Mosaic Law

The Right Way to Think About the Law (Galatians 3:7-14)

This is part of a commentary series through the Book of Galatians. It began with Galatians 3:1-6. This series will progress until the book is finished, then circle back and cover ch. 1-2.

Here, we begin the most difficult portion of Paul’s letter—the relationship of the Mosaic Law to saving faith. Before we begin, I’ll restate some principles from the first article that will help you understand the position this commentary takes. Here they are:

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Bewitched?

About once per month, I’m going to slowly write my way through a short commentary on the Letter to the Galatians. I’ll deliberately skip the usual analysis typical of this genre—no “scholarly” questions, text-critical issues, and minimal formal interaction with opposing viewpoints. I’ve taught through the book four times now, and feel I’m in a position to have something competent to say on the matter. My aim is to write for normal Christians who just want to know what the text means. So, here I stand.

For reasons that aren’t important, I’m publishing this series beginning with Galatians 3:1-6. That is this article. The real fun stuff, of course, comes in Galatians 3:7ff. You’ll have to wait for next time for that!

First things first …

Here are some conclusions of mine, up front, so the reader can know the lay of the land:

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On Splitting Covenants

"Christians are not under 'the law,' nor are they under 'part of the law.' This is no major loss, for we have the Law of Christ as our directive, a law operational on the basis of grace and the indwelling ministry of the Spirit. As far as splitting the New Covenant, the New Covenant is specifically directed to Israel, not the church." - Matt Postiff

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Old Testament Commands Today? A Response to Dr. Fullilove

Detail from Rembrandt's Moses Smashing the Tablets of the Law

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Last week Tim Challies linked to a video by Dr. William Fullilove of Reformed Theological Seminary, called “Do Old Testament commands apply today?” His main points, in summary, are that…

1. theologians have divided the Old Testament laws into moral, ceremonial, and civil law,

2. we are bound by some commands because they are moral principles,

3. we do not follow civil and ceremonial laws, rather we have to recognize that “God had a moral principle that he was applying to a specific society” and then in order to apply those laws to ourselves we have to “stop and ask what is the moral principle that God was applying into that world, and then figure out how do I apply that moral principle into my world today” and 4) figuring out the moral principle for today is a “harrowing and messy process” because “there is nothing in the Bible that marks the law as moral or ceremonial or civil, we just have to figure it out” and by studying the Bible we can understand what “would God have us do with this particular command.”

I would like to suggest today that there is a process for figuring out what God wants us to do in obedience to him that is neither messy nor harrowing—rather it is clear and fully revealed.

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3 Reasons Sunday Is Not the Sabbath

From Philippe de Champaigne's Moses with the Ten Commandments

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Here are three reasons why I teach that Christians are not under the Sabbath law of the Old Testament, and that it is unwise to call Sunday “the Christian Sabbath.”

I am a dispensationalist

The Sabbath restrictions are found in the Old Testament and are part of the law given to Israel as they entered the Promised Land. The fourth commandment makes clear that the Sabbath law applies to anyone in Israel, regardless of their own personal convictions about the legitimacy of the Covenant. In other words, in OT Israel, just because a person didn’t believe in Yahweh, didn’t mean that they could break the Sabbath. It was a basic component of Israelite Law given to the members of the Old Covenant for their time in the Promised Land.

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“By Which a Man May Live”: The Meaning of Leviticus 18:5

Detail from Rembrandt's "Moses with the Ten Commandments"

Leviticus 18:5 stresses the importance of keeping God’s Law during the Mosaic era as the basis for living. Its truths also appear in Ezekiel 20:11, 13, and 21. Paul even alludes to Leviticus 18:5 in Romans 10:5 and Galatians 3:12. The verse reads: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the Lord.”

Not all agree on the meaning of Leviticus 18:5. Sometimes this verse is used to support the idea that eternal life is based on Law-keeping. But there is a more accurate understanding What Leviticus 18:5 is stating is this: As God’s covenant people, Israel is in a relationship with God. Since Israel already belonged to God, Israel (both corporately and individually) is to obey Him by keeping all His commandments. Obeying God’s commandments will result in Israel remaining in and living abundantly in the land of promise associated with the Abrahamic Covenant.

What follows is an attempt to support this position.

Israel Belongs to God

The first seventeen chapters of Leviticus focused on God’s holiness and the significance of offering and sacrifices. God’s presence among His people means His people are to be holy (see Lev. 11:44-45). Leviticus 18:1-5 then functions as a preamble to what follows concerning God’s expectations for His people, Israel. Three times God declared the foundational truth that He is Israel’s God:

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