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One of the most confusing and misunderstood issues in Christian circles is how we should understand the Old Testament, especially the Law of Moses. This  is my understanding as seen from Paul's letter to the Galatians.  The Law of Moses, does not exist for the purpose of salvation; does not exist for the purpose of maintaining your salvation; and, does not exist as something to observe.  We are free from the Law, (Gal. 5:1), but that's not the end of the matter.

 

The disciples of Jesus in the Roman province of Galatia were primarily Gentiles, having little association with, or knowledge of, the Law of Moses.  False teachers infiltrated their ranks and were trying to persuade them to incorporate the Law into their lives.  Paul calls this teaching "another gospel" that isn't really a gospel at all. (Gal. 1:6-7)  Those false teachers should be "eternally condemned", he says. (Gal. 1:8)  According to Paul, these Galatians were being "demonized" by the false  teachers. (Gal. 3:1)  That's strong language. 

 

The Law of Moses was intended to be obeyed in its entirety.  You could not pick and choose which parts to obey and which parts to ignore, as many Christians do today.  If you miss up on one point, you were doomed.  The curses of the Law would befall you as if you rejected it altogether.  Paul, James, and the Law itself states this to be so. (Gal. 3:10, James 2:10, Deuteronomy 27:26)   

 

The Law of Moses was meant to lead Jews to Jesus. (Gal. 3:23-24)  It existed "until" Jesus came. (Gal. 3:19)  That's why Paul says "Christ is the end of the Law" in Romans 10:4.  He states, "now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the Law. (Gal. 3:25)

 

Paul viewed submitting to the Law of Moses as being enslaved by it.  He went as far to say that being enslaved by the Law was no different than being enslaved by polytheistic paganism.  I'll explain that.

 

The Gentile believers in Galatia were once enslaved to the "basic principles of the world". (Gal. 4:3)  It's important to understand that the terminology Paul uses in Galatians 4:1 to 7 is Gentile.  These "basic principles of the world" are the ungodly, polytheistic, pagan, practices these people once submitted their lives to.    

 

Paul goes on to say, "when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature were not gods how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles.  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again"? (Gal. 4:8-9)  In this part of Galatians 4 Paul shifts from Gentile terminology to Jewish terminology.  The "weak and miserable principles" is in reference to the Law of Moses. 

 

You might think that the "weak and miserable principles" found in verse 9 are the "basic principles of the world" found in verse 3, but they aren't.  They are two separate principles, as I've stated.  If you miss this point, as many do, you will completely miss the crux of what Paul is saying in this portion of Galatians 4.  

 

When Paul says that these believers were "turning back" to "weak and miserable principles", they weren't reverting back to the "basic principles of the world",  meaning, paganism.  They were turning to the Law of Moses.  Paul views this as turning "back" to a life of slavery; slavery the gospel of Jesus once freed them from.  This is Paul's point.  Submitting one's self to the Law of Moses is no different than submitting one's self to paganism.  They're both slavery.  For further explanation, listen to my audio commentary on Galatians 4:1-10. 

http://stevesweetman.com/galatianfile/galatianfile.htm

 

Paul concludes that if you submit yourself to the Law of Moses, especially to enhance your standing before God, "Jesus becomes of no value to you; you alienate yourself from Christ; and, you fall away from God's grace". (Gal. 5:2-4)  Simply put, you walk away from Jesus and separate yourself from His grace that saves you.  That's a serious matter.  The implication is that you cannot serve the Law and Jesus at the same time.  For this reason we are free from the Law (Gal. 5:13) - no ifs, ands, or buts.  That being said, this is not the end of the matter.  This freedom does not place us in a state of limbo floating around in a vacuum of nothingness to do as we please.

 

The reason why we are free from the Law is something the average western Christian doesn't want to think about.  We are free from serving the Law so we can be free "to serve one another in love". (Gal. 5:13-14)  

 

One who "serves" is a "servant", or a "slave".  Paul considered himself a "bond-servant"; "doulos" in Greek. (Romans 1:1)  A "doulos" is one who freely chooses to submit himself to the will of another.  Paul became a "doulos", or a slave, to Jesus.  The love of Jesus was so compelling he felt he had no other logical choice. (2 Corinthians 5:14)  The apostle Peter also considered himself a slave to Jesus. (2 Peter 1:1)  So did Jude. (Jude 1:1)  So did James. (James 1:1)  So did John. (Revelation 1:1).  This was the apostolic teaching of the day.  It should be our teaching as well.  

 

Western style Christianity struggles over the idea of being a slave to anyone.  The word "slave" isn't my choice of words.  It's the New Testament's choice.  In the process of eliminating slavery from society, we've eliminated the very word from our Christian vocabulary.  We've become self-willed individualists, and that's not Biblical.  A Christian doesn't own himself.  Jesus owns the Christian, and He has paid dearly for us.  (Revelation 5:9, 1 Peter 1:18)  So, we freely, cheerfully, and graciously, submit our lives to Jesus.  In one real sense of the word, "we become His slave".  This is why Jesus has freed Gentile Christians from the "basic principles of their secular and pagan world".  This is why Jesus has freed Jewish Christians from "the weak and miserable principles" of their world.  Christians are free people free to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and those He places before us at any given moment. 

 

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