True or False?
- Jesus died for all of our past, present, and furture sins.
- Jesus obeyed the law perfectly so that His righteousness can be imputed to us.
- Christians are “sinners saved by grace”.
If you answered “True” to any of the above questions, you believe a false gospel.
But how can this be?
Let’s examine each of these statements one at a time.
Question 1: Jesus died for all of our past, present, and furture sins.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross and the shedding of His blood is an “atonement” or “covering”, not only for past sins, but for any sin a believer may commit in the future. According to this gospel, this “covering” is necessary so that when God looks on the believer, He doesn’t see sin, He sees the righteousness of Christ.
Here is why this is false:
The New Testament makes no reference anywhere of Jesus’ death being a “covering”.
The “atonement” is an Old Testament concept and refers to the Law’s function as a “guardian” until the “Promise” came. (Galatians 3:22-24) That Promise is Jesus Christ! When Jesus died, He ended the Law and with it, its ability to condemn. Believers are born of God; new creatures who are not “under law”. The apostle Paul taught that where there is no law there is no sin. (Romans 5:13) Since believers are no longer “under law”, they can no longer sin. There is no law to condemn them. Because the law is ended for believers, we no longer need a guardian. (Galatians 3:25)
Jesus died for your past sins only!
For the believer, there are no present or future sins. There is no condemnation for believers! (Romans 8:1)
Jesus obeyed the law perfectly so that His righteousness can be imputed to us.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that the standard of righteousness is perfect law-keeping. According to this gospel, because of man’s metaphysical depravity he is unable to keep the Law. But because of Jesus’ perfect law-keeping, His righteousness is imputed to believers. Therefore, believers are not righteous as a state of being, they are simply “declared righteous” (forensic justification).
Here is why this is false:
The Bible teaches that righteousness is apart from the Law (Romans 3:21, 28). To say that believers are “declared righteous” by virtue of some vicarious imputation of Jesus’ righteousness is an attempt to make Law the standard for righteousness. This is not righteousness apart from the Law. Furthermore, the Bible never states that believers have the righteousness of Christ.
The standard for righteousness is the New Birth!
When a person believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is born again, literally “born from above”. When that happens, a believer inherits his very own righteousness from God because the old man who was “under law” has died, and in his place is a new creature who is the righteous offspring of the Father!
And since this new creature is born of the Father, he is not under law. And since he is not under law, he CANNOT sin (1 John 3:9), because where there is no law, there is no sin!
Christians are “sinners saved by grace”.
The Reformation gospel of Protestantism teaches that Christians are still sinners. Martin Luther referred to this as simul justus et peccator – “simultaneously saint and sinner.” According to this gospel, because Christians are still sinners, they are in need of perpetual forgiveness of sin. In other words, Christians are still metaphysically depraved.
Here is why this is false:
This statement is a contradiction. It is an impossible reality for man to exist in two different states at once. The Bible says that man is either “under law” OR “under grace”. “Under law” is the Biblical definition of an unsaved person. A person who is “under law” is under condemnation. Only those who are “under law” are sinners. So to say that a Christian is a sinner means to consider him still “under law”. The Protestant gospel makes Christians no different than the unregenerate.
Such a statement is a patent denial of the reality of the New Birth. The New Birth is an existential change in a person’s state of being. A believer is literally reborn as the righteous offspring of the Father. He is no longer a “sinner” because the law is ended for him. Where there is no law there is no sin.
Christians are righteous children of the Heavenly Father!
The New Birth has freed us from sin. It no longer has any power over us.
What Is the True Gospel?
Man does NOT have a sin problem.
That is a scandalous statement and one that contradicts everything you have probably heard in church your whole life. It would seem to be a logical conclusion that the Bible teaches that man’s problem is sin, but let us reconsider two primary assumptions:
- Does man indeed have a problem?
- Is that problem sin?
The Bible teaches that there are only two kinds of people in this world; those who are “under law” and those who are “under grace”. To be “under law” means to be subject to the Law’s condemnation, which is death, and ultimately the Lake of Fire. Every person ever born into this word is “under law” and is therefore condemned because at some point in his life he has broken the Law in one way or another.
