God’s Comprehensive Law – r

They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are your works, Jehovah God, the Almighty! Righteous and true are your ways, you King of the nations. — Revelation 15:3 — RLIV

(1) JEHOVAH’S wisdom, love and justice decide on what is best, and that decision is His will or law. But, strictly speaking, only so much of God’s will as He expresses to His creatures is law to them. Hence, while His laws never conflict, they may be more or less fully and differently expressed on one occasion than on another. Thus, while the law was given to Adam not to eat of a forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:16,17), we are not under any such law. And to Noah a command was given to build an ark (Genesis 6:14-7:1), we today are not given such a command.

(2) All of God’s intelligent creatures are under instruction, being taught those laws which his infinite love, wisdom and justice have enacted for the well-being of all. Though created perfect, each in his plane of being, yet they all lack that scope of knowledge and wisdom which belongs in full measure to the divine nature only. They all lack experience; hence, in giving them instruction in the wisdom and propriety of his laws, it has pleased Jehovah to make an illustration which would manifest and practically exemplify his own nature and demonstrate to his creatures the wisdom and righteousness of his laws.

(3) It is evident that the spirit of his law is not to take advantage of some transgressive slip, occasioned by lack of experience on the part of his creatures, but that he intends it to apply to the thoughts and intents of the hearts. That this is the real intent of God, we shall see illustrated by his dealings with those who have from lack of knowledge become sinners.

(4) His law in full, as we now see it in the light of his Word, is, “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,38) Jesus stated: “The whole law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.” God had given to Israel a covenant, often called the “Law Covenant”, and the penalty attached to the slightest deviation from that law is, “The soul who sins, he will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) As applied in the final judgment, this principle would mean that no being will be permitted to continue to live, who, when fully informed of God’s righteous will, and enabled to obey it, refuses to conform to Jehovah’s will. All such will be cut off from life. Nevertheless, the same prinicple of law existed before God made his covenant with the children of Israel, for Adam was to either prove or fail to prove his love for his Creator by his obedience or disobedience.

(5) To fully exemplify this law, God caused man to be used as an illustration before this extreme penalty was placed upon the angels. So man was placed under the extreme penalty of his law — death. God knew that through inexperience man would violate that law and come under its penalty; but he purposed to make an illustration to all his creatures of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its sure consequences, while at the same time his love and wisdom so marked out the plan, that mankind, the illustration, might not suffer loss, but be blessed by the lesson as learned. — Romans 7:13; Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 29:18,19; Jeremiah 16:61-63.

(6) Nor should we forget that God’s dealing with man was perfectly just. He had a right to demand perfect obedience from a perfect creature; and the fact that he at first did not inflict death upon the angels was a favor toward them; even as toward man he has displayed his favor also, though in a different manner — through a ransom, and Savior, and restitution, and future trial for life, more favorable than the first, because of the knowledge of sin and its effects, meanwhile acquired by experience. (See our publication: Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment) This was a masterly stroke of wise economy on God’s part; for had the death penalty been pronounced on the angels who sinned, a redeemer of their own kind would have been necessary for their recovery; and not only one, but many — one redeemer for each transgressor; for they were legion and were individually on trial; and the requirement of God’s law is, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.

(7) Let us briefly view the exhibition of God’s character as displayed in his dealing toward mankind whom he made a spectacle to angels. (1 Corinthians 4:9) In so doing, let us guard against the common error which would judge God’s actions exactly as our own. Let us remember that justice, love, wisdom and power, as commonly displayed by the fallen race, in dealing with each other, and by human parents with their children, are far from perfect. In our first parents those qualities were perfect: they were in the image of Jehovah; but in our experience, in consequence of the fall, these qualities are constantly at war with each other. Sometimes love has a victory over justice, and sometimes justice has a victory over love.

(8) But with Jehovah there can be no conflict; and neither ever gains a victory or ascendancy over the other. Both are perfect, and work only in perfect harmony.

(9) Before man was created, the Justice, Wisdom, Love and Power of God held conference on the subject, and devised the plan which has since then been developing. The plan was suggested by Wisdom and concurred in by the other attributes; the arrangement and execution of it being left in Wisdom’s hands.

(10) Wisdom designed to have the largest returns from the experience of man, and the most valuable illustration of God’s character to all his creatures, on every plane of being. Accordingly Wisdom said, Let the man come under the control of Justice, Love and Power, separately, that the force and operation of each may be the more forcibly illustrated. Let Justice first have complete control, let men be dealt with by the strict law, “You must not” –. “In the day that you eat…dying you will die.” And it was so.

(11) Man, inexperienced and unused to self-control and liberty, violated the law, and experienced the full weight of Justice, as Wisdom had foreseen and prepared for.

