LAW: DEFINITION, PURPOSE, SCOPE, END
LAW: DEFINITION, SCOPE AND RELEVANCE
GOD’S LAW IN THE BIBLE
By Russell Earl Kelly, PHD
February 5, 2017
- The O. T. Word is the Entire Law
- The O. T. written Law was only given to Israel
- The O. T. Law was an Indivisible Whole
- The Judgments were Inseparable from the Ten Commandments
- The Worship Statutes were Inseparable from the Ten Commandments
- The Law of Moses, the Law of God and the Law of Christ
- The Law was given as Pre-school Instructions
- Jesus Lived, Taught and Died under the Jurisdiction of the Whole Law
- In Jesus the Righteous Standard of God Switched from the Shadow Law to the Reality of Jesus Christ Who Personified the Righteousness of the Law.
- The Four Gospels Do Not Limit the Law to the Ten Commandments
- The Law in Romans is not the Ten Commandments
- IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, “WORD” IS THE ENTIRE MOSAIC LAW, THE ENTIRE OLD COVENANT, OR THE ENTIRE REVELATION OF GOD; IT IS NOT MERELY THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
(Imrah, Strong’s 565) Deut 33:9 (covenant); 2 Sam 22:31 (perfect); Ps 12:6 (pure); 119:41 (word promises mercy and salvation); 119:50 (quickened me); 119:82 (comfort); 119:103 (sweeter than honey); 119:116 (upholds); 119:123 (righteousness); 119:133 (steps/walk in); 119:158 (transgression); 119:172 (righteousness); 138:2 (word above God’s name); Isa 5:24 “ … they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”
(Dabar, Strong’s 1697) Ex 24:3,4,8 (words of covenant); 34:28 (words of covenant, 10 cmdts); Ps 33:4 (right); 33:6 (creation); 103:20 (angels obey); 105:8 (covenant); 105:19 (tried/judged); 107:20 (heals); 119:9 (changes way); 119:11 (hid in heart, prevents sin); 119:16 (statutes); 119:25 (quickens); 119:28 (strengthens); 119:58 (promises mercy); 119:81 (offers hope); 119:89 (forever settled in heaven); 119:105 (lamp; light); 119:160 (true, judgments forever); 119:169 (promises understanding); 147:18 (creation); 147:19 (statutes and judgments)
- THE LAW OF GOD AS THE OLD COVENANT WAS ONLY GIVEN TO NATIONAL ISRAEL.
Ex 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
Ex 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
The Law embodied God’s Constitution, His Covenant, only with the nation Israel! The possession of the Law made Israel “peculiar” from other nations and separated national Israel from all other nations on earth. God distinctly ordered Israel NOT to share His covenant-law with other nations. The law made Israel His peculiar nation (Ex 19:5,6; 34;10; Lev 27:34; Deut 4:8; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18-19; 28:1; Ps 135:4; Isa 5:5-7; Mal 4:4; Mark 12:1; Eph 2:12-16).
- THE O. T. LAW WAS ALWAYS AN INDIVISIBLE WHOLE WITH 613 COMMANDMENTS. ALL OF IT WAS MORAL. TRANSGRESSION OF ANY OF IT WAS SIN.
The Bible divides the “LAW” into “COMMANDMENTS,” “STATUTES” and “JUDGMENTS.” It does NOT divide the “LAW” into “MORAL COMMANDMENTS,” “CEREMONIAL STATUTES” and “CIVIL JUDGMENTS.” “Moral” is not a biblical word.
Forty-three (43) times God’s Word states that His Law is an indivisible whole with each part equal in inspiration and authority as the other two. The whole law was moral; breaking any one part was a moral sin for Israel and equaled breaking all of it. One either obeyed ALL or was guilty of transgressing all as a set of instructions (Deut 28-29). Notice that “commandments” are not always listed first. Also notice that “commandments” usually include other “commands” such as statutes and judgments.
The following texts should prove beyond any doubt that all of God’s law either stood or fell together. It is dishonest to teach that the Ten Commandments were more important than the other parts of the law.