Even if a person has no knowledge of God’s Law from scripture, the Bible tells us that every man has the Law of God written on his heart, which is the conscience (Romans 2:14-15). The conscience is what gives man knowledge of right and wrong. One day, every person “under law” will be judged by God according to the Law, whether that be God’s law as recorded in scripture or by his own conscience. So clearly, man does indeed have a problem.
What about Sin?
The Bible describes Sin as an entity which seeks to wield control over others. (Genesis 4:7) Sin’s desire for control is manifest in man’s subsequent desire to wield control over others. Ironically, Sin obtains its power of control over others through the Law (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin uses the Law to control others by provoking man to break the Law through desires. Once there is a law that governs some behavior, Sin uses that same law to provoke a desire to rebel against what that law requires (Romans 7:7-8).
Without the Law, Sin has no power. Therefore, where there is no Law, there is no Sin. Any person who is “under law” is not only provoked by Sin to break the Law, but he is condemned if he does.
So the problem then is not with Sin, rather it is the reality that any man “under law” is under condemnation. The solution then is that man needs a way to get out from under the Law’s condemnation. Man needs a new relationship to the law.
Man’s New Relationship to the Law
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas how to be saved, their response was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…” Belief means faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. A person is born again (literally “born from above”) when he hears about Jesus and believes what he hears. Hearing implies a cognitive process of allowing oneself to be persuaded by a reasonable argument. So we understand then that “faith” is more than just an assenting to the facts, but it has to do with being thoroughly convinced in your mind that something is true.
God made it possible for man to get out from under the Law’s condemnation through the New Birth. When a person believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “old man” who was “under law” dies. Laws have no jurisdiction over dead people. Dead people cannot be condemned.
When the “old man” dies, a new creature is reborn in his place. This new creature is born of God. He is the literal offspring of the Father. This new creature is not born “under law”. The Law has no jurisdiction over him. This means the Law CANNOT condemn him. And since there is no Law to condemn this born again new creature, there is no Sin. The one who is born of God CANNOT sin!
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ~ 1 John 3:9
Notice, the apostle John does not say the believer “won’t sin” or “chooses not to sin”. He says he CANNOT sin. He is not ABLE to sin. Why is the one who is born again not able sin? Because sin has to do with Law. You cannot condemn one of sin when there is no Law under which to accuse someone. Think about it; if there was no 55 mph speed limit on the highway, and you were driving 56, would a patrol officer be able to write you a citation for speeding? Of course not. Why not? What law could he use of which to accuse you? There would be none. So it is with the one who is born again. The believer is no longer “under law,” therefore there is no Law than can be used to condemn. The believer has a new relationship to the Law.
Since the Law can no longer condemn, the Law’s original intent can now be realized: to show love to God and to others!
This is why believers strive to obey. It is not a means to merit some right standing with God. The believer is already righteous because he is God’s offspring. The believer obeys because he wants to show love to God and love to others. Love is the fulfillment of the Law.In fact, the Bible teaches that those who love God have a natural love for the Law as well.
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” ~ Psalm 119:97
“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.” ~ Psalm 119:113
“I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.” ~ Psalm 119:163
“Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” ~ Psalm 119:165
Even if there was no speed limit on the highway, would you still drive as fast as you possibly wanted? Hopefully not, because you would recognize the inherent danger, not only to yourself by driving recklessly, but also to the other drivers on the road. You would drive in such a way as to preserve your own life and the lives of others. You would be functioning according to the Law of Love.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”~ Romans 8:2
This new relationship to the Law through the New Birth is offered as a free gift to any who believe on Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.
How does Jesus’ death on the cross forgive sin?
In Old Testament times, when God codified the Law for Israel with Moses, the Law took Old Testament saints into protective custody. During this time, believers were preserved from condemnation upon their death because sin was imputed to the Law. This was the “covering” aspect of the Law, and the ceremonial observation of the “Day of Atonement” was a recognition of Israel being under the Law’s protective custody. (Galatians 3:22-24)
This protective custody was in effect up until the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham. When Jesus died, He ended the need for the Law’s protective custody. When the Law ended, all sins that had been imputed to the Law were taken away with it.