(12) The lesson under Justice has been long and severe, but the lesson must be thorough, so that it shall never need repeating. Men and angels must learn that Justice is relentless, irrevocable and unalterable. Then, too, before it could be realized that the remedy for man lay only in Jehovah and nowhere else, an opportunity was offered for the trial of other methods for man’s recovery. First, the angels were given rulership (during the age before the flood), and made a miserable failure; for, while man became more and more corrupt himself, his evil influence led to the fall of some of those who attempted his assistance — “those angels who did not keep their first estate.” — Jude 6

(13) With the deluge that order of affairs passed away. Then, under the Law Covenant, given to one selected nation, another and different opportunity was presented, to prove to man that even if God should cancel all enmity, or resentment, and receive the world into covenant relations, they would require a Restorer, so that they could continue in harmony with God, even after being forgiven. Hence sacrifices and offerings for sin were instituted, and God treated that nation as though original sin and guilt had been removed, and then placed them under laws to prove to them, to us and to all, their inability (as degenerate creatures) to keep his law without a restitution to perfection — to his likeness. — See How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh.

(14) Meanwhile Love stood ready to manifest itself at the moment Wisdom should give the word. Love would have done so at once, but for two reasons: First, it could not oppose or interfere with the action of Justice in condemning man and delivering him over for the execution of the prescribed penalty. Second: though Love might have acknowledged Justice and approved its action by promptly providing a ransom (an equivalent price), Wisdom objected and did not permit this course at that time, because it saw best to make the lesson complete and thorough.

(15) Hence for over four thousand years Love was not permitted to manifest itself, and might only speak in shadowy sacrifices and ceremonies, and more or less obscure promises. But, finally, when the right time had come, “in due time,” “in the fulness of time,” Wisdom gave the word, and Love began to manifest itself for man’s relief. The first act was to produce a perfect and sinless man to be a suitable “ransom for all:” one not under the Adamic curse — who would lay down his life for the race, and whose sacrifice would meet all the requirements of Justice, and therefore be acceptable as a ransom and propitiation for man’s sins. And Love’s great exhibition was seen in the gift of the grandest and greatest and first of all God’s creation, who stooped and became man, to redeem men: and “they called his name Jesus.”

(16) “Ah!” says one who judges by his own feelings, “Now comes Love’s victory over Justice. We shall see that God is more loving than severe.” But not so; God is not more loving than severely just: he is perfect in both respects. It will be indeed a victory for Love, but not over Justice. It will be much grander than that. It will prove a victory for both Justice and Love; for it will be gained by Love’s paying the price demanded by Justice–a ransom, “an equivalent price.” — 1 Timothy 2:4-6.

(17) Thus did love of God magnify the justice and law of God, and ‘make it honorable,’ by acknowledging its claims in the payment of the very penalty demanded — man’s death.

(18) We need scarcely say, that the love of God so long veiled from sight, was manifested in the gift of his Son to be our Redeemer and Savior. The record is: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [satisfaction or appeasement] for our sins.” “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” — 1 John 4:9,10

(19) When Love had ransomed man, and was ready to reveal itself by restoring the willing and obedient of mankind to perfection and harmony with God, Wisdom postponed this on the ground that a further development of the plan would ultimately enhance Love’s glory, and perfect the work: that an interlude (the Gospel age) must occur in which should be selected some from among the redeemed, some sharers in Christ’s sufferings and reproach, who should be counted worthy to share his glory and to be his associates in the execution of Love’s triumph in “the restitution of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets.” — Acts 3:21.

(20) Long and faithfully has Love labored; yet all her labor will yet be lost, unless in due time Wisdom shall commission Power to do its special part in the great plan.

(21) Power thus far has stood in the background, doing nothing directly in man’s relief, save in the resurrection of our Lord, and in the miracles which shadowed forth its coming work.

(22) Now, we are living in the era when Power begins to act, not in opposition to Justice, but in harmony with Wisdom, Justice and Love. Oh, blessed day! The Lamb that was slain and who redeemed us by his blood is now invested with Power to bless all whom he bought; and he is now about taking unto himself his great power, and shall reign until he has subdued all enemies. — Revelation 20:6; 1 Corinthians 15:25.

(23) Thus, God has chosen the plan which most fully and grandly exemplifies his unalterable justice, and exhibits the exceeding riches of his grace — his love; and in the restoration of man (“all who come to the Father by him”) from destruction, from death, to perfection and life, will God’s power be illustrated far more forcibly than even in man’s creation. And as men and angels come to recognize the full fruition of God’s plan in the ages to come, will they not with one consent exclaim with our brother and Apostle Paul, as he caught a glimpse of it: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who has known the mind [plan] of Jehovah? or who has been his counselor? … Because out of him, and through him, and for him are all [these] things. To him be the glory for ever.” — Romans 11:33-36.

— Based on article from Reprints page 1680 (R1680)
Updated 9/26/2010; 3/17/2014

Acts 21:21-26 – The Early Christians and the Law

We are presenting the following excerpts from studies of others; we do not necessarily agree with all details as presented, but believe these to be beneficial to our readers. Names of Bible books have been expanded to aid in searches.

The first is an excerpt from Study V of Studies in the Scriptures, Volume 6, pages 227-229:.

