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No Part of the Mosaic Covenant Has Ended
– Part 1

by Gerald R. Thompson

Intro: Main Page; Introduction Part 2: Expressly Eternal; Nothing Has Ended It; Decoupling Covenants Part 3: Destruction of Jerusalem; Future of the Covenant; Conclusion



COMMON VIEWS OF THE MOSAIC LAW

Of course, there are a variety of views as to the current status of the Mosaic covenant. For example, Catholics tend to divide the Mosaic law into three components: moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. The moral law (including the Ten Commandments) is viewed as reflecting the natural law and is still in full effect. The ceremonial law is no longer binding since Christ’s First Advent. And the judicial law is illustrative of natural justice, but is also no longer binding. The Catholic respect for natural law and natural justice is admirable, however, I don’t believe Christ’s coming had any effect on the Mosaic law. Further, I reject any implication that the Mosaic law was ever binding on anyone other than the Jews.

Reformed theology also divides the Mosaic law into moral, judicial and ceremonial components. Reformed theology tends not to hold as high a view of natural law as Catholicism, though the Ten Commandments are held up as the key to understanding the Old Testament. But although the reasoning is different, the conclusions tend to be the same: the moral law continues to be viable, the ceremonial law has expired, and the judicial law is illustrative (but not binding). Again, I do not believe any part of the Mosaic law has expired, and none of it ever applied to Gentiles (non-Jews).

Further, the division of the Mosaic law into three components is completely artificial, being man-made and not God ordained. There is no statement anywhere in scripture dividing the Mosaic law into component parts. Logically, I can make the argument for dividing the Mosaic law into six or seven components. But this is merely a human contrivance – it has no divine origin. No matter how you define the “divisions” of the law, in practice they are very difficult to parse. One law, or one verse, may contain elements from multiple divisions of the law. I suggest that’s because from a covenantal view, the Mosaic law is one unitary whole, indivisible. If God never announced any divisions of His laws, then why do we accept it as fact?

A significant number of both Catholic and Reformed people also argue for supersessionism, or replacement theology. Replacement theology holds that the Church has subsumed, or taken the place of, Israel in the future plans of God. Thus, all of the unfulfilled prophecies concerning national Israel are now to be understood as applying in a spiritual sense to the Church. Adherents of this view adopt a primarily spiritualized, or allegorical, reading of scripture. In their view, all prophecies pertaining to the physical restoration of Israel and promises of future physical blessings are to be understood as having a merely spiritual (non-literal) fulfillment. However, since it is possible to read all such scriptures literally without doing violence to any of them, there is simply no advantage to this view.

Dispensationalists tend to believe the death and resurrection of Christ brought about an effective suspension of the Mosaic law. Thus, the Age of Grace supplanted the Age of Law. However, this is mostly regarded as a mere suspension of the Mosaic covenant, not a termination. Many Dispensationalists believe God will restore Israel in the Millennium period (the Kingdom Age) and the Mosaic covenant will be re-instituted in some form at that time. This view is based on the idea that God dealt primarily with Israel before Christ, with the Church after Christ, and will deal mainly with Israel when Christ returns (and the Church is taken out of the way).

I believe God will physically restore Israel in the future and observance of the Mosaic covenant will resume in full. However, I reach these conclusions on an entirely different basis than Dispensationalists. The Mosaic covenant has been suspended merely as a result of the impossibility of performance brought about by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the scattering of the Jewish people. The suspension was brought about by circumstances, not a change to the covenant. Jesus made no changes to the covenant. I also believe the Church will not be taken out of the way in the sense meant by Dispensationalists (i.e., by the Rapture). The Church will be fully functioning in the Kingdom Age, because God is completely capable of running two separate programs or economies at the same time.

These are three of the more common views on the subject. There are multiple less common positions, as well. Reconstructionists (also known as Theonomists), an offshoot of Reformed Theology, view the judicial law as applicable today in addition to the moral law. Of course, they mean this in the sense of applying to Gentiles and Christians, which the Mosaic law never did (and never will) apply to. A covenant only binds those to whom it is expressly given.

New Covenant Theology views the entire Mosaic covenant as being cancelled by Christ, and replaced by a so-called Law of Christ or New Covenant law. In other words, that Jesus ushered in a completely new law paradigm, or legal framework. I view this as utter nonsense, because God never acted in a legislative (law-making) capacity anywhere in the New Testament. When God enacts a law, He says, “this shall be a statute for you throughout your generations,” or something similar. He never says that anywhere in the N.T., and no matter what you think of the apostles (including Paul), none of them were legislators. Plus, God never makes a new law and leaves its discovery to mere implication or interpretation – He comes right out and says, “Here it is.”

Dual covenant theology holds that the Mosaic covenant remains valid and binding on the Jewish people today, while the New Covenant in Christ applies to the Church at the same time. While this may appear similar to my own view, it is not the same. Dual covenant theology regards the Church covenant as applying exclusively to Gentiles. Therefore, the Mosaic covenant (and Judaism in general) remains the exclusive means of salvation for the Jews. However, scripture clearly indicates the Church covenant applies to individual Jews as much as any Gentile (“there is neither Jew nor Greek” in the Church). Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, the Mosaic covenant is not a covenant of faith – whereas dual covenant theology essentially holds that it is.

