Last update: 2019-06-30
All verses are in the New King James Version unless otherwise noted. This is a document written in response to some things about the law we were discussing at Bible study.
To understand the two covenants we must start with Paul’s introductory comments here:
“Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?”(Galatians 4:21)
What does “under G5259 the law G3551” mean? Paul earlier compares “works of the law”–which is an Essene teaching that one could be justified by keeping certain laws–to the work of Christ. Paul argues against “works of the law” and contrasts it with faith in many different places.
There are several directions you can go with the meaning of “under the law.” Gesenius connects H8478 to G5259 “under” in Greek and lists places when it can be used to designate being under “authority” for instance “under her husband” means “under the authority of her husband”  In addition Luke 7:8 and Matthew 8:9 clearly make this connection of being “under” someone to being “under the authority of” someone. Gesenius gives Nu. 5:19 and Eze. 23:5 as examples which both have the context of punishment for the wrong-doing while “under” the husband.  However, what does it mean to be “under authority?” If we go with this meaning I would suggest it means close to “under power”  the usage in the new testament seems to fit better with “power” than plain “authority.”  After all, what good is authority if you don’t have the power to carry it out? However, the meaning of “under” seems to depend on what is metaphorically on top.  The closest I could find to being under “law” in the Greek Septuagint was in 2 Maccabees 7:36 which speaks of dying “under (God’s) covenant” i.e. ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ). The result or consequence of dying while “under God’s covenant” is “everlasting life.”  “Under covenant” is the closest parallel to “under law” I have found, therefore, keep in mind this meaning of “under the results of the law” when we read “under law” in the following. Let’s start in Romans to see if “under results” fits.
First some context:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1)
This is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4 and the context is about the Chaldeans being eventually judged for plundering Israel and other nations even though they are about to destroy the temple and attack Israel. This was brought about by Israel’s sin:
4 “Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.
5 “Indeed, because he transgresses by wine,
He is a proud man,
And he does not stay at home.
Because he enlarges his desire as hell,
And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied,
He gathers to himself all nations
And heaps up for himself all peoples.
6 “Will not all these take up a proverb against him,
And a taunting riddle against him, and say,
‘Woe to him who increases
What is not his—how long?
And to him who loads himself with many pledges’?
7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly?
Will they not awaken who oppress you?
And you will become their booty.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
All the remnant of the people shall plunder you,
Because of men’s blood
And the violence of the land and the city,
And of all who dwell in it. (Habakkuk 2)
Tim Hegg notes:
The context of the Habakkuk text is the conclusion of the prophet’s cry of woe, in which he questions God over the use of the Chaldeans to punish the chosen people. For the prophet, this brought into question God’s justice and even His holiness (1:13f). In raising the question of how God could use such a wicked nation to punish His people, he awaits God’s answer (2:1). The Lord’s answer comes in the form of a revelation or vision that Habakkuk was to record and make known. It’s application would be for the appointed time, and those who believed in God would await its fulfillment, even though it might appear for the interim that it was not correct. The proud in heart would doubtless refuse to accept the revelation given to the prophet, but the one who had faith (and would thus accept the revelation) would live, i.e., preserve his life on the basis of acting in accordance with the revelation which God would give the prophet. Thus, “the just shall live by faith.”
We find important clues as to the meaning of “faith” in this quote of Habakkuk by understanding the Hebrew word ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah. The first time we find the word in the Tanach, it refers to the hands of Moses held up by Aaron and Hur (Ex 17:12)—“his hands were ה ָמוּנֱא until the going down of the sun,” i.e., they were raised continually and incessantly. In every other passage where the term ה ָמוּנֱא is found, it refers to the conduct of persons or of God, sometimes categorizing such actions as attributes (“faithful,” “genuine,” “reliable,” etc.). Jepsen notes:
Thus ‘emunah is not so much an abstract quality . . . but a way of acting which grows out of inner stability, “conscientiousness.” Whereas ‘emeth [a related word meaning “truth”] is always used in relationship to something (or someone) on which (or whom) one can rely, ‘emunah seems more to emphasize one’s own inner attitude and the conduct it produces. The frequently suggested translation, “conscientiousness,” would seem to come closest to the meaning intended in many passages.26
On the basis of the meaning of ה ָמוּנֱא’ ,emunah, it seems warranted that some translations (NEB, JPS, margin of RSV and NRSV) have opted to translate Hab 2:4 along the lines of “the righteous will live on the basis of his faithfulness.” Indeed, in BDB’s Lexicon (p. 53) Hab 2:4b is translated as “a righteous man by his faithfulness liveth.”
Keil and Delitzsch state:
אמוּנה does not denote “an honourable character, or fidelity to conviction” (Hitzig), but (from ‘âman, to be firm, to last) firmness (Exodus 17:12); then, as an attribute of God, trustworthiness, unchangeable fidelity in the fulfilment of His promises (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; Psalm 89:34); and, as a personal attribute of man, fidelity in word and deed (Jeremiah 7:28; Jeremiah 9:2; Psalm 37:3); and, in his relation to God, firm attachment to God, an undisturbed confidence in the divine promises of grace, firma fiducia and fides, so that in ‘ĕmūnâh the primary meanings of ne’ĕmân and he’ĕmı̄n are combined. This is also apparent from the fact that Abraham is called ne’ĕmân in Nehemiah 9:8, with reference to the fact that it is affirmed of him in Genesis 15:6 that האמין בּיהוה, “he trusted, or believed, the Lord;” and still more indisputably from the passage before us, since it is impossible to mistake the reference in צדּיק בּאמוּנתו יחיה to Genesis 15:6, “he believed (he’ĕmı̄n) in Jehovah, and He reckoned it to him litsedâqâh.” It is also indisputably evident from the context that our passage treats of the relation between man and God, since the words themselves speak of a waiting (chikkâh) for the fulfilment of a promising oracle, which is to be preceded by a period of severe suffering. “What is more natural than that life or deliverance from destruction should be promised to that faith which adheres faithfully to God, holds fast by the word of promise, and confidently waits for its fulfilment in the midst of tribulation? It is not the sincerity, trustworthiness, or integrity of the righteous man, regarded as being virtues in themselves, which are in danger of being shaken and giving way in such times of tribulation, but, as we may see in the case of the prophet himself, his faith. To this, therefore, there is appended the great promise expressed in the one word יחיה” (Delitzsch). And in addition to this, ‘ĕmūnâh is opposed to the pride of the Chaldaean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God.
