." He was not born as human beings are. He was without father and mother. This does not mean that Melchizedek's records of birth were lost. Without such records human priests could not serve (Ezra 2:62). But here Melchizedek had no genealogy. He must not have been an ordinary mortal. He had no descent or pedigree from another, but was self-existent. Notice Paul's own inspired interpretation of this fact: "Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" (Hebrews 7:3). Therefore He has always existed from eternity! He was not even created, like angels. But He is now eternally self-existing. And that is true only of GOD deity, not humanity!

Yet Melchizedek cannot be God the Father. He was the "priest of that Most High God." Scripture says no man has ever seen the Father (John 1:18, 5:37), but Abraham saw Melchizedek. He cannot be God the Father, but rather, "made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3).

And there it is! In the days of Abraham, He was not the Son of God, for He had not yet been born of the virgin Mary but He was made like unto the Son of God in His manifestation to the ancients.

Notice again: Melchizedek, this scripture reveals, abides that is, remains permanently, continually, a priest. God the Father is not the Priest of God, but Christ the Son is! Yet, in the days when the Apostle Paul lived and wrote, shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven as High Priest, the scripture states that even then Melchizedek "abideth"—which means does now abide—"a priest continually." The Moffatt translation states it: "continues to be priest permanently" even while Jesus Christ is High Priest!

And notice that the order of Christ's Priesthood is named after Melchizedek. It is the High Priest's name that is placed upon an order just as Aaron's name was upon the Aaronic priesthood. Thus Melchizedek was then High Priest, in Paul's day, and even now, and He will rule forever! And at the same time Christ was, is today, and shall be forever High Priest!

Are there two High Priests? No! Impossible! The conclusion is inescapable. Contrary to many cherished man-thought-out ideas, Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same! Some people have stumbled on the statement that Melchizedek has no "end of life." They contend that since Christ died, He had an end of life! If that be true then Christ is still dead! But Christ is not dead. He is alive. It was not possible for Christ to be held by death (Acts 2:24). Melchizedek would never have fulfilled His office of High Priest if He had not died for the sins of the people and risen again. It is the function of the High Priest to lead the way to salvation.

Indeed, Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 5:9; 12:2). He is "called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5:10).

And no wonder. Melchizedek and Christ are one and the same Person!

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!


 

James 1:22-27   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Only by careful study of God's Word, the ultimate standard of thought, speech, and conduct, can we know what is right and wrong. We must follow our study with honest and truthful comparison of those words with our own lives. If we read the words of God and walk away, forgetting what we saw, we deceive ourselves. None of us compares favorably with what we read in Scripture, so we must make changes. James says our religion—our practice of God's way of life—is vain if we omit either the positive instructions (visiting widows and orphans) or the negative ones (removing the spots from our character).

Staff
Overcoming (Part 1): Self-Deception


 

James 1:25   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What is the law of liberty? Specifically, it is the Ten Commandments, but we can consider it broadly as the law of God. Israel had the benefit of the law of liberty, though they did not use it rightly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 23)


 

James 3:13-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One way to begin taming our tongues is to speak in meekness. Meekness is not weakness. It is knowing at all times where we stand with God, fully realizing who He is and the nature of His power in contrast to ourselves, His creation. Joshua cried out in confidence for the army of Israel to go forward; His confidence was not in himself or his leadership but totally in his awareness of God's purpose in his life, God's law to live by, and God's sovereignty over him. He was, after all, clay in the Potter's hands. If we keep this in mind, we will never have cause to feel better, more righteous, more successful, or more honorable than another.

Meekness is the ability to esteem others better than ourselves and to allow God to use us as He wills. II Timothy 2:20 shows us that God will honor whom He will. To seek honor for ourselves or to feel worthy of honor is a dead end, and it will taint how we communicate to others. We will naturally look down on them, disrespect them, overlook them, and criticize them.

Test: If we have experienced dishonor, perhaps we need to look closely to see where we have dishonored others. We all stand guilty as charged.

Staff
Are You Sharp-Tongued? (Part Two)


 

2 Peter 2:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is unbending in regard to His law. Peter shows this by illustrating that it does not matter who sins or when he sins. Before God ever created man, angels broke the law of God. God, being just and holy, could do only one thing. Because He cannot permit sin to abide in His Kingdom, He had to follow through with the punishment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

1 John 3:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this seemingly straightforward verse, God defines sin (hamartia) as anomia, rendered "lawlessness" (NKJV, RSV, NIV, REB, NAS) or "the transgression of the law" (KJV). Other translations use the words "evil" (Peshitta), "a breaking of God's law" (Phillips) and "iniquity" (Diaglott). The Greek word anomia literally means "being without law." To get a sense of what John writes, we can express it as, "Whoever does hamartian also does anomian, and hamartia is anomia."