Ex 19:5 God’s voice and covenant is His entire Law;
Ex 23:22 Obey His voice and do all;
Ex 24:3 all words, all judgments; “we will do all”
Ex 24:7 Moses read the book of the covenant; we will do all
Lev 19:37 observe all statutes and all my judgments
Lev 20:22 keep all m states and all my judgments
Lev 26:14-15 all commandments, statutes, judgments
Numb 15:38-40 blue fringes; do all my commandments
Deut 5:29, 31 do all commandments, statutes, judgments
Deut 6:2 keep all statutes and commandments [sequence]
Deut 6:24-25 all these statutes; all these commandments
Deut 8:1 all the commandments which I command this day
Deut 11:8 all the commandments which I command
Deut 11:22 all the commandments which I command; walk in all His ways
Deut 11:32 do all the statutes and judgments
Deut 12:14 offer all offerings; do all that I command
Deut 12:28 observe all these words which I command
Deut 13:18 all his commandments which I command
Deut 15:5 all these commandments which I command
Deut 17:17-19 the king shall have a copy of this law in a book; read its words every day; keep all the words of this law and these states (v17 no multiple wives or much silver or gold)
Deut 19:6-9 city of refuge; keep all these commandments
Deut 27:1 all the commandments I command this day
Deut 28:1 do all commandments which I command
Deut 28:15 all commandments and statutes
Deut 28:58 do all the words of the law written in the book
Deut 29:29 do all the words of the law
Deut 30:2 obey His voice according to all I command thee
Deut 31:12 do all the word of this law
Deut 32:46 command to do all the words of this law
Josh 1:7-8 do all written in the book of the law Moses commanded
Josh 22:5 do the commandment and the law; walk in all his ways; keep his commandments
Josh 23:6 do all written in the book of the law of Moses
1 Kg 8:58 all his ways; commandments, statutes, judgments
1 Kg 9:4 all I commanded, statutes, judgments
2 Chron 33:8 do all commanded according to the whole law, statutes, ordinances by the hand of Moses
Jer 7:23 walk in all the ways I have commanded
Jer 11:4 do all which I command
Matt 5:17-18 the law; the law including jots and tittles
Matt 5:19 one of these least commandments:
Commandments: kill (5:21-26); adultery (5:27-32)
Judgments: oaths (5:33-37); eye for eye (5:38-42)
Statutes: love neighbor 5:43-48)
Matt 22:40 all the law and the prophets
Gal 5:3 circumcised; debtor to do the whole law
James 2:10 keep whole law; offend one point; guilty of all
No Hebrew, Jew or inspired Bible writer defined only the Ten Commandments as the moral law and downgraded the statutes and judgments as disposable parts of the law. Removing the penalties removes the law itself.
ALL THREE IN ONE CONTEXT: COMMANDMENTS, JUDGMENTS, and STATUTES
Fifteen texts (15) list all three parts of the one law: commandments, judgments and statutes. Six (6) times “statutes” occurs before “commandments.” This is strange if “commandments” held more importance.
(1) Lev 26:14-15 commandments, statutes, judgments
(2) Deut 5:29-31 commandments, statutes, judgments**
(3) Deut 6:1 commandments, statutes, judgments
(4) Deut 7:11 commandments, statutes, judgments
(5) Deut 8:11commandments, judgments, statutes
(6) Deut 11:1 charge, statutes, judgments, commandments
(7) Deut 26:17 ways, statutes, commandments, judgments
(8) Deut 30:16 ways, commandments, statutes, judgments
(9) 1 Kings 2:3 statutes, commandments, judgments, testimonies
(10) 1 Kings 6:12 statutes, commandments, judgments
(11) 1 Kings 8:58 all ways, commandments, judgments, statutes
(12) Ps 89:30 my LAW, judgments, commandments, statutes
(13) Neh 1:7 commandments, statutes, judgments (Moses)
(14) Neh 9:13-14 judgments, true laws, statutes, commandments
(15) Neh 10:29 God’s LAW given by Moses, do all commandments, judgments, statutes
PSALM 119 contains 178 verses which alternate between law, word, commandments, commands, judgments, statutes, precepts and testimonies. Again the intermingling indicates that all held equal status.
JUDGMENTS OF THE LAW
- The Judgments were Inseparable from the Ten Commandments
(1) It is a serious hermeneutical error to discard the Judgments as merely civil or political regulations. In fact judgments are an extremely important part of the whole indivisible law because they contain the PENALTIES for willful presumptuous sins! Laws do not exist apart from the PENALTY for breaking them! Again, the JUDGMENTS contain the PENALTIES for willful presumptuous deliberate sin and were administered by the judges (not the priests).
(2) Unlike the statutes, there was no sacrifice available for
willful presumptuous sins.
Heb 10:26-28 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.”
Like God, the Judge could either forgive the sin or else punish it; either way, the penalty was considered paid. Moses’ striking of the rock, Aachan’s theft from Jericho and David’s sins of murder and numbering the people are examples where no sacrifice was available ; they were punished for their sins.
(3) Because they are usually intermingled, especially in Numbers and Deuteronomy, it is often difficult to discern whether a law is a command, judgment or statute. However, to an Israelite under the Old Covenant, sin was immoral regardless of which part of the law it originated. Seventeen times (17) “commandments” and “judgments” are found in the same text with equal authority. The theocracy made no distinction between the moral-ness of commandments, judgments and statutes.