This type of “faith” is different than checking off a rule list. In the verses before the vision of justice was said by God to not come for a while but that it would surely come so a long-suffering trust is implied in God’s promises:
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry. (Habakkuk 2)
Paul is using this to say that the basis for justifying sinners (sinners such as Israel) was always this type of faith. Habakkuk later makes connection to eschatology according to Keil and Delitzsch. This is possibly why Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel since he knows Christ will have victory in the end:
In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. “In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters.” The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא, referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע, rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, 239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one (hammâshı̄ăch) by virtue of its calling to be “a kingdom of priests” (mamlekheth kohănı̄m, Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalm 28:8 nor in Psalm 84:10; Psalm 89:39. Even in Psalm 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God “my anointed” (meshı̄chai), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king – say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin – but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, “just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalm 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally” (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms.
Paul then talks about idolatry:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1)
Continuing on we have something interesting:
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
Paul uses Israel’s idolatry to point out that both they and the pagan nations are without excuse as Tim Hegg notes this is addressed to the Jewish part of the congregation:
The opening word of the second chapter, “Therefore,” has caused some difficulty in understanding how what Paul is now saying connects to what he has already said in chapter one. But to answer this question we must first ask ourselves to whom Paul addresses his remarks in the present text: to Gentiles who were a “cut above” in their moral outlook, or to Jews, or to a mixed group? While each of these options have been held by scholars, I would think that several factors weight the case toward Paul addressing Jews beginning in 2:1. Here are the reasons: 1) the language of v. 4 fits the history of Israel but does not fit God’s activity toward the nations. While it is true that He does show mercy to the Gentiles (such as at Ninevah), the strong language of mercy and patience in view of Israel’s often rebellion seems to underly Paul’s words here. 2) Since it seems clear that Paul has two groups in mind in 1:18-3:20, i.e., Jews and Gentiles, it seems most likely that he refers to Jews when he characterizes a group as morally superior, as he does in 2:1ff. 3) It is clear that he addresses the Jew at v. 17, but it does not seem that he begins to address someone different at this point than he has from the beginning of the chapter. Therefore, one would conclude that he addresses Jews from the beginning of the chapter. 4) It was characteristic, at least by the report of our extant literature, of some (perhaps a majority of) Pharisees that they had an attitude of superiority toward the Gentiles, so that the attitudes described in the opening verses of our chapter best describe the Jew rather than the Gentile. In light of these things, I would think it best to interpret Paul’s words in 2:1ff as addressed primarily to the Jewish congregant in the synagogue at Rome
Notice Paul is not speaking to people as individuals but people as part of Israel and God’s people in the greater historical context. This is thinking that seems to be prevalent in the Bible and hence Israel’s particular tribal culture. Another example of this type of corporate non-individualist thinking appears in the prayer that Daniel makes for Israel in Daniel 9. Paul then uses this to establish that everyone is guilty. However, he notes that different people will be judged in different ways:
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
17 Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
25 For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? 27 And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? 28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Circumcision here may refer to the group distinction rather than the physical sign. (you could be circumcised but still not be considered Jewish, this will be discussed in another article) If it does refer to physical circumcision it may be saying that he who fails to keep the requirements of the law loses the right to bear the physical sign of circumcision. (Essentially: physical circumcision has become a hypocrisy.) Paul says that circumcision benefits in some way but he is not saying this is a matter of salvation. He seems to refer to it as one of identity and representation.
1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Here we see that the Jews have an advantage because they were raised in the oracles of God, not from the specific act of circumcision. If this refers to physical circumcision it seems to refer to them who were circumcised on the eighth day, not those who would convert and become circumcised as adults. If this refers to physical circumcision there are some questions this raises about whether circumcision was actually required by the law for adults: “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?” might imply a negative answer but Paul later uses the same Greek word to talk about fulfilling the law through being justified by Christ:
“2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5″ (Romans 8)
This leaves the meaning uncertain. Even if Paul did say something positive or negative about adult physical circumcision we would need to evaluate the context in which he said it. If Paul said something negative we must ask: could he just be referring to it’s irrelevance to salvation? If positive we must ask: in what sense? as a requirement that fulfills part of the law? or as sign of being raised in the oracles of God? This is beyond the scope to get into detail I just want you to know that this question exists. I do not believe adult circumcision is required in any way. (only if one wants to eat of the Passover sacrifice, see: Exodus 12:48 which is irrelevant now because there is no temple) Let’s continue:
3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:
“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
Here Paul is saying that God is just, whether or not people, even Jews, believe in God. Commenting in more detail would be irrelevant to the topic. In the following we see that Paul does indeed view his previous arguments as putting everyone “under (the results of) sin.”
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3)
Paul starts his quotations with Psalm 14 (also see the almost identical Psalm 53). Psalm 14 begins:
1 The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good. (Psalm 14)
Maybe Paul is making the point that goodness only comes from God and that God can only justify man. The fool who uses the lack of God to justify his actions is an example of this. One might say: “man – God = sin”
2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (Psalms 14)
Is it broadening the context or still talking about fools that reject God? I think the latter. Paul goes on to say that since man without God cannot do good we cannot be justified by God except by grace. Adam (as a representative of humanity) had sinned causing all to suffer for it, Israel (as priesthood to the world) had broken the old covenant hence imparting the curses of not following the law to all God’s followers. What could solve this problem? Since we were unable to write the law on our own hearts God would do it for us. Compare the following:
32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write H3789 it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31)
18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. (Deuteronomy 11)
It is true that the law was in their hearts in some sense in Deuteronomy 30:
But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, h3824 that you may do it. (Deut 30:14)
However, there are several differences with the wording in Jeremiah 31:33
1 God puts the law in the heart and not man. (hence grace)
2 The law is “written” now. (possibly suggesting more permanence)
3 It adds “put My law in their minds H7130” (a totally different word than h3824 for “heart” in Deut 30:14)
Considering points one and two we can observe some significance attributed to the writing instrument used and of the writing surface:
“The sin of Judah is written H3789 with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart,
And on the horns of your altars,￼ (Jer 17:1)
O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You shall be ashamed.