The account of Paul’s course, recorded in Acts 21:20-26, is reflected upon as being contrary to his own teachings of the truth. It is claimed that it was because of wrong doing in this instance that Paul was permitted to suffer so much as a prisoner and was finally sent to Rome. But such a view is not borne out by Scripture-stated facts. The record shows that throughout this entire experience Paul had the sympathy and approval of all the other apostles, and, above all, the Lord’s continued favor. His course was at the instance of the other apostles. It was testified to him by prophecy, before he went to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14), that bonds and imprisonment awaited him; and it was in obedience to his convictions of duty that he braved all those predicted adversities. And when in the very midst of his trouble, we read, “The Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome'”; and later we find the Lord again showing him favor, as we read, “There stood by me the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.” (Acts 23:11; 27:23,24.) In view of these facts, we must seek an understanding of Paul’s course in correspondence with his uniformly bold and noble course–esteeming very highly the work and testimony which God not only did not reprove, but on the contrary approved.

Coming then to the examination of Acts 21:21-27, we notice (verse 21) that Paul had not taught that Jewish converts should not circumcise their children; nor did he repudiate the Mosaic law — rather, he honored it, by pointing out the greater and grander realities which Moses’ law so forcibly typified. So far, therefore, from repudiating Moses, he honored Moses and the Law, saying, The law is just and holy and good, and that by it the knowledge of the heinousness of sin had been increased; that the Law was so grand that no imperfect man could obey it fully, and that Christ, by keeping it, had won its rewards, and now under a New Covenant was offering everlasting life and blessings to those unable to keep it, who, by faith, accepted as the covering of their imperfections, his perfect obedience and sacrifice.

Certain ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation were typical of spiritual truths belonging to the Gospel age, such as the fasts, the celebration of new moons and Sabbath days and feasts. The apostle clearly shows that the Gospel of the New Covenant neither enjoins nor forbids these (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism being the only injunctions of a symbolic character commanded us, and they, new ones). — Colossians 2:16,17; Luke 22:19; Matthew 28:19.

One of these Jewish symbolic rites was that observed by Paul and the four Jews, which we are now examining, termed “purifying.” Being Jews, they had a right, if they chose, not only to consecrate themselves to God, in Christ, but also to perform the symbol of this purification. And this is what they did — the men who were with Paul having made, additionally, a vow to humiliate themselves, before the Lord and the people, by having their heads shaven. These symbolic ceremonies cost something; and the charges presumably made up the “offering” of money — so much for each, to defray the expenses of the Temple.

Paul never taught the Jews that they were free from the Law, — but, on the contrary, that the Law had dominion over each of them so long as he lived. He showed, however, that if a Jew accepted Christ, and became “dead with him,” it settled the claims of the Law Covenant upon such, and made them God’s freemen in Christ. (Romans 7:1-4) But he did teach the Gentile converts that they had never been under the Jewish Law Covenant, and that for them to attempt the practice of Jewish Law ceremonies and rites would imply that they were trusting in those symbols for their salvation, and not relying wholly upon the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. And to this all of the apostles assented. — See Acts 21:25; 15:20,23-29.

The following is from Frank Shallieu’s commentary on The Acts of the Apostles, pages 147, 148.

“Many thousands of Jews … which believe … are all zealous of the law”; that is, although many thousands of Jews became Christians, they continued to follow the Law faithfully. It was difficult for some to discard their old beliefs. For this reason, some of the brethren advised Paul to minimize any confrontations with the Jews by shaving his head under the Nazarite vow and going to the Temple with four others who had also taken Nazarite vows and shaved their heads. Many Jewish Christians urged Christians to obey the Law as well as the precepts of Christ.

With the Galatians, Paul had tried to show that the Jew was no longer obligated to follow the ceremonial features of the Law but that voluntary compliance was permissible under certain circumstances. Making the Law mandatory was the wrong principle. For example, Paul refused to have Titus circumcised but did have Timothy circumcised (Galatians 2:3-5; Acts 16:1-3). To the Jews, Paul was a Jew, and to the Gentiles, he was a Gentile in order to win converts (1 Corinthians 9:20,21). In other words, to comply with a feature of the Law under peer pressure would be compromising principle, but to voluntarily, in advance, follow a custom of the Jews was a different matter. If a Jewish Christian wanted to take a Nazarite vow or to tear his clothes and put ashes on his head in connection with mourning, he could do so. Here in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, the brethren thought Paul would be better received and heard by both Jews and Jewish Christians if he did not appear too radical.

Contrary to comments from three Reprint articles in the Expanded Biblical Comments, Paul properly followed the advice of the brethren. Although his actions boomeranged, as we shall subsequently see, he was correct to take the Nazarite vow and go with the other four. On multiple occasions, Paul demonstrated his courage, so he was not peer-pressured in taking the vow. He was simply listening to advice from the brethren, and he had been solicitous of going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, evidently intending to take a vow anyway.