The King James and Phillips versions imply that sin is strictly the breaking of God's law, whereas the other translations consider it more generally. However we may understand it, John certainly implies God's involvement as both Lawgiver and Judge. God will judge each person according to the standards expressed in His law.

In I John 3:4, John argues against the Gnostic idea that the things done in the body are inconsequential because only the spirit counts. Gnostics following this school of thought often fell into licentiousness. Some in John's area of ministry seem to have believed that they could not sin in their flesh. Since their flesh, matter, was ultimately evil anyway, it could not be redeemed and was worthless. Thus, they concluded, anything done in the flesh had no bearing on one's salvation.

They played a semantic game with the words hamartia (sin) and anomia (lawlessness). They considered hamartia to identify the transgressions of moral law, particularly sins of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, gluttony, drunkenness, and stealing. Anomia, however, categorized sins of the spirit, like rebellion, pride, vanity, and greed—the sins that Satan committed. They believed God, the eternal Spirit, would look the other way if one committed hamartia, but committing anomia put one under judgment.

They also made no connection between them; they did not recognize that one could affect the other. Gnostics would not admit that sins of the flesh had their origins in the mind (James 1:14-15) or that such sins could in turn cause their character, their spirit, to degenerate (Jeremiah 7:24). They saw a total and irreconcilable separation between flesh and spirit.

Thus, John tells them hamartia and anomia are the same; they are both sin! It does not matter to God whether the sin is committed in the flesh or in the spirit—to Him it is sin! If God says not to do something, and we do it, it is sin. He has said not to eat pork and shellfish; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to commit sexual immorality; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to hate our brother; if we do, it is sin. He has said to keep the Sabbath; if we do not, it is sin!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 3:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Although many ministers condemn sin vehemently, most do not understand what it is! In I John 3:4, God gives us a clear definition of sin: the attitude and practice of breaking God's laws. These laws, summarized in the Ten Commandments, define what is right and wrong, and the breaking of them constitutes sin.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

1 John 3:4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle John defines sin as the breaking of the law (I John 3:4). Paul states that the effect of sin is death (Romans 6:23). He also shows that both sin and death have been a factor in human existence since the start (Romans 5:12-14). The inescapable conclusion is that God's law, His definition of right and wrong, has been in effect since the very beginning! Because His law was in effect, God has ascribed sin to man from the beginning. Without law, there would have been no sin, and thus no death.

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

1 John 5:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Romans 3 teaches us that law tells us our duty, that is, what we are obliged to do. It defines right and wrong. Combined with this is the wonderful Personality behind it: We find that the keeping these commands—His law—teaches us God's greatest attribute. The law does two things: It shows negative things and positive things. The negative is what sin—wrongdoing—is. The positive is love—the love of God.

His law is a reflection of His character in words. It points the way toward what we are to become. Answer this simple question: Does God call people to salvation and then throw away the road map? It is ridiculous to think such a thing.

The law has a Personality behind it—in terms of love. The law provides the basic outline, and then, when combined with the examples of God's living and acting in both Testaments, it presents a full picture of love. God's actions and Christ's example amplify and make practical what the law says in words.

One has to begin somewhere, and this the law does in providing us with its letter. Then there is its spirit, which is the magnification of the letter, but it does not do away with the law. The law, then, is not only the guideline to what is right and wrong, but the law is also the guideline—in words—to what love is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 17)


 

Revelation 14:11-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The mark of the Beast identifies those who are devoted to the Beast. They have given their lives in worship and obedience to him, and have received his mark. The Beast will be the leader of the new world order now forming. And ironically—tragically—members of God's church are now being led back to that world and away from keeping His commandments.

Our responsibility remains clear, however. God's Word identifies the distinctive difference between those who worship Him and those who worship the Beast. Those who worship God keep His commandments. We must do everything in our power to keep from sinking into the same spiritual vortex that has already swallowed so many. Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good! Keep God's Ten Commandments—all of them!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

Revelation 21:8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's law will still be in effect once His Kingdom is established. Even after the Millennium, when New Jerusalem comes down, no lawbreaker will be allowed in the city. In Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, obedience to God's law is the central issue. This is very clear proof that the law of God, which reflects the holy conduct of the Almighty, will be the standard for all eternity!

Martin G. Collins
The Ten Commandments


 

 




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