The picture of the “scapegoat” in Leviticus 16:21-22 describes what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplishes. The priest would lay his hands upon a live goat, a symbol of sins being imputed to the Law. That goat would then be delivered into the hands of a strong man who take that goat into the wilderness and release it. Jesus is that “strong man” who took away the sins imputed to the “scapegoat” of the Law.
“…Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” ~ John 1:29
In essence, Jesus is both the “Lamb” and the “strong man”. He is the Testator of the Old Covenant, the One of whom the Law speaks, the One to whom sin is imputed. The death of the Testator brings an end (fulfillment) to that covenant, thereby taking with Him all sins which had been imputed to Him.
Since the Promise of Christ has come, there is no longer a need for a guardian. The “covering” aspect of the Law is no longer needed. (Galatians 3:25-26) This is true for every person who believes in Jesus Christ for salvation. The New Birth puts the old man to death. All those past sins are forgiven. They were taken away when the Law was ended for him upon his New Birth. There is no ongoing need of forgiveness for “present” or “future” sins because the believer CANNOT sin. There is no Law to condemn him, therefore there is no sin.
Why do Christians still “sin”?
Man is and always will be a free-will agent. His behaviors are governed by choices that are the logical conclusions of his assumptions. Man was created by God to be a rational, thinking, creature. It is how man is made is God’s image. In this way, man is good. To say that man is “good” means to be good existentially, or that which is intrinsic to the nature of his existence. It means man has the capacity to act in accordance to the purpose for which he was created: to think, to reason, to live, to BE.
That a man may make a choice to do evil does not mean that he IS evil. Conversely, that man may make a choice to good is not what MAKES him good. Man’s ability to even make a choice at all is what makes him “good”. He is functioning according to how God designed him to be. Do not misunderstand – “goodness” should not be conflated with “righteousness”.
It is not a man’s choosing to do evil deeds (or lack of good deeds) which condemns him, no more than it is a believer’s choosing to do good deeds (or lack of evil deeds) which saves him. Unregenerate man is condemned because he is “under law”. A believer is saved because he is born again and NOT “under law”. Therefore, because one who is born again is not “under law”, there is no such thing as “sin” for the believer.
Nevertheless, this does not preclude the fact that a believer can still choose to not obey the Law. At the same time, this does not give a believer license to ignore the Law. While failure to obey the Law no longer condemns the believer, it is still a failure to show love. Children of the Heavenly Father ought to behave in a manner that is consistent with their righteous nature.
The Bible says the flesh is “weak”. Weakness does not mean evil. The apostle Paul said that the treasure of our righteous new creature-hood is contained in “clay pots”. So even though a believer is righteous, Sin still seeks to control him through the weakness of his flesh. And because man is a moral agent capable of free-will decisions, a believer can still choose to give in to fleshly desires provoked by Sin. But it is important to understand the distinction; such an action does not condemn! It is a failure to show love.
Perfection is not the issue here. This is why it is so important to understand that righteousness has nothing to do with law-keeping. There is a reason Paul and the other apostles bent over backwards to make this case throughout the New Testament. Believers are righteous because they have been born again and are no longer “under law”. Whether or not a believer obeys the law “perfectly” is irrelevant because there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)
This reality is incredibly freeing, because now a believer can aggressively pursue love without fear!
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:” ~ 1 John 4:18
A believer no longer has to worry about what laws he has kept or hasn’t kept because the threat of condemnation has been removed. That possibility is no longer hanging over his head like some impending doom. Now he is free to focus on just loving God and loving others, and the way he shows love is by striving to obey the Law.
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” ~ Romans 13:8
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” ~ Galatians 5:14
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” ~ John 14:15
A Misunderstanding of the Law
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Jewish religious leaders had come to believe that keeping the statutes in the Torah was what made a person righteous. But because they made the assumption that man was metaphysically evil, this assumption meant that man was disqualified from being able to understand the Law’s requirements. This is turn meant that if man could not understand the Law then man could not keep the Law.
