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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome back to HBS.
We have a lot of material to study this week, so if you’ll please open your Bible at Galatians 3:21 we’ll get right to it.
Why the Law Then?
The Pharisees, a.k.a. believing Christians, deemed this a valid question since they believed the Mosaic Law was the very Word of God given to the nation of Israel by the LORD God at Mt Sinai. This was true in a sense except neither the Mosaic Law nor the Scriptures could justify anyone, meaning they were not a mode of salvation, which is how the religious leaders (the rabbis) presented them to the Israelites (John 5:39).
Paul anticipated this logical question being asked at this point in the argument. He has given them God’s purpose for the Law elsewhere in this letter, but does so again saying the same thing; he just uses different words. The Law was a temporary agreement. The Law was meant to reveal the goodness, the holiness, and the righteousness of the LORD God and His standards for perfect behavior amongst His chosen people, the Israelites. God knew they could not keep this covenant of law; this is why He instituted the sacrificial system. The Tabernacle, the Jewish Temple, the priesthood, the blood sacrifices, this entire religious system all foreshadowed the coming of Christ who was the seed of Abraham. He not only could but would give eternal life to all those would choose to believe the gospel (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
21: Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? The Judaizers would be asking this question in opposition to what Paul had just said. There was no error in the Law for God is the epitome of perfection; however, humans are desperately flawed because of “old Adam” or their sinful nature. An individual can’t view the T.V. news or pick up a newspaper and read it without coming away from that experience realizing the obvious; the world is in turmoil. Does any part of this planet look like Utopia to you? This book says as the end draws near people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy… people will love pleasure rather than God. (Genesis 3:5; 2 Timothy 3). Are we not seeing these characteristics in people all around us? Let’s be honest.
What parent hasn’t realized rebellion begins at an early age? One of the first words a youngster learns and uses often is “No!” You tell them to do something, or not to do something, and their response is a defiant, “No!” You put any boundary in their way and they immediately want to cross it! That’s human nature. I told my grand-son not to run on the wet pool-deck and I explained why the rule stands. I had to remind him five more times within 15 minutes, as he continued to run from end of the pool to the other. Finally, I heard him crying after he slipped and fell on the “wet pool-deck,” scraping some skin off of both of his knees. I went over and picked him up saying, “Now, do you understand why you are not supposed to run around on the wet pool-deck? You can injure yourself or someone else. The rule is there for you own good.”
Paul’s saying the Law was as good as it could be; but it couldn’t keep people from doing what they do best and that’s sin. Always remember this fundamental truth: humans aren’t sinners because we break God’s laws, we break God’s laws because we’re sinners.
In essence, the Mosaic Law was designed to prepare the human heart for the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, i.e. the coming of the seed (their Redeemer), and All nations will be blessed through you,( by faith, in Christ Jesus’) superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one. But showing its fault, God says to them, “Look the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will complete a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…” (Hebrews 8:6-13).
Paul response to this silent question was: May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life – the Law was of God, therefore, it was good, meaning it had the potential to impart life, and/or righteousness before God. Most people don’t consider this but it’s true. However an individual had to keep all 613 laws perfectly 24/7/365 to be accepted by God. There could be no “slip-ups.” If any human accomplished such a feat, God would have welcomed them into heaven. But, as Paul keeps pointing out, no human could and God, the Law giver, was fully aware of this. So, the Law is what it is; it reveals the entire human race as law breakers and condemns them to death: THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE (Romans 3:10). Why, because every human being is corrupted by their sinful nature.
An O.T. Bible verse just came to mind, so please turn to Psalm 14:1. Yes, we use the entire Bible. I’m using the KJV Bible translation and it reads: the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
When you find a word or phrase that’s been italicized in your Bible, this indicates it’s been added by the Bible translators; it wasn’t in the original text. Let’s all read the verse again and we’ll remove the words that were added. I want to show you how it often changes the meaning of the text: the fool hath said in his heart, no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works…
With the italicized words removed the sense of the passage changes. Instead of the fool declaring There is no God; this verse says the fool said “no” to God.” Can you see the difference? The prideful insubordination literally leaps off the page. The rebellious man or woman who does not have a heart for God is not only a fool (idiot, since they’ve ignored or shunned all the practical evidence); they stand defiantly before God, crying, “No!” to all His commandments; therefore, They are corrupt, they have done abominable works… thus they are dead in their transgressions and enemies of God.