“Those who depart from Me
Shall be written H3789 in the earth,
Because they have forsaken the Lord,
The fountain of living waters.”￼ (Jer 17:13)
It seems like God would have better instruments than us to write the law. Keil and Deilitzche in their commentary on Deut 10:6 make the observation that the writing surface will be entirely different as well:
The Lord will then circumcise their heart, and the heart of their children (see Deuteronomy 10:16), so that they will love Him with all their heart. When Israel should turn with true humility to the Lord, He would be found of them, – would lead them to true repentance, and sanctify them through the power of His grace, – would take away the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, a new heart and a new spirit, – so that they should truly know Him and keep His commandments (vid., Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:33. and Deuteronomy 32:39.). “Because of thy life,” i.e., that thou mayest live, sc., attain to true life. The fulfilment of this promise does not take place all at once. It commenced with small beginnings at the deliverance from the Babylonian exile, and in a still higher degree at the appearance of Christ in the case of all the Israelites who received Him as their Saviour. Since then it has been carried on through all ages in the conversion of individual children of Abraham to Christ; and it will be realized in the future in a still more glorious manner in the nation at large (Romans 11:25.). The words of Moses do not relate to any particular age, but comprehend all times. For Israel has never been hardened and rejected in all its members, although the mass of the nation lives under the curse even to the present day.
Knowing this may help us with the idea that in the final fulfillment of the new covenant “no man shall teach another.” Now lets read these two verses together that are positioned around Paul’s quotation:
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
. . .
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. . . 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3)
If “under the law” means “under the results of the law” then by charging that the whole world is “under sin” Paul is saying that everyone is subject to the penalty of the law which is death. Here, Paul is implying that the cursings of the law given at mount Sinai now fall on all of mankind. Essentially, the law + sin caused death, and this is part of the law “bringing knowledge of sin” which is why it states that the through the law “sin might become exceedingly sinful” but this will be explained later. For now, observe how everyone is under (the results of) sin and hence “death:”
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; . . . I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
Grace and law go together, because we need grace to be forgiven from transgressing the law. (sin)
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3)
Here “apart from the law” just means “apart from the deeds of the law” see below:
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. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. (Romans 3)
The statement “law of faith” makes a bit more sense if you remember that “Torah” (the Hebrew word that Paul is referring to with the Greek “nomos”) can mean “instruction.” The “instruction of faith.” As for the meaning of “circumcision,” for now, just observe, that here, it could mean “Judaism” with all the rules and traditions that they followed in addition to the Torah. If Paul is saying that the law no longer applies to us his whole argument of us needing grace is complete nonsense. We no longer have the results of the law apply to us but it still defines God’s unchanging character, see here: http://www.the-ten-commandments.org/the-ten-commandments-god.html Moving on:
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4)
Paul here is contrasting the physical with spiritual. He will also do this in Galatians 4 (we’ll see this later). We have works that show our faith but they are just a sign of our faith, works don’t save us. The physical sign does not make up for the substance of action (spirit) which is the same thing that animates a lifeless body. Compare the following:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4 KJV)
And her spirit G4151 came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. (Luke 8:55 KJV)
8 And I beheld, and behold, upon them nerves and flesh germinated, and [2ascended 3upon 4them 1skin] above; but [2breath G4151 1there was no] in them. 9 And he said to me, Prophesy over the wind! G4151 Prophesy, O son of man, and say to the wind! G4151 Thus says the Lord the lord; From out of the four winds, G4151 come wind G4151 and breathe onto these dead, and let them live! 10 And I prophesied in so far as he gave charge to me, and [3entered 4into 5them 1the 2wind G4151], and they lived; and they stood upon their feet, [4gathering 3great 1a very 2exceedingly]. 11 And the lord spoke to me, saying, O son of man, these bones [2all 3the house 4of Israel 1are]. And they say, [4dry 3are 2bones 1Our]; [3is destroyed 2hope 1our]; we are perished. 12 On account of this prophesy and say! Thus says the Lord the lord; Behold, I shall open your tombs, and I shall lead you from out of your tombs, and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the lord, by my opening your graves, for me to lead you from out of your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my spirit G4151 into you, and you shall live. And I will put you upon your land, and you shall know that I the lord have spoken, and I will act, says the lord. (Ezekiel 37:8-11 ABP)
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath H7307 came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (Eze 37:10 KJV) (H7307 can also be translated as “spirit”)
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, G4151 and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Rom 2:29 KJV)
(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit G4151 of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. (Rom 11:8 KJV)
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. G4151 (Rom 8:4 KJV)
God seeks substance and action, not physical appearance. For example, the temple and its rituals were physically impressive but Hebrews makes a list of its severe limitations which were eventually covered by Christ as our new high priest:
1 For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
But a body You have prepared for Me.
6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin
You had no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—
In the volume of the book it is written of Me—
To do Your will, O God.’ ”
8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 8)
Similarly, Stephen states the following:
44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built Him a house.
48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
50 Has My hand not made all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7)
Now we can compare this to these verses:
“5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2)
33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)
Also, the context of the verses Stephen quotes in Acts 7 are from Isaiah 66 about having the right heart condition:
1Thus says the LORD,
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
2“For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Let us continue with Romans 4:
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
Notice this is not about changing the law but about covering the transgression made against it. Paul is simply pointing out that if you make your salvation conditional on any action or any physical sign (manifestation of faith) you are not believing in salvation by grace. Again, this is all about how we have salvation despite the law applying to us:
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
This sign of circumcision was for the faith that Abraham had not vice versa which means all people can be justified by faith whether they are circumcised or not. In Romans 4, we can easily forget the verse that comes before that chapter:
“31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.”
As for whether circumcision was required for gentiles converting there are several possibilities here: 1 circumcision is required for adults and the point is only that it is not a matter of salvation. 2 Circumcision was not required as an adult so it is not required for an individual to circumcise themselves except if they were going to eat the Passover sacrifice. 3 Circumcision means “Judaism” so it’s not even talking about circumcision literally. When Paul is talking about Abraham being declared righteous before he was circumcised he is saying that circumcision is just a sign, and the true circumcision is a circumcised heart. Note, there is no law commanding adults who join Israel to be circumcised (with the exception of eating the Passover sacrifice), only that you circumcise your son on the eighth day. I believe that option 2 is correct, and in this case what Paul is condemning is an outward appearance that has nothing to do with following God. Regardless of that we can say that Abraham was declared righteous because he believed, and while belief leads to obedience, the outward appearance of something is not to be confused with the heart condition, especially in the context of salvation.