The Jewish leaders believed it was necessary for some mediator to dictate to man the requirements necessary for righteousness. To accomplish this, they crafted their own interpretation of the Torah for man to follow. Since man could not understand the Law, he could obtain righteousness by following the interpretations of the Jewish leaders. This interpretation is what was known as their “traditions” or “orthodoxy”.
There are a number of problems with this, not the least of which is that the Bible teaches that righteousness is apart from the Law. As already mentioned, the apostles went to great lengths to make this point clear. For the Jewish religious leaders to hold this perspective, it was indicative of their egregious misunderstanding of the Law’s purpose. The Law was never intended to be for the purpose of obtaining a righteous standing with God.
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”~ Galatians 2:21
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” ~ Galatians 3:21
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” ~ Romans 3:20
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” ~ Galatians 2:16
The Law is the means by which man shows love to God and others, but making the Law the standard for righteousness actually circumvents love. How does this happen?
The Jewish religious leaders replaced the Law with their orthodoxy. The people were taught that since they could not keep the Law, it was pointless to even try. By replacing the Law with orthodoxy, the Jewish leaders effectively took away man’s only means of showing love to God and others. Rather than striving to show love to God through obedience, they became preoccupied with adhering to Jewish orthodoxy. Their lives were no longer characterized by love but fear.
When the standard for righteousness is perfect law-keeping, fear is always the result. Fear is the result of condemnation. Condemnation comes from being “under law”. Any system that makes Law the standard for righteousness keeps man “under law”. The Jewish system of perfect law-keeping by adherence to orthodoxy kept the people “under law” and took away their means of showing love.
This is exactly what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing.
“… Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition [orthodoxy].” ~ Matthew 15:6
“And he said unto them, ‘Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition [orthodoxy].’” ~ Mark 7:9
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition [orthodoxy], which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” ~ Mark 7:13
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” ~ Matthew 24:12
The word translated “iniquity” in Matthew 24:12 is the Greek word ανομια (anomia). It literally means “no law”. This is the Biblical definition of antinomianism. It means to take away the law. Jesus said Himself that taking away the Law would result in love growing cold. And why wouldn’t it? If you take away the Law, you take away the only means man has to show love to God and others.
Jesus spoke these words as a prophesy, but the end result of this logical progression of thought is always the same: taking away the Law results in a lack of love and lives characterized by fear. Be sure to understand the distinction. The Jewish religious leaders misunderstood the Law’s purpose. They thought it was for the purpose of meriting righteousness. But righteousness is apart from the Law. Righteousness comes through the New Birth. The Law is used as a means to show love to God and others.
What was true of first century Judaism is also true of every religion that ever existed or still exists today: it makes some form of law-keeping as the standard for righteousness. Every religion begins with the same root assumption: that man is metaphysically evil, making him disqualified from being able to understand truth. Since he cannot understand truth he must have truth interpreted for him. Religious orthodoxy is nothing more than truth repackaged for mass consumption. It is therefore adherence to this interpretation of truth that brings righteousness.
Protestantism is no different! But Protestantism’s version of orthodoxy is obfuscated under the pretense of “faith alone”. On the one hand, it will acknowledge that righteousness is apart from the Law; that man does not merit righteousness by keeping the Law. Then on the other hand, it will insist that Jesus keeps the law for us. In other words, since man cannot keep the Law, Jesus must do it instead.
How is it proposed that man is able to benefit from this so-called perfect law-keeping of Jesus? By living by “faith alone”. You see, if at any time you find that you are performing a work of obedience to the Law “in your own efforts”, you are attempting to rely on your own strength to merit salvation instead of “resting” in Christ to do the work for you. (Notice that the assumed motivation is to merit salvation instead of showing love.)