(4) Notice the following judgments from Exodus . Rather than being less important than the Ten Commandments, they supplement what the Ten Commandments lacked. In addition to supplying the essential penalty for presumptuous sins such as murder (21:12, 14); hitting and cursing parents (21:15, 17), idolatry (22:20), Sabbath-breaking (31:15) and adultery (Lev 20:20) — five additional grievous sins not covered by the Ten Commandments carry the death penalty: kidnapping (21:16), causing death by abortion (21:18, 22-24), causing death by negligence (21:28-36), witchcraft (22:18), death to those who have sex with animals (22:19) and death to those who abuse the needy (22;21-24). Note: sex with animals is not the same as adultery; to abolish this judgment would be a mockery of justice.
(5) The judgments also include other commandments not covered by the Ten: humane treatment of slaves, animals, personal enemies and how to treat the poor and rulers (21:1-11, 20-21, 26-27); penalties for injuring others (21:19), animal abuses (21:28-36), repayment from theft (22:1-15), how to judge fornication with unmarried women (22:16-17); forbade charging interest to fellow Hebrews (22:25), forbade keeping coat-pledge of the poor (22:26-27), forbade reviling leaders and rulers (22:28), demanded first-fruits and firstborn to God quickly (22:29-30), forbade eating animals killed by other animals (22:31), forbade partiality against the poor or personal enemy (23:2-9), equates the 7th year rest with the 7th day rest (23:10-12), commanded Israelites not to utter the name of other gods (23:13), commanded all Hebrew men to travel to Jerusalem and keep the yearly feasts (23:14-17), commanded Israel not to make covenants with other nations (Ex 23:32),
(6) Most importantly: God concluded the first section of the judgments in 24:3-8 by including both commandments and judgments in the “book of the covenant” sealed by blood even before the worship statutes/ordinances were given.
Saturday Sabbath-keeping churches which consider themselves to be God’s new Israel ought to be shouting —“we have a law , and by our law he ought to die” (Jn 19:7)– to have their own Sabbath-breaking members put to death. SDAs cast Exodus 31:13-17 at others and ignore it themselves by making Saturday their busiest day of the week.
STATUTES/ORDINANCES OF THE LAW
- LIKE THE COMMANDMENTS AND JUDGMENTS, THE STATUTES/ORDINANCES WERE ALSO AN INSEPARABLE PART OF THE WHOLE LAW.
(1) The STATUTES/ORDINANCES were the PENALTIES for minor sins, sins of ignorance and sins of ignorance which were administered by the priests at the sanctuary (Lev 4:2, 13,22, 27; 5:15, 18; Numb 15:24-29). Since these involve a small portion of sins mankind commits, far too much emphasis is given to the sanctuary and far too little emphasis is given to the judicial system by most Christian pastors.
(2) Again the texts listed in #3 above prove the indivisibleness of the whole law. It was a moral sin for an Israelite to break any of the commandments, judgments or statutes.
(3) The statutes/ordinances contained the cultic ceremonial worship commandments only for Israel. Again, they did not include any deliberate willful sins; they only included sins committed accidentally, in ignorance and necessity (such as touching dead bodies and menstrual flows).
(4) Obedience to the statutes kept (otherwise righteous) Israelites in an atoned state of fellowship with God. Failure to observe the statutes resulted in the same uncleanness and cutting off as the more heinous sins of presumption. Priests who failed to follow the exact purification ritual were subject to being put to death because they had committed moral sin not covered by the Ten Commandments.
(5) Again, the Ten Commandments did not include all types of sins and required supplementation by the judgments and statutes. God did not want Israel to separate the commandments, judgments and ordinance which are so intermixed. Often the same laws exist in all three. Many are so evidently moral that our modern society includes them (yet they are not found in the Ten Commandments).
The following are examples of statues/ordinances:
the instructions for building and maintaining the sanctuary, dressing priests, administering sacrifices are statutes/ordinances (Lev 1-10), unclean food (Lev 11), issues of blood and leprosy (Lev 12), skin diseases (Lev 13-15), the Day of Atonement cleansing (Lev 16), eating blood (Lev 17:10-17), sexual sins (Lev 18), gleaning (Lev 19:9), gossip (Lev 19:16), fornication with un-married (Lev 19:20-22), when to eat fruit trees (Lev 19:23-25), eating blood (19:26), rounding beards (19:27), skin piercings and tattoos (19:28), familiar spirits (19:31), respecting the old (19:32), treatment of strangers (19:32-33), just weights (19:35-36), touching the dead (21), rules for priests (21-22, 24), holy seasons (23), Sabbath and Jubilee years (25), inheritance rights (25), blessings and curses (26) and vows and tithes (27 and Numbers 18).