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Again, being under sin + results of the law = punishment = death. Faith, as we have seen leads to justification which is needed to save us from condemnation. Hence, grace, as is made clear in the following:
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4)
Again all that is going on here is that we are being promised redemption and we are not earning it by doing any specific works in the law:
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5)
Again sin + law = penalty = death. This means we need grace. The same idea is made clear in the following:
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Romans 5)
Again, without the law still applying to us this argument is nonsense.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5)
The law was given so that sin would become painfully apparent. (obvious) The same word translated “offense” is translated “transgression” in the Septuagint:
26 In the turning of the just from his righteousness, and he should commit transgression, and he should die in the transgression which he did; [2in 3it 1he shall die].(Ezekiel 18:26 ABP)
Paul, now has to explain why we need to not sin even without being under (the results of) the law because this means the penalties of the law won’t fall on us:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6)
Commenting on all of this is beyond the scope here. For now let’s look at the starting and ending verses to further establish our theory of what “under the law” means:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! . . .
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6)
The law still applies because grace abounds when we sin. Also, why would we start to sin simply because we are not “under the law?” If “not under the law” means the entire law no longer applies then we can’t sin . . . If we are now under a “law of love” (as some argue) which has no specific rules, just “anything we consider loving” why would not being under the old law imply we might break this law of love? However, if “under the law” means “under the results of the law” and by implication “under the penalty of the law” (because of all being under sin) then we might be tempted to sin because there are no more law-related results/consequences for sin. Paul relates the reason we do not continue in sin to the fact that we serve God and not sin:
16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6)
Believers even in the old testament were always intended to be under grace: Daniel 9:18; Gen. 6:8; Ex. 33:12, 17; Judges 6:17f; Jer. 31:2. However, Israel broke the covenant and the northern kingdom was divorced by God and yet Israel was promised to be restored:
8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. (Jer 3:8)
How would God restore Israel? This is what Jews expected the messiah to do. Paul uses an analogy here to explain this. Notice, the relation to Israel as a whole is easier to see if you remember that Paul is talking to people as being part of their larger groups in the greater historical context:
1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? 2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (Romans 7)
Several things to notice here: 1 the law is good. 2 the law makes us aware of our sin 3 without law sin could not cause punishment 4 sin taking the opportunity of the commandment killed him . . . what does that mean? I think he’s using an analogy here. Sin is clearly being talked about as bringing curses/death through punishment. However, Paul is still alive therefore his idea of being righteous on his own has to be what was killed, allowing him to accept grace. Let’s read on:
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (Romans 7)
The commandment made sin appear as sin and it made it [appear] exceedingly sinful or obvious. I inserted “appear” to make it make more sense. However, if you know that “sin” can also mean “guilt” you’ll understand better how this happening:
ἁμαρτία,-ας+ N1F 186-54-94-92-119=545
Gn 15,16; 18,20; 20,9; 41,9; 42,21
guilt, sin Gn 15,16; sin-offering Lv 4,33
Cf. COX 1990, 119-130; DANIEL, S. 1966, 301-328; HARL 1986a, 62.63; HARLÉ 1988, 33; LE BOULLUEC
1989 294.297; →NIDNTT; TWNT
Here, “guilt” makes sense as a translation for the second two occurrences. Try this reading:
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that [guilt] through the commandment might become exceedingly [guilty].
It continues in the same vein lamenting guilt/sin:
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7)
Again remember “law of” could mean “instruction of” and this is pretty self explanatory and backs up the law being good. Everyone should still try to live by the law but when we fail to do this that is where grace covers us. Paul continues to contrast the spirit with the flesh:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
Paul then harkens back to his quote of Habakkuk seeming to refer to the trials of Israel as a whole before it would be restored:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
The context of Paul’s quote of Habakkuk is promised sufferings in the near future with redemption from the Chaldeans and other nations in the end. Paul continues to encourage patient endurance and hope:
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Romans 9)
The last verse is a quote from Psalm 44 which promises present troubles but hopes for future redemption. It also mentions Israel being scattered among the nations and asks God to rescue them. (a possible reference to Israel being reformed)
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)
Here Paul also makes the point of the irresistible nature of God’s grace that nothing physical can separate us from it, again relating it to his theme of contrasting physical and spiritual. Now, lets continue with the context in Galatians:
16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Gal 2)
The Essene MMT document argues that certain works of the law could justify you associates this with separation and purity.  (Paul was refuting this in some of his letters) This backs up one position of E.P. Sanders in his reading of 1st century Judaism in “The New Perspective on Paul” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul He says that many Jews believed that by separating themselves from impurity and observing certain laws that they considered boundary markers of their distinctiveness among the nations would allow God to show his grace to them and save them. Those who didn’t observe these boundary markers had to be separated from. “Pharisee” means “separate.” This explains why issues of salvation and issues of separation or table fellowship are often mentioned together like they are the same thing. Here, in Galatians 2 Paul is simply making the point that law cannot justify you since we know that Christ justifies us and that is well accepted among us.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. (Gal 2)
Galatians 2:17-18 is a reductio ad absurdum to the position of “works of the law” that “if seeking to be declared righteous in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners” is saying that if we have Christ but we still need works of the law then Christ has mislead us and caused us to sin.