Righteousness would indeed have been based on law – no better system could have been designed for achieving righteousness by man’s own effort. But as Paul has shown these false teachers and the Galatians the bottom line is performance. Desiring to obey the Law or trying your best to do what is right doesn’t add up to righteousness. The Law required 100% compliance, 100% of the time; therefore, no one could be justified by the Law.
22: But the Scripture has shut up everyone (both Jew and Gentile) under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
But the Scripture – the Torah or the first five books of the Bible were written by Moses. This was the only Scripture in print at this time. Many Jewish men could recite these writings from memory, but this was certainly true of their religious leaders. Since the Law was given to Israel by the LORD Himself, they believed it was sacred. They concluded it could provide eternal life if one was faithful to it. However, when Jesus, the Messiah, came to His own he revealed the truth to them: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me (in faith) so that you may have (eternal) life” (John 5:39-40).
has (concluded or) shut up everyone under sin – Paul’s saying everyone is under the condemnation of sin, therefore, according to Scripture they are shut up. The Koine word shut up is the Greek work Sugkleio (soong-kli’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #4788, meaning: to shut up completely; to enclose like fishes in a net. This word is only used 4 times in the N.T. The Apostle Luke uses it to describe the condition of the fish caught up in a net (See Luke 5:6) while Paul uses it describe the restriction of movement placed upon the sinner whose under the Law.
In verse 22 Paul uses both of these meanings. He’s saying the sinner is “restricted from freedom of movement” (Romans 11:32). He’s also saying shut up under the Law means to be caught up by the Law in such a manner that no one can escape its wrath (Romans 4:15). Unlike our laws with legal loopholes, i.e. wiggle room, the Mosaic Law was severe. Break one law and you’re done and the sentence is death, per the Creator God.
You and I may not have committed capital murder; but have you ever told a lie? Did you take something from a store without paying for it, or steamed cable T.V. without paying for the service? Have you ever coveted anything? I know you have because you can’t break any one of the Ten Commandments without first coveting something. Therefore, the one and done rule still applies to all.
Looking at this biblically, one who is under sin can only commit sin. This is why it is so foolish to tell someone who is “under sin” to be good or live righteously… That’s impossible. Paul said the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin. He’s saying scripture declares every man and woman, apart from Christ Jesus, to be incapable of doing what is right. They are in the “fishnet” of sin; they are caught up, feeling the pressure of the flesh 24/7/365, or completely dominated by their sinful natures. I’ve actually spoken to people, known people personally, who never think about sin. They weren’t callous, lawless people either; just your average 9 to 5 working class heroes who are caught up in Satan’s world (Matthew 7:13-14).
So that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe – This verse gives us a glimpse into how the Law and the promise work in harmony to fulfill the purpose of God re: salvation for all. The Law puts those who try to live by it under a curse; the promise lifts the curse from those who believe and places it on the sacrificial work of Christ on Calvary (Galatians 3:13).
I point out, as often as I can, this book says scripture interprets scripture: For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist (Romans 4:16-17).
It’s all about trusting in what God has said (promised); this book describes that as faith. God didn’t give His people the Law to make them aware of their disobedience so they would stop disobeying – let’s be real. He gave them the temporary Law to help them understand on their best day they could not stop disobeying His Law. Paul explains this further in the next verse.
23: But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law – in verse 22, Paul’s saying the law was their jailer. The Israelites were held in protective custody under the law, until Christ came. Truthfully, every man, woman, and child, both Jew and Gentile, are condemned as sinners by the law and are kept in its custody. But here’s the thing, God meant for that confinement to be only temporary. The law was just a temporary agreement, remember? God planned to replace it with something better; something lasting (Hebrews 8:1-13).