When the brethren realized his intention, they suggested he go to the Temple with four others. That way people would see him and conclude he was not that radical, for sometimes people exaggerate what they seem to think is a fault in others. From a sanctified common-sense standpoint, Paul’s following the advice of the brethren might have brought positive results, but as the Lord had foreseen, trouble would ensue and Paul had been told earlier what awaited him in Jerusalem. His reply was, “I am ready to be bound in Jerusalem and to die for Christ” (Acts 21:13 paraphrase).

And in regard to wisdom, Paul had more wisdom than any of the other brethren. Therefore, he acted within his rights. On another occasion, Paul said that he could eat meat offered to idols but that doing so might stumble others. Offering meat to an idol did not affect the meat, for the idol was like a nonexistent entity. However, he was very careful in regard to the consciences of others. While he felt free to do certain things, he refrained when doing so would offend a brother. Paul was considerate of the feelings of others, and now, in this situation in Jerusalem, he was considerate of the brethren who were giving him advice.

Comment: Paul was told that persecution awaited him, so he may have followed this advice for an even higher motive, which was to show the brethren that whatever Providence determined would happen and nothing man could do would change the situation. Then his actions in following the advice would be even more to his credit.

Comment: It was difficult for some to make the transition from the Law to liberty in Christ, and Paul was trying to help them.

Regarding eating things sacrificed to idols, see our study:
For the Sake of the Other’s Conscience

Some other studies related this this:

The Jewish Influence in the Early Church Meetings

A Question of Motive

The Passing Away of the Law -r

A Brief Scriptural Summary:

Only the people of Israel came to be under the Law. — Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 4:4; 7:6; 26:18; Psalm 147:19; Isaiah 63:19; Amos 3:2; Romans 3:1,2.

All the other nations were not given that Law Covenant. — Exodus 12:43,45; Deuteronomy 14:21; Romans 2:12,14.

The Law becomes inactive for any Jew who becomes dead to the Law through acceptance of Jesus.  — Luke 16:14-31; Romans 7:1-6; 1 Corinthians 7:39.

It does not automatically pass away for the Jew, but such passes away for each Jewish believer. — 2 Corinthians 3:14.

And even then, it is the typical Law Covenant that passes away (Colossians 2:16,17; Hebrews 7:11-28; 8:4,5,13; 10:1), not the reality of God’s eternal Law of love which is expressed within the Law Covenant. — Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

Divine Law – Part 1

For the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. — John 1:17, World English

We should not think that the above words mean that there was no divine law governing heaven and earth previous to the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai through Moses; such would be as unreasonable as to suppose that neither grace nor truth were known throughout the universe until our Lord’s first advent.

On the contrary, we may say that, as surely as it is true that God himself had no beginning, so we can reasonably assume that truth had no beginning and that law itself had no beginning; for God’s righteous will has always been the law incumbent upon all his creation. There was a beginning to falsehood, and Satan is credited with being “the father of lies” (John 8:44); but since God is the Father of truth, we have reason to conclude it had no beginning even as he was never untrue. There was, however, a beginning to lawlessness or sin, and Satan is credited with being the first transgressor; but, since God’s will or law is the standard of righteousness, it follows that it, like him, has been from eternity past and will extend to eternity future.

We have no direct scripture that conclusively proves that God’s government has always existed; the nearest statement in the Bible we have found is that of Psalm 93:2; the World English reads: “Your throne is established from long ago. You are from everlasting.” While this does not literally state that God’s throne has been established from eternity past, it would seem to indicate that this is so by following up with the thought of God’s own eternal past existence. Since the government of God is universal and if assumed to be without beginning or end, it would follow that there never was a time or a place without law. On the other hand, since there was a time when there was no creation at all, then there would have been no created subjects for God’s law to be active upon. Thus, another assumption could be that God’s throne was established upon the first creative act of God. Nevertheless,  even with this assumption, His Law,  in principle, would have existed even without any creation, and  therefore before the act of establishing his throne to enforce that Law.

Notwithstanding, God’s law was made known at Mt. Sinai, through Moses, in a different manner than it had previously been made known. Angels were created before mankind, and the scriptures relate that man was created “a little lower than the angels.” (Psalm 8:5,6; Hebrews 2:7) As man was created in the moral image of the Creator and the firstborn creature (Genesis 1:26; Colossians 1:15), and as the angels were created higher than man, we can reasonably assume that the angels were also created in God’s moral image. Thus, God had given them such intelligence on even a higher degree than man so that they could distinguish right from wrong. Their minds were so properly balanced that right always appeared as right, and wrong never could be mistaken for right. This capability of discernment, on the part of the creature, is said to be God’s “image,” which, when possessed, obviates the necessity of any written law. Adam, the first of the human race, was also created in God’s moral image, and had this law of God written in the construction of his being, or, as it is sometimes said, written upon his heart, of which mankind now falls short (Romans 3:23), but to which mankind is to be restored. — Jeremiah 31:33; Acts 3:23; Romans 2:15; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