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2)
Here “through the law I died to the law” means that the law kills our idea of being self righteous and of saving ourselves. Once we die to self, we can accept a savior outside of ourselves and paradoxically live more in line with the law which is part of the work of grace as Titus 2:11-14 explains:
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2)
In addition, this may be because we are no longer being righteous in a self serving way. Without knowledge of sin we cannot humble ourselves and repent which is reflected in several old testament references describing what behavior God’s people will have to have if they are to be forgiven. (this will be alluded to later) This idea is developed in Galatians 3:
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” (Gal 3)
Here Paul relates the law to the cursings added at Sinai so we see “the law” in the general sense of “the first five books” or “God’s instructions” is not applicable here; rather it is a specific part of the instructions which started at the Sinai covenant. I’ll explain, there are many parts of the first five books which give instructions to God’s people and give unconditional promises like in the Abrahamic covenants in Gen 15,17 and 22. However, here “the law” seems to reflect curses and blessings, life and death, which started at Sinai:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. (Lev 18: 1-5)
“10 “Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them.’ (Ezekiel 20)
God promised the inheritance to Abraham with no strings attached but the law at Sinai came with blessings and cursings and was conditional on them following the law. Let’s see if this theory holds up:
16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Gal 3)
Here we see “law” is used in a specific context for that which was given at Sinai after Abraham “four hundred and thirty years later” he’s clearly distinguishing this from the other parts of the old covenant such as the Abrahamic covenants: “cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ” He’s not saying they are separate, those covenants/instructions all apply to us but Paul is using law specifically to refer to the blessings and cursings in this context starting at Sinai.
19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. (Gal 3)
Here clearly it says the law was given because of transgression. We see this in several ways, 1 it was given with a penal system to punish transgression, 2 it was given with a priesthood to atone for transgression. However, is this what Paul means?
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 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. (Gal 3)
Here we see the third purpose relating to transgression for which the law was given: to make people aware of their transgression. Without humility and acknowledgment of sin we cannot come to Christ and accept grace. Once you leave a tutor and go to university the tutor’s more elementary teachings should still hold (otherwise you went to a bad tutor). No longer being under the tutor means no longer being under the law. This means you know you are not righteous (since the law taught you that) and therefore you are no longer trying to justify yourself by doing the law which means the law is no longer needed to teach you that you need grace through it’s punishments: you already know you deserve punishment. This is shown clearly through the history of the curses that God brought on Israel. Israel can’t claim they are righteous on their own after breaking the law and being put through it’s curses. Hence being “under (the results of) the law” while being “under sin” means being “under the penalty of the law.”
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3)
Paul relates Christ to the unconditional promises to Abraham as distinguished from the covenants starting at Sinai. Does this mean the Sinai covenant is no longer valid for us? No, if it isn’t valid for us then it makes Paul’s whole argument absolute nonsense: we don’t need Christ to save us from a penalty of a law that is no longer valid. To further establish this distinction lets jump ahead and look at what Paul says later:
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4)
Why is being “under (the results of) the law” related to mount Sinai? Because that is where the curses and hence death started to be piled up and while being “under (the results of) sin” those curses will fall us:
14 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,
15 and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,
16 I also will do this to you:
I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.
And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. . .
38 You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.
39 And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands;
also in their fathers’ iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.
. . .
46 These are the statutes and judgments and laws which the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses. (Lev 26)
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4)
Christ is said to be born “under (the results of) the law” because he was born into a world where the cursing from mount Sinai could still be applied to God’s people.
Knowing this we can continue reading Galatians 4:
1 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
“Elements of this world” is interesting. He’s contrasting being redeemed from under the law with being in bondage to the “elements of this world.”
The root of the word G4747 for “elements” is G4748 and is in the Septuagint:
στοιχέω+ V 0-0-0-1-0=1
to prosper, to go on to sprout
Cf. HORSLEY 1982, 97; →NIDNTT; TWNT
￼￼￼￼This is clearly not referring to the law of God as the same word is used to describe the traditions of men in the same book. Here’s the usage in the new testament (there is none in the Septuagint version of the Tanakh )
9 But now, having known God, but rather having been known by God, how do you return again unto the weak and poor elements, G4747 in which again, as at the beginning [2to serve 1you want]?(Gal 4:9)
8 Take heed lest [2anyone 4you 1there shall be 3robbing] through the fondness of intellectual pursuits and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements G4747 of the world, and not according to Christ! (Colossians 2:8 ABP)
20 If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Col 2:20 ABP)
20 If then you died with the Christ from the elements G4747 of the world, why as living in the world do you subject yourselves to decrees? (Colossians 2:20 ABP)
12 For though you ought to be teachers because of the time, again [2need 1you have] of one to teach you what are the elements G4747 of the beginning of the oracles of God; and you have become [2need 1having] of milk, and not of solid nourishment. (Hebrews 5:12)
10 But shall come the day of the Lord as a thief in the night, in which the heavens by a loud noise shall pass away, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall be loosed; and the earth and the [2in 3it 1works] shall be incinerated. (2 Peter 3:10 ABP)
12 expecting and hastening the arrival of the day of God, by which the heavens being set on fire shall be loosed, and the elements G4747 being destroyed by fire shall melt away? (2 Peter 3:12 ABP)
“World” or “kosmos” (G2889) is the other word and is also used for “ornaments:”
κόσμος,-ου+ N2M 5-2-17-5-43=72
Gn 2,1; Ex 33,5.6; Dt 4,19; 17,3
world, universe Prv 17,6a; world, earth 2 Mc 3,12; world, mankind Wis 2,24; ornament, decoration Ex
33,5; honour, delight Prv 28,17a
*Gn 2,1 ὁ κόσμος ornamentation-◊צבה or-צבי for MT ◊צבא host, army, see also Dt 4,19, 17,3, Is 24,21,
40,26, Sir 50,19; *2 Sm 1,24 μετὰ κόσμου ὑμῶν with your ornaments-עם־עדיכן for MT עם־עדנים with
luxury, with ornaments
Cf. DOGNIEZ 1992, 138; HARL 1986a, 98; SCHMITT 1974, 152; →MM; NIDNTT; TWNT
Paul says we are crucified to the world through Christ. This other word also can’t be talking about some divine law:
14 But for me may it not be to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world has been crucified, and I to the world G2889.(Gal 6:12 ABP)
1 And [6were completed 1the 2heaven 3and 4the 5earth], and all the cosmos of them. Genesis 2:1
5 And the lord said to the sons of Israel, You are a people hard-necked; see that [2do not 5calamity 4another 1I 3bring] upon you! and should completely consume you. Now then remove [2apparels 1your glorious], and the ornament! and I will show to you what I will do to you. 6 And [4removed 1the 2sons 3of Israel] their ornamentation, and the attire at the mountain of Horeb. (Exodus 33 ABP)
It continues in the same fashion:
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
Commenting on the verses 12-20 is beyond the scope here so we will skip ahead. Here we start out with the verse that caused us to ask the question “what does under the law mean?” in the first place:
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—
Notice that Paul is using symbolism here and the majority of translations here use “allegory” or “illustration.” If Paul is suddenly going to tell us that we don’t need to follow the law–here is not the place to do it, it would too easilly be misunderstood as figurative. Let’s get into the allegory: the reason the Jerusalem at that time was in bondage was because they weren’t accepting the grace of Christ and they were trying to justify themselves through “works of the law.” Doing this makes the curses of the law fall on you. God instead wanted Israel to “acknowledge their iniquity. (Jeremiah 3:13-15)
26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The reason the Jerusalem above is free is that by acknowledging their iniquity God will redeem Israel from the curses of breaking the covenant. The law is the thing that “brings knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) and again we see that grace and law go together. To explain more fully, let’s continue:
27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.” (Gal 4)
Here we see a picture of Israel being restored being quoted from Isaiah 54:
7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,
But with great mercies I will gather you.