It should be blatantly obvious that regardless WHO is keeping the law, even if it is Jesus keeping the Law in our stead, it is still a righteousness that is based on perfect law-keeping. This is NOT a righteousness apart from the Law. Moreover, to rely on Jesus doing the works of the Law for us so that His righteousness can be imputed to us is nothing more than works-based salvation.
For over 500 years, Protestantism has been perpetrating a fraud and a contradiction of epic proportions! Like every other religion that has come down the pike since the beginning of time, Protestantism is based on a faulty assumption that results in a willful misunderstanding of the Law. It is a religion of antinomianism that circumvents a believer’s ability to show love through obedience. It makes obedience nothing more than a subjective experience that Christ supposedly performs through the believer. It defies the believer’s natural inclination to love God’s Law. It defines righteousness as perfect law-keeping. This unwittingly puts the believer right back “under law”, the Biblical definition of an unsaved person. Protestantism views believers no differently than the unregenerate.
Most importantly, the false gospel of Protestantism robs the believer of assurance. The Christian life becomes one of constant introspection of whether one is living by “faith alone” or not. Protestantism’s single perspective on the Law means the believer is in constant fear that he might come under condemnation. He is not free to love others. He is not free to love his Heavenly Father. He can never know for sure if he really is saved.
Dear Christian brother, know this. The Bible says that we CAN know for sure that we are saved. When we understand that our righteousness comes by virtue of the fact that we are the literal offspring of the Father, everything becomes so simple. It doesn’t matter if we fail. Perfection is not the point. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! Believers are no longer “under law”. Where there is no law there is no sin. This is a wonderful reality!
This is the Gospel news that believers need to bring to a world that needs to be reconciled to God.
The world is full of unsaved people who do very good deeds. Whether he realizes it or not, every time man shows love to another, he is fulfilling the Law. It does not matter if the person is saved or not. Unsaved man has the ability to show love to others just as much as one who is saved. But it is not that expression of love that saves. It is not a fulfilling of the Law that saves. For even though an unsaved man might obey the Law of Love, he is still condemned because he is still “under law”. That is the whole point.
Man does not have a “sin problem”. He has a relationship to the Law problem. This is why Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again.” The exhortation to you, dear brother in Christ, is this: Go out this day and show forth your love to God and others. You are God’s righteous child. Pursue obedience and fulfill the Law of Love!
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Some time ago I relayed the account of a Facebook interaction I had with an individual I called “Trevor”. Trevor is a young man in his early twenties. I’ve had the privilege of having long conversations with him regarding theology and Biblical matters in general. Trevor goes to a local church and has made a profession of faith, so giving him the benefit of the doubt (since it is not my place to make a judgment otherwise) I regard him as a brother in Christ.
Last Friday, Trevor and I got into another discussion, this time about the Law and how it pertains to believers. Since he was pressed for time and our conversation was growing increasingly in depth, Trevor asked if he could pose some specific questions via a Facebook message to which I could then compose a more in-depth reply. What follows is my response to Trevor. His questions are included in the body of the response in bold italics. I hope that you find it edifying!
TANC Ministries, 2015
Whatever form of Protestantism you are talking about, and Calvinism in particular, its Achilles’ heel is the law. Protestantism cannot pass the true gospel test because of its position on law, and this is not hard to understand.
Andy Young, an associate of TANC ministries, said something in last year’s 2014 conference that is probably true for the most part: “The law is for sanctification.” Right, because the law is in no wise for justification. We are justified apart from the law (Romans 3:21) and “apart” means exactly that. The fact that the law will judge people in the end is a separate issue altogether.
The apostle Paul makes all of this easy to understand in Galatians chapter 3. But first, let’s use that same chapter to establish what we mean by the word “law.” The word is used interchangeably with many other words, including “gospel”, to refer to the Bible. So, Andy was merely saying that the Bible is for sanctification, or in other words, Christian living. Andy was talking in context of sanctification for the Bible has no stake in justification, and again, the fact that the Bible will judge people in the end is another issue. Yes, the Bible defines justification (Rom 3:21, Gal 4:21); yes, the Bible testifies to the truths regarding justification, but the law does not justify.