The Law Covenant given through Moses, however, was a restricted set of laws and ordinances given to a restricted people (the children of Israel — Deuteronomy 4:44), much of which pertained to a certain land of area of the earth, designed for men who were falling short of the full glory of due to sin. (Romans 3:23) This Law Covenant was not made with anyone before it was given through Moses. (Deuteronomy 5:3) As a sign to the children of Israel as respecting His covenant with them, God gave the children of Israel the seventh-day sabbath and seven-day festivals to keep. (Exodus 13:5,6,7,8,9,10; 31:13,14,15,16,17,18) Although the Law proved that man could not make himself straight, justify himself (Ecclesiastes 1:15;  7:13;  Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; 3:11), the offer made under that covenant was that if one under the covenant arrangement could have obeyed that Law, he would be restored to life as Adam had it before Adam sinned. (Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:5) Thus, had any man perfectly obeyed that Law, then, as Paul wrote, “if there had been a law given which could make alive, most assuredly righteousness would have been of the law.” (Galatians 3:21) The reason that the Law Covenant could make no man alive was because of man’s crooked condition, from which he could not make himself straight — justified. Nevertheless, that Law covenant was for unrighteous (crooked) man, it was not for a righteous (straight) man. — 1 Timothy 1:9.

The law given by Moses would have been entirely out of place in heaven, or in Eden before sin entered. With the law of God (briefly comprehended in one word, love — to God and all his creatures in fellowship with him — Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 13:10) written in their very beings, how strange it would have seemed to the angels if God had set up in heaven the Mosaic law tables or copies of them. Of what service could such a statement of the law of God be to such beings, who already had a much higher conception of it? And such a presentation to Adam in Eden before his fall would have been similarly useless; and it was not done.

But why was the Law given by Moses? Why about 2500 years after the fall of Adam into sin and death? Why at Mt. Sinai? Why to the nation of Israel, and not to all nations or any other nation? Why was it written upon stones? Why that departure from the previous method of expressing it?

The mere reading of these questions, and a reflection upon the facts upon which they rest, should relieve the mind of many inconsistencies and prepare it for the answer to them all.

The first man Adam was given one simple command that would demonstrate his obedience to law of God, that which was written in his being; his disobedience to the command was, in effect, a violation of the law that had been written in his being. The result was that he came under the condemnation for such disobedience, that is, death. However, along with this death sentence, in order that the matter of may demonstrated as to what it would mean to live without harmony with divine law, God subjected the whole creation of mankind to vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2,14; Romans 8:20), and God turned man’s mind over to reprobate condition. (Romans 1:28) Man was no longer straight and just; God made man crooked and in bondage to corruption, but with the hope that man would be freed from that bondage. (Genesis 3:15; Romans 8:21) Due to Adam’s disobedience, the original law written in his heart became marred, so that his mental and moral processes were no longer on the incorrupt level, but were operating on a corrupted level, for corruption came into the world through lust, a desire out of harmony with God’s eternal law, that that desire led to disobedience. (2 Peter 1:4; James 1:15; Romans 5:12-19) Thus began the effacement from his heart of that power of discerning or intuitively knowing right from wrong. The fallen conditions favored the cultivation of selfishness, and exalted selfishness to be the rule of life, instead of love, as in God’s original creation.

The more selfishness came in and gained control, the more the original law of love was erased from man’s heart. And the fall continued naturally from parent to child as years rolled on, until, in Moses’ day, it is safe to say that, with the majority of the race, the original law was almost gone. A general picture of the whole human race, both Jew and Gentile, is given by the Apostle with an account of just what led to such a dreadful condition. –See Romans 1:21-2:1; 5:12-19.

When the first man sinned, however, God immediately gave a covenant of promise as recorded in Genesis 3:15, which in symbolic language foretold that there would an undoing of the condemnation upon man. Later, due to Abraham’s faith, God gave another covenant of promise to Abraham, that through his seed all families, all nations, of the earth would be blessed.  (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14) It was because of the faith of Abraham, that God made the promise that Abraham’s descendants would receive the land of Canaan, and thus the Law Covenant. (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:7; 17:8; Deuteronomy 9:5) But, as though to insure men that the Hebrews were not naturally superior to other men, God permitted them to go for centuries into slavery to the Egyptians (Numbers 20:15; Deuteronomy 6:21; 16:12; 24:18), then to be his chosen nation out of all the nations of the earth. — Exodus 19:5,6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15; 26:18; 32:9; Amos 3:2.

From this we conclude that the Law given at Sinai was given because the original law, expressed in Adam’s nature twenty-five centuries previous, had become almost extinct and unintelligible. It was given to a chosen people, at the hands of a specially chosen leader. It could not have been re-written upon their hearts, because that would have implied the restoration of that nation to Edenic perfection; and that was impossible because the condemnation  under which that perfection was lost was death, and that condemnation and the subjection to vanity still rested upon Israel and upon all men, and would continue until a ransom could be found, for Adam, — and hence for all who lost life in him.