8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;
But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”
Says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you. (Isaiah 54)
Things to notice here: 1 God will keep this covenant of peace with them no matter what. 2 God keeping this covenant is based on mercy not on anything that they did 3 It is a promise like God made not to destroy the earth with water any longer so it was certainly not based on anything humanity did. When God made that promise there was no time for humanity to do anything after the flood to prove that it wouldn’t be corrupted again.
40 ‘But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me,
41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies;
if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt—
42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember;
I will remember the land.
43 The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them;
they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.
44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them;
for I am the Lord their God.
45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God:
I am the Lord.’ ” (Lev 26)
12 Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you.
For I am merciful,’ says the Lord;
‘I will not remain angry forever.
13 Only acknowledge your iniquity,
That you have transgressed against the Lord your God,
And have scattered your charms
To alien deities under every green tree,
And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. (Jeremiah 3)
As mentioned earlier, if they humble themselves and accept their guilt God will not bring death (i.e. the curses for breaking the covenant at mount Sinai) Again, notice Sinai is not the only covenant in the line of covenants with God’s people. There are the covenants with Abraham’s descendants is Gen 15, 17 and 22 and the covenant at Moab apart from the one at Horeb (Sinai) in Deuteronomy 29. However, Paul picks Sinai when talking about being under the penalty of the law and Sinai was the place where the penalties were laid out including the judicial penal system and the laws of the priesthood and the tabernacle for atoning for sin. (“the law was added because of transgression”) Paul continues:
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.
“even so it is now” clearly states that this is contrasting the ones persecuting “the way” with those of “the way” (part of this would later become known as Christianity) Paul actually participated in this persecution. You can confirm this by seeing the usage of the word in Galatians:
You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting G1377 the church of God and was trying to destroy it.(Gal 1:13 NRSV)
they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting G1377 us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Gal 1:23 NRSV)
But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted G1377 the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Gal 4:29 YLT)
But my friends, why am I still being persecuted G1377 if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. (Gal 5:11 NRSV)
It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted G1377 for the cross of Christ. (Gal 6:22 NRSV)
If Paul is saying that we no longer should keep the law he is doing a terrible job of it since the early Church was made up of a mixture of those who totally kept the law and those that didn’t (as evidenced by Acts 15) In addition since Christ almost always sided with Hillel the analogy of spirit and letter also fits here. Paul is instead continuing to contrast the physical with the spiritual as he did with circumcision earlier:
“3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3)
This part is interesting:
30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. (Gal 4)
Here some people jump to the conclusion that since we are not “of” the bondwoman we no longer should keep the rules at Sinai. There are a few things to remember here: 1 he started off with the context of those who wish to be “under the law” and this is caused by using “works of the law” to justify yourself (we have already discussed this) 2 This is allegorical. 3 This can’t be only about the old and new covenant because of how he says the people of the bondwomen are persecuting the people that are free even now. In addition, Paul is not just contrasting the new covenant and the old covenant because the freewoman is symbolic of the promises given to Abraham which are older than Sinai.
However, it is possible that Paul is making some allusion to the new and old covenant here. Here’s why I think this: 1 The old covenant brought curses and the people who are of “works of the law” are “under the law” and therefore subject to its curses. 2 The promises given to Abraham are the precursors to Messiah who is the mediator of the new covenant. 3 The new covenant is about being restored and perfected by having the law written on our hearts (something that was not accomplished in the old covenant) and Christ followed the spirit of the law not the letter (he almost always sided with the house of Hillel) Also compare the following (YLT)
2 Corinthians 3:3
3 manifested that ye are a letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not in the tablets of stone, but in fleshy tablets of the heart,
26 And I have given to you a new heart, And a new spirit I give in your midst, And I have turned aside the heart of stone out of your flesh, And I have given to you a heart of flesh.
33 For this [is] the covenant that I make, With the house of Israel, after those days, An affirmation of Jehovah, I have given My law in their inward part, And on their heart I do write it, And I have been to them for God, And they are to me for a people.
10 because this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord, giving My laws into their mind, and upon their hearts I will write them, and I will be to them for a God, and they shall be to Me for a people;
5 Finally, the Zealot’s (of Shammai) were referred to as following after flesh and blood by the Hillelites:
Flusser discussed the political aspect of the rabbinic concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, arguing that originally “the Kingdom of Heaven” was an anti-Zealot slogan. At the end of the Second Temple period there were various groups of militant Jewish nationalists who advocated armed revolt against the Roman Empire. These insurgent groups believed that national liberation could be achieved through violent means. They believed that their armed struggle would provoke divine intervention on Israel’s behalf and the eschatological events of the final redemption would be set in motion as a result of their terrorist activities. It seems likely that at least one stream of militant Jewish nationalism emerged from the School of Shammai. This militant Jewish nationalist ideology was countered by the Hillelite stream of Pharisaic Judaism with the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven. According to Hillelite ideology, violent militant insurgence can only replace the Roman Empire with a kingdom of flesh and blood:
Rabbi Hananiah, prefect of the priests, says: He who takes to heart the words of the Torah is relieved of many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. But he who does not take to heart the words of the Torah is given over to many preoccupations—preoccupations with hunger, foolish preoccupations, unchaste preoccupations, preoccupations with the evil impulse, preoccupations with an evil wife, idle preoccupations, and preoccupations with the yoke of flesh and blood…. He used to say: Do not look at me because I am dark and the sun has tanned me [my mother’s sons were angry with me (Song 1:6)]—these are the assemblies of Judah who broke off the yoke of the Holy One, blessed be he, and caused a king of flesh and blood to reign over them. (Avot de-Rabbi Natan, Version A, chpt. 20 [ed. Schechter, 70-72])
. . .
Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai says, “From the time murderers increased, the calf’s neck rite was annulled, because the calf’s neck rite is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now murderers increased in the open. From the time adulterers increased, they stopped the ordeal of the bitter waters, because the ordeal of the bitter waters is not applicable except in cases of doubt, but now those who see [their lovers] in the open are many. From the time the lovers of pleasure increased, wrath came to the world and the glory of the Torah was annulled. From the time whisperers increased in the Sanhedrin, deeds were perverted, the judges were cursed, and the Shekhinahceased from Israel. From the time respecters of persons increased, You must not show partiality in judgment…you must not respect persons [Deut. 1:17] was annulled and they cast off the yoke of Heaven and caused a yoke of flesh and blood to reign over them. (t. Sot. 14:1[1-4])
In this saying Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticizes those who set up a yoke of flesh and blood and who cast off the yoke of Heaven. The terminology is similar to that of Hananiah the prefect of the priests. Does “murderers” who kill “in the open” refer to terrorist groups like the Sicarii? Does “whisperers…in the Sanhedrin” refer to the chief priests, and in particular those of the House of Hanan (cf. t. Men. 13:21; b. Pes. 57a)? If so, then Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai criticized both the militant Jewish nationalists on one extreme and the high priests who colluded with the Romans on the other. If so, Jesus was not unique in his rejection of violent insurgence and condemnation of the corrupt priesthood.
However, the explanation that Paul is only contrasting the new and the old covenant is completely impoverished as we have already seen. Rather if Paul is alluding to the old and new covenants he is only mixing it in with his main subject material. The last section we will look at backs this up again:
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. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
This allegory is introduced as a response to those who wish to be “under the law” and ends with something about those who attempt to be justified by law: the context is clear. Here Paul is not making any comments about what we should or shouldn’t do physically but rather what we should or shouldn’t justify ourselves by. This is a mistake people often make when reading Paul’s writings, context is key. However, the language here is slightly confusing. It can’t be that just by becoming physically circumcised that Christ profits you nothing since a change in your physical appearance can never cut you off from Christ. Paul also circumcised Timothy because of the Jews so it couldn’t be that Paul was cutting Timothy off from Christ by circumcising him. This issue may be helped by some historical context that Tim Hegg presents in his commentary on Acts 15:
The prevailing belief of the Judaisms in Paul’s day was that only Jews had a place in the world-to-come since God had made the covenant of blessing with Israel and no other nation.
All Israel have a place in the world-to-come. [[m.Sanhedrin 10:1.]
This central theological axiom shows that from the perspective of the Rabbis, a Gentile could secure a place in the world-to-come only by becoming a Jew. This, the Rabbis taught, was possible through becoming a proselyte, a ritual based entirely upon their rules but without any foundation in the Torah itself. In fact, the added phrase “according to the custom of Moses”629 in the opening verse of Acts 15 may point to the fact that the disagreement taking place between Paul and Barnabas and the others was not over what the written Torah prescribed for Gentiles but whether or not the additional teachings of the Sages were binding upon them. Thus when men from Judea taught that “unless you are circumcised (undergo the ritual of a proselyte) according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved,” they were simply applying the standard theology of their day. This is what the Council was dealing with: Did all Israel have a place in the world-to-come? Did Gentiles therefore need to submit to the man-made ritual of the proselyte so that, in accordance with the prevailing theology, they too could secure eternal life, that is, be saved? Nowhere in God’s word is there a ceremony outlined for a Gentile to become a proselyte. . .
The issue was one of status. What status qualified a person to be assured of a place in the world-to-come—ethnicity or faith? What was essential for salvation: the status of Jewishness or the status of being “in Messiah?” Paul and the other apostles at the Jerusalem Council unanimously agreed that one’s ethnic status had no bearing whatsoever on one’s salvation. The crux was faith not ethnicity.
In conclusion, this has all been to show the context of what Paul is talking about in Galatians 4 with the two covenants. He is responding to those who wish to be justified by works of the law or want to be under the law. The two covenants in Galatians don’t seem to be directly related to the “old” and “new” covenants because Paul uses part of the old covenant (the older part before Sinai) in arguing for us being the children of promise. Rather Paul seems to be contrasting two parts of the old covenant and saying (to oversimplify things) that the blessings of it will save us from curses of it eventually. The new covenant rather is about the law eventually being written on our hearts by God since we were unable to do so. There is however a relation here: the writing of the law by God in the new covenant is accomplished by the work of Christ (through the holy spirit) as a mediator of the new covenant and Christ was predicted by the promises given to Abraham. In any case to say that the judgments of the law are done away with makes Paul’s argument nonsensical; rather, Christ needed to come to save us from the results of those judgments.
Compare the following:
15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Gal 3)
20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1)
“The topic of the work is reflected in the phrase tohorat haqodesh, “the purity of the holy.” Stated simply: “Do not allow the holy to be profaned by what is impure.”
The issues include bringing Gentile corn into the Temple, the presentation of Gentile offerings, and the cooking of sacrificial meat in unfit (impure) vessels. Other rulings concern cleansing of lepers, admitting the blind and the deaf into the Temple; and permitting intermarriage with Ammonite and Moabite converts, long forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3). Other issues involve the transmission of impurity by a flow of water (musaq), the intermixture of wool and linen (sha‘atnez), plowing with diverse animals (qilayyim) and perhaps the climax of the discussion: the intermarriage of priests with the common people.
Most of the rulings espoused by the author of MMT are based directly upon Biblical law (for example, the prohibition against plowing with unlike animals in Deuteronomy 22:10). A few others are interpretations or amplifications of Mosaic prescriptions (for example, bans on Gentile offerings and dogs in the Temple). The list clearly reflects a conservative reaction against a relaxation of Torah precepts.”