Note the following from Galatians 3:
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Notice that Paul uses the word “law” and “Scripture” interchangeably. The law, “holy writ,” “the word,” “the gospel,” “the Scriptures,” “the law and the prophets,” etc. are all terms that refer to the Bible which is a full orbed statement by God regarding Himself, mankind, and reality. Statements like this: “We are not bound by the law, or else we’d have to live under every aspect of the law including not wearing blended fabrics and not eating shrimp and bacon” reveal a fundamental ignorance in regard to what the law is.
Protestantism falls on this one basic principle: law is the standard for righteousness. This makes the salvific work of Christ two-fold: He died to pay the penalty for our sins, and came to fulfill the law for us in order to make us righteous. That’s gross heresy. That’s an egregious false gospel. Hence, you have two kinds of Protestants: one camp that understands the position and professes it, and the other camp who also confesses it, but has not thought out the ramifications. This includes Baptists, Methodists, and many others. Baptists parted ways with the Reformers on baptism, but have never repented of making the law justification’s standard.
Yes, Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law and to not end it, but then we have the apostle Paul writing that Christ in fact did come to end the law, so does the Bible contradict itself? By no means.
Here is the problem: by design, Protestants don’t interpret the Bible in context of sanctification and justification, and again, that is by design. Why? Because Protestantism is founded on the idea that sanctification is merely the progression of justification. This also goes hand in glove with the idea that the law is justification’s standard. Hence, the law must continue to be fulfilled perfectly to keep the saints justified. This results in the confused theological train wreck we call Protestantism.
When the law must be continually fulfilled perfectly as a standard for justification, the law cannot be used for love because now you have fused love and justification together. This is why churches lack love; the maintaining of justification and love are confused. In the Bible, love is absolutely synonymous with obedience. Unfortunately, Protestantism makes obedience a justification issue. Obedience is not a justification issue—it’s a love issue. That’s why there is so much love-bombing in your churches; true love is stifled because it is confused with justification. The vacuum is then filled with empty words and programs. People are in bondage to the law in Jesus’ name and their pain is medicated by praise bands, personality cults, and the splendor of institutional temples.
The fulfillment of the law in Jesus’ name is a huge problem—there is no law in justification regardless of who keeps it. Who keeps it is not the issue, the law is the issue. Here is the theses of Paul’s argument in Galatians 3: Only God can give life through faith alone in the promise. What is the promise? It was a promise made to Abraham and Christ that Israel and the Gentiles would be blessed with eternal life, and that Christ would be resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit in order to make that possible:
Galatians 3:15 – To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
So in other words, if Christ came to also fulfill the law, the Promise is fulfilled by law, and not God’s promise made to Abraham. By the way, this term, “the promise” is a major biblical term referring to the gospel. In regard to justification, Christ came for one reason: to end the curse of the law:
Galatians 3:10 – For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
If we still rely on the works of the law, we are under a curse; again, it doesn’t matter who keeps it. Paul spent most of his ministry trying to hammer this point home. Here, he makes it clear that the law was not part of the original promise, and once a covenant has been ratified, nothing can change it. If Christ fulfilled the law in our stead, that is clearly an addition to the original covenant of promise—that’s Paul’s specific point.
But now Protestants once again protest that the key is a perfect fulfillment of the law which only curses those who cannot keep it perfectly. Christ’s perfect obedience to the law is then imputed to us. In light of this chapter in Galatians, this position is fraught with problems. Clearly, it’s still an addition to the original covenant. Also key is who the promise is made to; ie., the descendants of Abraham which include the Gentiles, and Christ Himself. Paul emphasizes that there is only ONE seed (verse 16). Why?
“Seed” is key. The Greek word refers to offspring. Christ was part of Abraham’s lineage, and is only ONE seed—there is not more than one seed. Christ died to end the curse of the law by dying to pay the penalty of sin, and then waited (in a manner of speaking) in the grave for the promise that was also made to Him: “the promised Spirit.” The Spirit raised Christ from the grave:
Romans 8:11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
Ephesians 1:19 – and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,…
The promised Spirit is major here. This is the new birth. This promise of the Spirit accomplished three universe-shaking objectives: it enabled mankind to follow Christ in literal death and resurrection, baptized Jews and Gentiles into one body, or family of God, cancelled judgement and condemnation, and set God’s children free to aggressively love.