The best way to express the law of love to those who do not possess the spirit of love, or mental likeness of God, is as God indicated it in the ten commandments written in stone, — Thou shalt, and Thou shalt not. This brings us to the question, Why did God give the law on tables of stone? Why did he not wait until the due time to send his Son to be our ransom-price, and then, after he had redeemed or purchased all from the sentence of death, begin the work of “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) –t he re-writing of the original law in the human heart?

The Apostle answers this important question. He tells us that when God told Abraham that he would bless all nations through his seed, he referred not to all of his offspring, but to Christ Jesus, who, according to the flesh, would be born of Abraham’s descendants; and that with Jesus he would select others who would be brought into the covenant through Jesus, all of whom would constitute the seed of Abraham, one seed made up of many members, but all of one spirit with him. This seed, once perfected, will share with Jesus in the work of blessing all the families of earth. (Galatians 3:16,29; 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:17,18) Paul tells that the righteous seed, Jesus, had to first come and provide the redemptive price, before the selection of the remainder seed of faith, because they would need to have the merit of redemption applied to them in order for them to join Jesus as members of the seed of Abraham by faith. But as a long interval lay between the promise to Abraham and the “due time” for God to send his Son to redeem men, God purposed a work with Abraham’s natural children, which would fill the interim between then and the coming of Christ Jesus, the real “seed of Abraham” according to the divine intention.

This law covenant which Yahweh proposed with Israel, Abraham’s natural children, would do them great good, even though they might thereby pass through some very severe experiences; it would not only keep them from sinking lower into degradation and losing the image of God as completely as some other nations; but in a few cases it might even make the original law more discernible. And not only so, but this Law given to Israel would be to some extent a standard before the world; and thus Abraham’s natural seed might lift up a standard to the people and to a slight extent bless all nations, by calling a halt in the downward course and by reviving in all to some degree the dying influence of the original law of conscience. Nevertheless, the Law was given to a sinful people, under the bondage of corruption, made crooked, etc., and thus most of the Law Covenant reflects this. Furthermore, much of the Law Covenant could only apply to this people in the land promised to them, since many of the commandments of the Law Covenant pertain only to that land.

Of this law covenant the Apostle declares, The Law “was added [to the Abrahamic covenant of promise] because of transgressions [because sin was spreading and men were degrading very rapidly], till the [promised] Seed should come [until Christ came (not only Christ Jesus, the Head, but also the Church his body) to do the real work, the time for which had come] to whom the [Abrahamic Covenant] promise was made.” “For the Law made nothing perfect:” and, moreover, “the Law which was [given] 430 years after [the Covenant made with Abraham] cannot disannul [or in any manner change the terms and conditions of that covenant], that it should make the promise of none effect.” — Galatians 3:19,17; Hebrews 7:19.

But this covenant which God made with Israel was something more than they could fulfill. Although the Law Covenant contained some promises for obedience to particular laws, and it also held the promise of life for those who obey all the laws of the covenant, it is not among the “covenants of promise” that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:2. In Galatians 3 & 4, Paul separates the Abrahamic covenant of promise from the Law Covenant. Paul states: “If the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:18) Additionally, he stated: “For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13) And we should also note that the promise to Abraham is built upon the earlier promise of the seed of woman. (Genesis 3:15) Thus, there are at least two covenants of promise.

The Law Covenant given to Israel was fruitless as far as the promise of life, because the Law was weak for such purposes due the sinful flesh of mankind. (Romans 8:3) Thus, Paul wrote: “if there had been a law given which could make alive, most assuredly righteousness would have been of the law.” Therefore, it fails as being a covenant of promise as spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 2:2. The Law Covenant itself produced no living sons of God, for no one is justified by that covenant, thus it fails as a covenant of promise, whereas the earlier covenant of promise with Abraham, as well as the even earlier covenant of promise of the seed of woman (Genesis 3:15), do not fail.

God’s dealings with Israel, however were typical of his dealings future from their day. Their Sin-offerings, for instance, typically took away their sins, and brought reconciliation to God for a year at a time to the nation; but, as the Apostle says, those sacrifices could not really cancel sin. — “The blood [death] of bulls and goats can never take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:4) It was man that had sinned, and man that had been sentenced to death, and the death of the animal could at most only typify the death of the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. (1 Corinthians 15:21,22; Hebrews 10:1-10; 1 Timothy 2:5,6) And not only their sacrifices, but God’s every dealing with that nation, seems to have a typical lesson, the reality of which reaches down either to the Gospel age and even beyond into the age to come. (1 Corinthians 10:6; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1) From what we have shown foregoing respecting the divine law, which establishes the lines of right and wrong upon every question, and which, like its Author, is eternally the same unalterable law, we trust that our readers see clearly that the giving of the Law at Sinai had a special, peculiar significance of its own, incidental to the people to whom it was given.

