Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 1 * BOOK 5
Law – Weak and Beggarly
Turn to Galatians 4. Remember, we covered the allegory that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was brought about by the energy of the flesh – God never told Abraham to have a child by the Egyptian slave girl, Hagar. But Isaac was the child of promise. As I’ve pointed out many times before, everything in the Old Testament was set up for our learning, and this is a prime example. Even as Ishmael was a child of the flesh, as opposed to Isaac, who was the child of promise. In the Book of Galatians Paul uses the allegory that Ishmael represented the “Law” which was fleshly (and here I’m expecting some flack!). Whereas Isaac, the child of promise, is indicative of the Age of Grace; the very Grace of God, based upon all the promises that He would form a plan of redemption. To refresh your memory, go back to the Book of Galatians. Here Paul quotes from Genesis:
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son (Hagar and Ishmael): for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman(Sarah and Isaac). So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
Paul was writing to Gentile believers in the province of Galatia, who were being besieged by Judaizers. These Judaizers taught that Gentiles could not be saved unless they also kept the Law. Paul, however, was adamant that legalism could not be brought into Grace. This, then, is the reason for this allegory – that just as surely as Ishmael had to leave the whole area (God didn’t tell Abraham to build Ishmael a little tent next door so he could remain in close proximity), but rather, Abraham was to “cast him out” into the wilderness so there could be no contact between the two boys. The lesson is; that this is what we have to do with the Law and legalism in all its insidious forms. We have to be totally separated from it – we have to “cast it out.” Remember, the Law was carnal; it was fleshly; it was weak (I know that will not go down easy with a lot of people because we know that the Law was spiritual, it was perfect and holy – from God’s point of view. But from man’s side, the Law was what we said above – carnal, fleshly, and weak!). Look back now at Galatians 4:9, and I’ll show you what I’m talking about. Paul wrote to the Galatian Gentile believers who had been saved by Grace, but who were being tempted to go back under the Law.
“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”
Paul was referring to the Law. Look at Romans 8:2,3 where he says practically the same thing. Remember, Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he said, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” “The Law of sin and death” – does that sound like something very beautiful? The “Law of sin and death” was the Mosaic system!
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:”
The Scripture tells us that when it came to the Law from man’s dire need and point of view, it was weak and beggarly! Now, because there are many people who don’t like the writings of Paul, even though the epistles of Paul are the very bedrock of our Christian faith, (I’ve even heard some say the letters of Paul shouldn’t be in our Bible!), let me show you another scripture where the apostle Peter referred to the Law in the same way. Turn to Acts 15:1. The setting for this passage is that Paul had been in Antioch, north of present day Beirut, on the corner of the Mediterranean Sea, ministering to Gentile believers. It was in Antioch where believers were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). When the Jewish believers in Jerusalem got wind that Gentiles were being brought into a relationship with “their” God, they got “all shook up!” So they sent men from Jerusalem all the way to Antioch to see if this was true! Was Paul, a Jew, really permitting Gentiles to claim they were saved without becoming proselytes of Judaism?
“And certain men which came down from Judaea (Jerusalem) taught the brethren (the believers at Antioch), and said, ‘Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.’” Plain English. That’s what the Jewish believers from Jerusalem were trying to convince the Gentile believers at Antioch! Look further at verse 5. Paul was taken back to Jerusalem like a heretic, to be ‘called on the carpet’ before the church there.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, (these weren’t the self-righteous Pharisees that we are most acquainted with in the Gospels. These were Pharisees who had come to believe that Jesus was The Christ, but who were still Law-keepers) saying, ‘That it was needful to circumcise them (the Antioch Gentile believers), and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’”
This wasn’t just a suggestion from the Jewish believers saying, “Maybe it will help the Gentile believers if they keep the Law.” No! They wanted it to be a commandment! They were adamant about this as they came up against Paul, and instructed him to “command” them to keep the Law of Moses. There was a great controversy in the Jerusalem church over this. Though it doesn’t say so specifically in Scripture, I believe it went on for the better part of the day. There was a tremendous argument between Paul and the Jewish believers in Jerusalem. (Read Galatians 2 in your spare time, where Paul continues to say that the Gentile believers could not be forced to stay under the Law, for they were under Grace!) In Acts 15, Peter enters the controversy. I believe he’d been sitting back listening to everything being said (as opposed to the times in the Gospel accounts where he had been the primary spokesman). Finally, I believe the Spirit of God woke him up to speak out.
“And when there had been much disputing (there’d been a lot of argument), Peter rose up, and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.’”
The very wording in this verse “Peter rose up” indicates that Peter had been sitting back listening, taking in the whole scene nonchalantly, while the others had been actively engaged in animated conversation and debate. But, he finally spoke out. He reminded them of the events recorded in Acts 10, events that had taken place nearly twelve years earlier, when Peter had been sent to the house of Cornelius. I believe that this was providential – this was the Sovereign God at work! God reminded Peter (and the others through him) of those special events when the first Gentiles were saved through Peter’s preaching. This is another good example of the situation we discussed a couple of lessons ago, when Hagar was sent back to the tent of Abraham and Sarah, before Ishmael was born, just to have to go through the same thing fifteen years later. Why? So we would have a New Testament lesson. This is the same kind of situation. God certainly wanted the house of Cornelius saved, but in the bigger picture, this was a preparation for Peter in Acts 15 to come to Paul’s defense by reminding the brethren that God had saved Gentiles by Peter’s preaching years before. Verse 9:
“And put no difference between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith.”