- THE LAW OF MOSES, THE LAW OF GOD, THE LAW OF CHRIST AND THE ROYAL LAW OF LIBERTY
THE LAW OF MOSES: The phrase, “the law of Moses,” occurs 21 times in the Bible: 14 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New. Of these 21, “the book of the law of Moses” occurs 4 times and “written in the law of Moses” occurs 6 times. While God refers to the law as “my law” 17 times, Moses never referred to it as “my law.” “Law” is distinguished from (not the same as) “commandments” 14 times. “Law” includes “judgments” 9 times. “Law” includes statutes 14 times. “Law” includes “ordinances” 4 times. “Moses’ law occurs once in Hebrews 10:28. The terms “Moses” and ‘law” occur together approximately 100 times.
While some teach that “the law of God” is not the same as “the law of Moses in the Old Testament, “the book of the law of Moses” occurs 4 times and “the book of the law of God occurs 4 times!!! They must refer to the same book and tdhe same law!!!
THE LAW OF GOD: The phrase “the law of God” occurs 7 times in the Bible: 4 in the Old Testament and 3 in the New.
In the Old “the law of God” is ALWAYS the entire Old Covenant law with its commandments, judgments and statutes/ordinances. Joshua 24:26, Nehemiah 8:8 and 8:18 all read “the book of/in the law of God.” Nehemiah 10:28-29 “28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; 29 They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.” Therefore it is incredible to hear some Bible teachers declare that the phrase “the law of God” only refers to the Ten Commandments both in the Old and New Testaments!!!
THE LAW OF CHRIST: The phrase “the law of Christ” only occurs once in Galatians 6:2 “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Again, some teach that this phrase only refers to the Ten Commandments although none of the Ten Commandments mention bearing the burdens of fellow believers. A similar moral law is that of not showing more respect to some persons over others. God (not in the Ten Commandments) forbade this in Leviticus 19:16; Deut 1:17; 16:19 and James 2:1-9. When James 2:9 says “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors,” it includes Lev 19:16, Deut 1:17 and 16:19 in that part of the “law” which is moral.
THE ROYAL LAW OF LIBERTY: James 2:8-12 are difficult text for those who want to use them to prove that the moral law is only the Ten Commandments.
James 2:8 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:
The “royal law” cannot only include the Ten Commandments because “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is from Leviticus 19:18. The “royal law” is the law of love which includes all biblical moral commands regardless of where they are found (Jn 13:34).
James 2:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Since sin opposes God’s law and, since respecting persons is sin, one must conclude that the Ten Commandments do not include all of God’s moral law.
James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Since James is including respecting persons as a violation of the whole law of God, again one must conclude that the Ten Commandments do not include all of God’s moral law.
James 2:11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
Jesus modified/reinforced the moral law when He taught that unprovoked anger was as bad as murder (Mt 5:22) and lust is as bad as adultery (Mt 5:28). The spirit of the law goes beyond the literal law.
James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Another commandment? Definitely not one of the Ten? It is an immoral “sin” against the very character of God for Christians to fail to love one another.
- THE ENTIRE LAW WAS GIVEN TO A FORMER SLAVE NATION WITH AN UNEDUCATED PRE-SCHOOL MENTAILITY.
Gal 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Heb 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? (also 10:1; Ps 110:4)
The entire law, including the Ten Commandments, was “added” to natural law and conscience (Rom 1:18-19; 2:14-16) to make sin more evident (Rom 5:11-18). It was added “until” the seed (Jesus Christ) should come (Gal 3:19). In other words, the law had both a beginning and an ending in Bible history. David’s statement about Melchizedek in Psalm 110:4 prophesied the necessary end of the Law (Heb 7:12-10).
- JESUS LIVED, TAUGHT AND DIED UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE WHOLE LAW.
Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.
Matt 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Matt 8:4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
Matt 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
The person who describes events prior to Calvary as “New Covenant” or “New Testament” is guilty of faulty principles of interpretation. As a Jew living while the Law was still in full effect, Jesus of necessity obeyed every aspect of that Law which applied to himself and he also of necessity taught his Jewish disciples to do the same. Anything less would have been sin! However this cannot be used as evidence that Jesus taught the church to be under the jurisdiction of the entire law or even the Ten Commandments as they were used in the Law. In fact Jesus could not possibly have commanded his Gentile converts to obey the Law because such would not have been accepted short of becoming a circumcised Jew.
- IN JESUS THE RIGHTEOUS STANDARD OF GOD SWTICHED FROM THE SHADOW LAW TO THE REALITY OF JESUS CHRIST WHO PERSONFIED THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW.
Matt 17:5 This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
John 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16:9 Of sin, because they believe not on me.
Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Heb 1:1-2 God … hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son …
Heb 10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
The shadow truths of the entire law began ending with the advent of Jesus Christ and ended at His crucifixion.
- THE FOUR GOSPELS TYPICALLY DO NOT USE THE WORD “LAW” TO MEAN “TEN COMMANDMENTS.”
The phrase “Law of God” does not occur in the four Gospels.