(The above was adapted from R1723)

2 Corinthians 3 – The Law, the Veil, and the New Covenant

Since certain verses in 2 Corinthians 3 are often cited and given applications out of context, we are presenting below a few comments on this whole chapter as related to the law and new covenants.

2 Corinthians 3:1 – Are we beginning again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as do some, letters of commendation to you or from you?

There were those who were making the false charge that Paul had appointed himself as an apostle, and was thus commending himself as such. — 2 Corinthians 5:12; 10:8.

Paul is saying his commendation as an apostle came through Christ, and he did not need a letter of commendation from the church in Corinth, nor did he need a letter of commendation from anyone else so as to speak to the Christians in Corinth as an apostle. — 2 Corinthians 12:11; Galatians 1:17-19.

2 Corinthians 3:2 — You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men.

Paul is saying that the Corinthian Christians are themselves a testimony that he was an apostle, since he had brought so many of them to Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:3 — being revealed that you are a letter of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in tablets that are hearts of flesh.

The Corinthians Christians serve as a testimony of Paul’s ministry, not by anything written on tablets of stone, but rather what had become written in the tablets of their heart. By this he also begins to bring into focus the Law covenant, which was written on stones, and he contrasts what is written with the spirit of Yahweh with that written by means of the human hand through Moses. “The Spirit of the living God” parallels “spirit of the Lord” or “spirit of Yahweh” in 2 Corinthians 3:17, denoting the influence, power, of God’s holy spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:4 – Such confidence we have through Christ toward [Yahweh].

The testimony of Paul’s work with the Corinthian brothers adds to Paul’s confidence that he is not a false apostle, and that his repentance toward Yahweh through Jesus had been accepted, and that he was indeed appointed by God and Jesus as an apostle. The turning, the repentance, is toward Yahweh, through Christ. The turning is not toward Christ, but toward the God and Father of Jesus through Jesus.

2 Corinthians 3:5 – Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to account anything as from ourselves; but our sufficiency is from [Yahweh].

Paul did not claim his salvation from sin and death by obedience to the Law, which would meant that his sufficiency would have been of himself, but rather he claimed that which had been provided by Yahweh, as shown in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 3:6 — Who also made us sufficient as servants of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul contrasts the new covenant with that of the Old Law Covenant through Moses, and shows that the Law Covenant kills, it condemns, since sinful flesh cannot obey that Law.

2 Corinthians 3:7 – But if the service of death, written engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look steadfastly on the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which was passing away.

The service of the Law Covenant is called “the service of death,” since it was weak because of the sinful flesh, and thus, rather than bringing anyone to life, it condemned the one seeking life through that Law to death. And yet, the Law Covenant itself “came with glory;” it was the light by which one could have life if one could obey that light. But due to the bondage of corruption that is upon mankind by means of Adam’s sin, that which would have been to life, became death.

2 Corinthians 3:8 – Won’t service of the Spirit be with much more glory?

The spirit here is the promised spirit of the new covenant, the power, or reckoning of which, is attained by “tasting” of power of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5), when the spirit will be poured out upon all peoples. (Jeremiah 30,31) The new creation that comes through the blood of the new covenant does not fall short of the glory of Yahweh, and is thus with much more glory than trying to attain righteousness through the Law Covenant, for no one was ever justified, made straight, by that Law so that he could say that he did not fall short of the glory of Yahweh. — Romans 3:23.

2 Corinthians 3:9 – For if the service of condemnation has glory, the service of righteousness exceeds much more in glory.

The law condemns, but the Law is the light of Yahweh (Proverbs 6:23), by which, if one should obey that Law, he would live. Jesus obeyed that Law and became the light of Yahweh amongst men. (John 1:4,5) The law, having its own glory, while it provided a typical glory toward those under the Law, did not provide the glory of a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), which does not fall short of the glory of Yahweh.

The service of righteousness is first of all, the service of Jesus, who became our righteousness, and secondarily, of all who are justified through his righteous blood, and who, as new creatures, are thus servants of righteousness.

2 Corinthians 3:10 – For most assuredly that which has been made glorious has not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasses.

That which has been made glorious through faith in Jesus surpasses the glory of the Law Covenant, since the Law Covenant proved ineffectual to restoring those under the Law to the glory of God due to the sinful flesh. — Romans 8:3.

2 Corinthians 3:11 – For if that which passes away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

That which is passing away is the Law Covenant. It does not pass away as long as there is still one Jew who is under that Law. Each Jew who turns toward Yahweh in repentance, through Christ, becomes dead to the Law, and for that one, the Law has passed away.

2 Corinthians 3:12 – Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech.

By what has been given to him through Christ, Paul claims the right to speak boldly by means of the spirit that had been given to him, not just as new creature, but as an apostle of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:13 and not as Moses, who put a veil on his face, that the children of Israel wouldn’t look steadfastly on the end of that which was passing away.

