To clarify the title, I am referring to my returning the the New Covenant Law series I began a while back. It has always been my intention to continue, but I’ve been distracted by many other good things.
A little story
Before I go any further, let me share a little story, at least as much as I know of it. We have, locally, a church or churches that would, I guess, be called “Messianic” churches. Basically, they are non-Jewish Christians who have fallen for the same lies that Paul was dealing with in his letter to the Galatians. There’s a local radio station, even, which broadcasts all kinds of legalistic nonsense. Essentially, the teachers can be described simply as “Judaizers.” It is their intent to get Christians to follow the Law of Moses, or Torah. They insist on church on Saturday, they preach against Easter and Christmas celebrations, and always refer to Jesus as Yeshua. Every time I hear anything from these people, I think, haven’t these folks ever read Galatians?
Well, as you might know, a couple of years back I co-authored the book The Gospel Uncensored, which unpacks Galatians a bit. A friend gave a copy of the book to someone they knew that was involved in this church, and they realized they had been mislead, and left the church. Then they gave the book to someone still in the church, and they left. If I understand correctly, three families have now left.
It’s hard for me to believe that people could get involved in this kind of heresy. I mean, pretending to be Jewish sounds like it could be fun for a week or two, but to throw out the Gospel to follow laws?
I think before we go any further with looking at how the Law impacts the New Covenant believer, I should point out one very important fact: The Law was never given to Gentiles. That’s right. Never.
In the Old Testament (post-Law), when a Gentile wanted to become a Jew, they had to begin following the Law. Today, if you want to become an Orthodox Jew, I think you have to begin to follow the Law. But if you want to become a Christian, I’m sorry, there is no Law for you.
That’s what Paul was saying to the Galatians when he wrote, “Are you crazy? I gave you the gospel, and now you want to follow the Jewish Law? Even I realized that was a waste of time, and I’m a Jew!” (My interpretation)
Let’s get one thing straight: If you are a non-Jew, you simply have got to get over the fact that you were never given or told to keep the Old Testament Law. You can look at it, appreciate it, and maybe even understand it, but that’s as involved as you ever get with the Law. It’s got nothing to do with you. This would be like a Californian suddenly obeying the laws of England and start driving on the left side of the road; it’s insanity.
Now, as Paul explained to the Galatians, the Abrahamic Covenant is another thing entirely. The Covenant predated the Law by 430 years, and the only rightful heir of the Covenant is Jesus. When we become connected to Jesus (through faith only, not by following the Law), we’re adopted into the Covenant family, because the inheritance is Jesus’ to share. The non-believing Jews have in fact been cut-off from the inheritance, again, because Jesus is the heir.
A lot of Christians get confused over this, probably because they’re confused about what it means to be adopted because of faith in Jesus. The inheritance flows through the Covenant, through Jesus; it does not flow through the Law, which Paul tells us is no longer in effect (for anyone). It’s been completed. Jesus closed the book, so to speak. The Jews’ only inheritance comes through Jesus. To believe that there’s another inheritance somewhere, or another avenue for Jews to be saved is to challenge the notion that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
There are, it seems, only two options, whether you’re a Gentile or a Jew: 1) try to keep the law and die trying, or 2) accept the Covenant inheritance as a gift and live.
Paul and the Law
As we can readily see when we start reading Paul, he uses a plethora of metaphors to make his point, so we have to be a bit flexible to get the entire story. Also, we need to realize that at time Paul is talking to Jews, sometimes to Gentiles, and often to both. He himself was both a Jew and a Roman. So, we need to allow Paul the freedom to use multiple metaphors and contexts to relate to his audiences, and not become too entrenched in any one over another.
In Romans, where we’ll pick up in the next post, Paul does his best to level the playing field between Jew and Gentile, a point missed by many, many Christians. And, he talks a lot about the law. So, this will be a good place to start, beside conveniently being the first of Paul’s letters to appear in the New Testament.