MATTHEW: (1) 5:17-19: whole law must be fulfilled; (2) 7:12 and 11:13: “law and prophets” means the entire revelation of God to Israel; (3) 12:5: “law” refers to the worship statutes; (4) 22:36-40: the two “great commandments” of the law are found outside of the Ten Commandments in Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18; (5) 23:23: law refers to tithing in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In no text does the word “law” only refer to the Ten Commandments.
MARK: The Gospel of Mark does not contain the word “law.”
LUKE: (1) 2:23-27, 39: law refers to the worship statutes; 5:17: law means all of the law; (3) 10:25-27 (compare Mt 22:36-40): the “greatest commandments” in the Law which command to love God are not found in the Ten Commandments but in Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18; (4) 16:16 “law and commandments” refers to all of God’s revelation to Israel; (5) 24:44 “law of Moses and the prophets” refers to all of God’s revelation to Israel. Again, In no text does the word “law” only refer to the Ten Commandments.
JOHN: (1) 1:17: as in Matthew 5:20-48, Jesus made his own “commandments” (14:15), “words” (14:23) and “sayings” (14:24) superior to the law “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”; (2) 1:45: Philip said “Moses in the Law”; (3) 7:19 “Did not Moses give you the law?”; (4) 7:23 Jesus called it “the law of Moses”; (5) 8:5 “Moses in the law”; (6) 8:17 and 10:34; Jesus called it “your law” and in 15:25 Jesus called it “their law.” Again, oddly, Jesus never called the Law in any of the Gospels either the “Law of God” or “my law” or even “my commandments.”
- THE LAW IN ROMANS IS NOT THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
(1) principle of nature (2:14, 27)
(2) entire Old Testament (2:15)
(3) new covenant in hearts (2:15, 29)
(4) principle of conscience (2:15)
(5) principle of righteousness by faith (3:22; 4:13; 9:31)
(6) law/principle of works (3:27)
(7) law/principle of faith (3:28; 4:16)
(8) law/principle of revelation (5:20)
(9) law/principle of grace (5:20)
(10) law/principle of sin (7:11)
(11) law/principle is spiritual (7:14)
(12) principle of self-will (7:15, 17, 22)
(13) principle of will-power (7:18-21)
(14) principle/law of my mind (7:23, 25)
(15) principle/law of justification in Christ (8:1)
(15) law of the spirit of life in Christ (8:2)
(16) law of sin and death (8:2)
(17) principle of the Spirit (8:4)
(18) principle/law of love (13:8, 10)
The Epistle of Romans is an enlightening but difficult study of the word “law.” It is enlightening because Paul uses it with a great variety of meanings. And it is difficult because the English article “the” is often inserted when there is no article in the original Greek and confusion results. Once again, however, the term generally refers to the entire revelation of God either to Israel through the whole written law or to the rest of the world through natural law and the conscience. “Law” does not refer exclusively to the Ten Commandments.
Rom 2:11 “For there is no respect of persons with God.”
This exceedingly radical statement precedes the 70+ uses of “law” in Romans and must have been both a shock and a new revelation to Jewish listeners. The Old Covenant with its highly-blessed pre-eminence of Israelites had ended.
God is now manifesting Himself as El Elyon, God Most High of all nations and not just Yahweh, the exclusive covenant-God of Israel. Although God had always loved all created mankind, in the New Covenant He is no longer favoring national Israel. The Gentiles —who have never heard of the formal written Law and its Ten Commandments, who have never been circumcised, who have never observed the three yearly festivals, who have never observed the Sabbath-day, who have never paid tithes and who have never stopped eating unclean foods— have just as great an opportunity of being saved as do the Jews!
Important Note: Where the KJV has the article “the” but the Greek does not, [—] is inserted. [The] denotes an article in the Greek which is not in the English translation.
Rom 2:12 “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in [—] law shall be judged by [—] law.”
The important “first use” of “law” in Romans does not use “law” to refer to the 613 commandments of the formal written Law. “Law” is the “principle” whereby God reveals Himself to mankind.
New Covenant? Yes. New idea? No. That is what the O. T. book of Jonah is all about —God showed mercy to Gentile Ninevites and judged them according to what little light they had without teaching them the formal Law. Through Jonah, Yahweh (Jesus) commanded the Assyrians what to do and they obeyed.
Rom 2:13 “For not the hearers of [—] law are just before God, but the doers of [—] law shall be justified.”
This text cannot possibly be interpreted by strict law-teachers to mean that God expects everybody to literally obey the Old Covenant Law in order to be saved (including circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, festival-attending, tithing and clean food observance). It must have a spiritual interpretation.
Rom 2:14 “For when the Gentiles, which have not [—] law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not [—] law, are a law unto themselves.”