The idea that Christ fulfilled the law in order to satisfy justification usurps the Spirit’s role in the promise. God elected the means of salvation, Christ died, and the Spirit baptizes. God initiated salvation, Christ paid the penalty for sin, and the Spirit regenerates. We are not justified by the law, we are justified by the new birth:
Romans 4:20 – No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (ESV 2001).
Galatians 3:1 – O thoughtless Galatians, who did bewitch you, not to obey the truth — before whose eyes Jesus Christ was described before among you crucified?
2 this only do I wish to learn from you — by works of law the Spirit did ye receive, or by the hearing of faith? 3 so thoughtless are ye! having begun in the Spirit, now in the flesh do ye end? (YLT).
Notice the idea of completion reflected by the Greek and properly translated by the YLT. We don’t receive the Spirit and His work on the installment plan when we believe; the new birth is a complete work. Hence, the new birth, or the Spirit’s baptism is what makes us righteous or justified, not the law.
Again, God set forth the plan of salvation: Christ died to end the law, and the Spirit regenerates us and helps us in our progression of holiness. We are born of the Spirit and resurrected as holy babies born of God, and grow up in holiness (1Peter 2:2). The baptism of the Spirit is therefore twofold:
Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:1 – Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Why would Christ fulfil the law and then die to end it? Why would Christ’s perfect obedience to law be imputed to us when it is no longer valid? Why would Christ fulfil the law for those who die with Him and are no longer under that law? Why would Christ fulfil a law that has nothing to say to us? (Romans 3:19). When Paul states, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (verse 10), that means any works of the law period, not just what we perform, but any works of the law period. The covenant of promise WAS NOT RATIFIED BY THE LAW THAT CAME 430 YEARS LATER. What could possibly be more evident? If Jesus kept the law perfectly as part of the gospel, that still ratifies the original covenant of promise.
But all of this is not even Paul’s primary argument. His primary argument is that only the Spirit can give life. His argument is that only the resurrection of the new birth gives life. If the law has any part in justification, then the law can give life and there is more than one seed. Consequently, only God can give life and now there is a co-life-giver. That’s Paul’s argument exactly.
11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
Life, justification, faith alone in the promise, and the new birth are all mutually inclusive while the law and justification are mutually exclusive—that’s exactly what the apostle Paul is saying.
Also, if law has anything to do with justification at all, we inherit eternal life by being born again into God’s family by the fulfillment of the law and NOT promise:
18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Someone may argue, “But Jesus keeps the law perfectly!” So what of it? It’s still inheritance by the law and not promise. Again, and again, the original covenant was not ratified by Jesus’ perfect law-keeping. Here is what we must come to grips with: Protestantism is predicated on a juvenile perception of law and gospel.
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.
As an aside while on the subject of covenants: this whole idea of Jesus fulfilling the law plugs into the ever popular Covenant theology. This is the idea that Christ came to obey the law perfectly in order to restore the original and supposed covenant of works with Adam. But the Covenant of Promise was not made with Adam, it was made with Abraham. Compounding this glaring error is the citation of Genesis 3:15 to make a connection between Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience to the law. But in that verse, it is the serpent that is being addressed and not Adam. Usually, when you make a covenant with someone, as with Abraham, it’s made with the person you are talking to. In essence, it claims that God made a covenant with the serpent.
Regardless of all of the splendor and glory affiliated with religious academia, it is found wanting in embarrassing proportions. The laity must stop listening to these people and start reading the Bible for themselves.
But with all of this said, “Why then the law?”(verse 19). However, which law is Paul referring to when he presents this anticipated question in verse 19? There are two laws: one known as, “the written code” (Colossians 2:14), “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2), “the law of sin” (Romans 7:23), simply “the law” in many places, “the letter” (2Cor 3:6), “ministry of death” (2Cor 3:7), “ministry of condemnation” (2Cor 3:9), “the record of debt” (Col 2:14), and “the first covenant” (Hebrews 8;13).