The reference is to when Moses came down from the mountain after he had seen the glory of Yahweh. His face shone with the brightness of the glory of Yahweh, so that, he covered his face that the glory would not shine upon, and that the people could gaze upon, the glory of Yahweh. Paul is using that veil as a figure of how the Jew could not bring himself into the glory of Yahweh by means of keeping the Law.

2 Corinthians 3:14 – But their minds were hardened, for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains, because [by means of] Christ it passes away.
2 Corinthians 3:15 – But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.

The obstructive veil is still upon the Jew to this day, who reads the Law, for his heart is hardened without Christ, being of sinful nature, and unable to bring himself into the righteousness that is not short of the glory of God. The law condemns, because of man’s sinful condition, it does not justify, and thus it cannot bring anyone into the righteousness that does not fall short of the glory of God. — Romans 3:20; 8:3; Galatians 2:16; 3:11.

The veil is a reference to the veil that Moses put over his face after receiving the ten commandments, since his face was aglow from having seen the glory of Yahweh. (Exodus 34:29-35) That veil is being used as type to demonstrate how the Jew who is still alive to the Law continues to fall short of the glory of Yahweh. — Romans 3:23.

A veil causes blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4), but here it is used more as a obstruction to the glory of Yahweh; they have not been made free from the law of sin and death. — Isaiah 60:1; Romans 8:2.

2 Corinthians 3:16 – But whenever one turns to [Yahweh], the veil is taken away.

One turns to Yahweh [not to Jesus] through repentance, through faith in the blood of Jesus, not by works of the Law. — Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 1:16; Acts 3:13,19,20; 20:21; 26:20; Hebrews 6:1.

2 Corinthians 3:17 – Now [Yahweh] is the spirit and where the spirit of [Yahweh] is, there is liberty.

Contrary to the way many use this verse, in either claiming that Jesus is a spirit being, or that God is a spirit being, the word “spirit” in in the first instance is not referring to the substance of God or Jesus, but rather of spirit, the one behind the New Covenant, which brings freedom, not just from the condemnation of the Law, but also from the condemnation of sin and death through Adam, through the blood of Jesus. Yahweh, through his holy spirit, can be said the spirit of the New Covenant, since the holy spirit belongs to Yahweh. It would not be proper, however, to turn that around so as to say, “The [holy] spirit is Yahweh.”

Nevertheless, as the “spirit” is used in 2 Corinthians 3:3 as belonging to the living God, likewise, the same in 2 Corinthians 3:17, where the spirit is identified as the spirit of Yahweh.

2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of [Yahweh], are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from [Yahweh], the spirit.

“We all” here evidently means all the Jews who have become dead to the Law through Christ, although every Christian, whether he was ever a Jew under the Law or not, having become a new creation, he is with unveiled face as as to behold the glory of Yahweh. The latter part of the verse, however, can only apply to the Jew, who having been a servant of the Law, passes from the glory of that servitude into the glory of service to the New Covenant, so that he, as a new creation, does not fall short of the glory of the image of God. The Jew still reads that Law, and is thus still condemned by that Law, and world is corrupted and under the bondage of corruption, and thus we know that Law has not yet “passed away”, nor have the present heavens and earth passed away, giving way the age to come where there will no longer be the bondage of corruption (the crooked condition), but rather there will righteousness, straightness. (Ecclesiastes 1:15; 7:13; Matthew 5:18; 2 Peter 3:10,13) At the present time, it is only to those who taste of the blessing of that age to come through faith in Christ who are a new creation, and for whom the old has passed away, so that the new creature in this age is counted — through faith — as though belonging to that day yet to come. — 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 6:5; Revelation 21:1-5.

See also:

Yahweh, the Spirit and How God’s Son Condemned Sin in the Flesh

God’s Covenants (Herald Links)

The following links are written by Bible Students. While we agree with most of what is said, we do not necessarily agree with all that is said.

January/February 2010:

In the Beginning (God’s Covenants) Audio MP3

Obey and Live Audio MP3
The first covenant was between God and Adam. — Genesis 2:16,17

The Rainbow Covenant Audio MP3 — Genesis 9:16
God promised there would never be another flood.

The Harmony of the Covenants Audio MP3
God’s covenants work together to provide man’s salvation.

All the Nations Shall Be Blessed Audio MP3 – Abrahamic Covenant; Genesis 22:17.
God’s covenant with Abraham described his entire plan of salvation.

What Was the Purpose of the Law? Audio MP3 — Galatians 3:24.
The Law Covenant kept Israel a separated people.

The Barren One Will Rejoice Audio MP3 – Galatians 4:28.

I Will Make a New Covenant Audio MP3 – Jeremiah 31:31.
The New Covenant provides blessings for everyone.

The Prophecies and Promises of Jeremiah 31 Audio MP3
Jeremiah 31 contains promises of future blessing for Israel and all mankind.


Other Links:

A New CovenantConsiders the Old and New Testament use of this term, and analyzes some of the puzzling details regarding this covenant. – Jeremiah 31:31.

Noah’s Covenant and the Promise Covenant – Isaiah 54:9.