The most common usage of “nomos/law” in Romans is “God’s revelation of his will, his righteous standards, to mankind.” In 2:14 the Gentiles lacked special revelation such as the entire O. T. given to national Israel. Their obedience to nature was itself obedience to law as a “principle.” In 2:14 “law” is neither the Pentateuch nor the Ten Commandments.
Even though it has been severely obscured by sin, there seems to be barely enough consciousness of right and wrong, the consequences of sin, inside fallen man for God to judge even the non-Hebrew. That is what the text says without getting into a theological dispute over total depravity. Again, like the Ninevites of Jonah’s time, God can righteously condemn or offer grace to those outside of his greater special revelation. However, they must still hear the Word and respond to it (Rom 10:13-15).
Rom 2:15-16 “Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”
Gentiles who obey the light of “nature” and “conscience” are indicating (en-dei-knun-tai) that the law has been written inside their hearts (Jn 1:9; Heb 8:8-13).
The “work of the law written in their hearts” cannot possibly refer to the whole Law of Moses or even to the Ten Commandments. It must be that part of the formal written Law which is eternal, moral and reflects the divine character of God. It also must only refer to that part of God which is revealed within the heart of man. This would exclude things like literal and physical circumcision, holy days and unclean foods which require special revelation. Paul discussed this at length in Romans 1:18-32.
Rom 2:17 “Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law and make thy boast of God.”
See 2:17-20. “The law” is “all of God’s special revelation of his righteous standards to Israel” –especially the 613 commandments of the Pentateuch.
Like modern law-teachers the Jew thought that he was better than the Gentiles because he had special revelation of things such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, food laws and tithing.
Rom 2:26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
This would shock Jews. Uncircumcised Gentiles could actually keep the “righteousness of the law” without observing the Sabbath, food laws, circumcision or tithing.
Rom 2:27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge you, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress [—] law?
This is an extremely important text. There is a “law” or “principle” of “nature” which can actually “fulfill” the purpose of “the law.”
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Those Gentiles who have never received special revelation about the literal letter of the law are deemed as achieving the righteousness of the law by obeying the light within them (which is Jesus per John 1:9). Therefore literally uncircumcised Gentiles can be considered spiritually circumcised and more “Jew” than mere physical Jews who do not obey God. Those who are obeying the spirit of the law know nothing of the literal details of circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, tithing and unclean foods.
Also very important is the use of the phrase “fulfill the law” in 2:27. It means to attain, or reach, the righteous requirement of the law. That is done only through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ by faith alone.
Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
3:19-20 re favorite texts for law-teachers who use them out of context to prove that the Church is still obligated to observe the Old Covenant Law, or at least only the Ten Commandments.
Along with 2:14-16 and 2:26-29 these verses (3:19-20) give the best insight into Paul’s use of the word “law” in Romans.
(1) 3:19-20 constitute a summary statement of the discussion from 2:11 to 3:18.
(2) 3:1-18 has just quoted only the Psalms and Isaiah and has called them “law.”
(3) “The law” in 3:19 cannot possibly refer solely to either “the Law of God through Moses to Israel” or to “the law of nature and conscience” to the Gentiles (2:11-29).
(4) Since “every mouth” and “all the world” are being condemned by “the law,” then “the law” can only refer to “the revelation of God’s righteousness to mankind.” That includes both ALL of the formal Law to the Jews and also nature and conscience to the Gentiles.
(5) “Law” in Romans 3 is not the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are not called “the law” anywhere in Romans.
Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of [—] law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by [—] law is the knowledge of sin.
The Greek of 3:20 reads different from most translations in three places.
(1) The article “the” is missing in front of both of the words “law.”
(2) It is “law” as a principle and includes the formal literal written Law for the Jews and also the inward natural conscience of the Gentiles.
(3) The Ten Commandments are not in view here!
(4) The final verb “is” is inserted. In the context of the very next words “but now apart from law” and Jesus’ declaration in John 16:8-9 that “sin” which condemns is “because they believe not on me,” the verb should be either “was” or “has been.” Jesus is the new standard of righteousness in the new covenant. That is why he declared “I am the way, the truth and the life” in John 14:6.
Therefore the text cannot honestly be manipulated to say that the Ten Commandments are still in force to define sin for all mankind.
Rom 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without [—] law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.
The revelation of God’s will through the righteousness of truth in Jesus Christ supersedes all previous kinds of revelation or laws.
Rom 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by [—] law of faith. [Greek omits the article]
The word “law” here refers to a “principle” both times. Both Jews and Gentiles become righteous by believing in Jesus (faith; v22). Justification before God comes by grace (v24) through faith (v25). Obedience to any law –whether the Law of God through Moses or the natural law of the conscience—is no longer involved (v26). Therefore boasting does not enter into the discussion. The principle which excludes boasting (of law-keeping) is voided by the principle of faith.
Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of [—] law. [Grk: no article]
This reflects back to 3:20 where “law” has no article because it refers to all revelation of God to mankind.
