What is "Under the Law?"
I have given a lot of thought to the last section of this subject. Now that we have a basic understanding of what it means to be under the law I think we can wrap up this last session very quickly so we can get on to some more provocative subjects. Galatians chapter 4 begins with a very misunderstood thought process, the concept of adoption. This is intimately related to our current subject so I do not want to gloss over it. I have decided to talk about this next time. Our concern for now, however, is to remain focused on whether the believer is under the law.
In Galatians chapter 4:5 it states,
"To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
This verse says no more or no less about what it means to be under the law then what we have seen all along. Anyone who strives to please God or be reconciled to God by obedience to commandments is under the law and needs to be redeemed. Old Covenant and New Covenant believers must be redeemed the same way. BY THE BLOOD! As long as anyone desires to remain under any legal system of any kind, whether God's law or Roman law or natural law, they are under a curse because of their inability to keep it and the blood of the sacrifice is of no use to them. As I have shown so many places, Sha’ul has taught us that we are all under a curse, we are all under the law, and we all need to be redeemed. Only then can we call God, Father, Abba. So, once again, there is absolutely no teaching here that Yeshua‘ died to end God's instructions for mankind, only that those instructions were not designed to redeem man, but to guide man, to teach him what is right and good and what is not. The new man or the inner man that Sha’ul refers to is guided by trusting faith in the Messiah to listen to Him, follow Him and obey Him that the outer man may live long and prosper. Without that inner trust in God, man aimlessly obeys rules that eventually lead to rationalizing away the very words that are designed to guide him. This is a very real part of the history of Judaism. Their lack of trusting faith in God eventually led to manipulation of His word and the casting away of YHVH's real intent or spirit as well. Without the power of God (Ruach HaQodesh - Holy Spirit) man has no ability to sustain his relationship with Him. The "rules" (Torah) soon become a burden rather than a joy and man drifts away, soon followed by generations of faithless children.
Galatians 4:21-31 teaches us this very same principle. Struggling to obey God without the benefit of His presence produces that body of sin that Sha’ul talked about in Romans 6. This places a person in constant bondage, never coming to trust in God and to rely on His power and righteousness. Sha’ul begins this short lesson by assuming that the reader is not only familiar with the story of Hagar and Ishmael, but has knowledge of scriptural interpretative methods. In this case he uses a midrash, which is translated as allegory in the English. Midrash draws a personal, moral or ethical meaning from the text. Sha’ul is going to teach us from Genesis chapter 21 how to understand his constant attempt to explain under the law. In verse 24 he states that there are two covenants, one from the Mount Sinai, bearing children of bondage, who is Hagar.
"For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all".
"Jerusalem from above" is the other covenant. As a sidebar, notice where Mount Sinai is. It is not in what we call the Sinai peninsula, but in Arabia. We will save that for another time. Now for a brief review of the Hagar story. Abraham and Sarah are given instructions by YHVH that Sarah will bear the child of promise to Abraham. All they had to do was trust in God and take Him at His word. But nooooh, they had to take it in their own hands (or works) and go to Hagar for the promised child instead of trusting YHVH. Now Hagar was a servant given to Abraham to serve him. She was not the means by which the promise was to be fulfilled. Hagar's purpose was to serve Abraham and Sarah. So Abraham goes to Hagar to fulfill the promise and ends up producing a child that will forever stalk his people and keep them in bondage. Why is Hagar like Mount Sinai? Because the place where the law was given was precisely that! The law was given to Israel at this place. It's purpose was to serve, not to be served. It is a separate covenant. Notice in Shemot (Exodus) 19:12, that no one was allowed to go up to the Mount or even touch it! Israel was not to be redeemed by going to the Mount, but rather through faith. The design has always been that way. Contained in the law was the instructions for being redeemed, by sacrifice of the innocent, through the blood. YHVH gave Israel the law after He placed them under His wings and brought them unto Himself in Shemot 19:3-4. No one can come to God by going to Mount Sinai, anymore than the promise to Abraham could be found by going to Hagar. If your redemption is reliant upon your own works then you will forever be in bondage to those works because you will constantly fail. If you trust wholly in YHVH to give you His promise by trusting that He can, then he will give you His promise. He will also provide you with His covenant at Mount Sinai, which when obeyed will cause you to be a peculiar treasure unto Him above all people. However if you desire to come to Him by way of Mount Sinai, a mount He does not even want you to touch, then you will become a servant of Mount Sinai and forever in bondage.