This was a tough thing for Peter to say! He was like every other Jew. He thought that Jews were God’s own people and that Gentiles were just “dogs,” who could maybe get the“crumbs” like the Canaanite woman was able to do (Matt. 15:22-28). But here, Peter had to admit that there was now no difference between Jew and Gentile (as Paul had been teaching for years).
“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
We are continuing here to see that the Law was weak and beggarly. Peter calls the Law a “yoke,” a “burden.” It’s amazing how many people still believe that they can get to Heaven by keeping the Commandments – doing the best they can. This is why I feel I need to “raise my voice” to say that the Law was never given to save anybody. The Law was never intended to save even the Jew who was under it. We’ll see this in this lesson or the next. Turn to Galatians 5 where Paul uses exactly the same word to describe the Law.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty (as opposed to the yoke of bondage of the Law) wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Just as soon as someone says that they are trying to keep the Commandments, they are placing themselves under this yoke of bondage. Another scripture says that if you are going to keep part of the Law, you have to keep all of it (James 2:10 !) If you are going to keep all of the Law, you’d better have a temple, a priesthood, an altar and a flock of sheep; because they are all involved in the sacrifices required by the Law. Just as soon as the Age of Grace came on the scene, what did God sovereignly have happen to the Temple in Jerusalem? It was torn down stone-by-stone by the Roman army; totally destroyed because the Age of Law had faded off the scene and the Age of Grace had commenced. But people are still trying to somehow go back to the Temple worship, even though it is a poor facsimile! They are trying to resurrect that legal system. But it is gone – the Temple is destroyed.
It will come back someday, but not until the Age of Grace has ended. Even now, Israel is all excited about rebuilding their Temple. They’ve got all the clothing for the priesthood made and hanging on mannequins. They’ve got all the utensils ready for the sacrificial worship. They’ve got young men trained and ready for the priesthood. The Jerusalem Post reported a few months ago that the red heifer was on some isolated farm in the countryside of Israel, ready to be sacrificed, so the ashes could be sprinkled in the new Temple when it is built, purifying it. It’s all ready! But the Church is going to have to go first! For now, we are not under Law, we are under Grace! Let’s pursue a few more verses about the Law. Turn to Romans 3. Paul makes the statement for the first time that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. If you know your Bible, you realize that the mentality of the Jew, all the way through Paul’s ministry and even up to our day, claims that they are the only ones with access to God. To put the Gentile in the same position with them is an anathema! They couldn’t stomach that idea.
I like to point to verses in Acts (21:27-22:30) where Paul was addressing the huge Jewish crowd in Jerusalem that only a few moments before had tried to kill him. The Roman authorities had rushed in to rescue him, and then from a secure position on a stairway, they allowed him to speak to that audience. He spoke to them in Hebrew to get their attention, telling them of his qualifications as a Jew; of his persecution of the Church; of his conversion on the road to Damascus; and in Acts 22:21, of Jesus’ instruction to him to “‘Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.'”
At that, the Jewish crowd went into an uproar and had it not been for the Roman authorities, the crowd would have torn Paul into pieces. At the word, “Gentiles,“ they went berserk. That was the thinking of the Jews, and when Saul of Tarsus (Paul) said that there was no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, the Jews were ready to tear him limb from limb! Can you now see why Peter had so many problems with reaching out to the Gentiles. I’ll point out later how Peter in his little Epistle (near the back of your Bible, just shortly before his life is ended in martyrdom), wrote, as Paul did in all his Epistles (II Peter 3:16) “…things hard to be understood….“ If Peter thought they were hard to understand at the end of his life, you can imagine how he must have felt earlier.
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
Of all the peoples of the earth, there was only one group that were literally under the Law – the Jews. God didn’t expect the Gentiles to keep the Law or to have Temple worship. There were a few proselytes who kept the Law, but I think that even a lot of them were not really true believers – they were kind of “hangers-on.” But it was to the Jews that the Law was given. But look what follows the colon in verse 19, “…that every mouth may be stopped,….” Now, who does it include? The whole human race! Israel was under the Law, but the Law also condemned the whole human race, “…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” That’s not sending you to Heaven! That’s sending you the other direction! This was the only purpose of the Law – to condemn mankind, to show man that he is a sinner and not fit for God’s Heaven, that he is a Law-breaker!
“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.” Isn’t that plain English? Why can’t people see this? That’s all the Law could do – condemn! All it could do was show man that he fell far short of what God demands in righteousness.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets;..”
“But” always shows us the “flip-side.” Whereas the Law condemns and proves everyone is a sinner, unfit for God’s Heaven, but now, the righteousness of God is manifested without the Law! Most people don’t like that, but that’s what The Book says! As I was driving up this morning in preparation for this program teaching, I was thinking how many people there are who somehow say, “I’m doing what my church teaches,” or “I’m doing what my parents and grandparents taught.” But think, how many of these people are going to stand before Christ, the Righteous Judge, someday and will say, “Lord, didn’t I agree with what my denomination taught,” or “Didn’t I agree with what so-and-so said?” But the Word says inRomans 2:16 that every person is going to be judged “…according to my (Paul’s) Gospel.” Don’t ever forget that!
We’re not going to be judged on the basis of “what I’ve been taught” or “I did the best I could” – we’re going to be judged on the basis of what we did with the Gospel!