Rom 3:29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Rom 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through [THE] faith.
The answer has been concluded in 3:20 that the law-principle cannot save but only condemns both Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles especially are justified through “the” principle of faith.
Rom 3:31 Do we then make void [—] law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish [—] law.
The article is missing both times as it is also missing both times in 3:20. Although included as part of God’s revelation to all mankind, the Law of God through Moses is not exclusively being discussed! The necessity of justification by faith proves that justification could not come by any principle which merely condemned. The entire discussion from 1:18 to 3:31 involves the condemnation of both Jews and Gentiles through the operation of the principle of law which is God’s revelation of His will to all mankind.
Rom 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through [—] law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Since “the” law did not exist in Abraham’s time, the article is missing in the Greek. It means a principle of works righteousness. Compare 3:27.
Rom 4:14 For if they which are of [—] law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
If obedience to a principle of works makes one righteous, then faith is not necessary and the promise made to Abraham is meaningless.
Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
The principle of divine revelation through law in chapters 1:18 to 3:20 brought about condemnation to both the Gentiles and Jews. Again the two definitions are combined –Law of God for Hebrews and natural/conscience for the Gentiles.
Rom 416 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of [—] faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.
When referring exclusively to Jews (Hebrews), “the law” refers to the entire revelation of God to them. It neither refers only to the Pentateuch nor exclusively to the Ten Commandments.
Rom 5:13 (For until [—] law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Early man was not as accountable for sinning against divine revelation as was man when God made His revelation clear. “Law” is much broader than the Ten Commandments in the book of Romans.
Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
Men died before Moses and the formal Law because there was enough of God’s revelation to condemn through nature and conscience per Romans, chapter one.
Rom 5:20 Moreover [—] law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
It is impossible to limit “law” to Ten Commandments when it includes the entire revelation of God to man so often in the book of Romans.
Rom 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under [—] law, but under grace.
Rom 6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under [—] law , but under grace? God forbid.
Paul is addressing a mixed audience who interpreted “law” according to their own context. The Jew is no longer under the revealed formal literal Law of God and the Gentile is no longer under nature and conscience. The Holy Spirit has written the new Law of Love in the heart as part of the believer’s new creation (Heb 8:10). The new law is based on God’s righteous revelation of Himself in Christ. By comparing Christ’s righteousness to our own we are convicted as sinners (2 Cor 3:18). The fact that an old law-principle condemns everybody is not a basis of more sin in order to bring more grace. The argument is sarcasm.
Rom 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know [—] law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Paul uses “brethren” 14 times in Romans and only in 9:3 is it limited to fellow Israelites. Even though Paul uses the article “the” to modify “law,” it means “God’s revelation of his righteousness” to allow both Jewish and Gentile Christians to interpret it in their own context. Remember, the Gentiles never were under the formal literal law.
Paul is still speaking to both Jews and Gentiles as “brethren.” He is focusing on the better informed ones who understand how the principle of law itself operates. “A man” means much more than Jewish men; it means man in general. The law principle rules over all men as long as they live –whether spiritual, governmental, nature or conscience.
Rom 7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by [—] law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
This is true of secular, pagan and Jewish law.
Rom 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
“That law” can refer to secular or religious law, whether pagan or Jewish.
Rom 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Since “my brethren” and “ye” refers to both Jews and Gentiles, then “dead to the law” cannot be a reference specifically to the Law of Moses because the Gentiles never were under the jurisdiction of that law. “The law” means “God revelation of his righteous standards to mankind.”
Rom 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
For Jews sins were condemned by the Law of God and for Gentiles sins were condemned by natural law and conscience (Rom 2:14-16). Notice the past tense verbs.
Rom 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter
“We” is still both Jews and Gentiles. “The law” is still “God’s revelation of his righteous standards.” Notice the tense of the verbs. “Are delivered” is Greek aorist passive which means “have been delivered.” Believers are “dead” in Christ. The “law” principle cannot tell a dead person what to do! Believers now are serving God in the “newness of the spirit” of law.
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by [—] law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The principle of law to condemn both Jews and Gentiles was neither sin nor bad. Up until Paul was saved the law principle was the revealer of sin. Notice the past tense.
Rom 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought [produced] in me all manner of concupiscence [evil desire]. For without [—] law sin was dead.
Up until now Paul was not aware of his sin except through the law principle. Notice the past tense verbs.
Rom 7:9 For I was alive without [—] law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Up until now the law principle fulfilled its purpose by convicting Paul of his sin. Notice the past tense.
7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Faithfully obeying all 613 commandments of God would guarantee God’s blessings. However failure to obey all 613 of them guaranteed God’s curse. As a former Pharisee, self-righteous Paul did not realize the underlying eternal spiritual nature of God’s righteous standards. Past tense verbs.
