We left off last time about ready to define the “law”. What law is being referred to here? The Bible has three separate laws and each was given to us from God. So, is this referring to all three laws? Law 1, Law 2 or Law 3 or a combination of?
Let’s quickly define these laws.
- Law #1: Which is the 10 commandments which were in existence before the earth was created. If they were not in existence before the creation of the world, then Satan could not have sinned and been cast out of heaven. This law is a representation of God’s character and reflects back to us where we fail to represent his character. It is like a mirror that when we look upon it we see our character flaws. Yet even this law, as Paul will point out in Romans, has no saving power of its own. But keep this important thought in mind, the 10 Commandments are representative of God’s character of love.
- Law #2: The Ceremonial Law which also to some degree included the covenant agreement. The Ceremonial Law came into existence when Adam and Eve sinned. Its sacrifices and symbols all pointed to Christ as our saviour and sacrifice. Our substitute for the penalty of permanent separation from God, by death. Because the rule of sin is something must die, blood must be shed for sin to be forgiven. The sacrificial system all pointed to Christ and the sacrifice he made on the cross that allows the repentant sinner to be saved by grace through faith in Christ atoning sacrifice on the cross. Yet even in the ceremonial law there is no saving power of its own. This whole law, pointed forward to the sacrifice Christ, as the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, would make upon the cross. It was about atonement for sin.
- Law #3: is the health and civil laws that were given at Mount Sinai. The health laws given for us as a way of avoiding certain sicknesses while the civil laws were given in conjunction with the health laws to make a healthy and happy society function that works well together and with their neighbors.
Let’s look at these laws in a slightly different order. Let’s start with Law #3. Would God want us to change our health and civil rules after his crucifixion. I think not, because if he was interested in our social health and personal health before the cross it only stands that he would be equally interested in these same things after his crucifixion.
Law #1, the 10 commandments was in place before creation and was used to judge the works of Satan while in heaven. It represents or shows us God’s character of love and those who live subject to this law, live in perfect freedom from the law. Satan chose to live outside the law and thus became subject to this law, and was judged according to the law. Since this is the case, would God have been done away with this Law at the cross? Certainly not! Especially since many of the civil laws in law #3 are based upon these same 10 commandments. If Christ was sent to live the life that Adam and Eve could not and they were subject to the law of the 10 commandments, would these fundamental laws of God, his law of love suddenly be done away with.? After all, within the law of the 10 commandments come perfect freedom in the law.
This leads one to naturally believe that the law that was done away with at the time of Christ’s crucifixion was law #2 the ceremonial law. Why would this be? Because everything about the ceremonial law pointed to something. What did it point to? Christ death, burial and resurrection. The ceremonial law was instituted at the time sin was introduced by our first parents, it pointed to a time and gave them hope that they would not have to suffer total separation from the God that created them. Adam and Eve must and every generation until the crucifixion must accept by faith the promise made by God. God said, “I have a plan for saving mankind. Grace, I will give to them, that by faith in this saving grace to come, they can one day be restored to what it was before sin.” From the cross forward, Christians have been saved by grace through faith that the sacrifice paid is sufficient for our sins. Before the cross, they lived by grace through faith accepting that Christ would one day be sacrificed for our sins. The ceremonial law gave them an object lesson for them to better understand what was to come. Upon his death burial and resurrection all these object lessons that were illustrated in the ceremonial law were fulfilled.
Therefore, the law that has been done away with, perhaps better stated as “fulfilled”, is the “ceremonial law”. Since it pointed forward to Christ’s crucifixion, then it was fulfilled with the crucifixion. Its rules, regulation no longer applied. But let me be careful in stating there was no saving power in the sacrificial system. It only pointed toward, gave an object lesson of what was to come in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. They performed these ceremonies and sacrifices as an act of faith in that Christ would someday become the sacrifice and thus his atoning sacrifice would save them and us.
The third segment of Galatians 2:1-10 finds the “pillar” apostles extending to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and entrusting them with the primary responsibility of mission to the Gentiles while the Jerusalem leadership focused on the mission to the Jews.
The “only” of verse 10 is significant in the sense that it indicates that the Jerusalem leaders had no problem with Paul’s gospel message. But as they parted they did want him to remember the poor among the Jewish believes a task that Paul will devote much time to (see Romans 15:26; II Corinthians 8:1-4; II Corinthians 9:1,2).
But it is now the 21st century, not the first century, so what is it that we can learn from this? For one we need to understand that unity in the international church is just as important as unity within the local church. But second, we need to understand more clearly that such unity does not have its basis in absolute agreement in every detail; but from agreement on the core essentials of the biblical message centering on the gospel and its outworking’s in the Christians life as the last four chapters of Galatians will illustrate.
On this second point the Christian of today needs to understand that there can be differences among true believers, and that such differences, particularly when involving differing understanding of redemptive logistics or differences of culture – need not tear us apart. Indeed, where there exists a basic agreement in the essential of the gospel, Galatians 2:1-10 set before us a prototype of mutual recognition and concern for one another, despite our differences. It teaches us, in fact, something of how to distinguish between things that really matter and things of lesser importance, where the church needs to stand firm and where to concede, and even when to defy people and pressures and when to shake hands and reciprocate with expressions of mutual concern.
Paul the great apostle himself had to learn these same lessons, and they remain for us to learn today. When the Judaizers sought to compel Titus to be circumcised, he resisted mightily. On the other hand, he later had Timothy circumcised because of the Jews (Acts 16:1-3). Why the difference in this reactions between the two situations? With Titus, Paul was struggling for the recognition that Gentiles did not need circumcision to become justified Christians. That decision had been settled in Galatians 2:1-10 and ratified by the Jerusalem council in Acts chapter 15.
After that, no one had the right to compel anyone to become circumcised in order to be justified. That battle had been won, however Paul was willing to make policy concessions on a voluntary basis. That was especially true in regard to mission. Yet Paul was very aware of the mission of the church. Paul understood and knew where the center of the gospel was, and he was willing to bend on those issues that did not threaten that center. Consequently, he could be flexible on the nonessentials in order to accomplish that mission.
Oh, if only the church of today could learn from Paul. Paul who gave us this wonderful example of principle-based flexibility. Way too often we believe that every hill in the experience of the church is a hill worth dying on and because of that we become fragmented and our ranks thinned until we become of little importance to those around us.
Then let the prayer of the church be, give us a discerning spirit to know when the battle is important and when it is of little consequence. And that we will always reflect the character of Christ in everything we do has Christians and do in the name of the church, not for personal glory or gain, but for the glory of Christ and his church.