Our Apostle Paul chooses his words wisely; I take note of this and so should you. The Koine Greek word for kept is Phroureo (froo-reh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #5432, meaning: to guard, protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight. This word is used 4 times in the N.T.
Paul used it in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. He wrote about the time a governor had an entire city surrounded and searched in order to arrest him: In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding (Phroureo) the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me (2 Corinthians 11:32).
Paul used the word in a positive way in Philippians 4:7 to ease the anxiety of Believers: And the peace of God, surpassing all understanding, will guard (Phroureo) your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, if we turn to Him when we’re feeling enslaved by nervousness.
So Paul uses the same word in v22 but in a negative way, as we are told that before the promise came, the law held the nation of Israel as prisoners. It shut them up. The law was their constant attendant, always reminding them of their sin and what’s more it reminded them of their inability to meet its righteous demands.
“But faith came …faith which was later to be revealed.” The prophet Jeremiah wrote: The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD (Lamentations 3:25-26).
Paul’s saying the coming of faith is the same as the coming of Jesus Christ: But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we (by faith) might receive the adoptions as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
I’ll keep saying this until the day God haul’s me outta here, “Faith has always been the means by which people found favor with God.” Hebrews chapter 11 is titled The Triumphs of Faith, for by it men of old gained the LORD God’s approval (Hebrews 11:2). In other words, Since His Son paid the one-time penalty for the sins of all on Calvary, and God considers this a closed topic. Why are people searching for something else; something more than Jesus Christ? Why do they doubt God? This book clearly says God wants you to trust in Him and His promises; this is called faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
Paul is still responding to the silent question, “Why the Law Then.” He returns to the central theme of his argument which is the essential Church Doctrine of Justification saying, the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ – the Koine Greek word for tutor is Paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’), Noun Masculine, Strong’s Greek #3807, meaning: a tutor, a guardian and guide of small boys. In the Greek and Roman culture the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. These boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.
In Paul’s day, the paidagogos controlled, disciplined, and supervised the everyday activities of the boy. He didn’t educate the child his teacher performed that responsibility. To give you some idea of what life was like back then, the historian Josephus tells us of a pedagogue who was found beating the family cook when the child under his supervision overate. The pedagogue himself was corrected with the words: “Man, we did not make you the cook’s pedagogue, did we?” But the child’s; correct him, help him!”
Parenting is as close to the concept of a tutor as we have in our society today. Think about it. When we were children, we needed our parent’s supervision all the time. We needed to be told when to go to bed, when to get up. We needed to be told to go to school, to study, to do our homework, to eat the right foods, to take a bath, to wash our necks, behind our ears… to dress properly, the list is endless… But, when we became adults, (matured) we didn’t need their assistance any longer because we had learned self-control and their guidance and supervision set us on the right path.
In the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, the pedagogue was given the responsibility to supervise and discipline the conduct of children. They controlled their behavior and their morality through consistent discipline. This is Paul’s point. When he said the law was our tutor he meant it had a supervisory, disciplinary role over the nation of Israel until the Messiah (Christ) came. Since the law could not be kept, God meant for the law to demonstrate the need for faith in God’s promises in order to be righteous (justified) before the only Righteous Judge (Habakkuk 2:4).
Paul’s next statement draws a conclusion that ends the argument that anyone ought to live under the supervisory control of the law: But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (v25). I note Paul is still writing here in first-person plural, “we,” referencing the freedom Jewish Believers now experience from the supervision of the law; because they have placed their faith in Christ. If they are no longer under the law’s supervision, then it is foolish for Gentile Believers, in Christ Jesus, to put themselves under the law’s supervision.