“Prep. below, beneath, under (ὑπό) . . . Of a woman it is said, she commits whoredom, adultery, under her husband, Nu. 5:19; Eze. 23:5, i.e. she commits whoredom who ought to obey the authority of her husband.”
8 For I also am a man set under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Luke 7:8 New Revised Standard Version)
9 For I also am a man under G5259 authority, G1849 with soldiers under G5259 me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” (Matthew 8:9 New Revised Standard Version)
Under husband’s authority:
19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. (Numbers 5:19 NRSV)
19 `And the priest hath caused her to swear, and hath said unto the woman, If no man hath lain with thee, and if thou hast not turned aside [to] uncleanness under thy husband, be free from these bitter waters which cause the curse;(Num 5:19 YLT)
19 And [3shall adjure 4her 1the 2priest], and he shall say to the woman, If no one has gone to bed with you, if you have not violated to be defiled being under [2husband 1your own], be innocent from [2by the 3water 4of rebuke 1this accursing]! (Num 5:19 ABP)
Gesenius’s usage in Ezekiel 23 may relate to “consequences” or “power” from doing something while “under” an authority
5 And go a-whoring doth Aholah under Me, And she doteth on her lovers, On the neighbouring Assyrians, (Ezekiel 23:5 YLT)
5 And Aholah fornicated from me, and doted upon her lovers, upon the Assyrians being next to her; (Ezekiel 23:5 ABP)
5 Oholah played the whore while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors . . . 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. (Ezekiel 23:5-9 NRSV)
ἐξουσία,-ας+ N1F 0-1-0-39-39=79
2 Kgs 20,13; Ps 113(114),2; 135 (136),8.9; Prv 17,14
power, authority 1 Ezr 4,28; control over [τινος] Ps 135(136),8; permission [+inf.] 1 Mc 11,58; office,
magistracy Dn 3,2; <αἱ> ἐξουσίαι (the) authorities (personification of invisible, angelic powers) DnLXX
Cf. CARAGOUNIS 1986 68-70 (DnLXX 7,27); HORSLEY 1982 83-84; SCHOLTISSEK 1993, 85-88;
 Usage of “authority” (G1849):
hypó, hoop-o’; G5259 example usage in the Septuagint:
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 ￼￼￼Brenton Septuagint Translation)
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSV)
ὑπό+ P 61-42-43-140-212=498
Gn 9,2; 16,9; 18,4.8; 19,8
[τινος]: by (with a pass. verbal form indicating the agent) Gn 26,29; from Ps 73(74),22; under, in
(indicating reason) Jb 30,4; under Jb 8,16
[τι, τινα]: under (with verb of motion) 1 Mc 6,46; under (place) Gn 18,8; under, at the foot of Ex 24,4;
under (in geogr. sense) Dt 3,17; beyond Ex 3,1; about (time) Jos 5,2; little before Jon 4,10; in the course
of, during 3 Mc 7,12; under (as subordination) 1 Ezr 3,1; under, in the hand of 2 Mc 3,6; under (reason)
ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν under heaven, on earth Ex 17,14; ὑπὸ τὴν ὄψιν under (our) notice Est 8,12i; ὑπὸ
χεῖρας in (your) hands Gn 9,2; ὑπὸ τὴν σκιάν in the shadow Bar 1,12; ὑπὸ διαθήκην (θεοῦ) under
(God’s) covenant 2 Mc 7,36; ὑπὸ φόρον under tribute 1 Mc 8,2; ὑπὸ καιρόν within the space of one day
2 Mc 7,20; ὑφ’ ἕν at one stroke Wis 12,9
Cf. DORIVAL 1994, 56; JOHANNESSOHN 1910 1-82; 1926 174-184; →NIDNTT
Compare the following usages of “under” with alternate translations:
2 And the fear of you and trembling will be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, upon all the winged creatures of the heaven, and upon all the things moving upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Under your hands I have given them to you. (Gen 9:2 ABP)
2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. (Gen 9:2 NRSV)
. . . to the future, that we may maintain the government in undisturbed peace for all men, adopting [needful] changes, and ever judging those cases which come under [our] notice, with truly equitable decision. . . . (Esther 8:13 Brenton Translation of the Septuagint)
. . . In the future we will take care to render our kingdom quiet and peaceable for all, by changing our methods and always judging what comes before our eyes with more equitable consideration. . . (Esther 8:13 NRSVACE)
And the Lord will give us strength, and lighten our eyes, and we shall live under the shadow of Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon, and under the shadow of Balthasar his son, and we shall serve them many days, and find favour in their sight. (Baruch 1:12 ￼￼ ￼￼￼Brenton Septuagint Translation)
The Lord will give us strength, and light to our eyes; we shall live under the protection of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and under the protection of his son Belshazzar, and we shall serve them for many days and find favour in their sight. (Bar 1:12 NRSVACE)
2 Maccabees 7:36:
36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. (2 Maccabees 7:36 NRSVACE)
For our brethren, who now have suffered a short pain, are dead under God’s covenant of everlasting life: but thou, through the judgment of God, shalt receive just punishment for thy pride. (2 Maccabees 7:36 ￼￼￼Brenton Septuagint Translation)
3 And he spared his people, and all the ones being sanctified by your hands; these [2under 3you 1are]; and he received of his words (Deuteronomy 33:3 ABP)
3 Indeed, O favorite among peoples,
all his holy ones were in your charge;
they marched at your heels,
accepted direction from you. (Deuteronomy 33:3 NRSV)
3 Also He [is] loving the peoples; All His holy ones [are] in thy hand, And they — they sat down at thy foot, [Each] He lifteth up at thy words. (Deuteronomy 33:3 YLT)
6 But he thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, having been told who Mordecai’s people were, Haman plotted to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. (Esther 3:6 NRSV)
6 And he took counsel to remove all [2under 3the 5of Artaxerxes 4kingdom 1the Jews]. (Esther 3:6 ABP)
6 and it is contemptible in his eyes to put forth a hand on Mordecai by himself, for they have declared to him the people of Mordecai, and Haman seeketh to destroy all the Jews who [are] in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus — the people of Mordecai. (Esther 3:6 YLT)
6 and took counsel to destroy utterly all the Jews who were under the rule of Artaxerxes. (Esther 3:6 Brenton)