7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Paul, a convicted Jew, would say this about the formal Law. There is nothing wrong with the law principle. It is still effective for those who have not heard the gospel to condemn them (1 Tim 1:9). However, the current standard of God’s righteousness is found solely in the person of Jesus Christ per Romans 3:21-26; Jn 14:6; 16:8-9).
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” Rom 1:18-19. Present tense verbs.
And a convicted Gentile would say this about the law of nature and conscience (to a much lesser degree).
7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
The verb gegone is perfect tense for “has become.” The law principle did all that it could do — it killed Paul in his sin.
7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
“We” includes both Jew and Gentile. “The law” is “God’s revelation of his righteous standards.” Paul finally saw himself as condemned by the law principle.
7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
By himself Paul cannot live up to the righteousness the law principle demanded.
7:16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto [—] law that it is good.
Paul is clearly using “law” here to refer to something beyond the 613 commandments of the formal Law. The law principle is good but it cannot save.
7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
“Sin” itself is a “principle” in opposition to the “law” principle.
7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will [thelo] is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
7:19 For the good that I would [thelo] I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
The principle of “willpower” is unable to defeat the principle of “sin” which has its power in the principle of “law.”
7:20 Now if I do that I would (will) not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Paul cannot “will” himself not to sin. The principle of “will-power” is subservient to the principle of “sin.”
7:21 I find then [THE] law, that, when I would (will to) do good, evil is present with me. [not “a”]
There is a definite article in the Greek. “The law” very clearly means “the principle of law.” The principle of “will-power” is weaker than the power of the principle of “sin.”
7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Paul’s weak will-power delights in the principle of “law” as “God’s revelation of His righteous standards” both to Jews and Gentiles. Looking at the next verse (23) “the law of God” is “the law of my mind.” Compare to Hebrews 8:10.
7:23 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.
“Another law” is another “principle.” The “law of my mind” is the principle of “will-power” which wants to obey what God has revealed. “The law of sin” is “flesh” which wants to disobey God.
7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
The answer to the dilemma is found in a “who” and not a “what.”
7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve [—] law of God; but with the flesh [—] law of sin.
The answer is neither the formal Law of God nor the weak principle of natural law and conscience of the Gentiles. The answer is Jesus Christ.
Paul has learned to yield his weak will-power of the mind to faith in Jesus Christ.
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” Romans 3:21-22.
By replacing the righteous standard of the law with the righteous standard of Jesus Christ, Paul can finally obey God through the (new covenant) standard of Christ’s righteousness.
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Believers who are “in Christ” are no longer condemned by either the law principles found in Moses, natural law or the conscience. Neither are they condemned by the condemnation of indwelling sin.
8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
“The law” is “the principle” that imputed “life in Christ” through faith has finally overcome the previous principles at work. The new covenant principle of faith in Christ grasps the imputed righteousness of Christ as God’s new standard.
8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
“The law” is “God’s standard of righteous judgment.” For Jews this was God’s formal written law. For Gentiles it was cloudy nature and conscience. In Christ God accomplished what the law could not accomplish. Note the verb tenses.
8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Heb 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…
The righteous requirements of the law have been replaced by Christ’s imputed righteousness per Romans 3:21-25.
Rom 9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.
“The law” is the formal “Law of God” as given through Moses, the Old Covenant with all 613 commandments.
9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
Gentiles who did not have the righteous standard of the formal Law have attained that righteousness, not by obedience to the law, but through faith which is the “law” or “principle” of the new covenant.
9:31 But Israel, which followed after [—] law of righteousness, hath not attained to [—] law of righteousness.
There are no articles in the Greek. A new wording, a law, a “principle” of “righteousness” is in view.
9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of [—] law. For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone;
9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Even prophecy said that obedience the law would be replaced by faith in Christ.
Rom 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
10:4 For Christ is the end of [—] law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
This is important. There is no article “the.” Christ is the “end” or “goal” of “law” as a principle. The purpose of law has been reached through the principle of “faith.”
10:5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
Trying to obey God through obedience to the formal Law was a delusion to Israel.
10:6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
10:7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
These three texts are a play on Deuteronomy 30:12-14. Paul replaced the “law” with “Christ” and “faith.”
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me” John 16:8-9.
“Law” is no longer either the principle which defines sin for believers nor the standard of God’s judgment.
Rom 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled [—] law.
What law, what principle? — the principle of “loving one another.” There is no Greek article.
13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Paul is teaching that Leviticus 19:18 is a royal principle of love which “comprehends” or “sums up” the second half of the Ten Commandments. Rather than elevating the formal Law or even the Ten Commandments, the principle (“law”) of love is greater than the others.
13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of [—] law.
While the “law” principle made sin more sinful, the “love” principle fulfills or “fills full” the purpose of “law” which law could not achieve.