Thinking this through, a Believers’ new life in Christ Jesus in not under the supervision of the law; for we are not under the Old Covenant Law, but under the Law of Christ by His Spirit which empowers us to “live for God.” This is best explained by Paul in Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. We are living in the New Covenant age. Jesus Christ is our Lord, and we are to live in a way that honors Him.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized (with the Holy Spirit) into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus – the phrase all are sons of God refers to those who have received Christ through faith (Romans 8:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Paul’s changes the pronoun from “we” to “you” in these verses to show he’s shifting his focus from the Jewish Believers to the Gentile Believers to some extent. The Jewish Believers aren’t excluded entirely in this passage from the group of true Believers because he said, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” He is saying under the Covenant of Law, the Jews were the children of God, and the Gentiles were not. Gentiles were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promises, having no hope and without God in this world (Ephesians 2:12b). The LORD God turned away from the Gentiles after they rejected Him. The Tower of Babel event, only two hundred years after the Noahic Flood, was the beginning of Satan-inspired, world-wide false religions and rebellion against God. But now, the Gentiles, who do not observe the Law, are called the sons of God. How is this possible? Paul said, “…through faith in Christ Jesus” (v26).
For all of you who were baptized (with the Holy Spirit) into (or received) Christ (as your Savior) have clothed yourselves with Christ – our Apostle Paul is not emphasizing baptism as a means to salvation, for that is exactly the argument the Judaizers were using, in addition to the need for circumcision, as a requirement for salvation. The true Believer’s baptism is a sign of the work of the Holy Spirit which Paul mentioned earlier in Galatians 3:2-3, 5, 14 (1 Corinthians 12:13). But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him (Romans 8:9b).
have clothed yourselves with Christ - the true Believer is justified and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit the very instant they believe and this short phrase emphasizes a determined action on their part (Romans 6:4). We all get up out of bed in the morning and dress for the day. If you’re going to work, you “put on” your work clothes. If you have the day off, you have a different outfit for that, I’m sure. Paul’s saying, as true Believers, we’re to “put on” Christ or the family characteristics of our Father in heaven. How is this possible? Jesus showed us the way: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among (drew near to) us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Paul commands us, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and (do what) walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 5:1-20).
Paul may be referring to the Roman rite of passage in verse 27 when a boy traded his childhood toga for his adult toga, thereby becoming a full citizen, similar to the Jewish rite, Bar Mitzvah. This determined action would symbolize their coming of age and becoming a full heir.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female – all these distinctions or barriers which the Judaizers emphasized are now totally removed in Christ Jesus. The Jewish arrogance against Gentiles, slaves, and women has been removed in Christ (Romans 3:22; Colossians 3:11). Paul’s saying there are no barriers to salvation in Christ; everyone is welcome.
God once dwelled in His Tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem, in a place called the Holy of Holies. A veil approximately 60’ high and 4” thick separated this chamber from the rest of the temple. It was a sacred place. The High Priest entered this room once a year on the Day of Atonement to offer a sacrifice for the people’s sins. They tied a rope around his waist just in case he did something to displease the LORD and he was struck dead. They used the rope to drag his corpse out; they were not allowed to enter. When Jesus died, the veil was torn from top to bottom (Acts 17:24; Hebrews 8:13, 9:8-9). The symbolism of the veil being torn is God no longer resides in the Jewish Temple. The way to God is now open, by faith (Hebrews 4:14-16). Through Christ’s death, the faithful now have free access to God and the Believer’s body becomes the “temple” of the Holy Spirit; Christ lives in every true Believer (Romans 8:10-20; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Galatians 2:20). Jesus Christ removed those barriers and distinctions the Judaizers erected between God and man.
for you are all one in Christ Jesus – every human being is born one with old Adam (Romans 5:12), and every human being has the potential of being one in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:18-19). The only barrier or obstruction in each person’s way is faith in the one who makes salvation possible. With this declaration, Jesus makes this quite clear: I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). God wants everyone to know the truth and be saved (1Timothy 2:3-4).
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise – the Pharisees believed they were Abraham’s descendants genetically, but Paul teaches us not all Israel is truly spiritual Israel (Romans 2:28-29, 9:6). True Israel are all those who by faith trust in Christ Jesus. Therefore there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11-16). God’s Prophetic Program concerning Jew only is now on hold waiting for the fullness of the Gentiles to be complete (Romans 11:25). Until the Rapture of God’s one Church takes place, God’s one-time, universal gracious plan for the redemption of all mankind is faith (alone) in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) and repentance. Those who respond accordingly are declared sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18; Titus 3:7)
(To be continued)
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