8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
This passage identifies the “sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel” of God with the goodness of divine law. Law is “good” if we use it lawfully (v. 8). That statement probes our use of God’s law. If law can be used lawfully, then it can also be used unlawfully. God’s law identifies our sin against Him, and that is a good thing (Rom. 7:7, 12). But, law cannot save us from our sins (Rom. 3:19-20). So, the law teaches us we need deliverance from sin (Rom. 7:24). God provided Christ and His gospel to save us by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26). Today’s text teaches us God’s law restrains sin in our lives when we conform ourselves to it. That is how we use the law lawfully. Sadly, many twist God’s law to justify the very sins it identifies and condemns. Just look at the list of sins in verses 9-10. Religious people approve of many of them. That effort unlawfully uses God’s law. Law identifies us as sinners in need of salvation. It points us to the gospel for salvation so that Christians live by “the law of faith,” the glorious gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 3:27-28).
22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:22–25, NKJV)
Scripture reveals a fundamental distinction between “the law” (of Moses) and “the faith” (the gospel) that “would afterward be revealed” in Christ. Failure to respect the “change of the law” results in many distortions of the gospel (Heb. 7:12; Gal. 1:6-7). The Galatians faced one such perversion of the gospel when some tried to bind circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (LOM) upon Gentiles for their salvation (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-6; 6:12-13). The LOM identified sin and confined its adherents (Israel) under sin (Heb. 10:4) while guiding them toward the promised blessings that would come “by faith in Jesus Christ” (v. 22; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Now that Christ has come, His gospel provides the blessings of the promise; Redemption from sin. Now, no one is under the LOM; it served its purpose and has been removed (Col. 2:14). Therefore, we cannot revert to the Old Testament law to justify our religious beliefs and actions. To do so requires keeping “the whole law,” not just the part of it that suits our fancy (Gal. 5:3). Every attempt to use the LOM to justify oneself before God has the opposite effect; It separates that person from Christ (Gal. 5:4). Our “hope of righteousness” is “by faith” (the gospel), not by “the law” of Moses (Gal. 5:5-6).
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:3–5, NKJV)
The Word (Christ) did not cling to the “form of God” when He became flesh (Phil. 2:5-7). That is, He emptied Himself of the glorious appearance of deity He shared with the Father “before the world was” (Jno. 17:5; Jno. 1:1, 14). Without divesting Himself of His Godhood, He took the “form of a bondservant” and became human (Phil. 2:7). His humility reached its zenith when He obediently died on the cross (Phil. 2:8). On the mountain, when Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of His glory and heard the Father’s confirmation of His Sonship (Matt. 17:1-2; Lk. 9:32; 2 Pet. 1:16-17). Jesus is superior to the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Therefore, we must hear the Son in everything He teaches (Acts 3:22-23). That means we go to His New Testament to inform and activate our faith, not to the Old Testament law and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2). We listen to the Son by hearing and accepting His apostles’ teachings (Jno. 13:20; Matt. 28:19-20). Are you listening to the Son of God?
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32, NKJV)
As the USA celebrates Independence Day, the Savior’s statement in today’s passage rings especially true. Our history tells us that independence from tyranny’s oppression did not remove our responsibility to live under law as free men and women. It is a self-defeating premise and pursuit that declares liberty is freedom from the restraint of law. Free men and women understand and want the protection and constraints that law provides against evil (Rom 13:3-5). Those who seek good know that law serves good purposes (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Freedom from sin’s bondage, tyranny, and death is available through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obeying the gospel from the heart ends our slavery to sin, not so we can declare ourselves free from every restraint, but so we may become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth, the word of Jesus, marks the boundary of our liberty in Christ (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:6-10). We are “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, ESV). The gospel of Christ declares our freedom from sin and defines our life of freedom in Christ to serve righteousness according to His word of truth.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38–42, NKJV)
The rule of law provides justice while reining in unrestrained wrath against others. For example, the Law of Moses decreed judgment against wrongdoers in accord with the crime they committed, hence, “an eye for an eye…” (Exo. 21:22-25). But, the scribes and Pharisees had turned the Law into a tool of personal revenge (Matt. 5:20). Jesus resists such lawlessness, teaching citizens of the kingdom of heaven not to retaliate against the evil person. His apostle would explain, “Repay no man evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; at it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). To respond with personal wrath and revenge against evil is arrogant, for by doing so, we displace God as Judge and trust ourselves rather than Him to correct evil and punish the evildoer. Going the second mile gives us the chance to calm our souls and trust the Lord.
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Properly handling God’s word includes respecting the silence of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). At times God says, “thou shalt not,” but that is not the only way He reveals His will. The double negative, “It doesn’t say not to,” fails to prove God’s approval. Yet, many use it to justify moral and religious decisions. We must search for what God says on a matter, content that it is sufficient for us to know and to follow (cf. Deut. 29:29). The Hebrew writer used the silence of the Scriptures in today’s passage. He arrived at the unavoidable conclusion (a necessary inference) that the law had to change because the priesthood had changed (v. 11; Heb. 6:20). He explained that only Levites could be priests under the Law of Moses (Num. 3:10). Yet, Moses never directly said, “You shall not have priests from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc.” He did not need to. Moses said what God wanted, priests from Levi. All other tribes were necessarily excluded. Even though Moses did not leave a “thou shalt not” list, Israel knew the correct application. There was no authority for priests from other tribes. Thus, the law itself had to be changed for Christ to be High Priest. God’s silence restrains, it does not free us to act. Let us find what God says, for that is what He approves. Then, “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–3, NKJV)
This passage draws our attention to obeying the gospel and fellowship with the Spirit of God. 1) Obeying the truth of the gospel is wise. False teachers (who were binding the law of Moses on Gentiles for salvation) had charmed the Galatian Christians into foolish disobedience. Adding to the gospel continues to be foolish disobedience. 2) Gospel preaching of the crucifixion of Jesus leads to obeying His truth (Lk. 6:46). The gospel publicly displays the crucified Christ and persuades believers to obey His gospel to be saved. The Old Testament revealed the Abrahamic promise of blessing, and the law of Moses was added to identify and restrain sin, and bring souls to Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-19, 22-25). 3) We receive the Spirit by gospel obedience (Acts 2:37-38). We receive the Spirit’s blessings by hearing and obeying the faith (gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:13-14). Fellowship with the Spirit does not come by obeying the law of Moses, by Holy Spirit baptism and present-day miracles, or by subjective experiences. Do not be bewitched by false gospels that cast aside hearing and obeying the gospel for experiences. Hear, believe, and obey the gospel to receive the Spirit’s blessings.
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98, NKJV)
It is self-evident from a casual reading of Psalm 119 that this psalmist had a deep relationship with the word of God. He magnifies and extols its virtues and benefits, its blessings and advantages, its supreme authority, and its unwavering reliability. Like the psalmist, we must love God by loving His law (Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46). At a time when many say “law” and “commandments” are hindrances to grace and liberty, respect for and obedience to the law and commandments of God is the very foundation of loving God and being favored by Him (Jno. 14:15; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:3-6). God’s law is on the mind of the person who loves Him – “all the day.” Let God’s word be your constant companion by reading it, learning it, and pondering it. Without knowing God’s law, we cannot keep it or be made wiser from it. The inspired word of God teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, completely furnishing us to do God’s work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word surpasses the vain wisdom of men, giving insight, discernment, and understanding to withstand sin’s temptations (1 Cor. 1:25). When, O when, will we so love God’s law and commandments that they are our constant meditation? When we do, we will love Jesus the way He says we must, by keeping His commands (John 14:15).