The rest of this midrash is also very thought provoking, but my purpose is to teach what under the law means. One more thought about Hagar. If Abraham and Sarah would have trusted YHVH and waited, then Hagar would have continued to be Isaac's servant rather than the other way around. Please take the time to ponder all this. Sha’ul is continuing to teach that if the law is used lawfully then it blesses, if it is used unlawfully then it curses (1 Timothy 1:8-9).
Our last use of this phrase is in Galatians 5 verse 18.
"But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law."
The works of the flesh are analogous to being under the law. Remember that the works of the flesh is the old man of Romans chapter 6 that we discussed earlier. The old man is without the presence of YHVH and only produces the body of sin. It is not guided, directed, sustained or led by the Spirit of God. It is on its own and can never please. According to Romans 6:14 it is under the dominion of sin because of disobedience. When you are led by the Spirit of God, then He guides you, through His instructions (Torah), to do what is holy and righteous and you do not serve the works of the flesh, which Sha’ul lists in verses 19 through 21.
I would like to close this section on this phrase by making a few comments about the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. These two expressions are very well known in Rabbinical circles. According to sages who lived before Yeshua', when the Messiah comes, He will interpret the Scriptures for us, and He will even interpret the spaces between the letters! What does that mean? The ancient Jewish teachers revered the words of God much more than we in this culture can conceive. The universe and all that is in it was created by the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the Aleph-Tav. These letters, through the very breath of YHVH, created all that is. This is also verified in Hebrews 11:3 and many others places in Scripture. These letters that created were held together by YHVH Himself. He was the space between the letters. His Spirit holds all things together. After ’Elohiym rested, creation was considered to be held together by the perpetual reading and doing of Torah. It was taught that if there ever came a time when Torah was not taught or performed that the universe would cease to exist (melt away with a fervent heat?!). We know by New Testament revelation that it is Yeshua‘ Himself that holds all things together, for He is the very Spirit of Torah (Colossians 1:16-19). In Hebrew thought, the letter of the law is simply letters on parchment. The letter of the law is Torah without the Spirit. The spirit of the law is Torah engulfed by the Spirit. This is why in 2 Corinthians 3:17, Sha’ul concludes by stating, "Now YHVH is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of YHVH is, there is liberty." According to verse 6 of that same chapter it is the Spirit that gives life to Torah, otherwise it is only letters on paper and can never give or sustain life. Can you see this? Can you seriously study all these passages and still conclude that Yeshua‘’s death ended God's instructions? Do any of these lessons of Sha’ul teach that the commandments of God ceased to exist today?
I hope and pray that these past few lessons have given some insight into this commonly abused expression. The law of YHVH is good, set apart, righteous and true, and is a blessing if it is obeyed and a curse if it is not. The law is similar to a sharp knife. If it is used for what it was designed for, it will serve you. If it is used to murder, then it will be the most damning piece of evidence to stand against you. As believers we should be saying, "YHVH help me to understand through your word how to obey you instructions and prosper." Instead we are teaching that these instructions are simply not for us. In the past few years a popular acronym has become a part of speech. It is WWJD! I would pray that we would all keep in mind that this does not mean What Would Jesus Say, but What Would Jesus do!
Next time we are going to address the issue of adoption in some depth to finish up this series on what it means to be under the law. And remember, cling to your roots that your days may be prolonged in the land that YHVH has given you.