The second is known as: “the law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2), “the law of my mind” (Romans 7:23), “the law of liberty” (James 1:25), “the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), and because love fulfills the whole law (Romans 13:8-10), it can be rightly called “the law of love.”
In verse 19, Paul is referring to the first law. It only condemns and judges, but that’s not its only function by far.
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
What’s this saying? First, it’s saying that the first law has no function for believers after Christ died on the cross to END the law. And Christ did come to end the law of sin and death. Christ didn’t come to merely cover sin with His own righteousness, He came to end sin by ending the law (Romans 3:19,20, 4:15, 5:13, 7:6,8, 10:4, 1Tim 1:9, Gal 2:19).
Secondly, the first law covered believers until Christ died on the cross. The first law was an atonement for sin; all of the sins of Old Testament believers were imputed to that law, and then it was ended by Christ. The person who believes on Christ dies in baptism, and is no longer under the law that he/she sinned against (Romans 7:1ff). This would also include believers who were deceased at the time.
In regard to Old Testament believers that were dead during the time of Christ’s ministry on earth, Old Testament believers were captive under the law until Christ died to end the law. Therefore, they were in Sheol/Abraham’s bosom/Paradise/Hades. When Christ died, He went there and preached to the captives and took the thief on the cross with Him. When the Spirit resurrected Him, He also resurrected those in Sheol and set the captives free. They and their sins were held captive by the law until Christ died to end it. Remember, King David said, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). As a testimony, Christ sent many of them to walk around Jerusalem. Texts that help sum up all of these points are Ephesians 4:7-10 which also references Psalm 68:18, Luke 16:22, Matthew 27:51-53, and Colossians 2:13-15.
Thirdly, the first law still has a function in the scheme of things. The old covenant of the law is passing away, but is not ended for the unbelieving. “Under grace” did not end “under law” (Romans 6:14). The first law still holds sin captive because all sin is against the law (1John 3:4). Yes, for those who don’t repent, the law will judge them in the end. To the degree that they violate the law, they will be punished eternally.
But there is a sense in which the first law also serves a purpose of covering as it formally did for those under grace. When a person is saved and born again, they die and are no longer culpable to the law—the law is also ended for them at that time. Their sins are taken away and cast as far as the east is from the west. Again, Christ did not come to cover sin, he came to take sin away. The first law is grace in waiting. All sin is imputed to it, and it stands ready to be ended for each and every person who chooses to follow Christ in death and resurrection.
Now, what about the other law—the law of the Spirit of life? Let there be no doubt, there is a law that is under grace. It is the law of love. We have been released from the condemnation of the first law, and are now free to aggressively serve the law of Christ:
Romans 7:4 – Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
In the same way that one sin formally violated the whole law (James 2:10), one act of love fulfills the law of Christ (Gal 5:14, Rom 13:10). Love covers a multitude of sin (1Peter 4:8). We are sanctified with the word of truth (John 17:17). The Christian life is faith WORKING through the obedience of love (Gal 5:6), and love is synonymous with obedience (John 14:15).
If a professing Christian is not truly bearing fruit for God as an expression of true love for truth, God, and others, he/she has a flawed view of the law’s relationship to the gospel.
What is sapping the power of Christianity in our day is misguided fear. When the ending of sin is confused with the idea of covering, excessive introspection ensues for fear that we are not living by a convoluted Protestant system of faith-alone works so that the perfect obedience of Christ will continue to be imputed to our Christian life.
In contrast, there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ and fear has to do with judgement (Rom 8:30, 1Jn 4:16-19). Those mature in love cast away fear. They are free from the condemnation of the law and free to serve Christ in aggressive love.
Who will deny that the overwhelming preoccupation of Protestants is sin and not love while any appearance of good works is held suspect? Where there is not freedom to love without fearful introspection, love will not thrive.