It will not here provide a comprehensive survey of all the possible views of this subject. There are obviously interpretational schemes that I have not covered – though for the most part they offer minor variations on the views already mentioned. The point is, that after 2,000 years of inquiry and debate about the matter, nearly everyone has it wrong. Mostly, theological assumptions get in the way of true understanding. For my part, I want to avoid those assumptions and just see what the scripture says.

So, while I have given you an indication of my views on this subject, what we have not yet done is examine the actual biblical evidence to see what God has said. Let’s head in that direction now.

THE DIVINE COVENANTAL PATTERN

Before tackling the Mosaic covenant head on, I’d like to set the biblical context for it. The context consists of all the other covenants between God and men described in scripture. When we see what characteristics they hold in common, it will help us see what characteristics to look for in examining the Mosaic covenant. I want to know whether God is consistent with Himself in the way He makes covenants with men. And why would we read the Mosaic covenant inconsistently with the way we read the other divine covenants?

Essentially, all of God’s covenants are eternal. Nothing God does covenantally is temporary. By eternal I mean lasting from the time of inception until the creation of the new heavens and new earth (i.e., the end of history). And by temporary I mean terminating at any point prior to the end of history. Yes, there will be some limited covenant modifications occurring when the Millennium (Kingdom Age) inaugurates, but none of those will impact whether any of the divine covenants are still in effect. Nor will those modifications change any of the purposes of the divine covenants as they now stand. Also, those modifications will arise by the decree of the Almighty or by demonstrable proof of His almighty power, leaving no room for debate or subjective interpretation.

Adamic Covenant

Thus, the Dominion Mandate of the Adamic covenant (Gen. 1:28-30) did not terminate at the Fall, nor was man’s dominion lost at that point. The curses pronounced on the man and the woman in Gen. 3 made taking dominion more difficult from that point onward, but the commands of the mandate itself remain unchanged. In spite of the fact that childbirth would become painful, women were still commanded to be fruitful and multiply. In spite of the fact that man would need to work for his food, he was still commanded to subdue the earth. The conditions of keeping the covenant had changed, but not its terms.

When you want to modify a mortgage, an employment contract, or any other kind of verbal agreement, how is that done? The parties get together and either make an all new verbal agreement, or they make an amendment. It takes new words to change old words. Just because you lost your job (a change in conditions) does not mean the terms of your mortgage have changed. Just because you move to another state does not change your credit card terms or the amount you owe. Circumstances and conditions do not create changes to the terms of a man-made agreement, much less a divine covenant. Similarly, neither curses nor blessings are an amendment – they just make things harder or easier.

Keep in mind that the provisions of the Adamic covenant are non-separable. By that I mean you can’t separate its provisions from one another, such as by embracing the continuing mandate to bear children, but rejecting dominion. Both childbearing and dominion were spoken by God to the same people at the same time, in the same context. It’s a package deal. Accordingly, God wants people to subdue the earth and rule over the animals as long as He wants us to make babies. And if He ever changes His mind about childbearing, He will say so, in so many words. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

So yes, all you population worrywarts, people are still under a divine imperative to increase the population through childbirth. It is our duty, not merely an option. And yes, all you radical environmentalists, people still are large and in charge over the earth and the entire animal kingdom. No, we have not over-developed the earth, nor is there any authority for civil governments to keep any part of the land in pristine or virgin condition. No, animals are not our equals. It doesn’t matter who was here first.’ God gave people the authority to rule the animals, not the reverse. Animals are things (i.e., property), not persons. And we still are authorized to eat every plant yielding seed. If you don’t like it, take it up with God – don’t complain to me.

If you’re thinking ahead, no, nothing in the Kingdom Age will reverse the curse or the Fall. People will still be born into sin (separated from God). All of the aspects of the Dominion Mandate will still be in effect. Some of the conditions will change – for example, every mountain will be laid low, and every valley raised up, leveling the earth’s surface. This will undoubtedly make it easier for people to subdue the earth. Plus, the birthrate will explode at that time – whether it means the pain of childbirth will be relieved, the scripture does not say. But the command to be fruitful and multiply will be in full effect, unchanged. So don’t assume anything is different now.

Noahic Covenant

Similarly, the Noahic covenant (Gen. 9:1-17), as well as all of its individual provisions, is eternal. There are four primary aspects of the Noahic covenant: 1) a reaffirmation of the command to bear children; 2) an authorization to eat meat (with a proviso not to eat blood); 3) the institution of capital punishment for the unauthorized shedding of blood; and 4) the sign of the rainbow as a symbol of God’s promise never to destroy the earth by a flood again. (No, the Noahic covenant is not the same as the seven so-called Noahide laws.)

The Noahic covenant is another package deal – all its provisions were spoken by God to the same people at the same time, in the same context. You can’t take capital punishment and split it off, saying in effect, “that was then, this is now.” As long as the promise of the rainbow still holds (you are still relying on that, right?), then the command to kill murderers is still in effect. Nothing has changed legally, that is, covenantally. Nothing Jesus did has modified or terminated the Noahic covenant. The Noahic covenant is eternal.

For you forward thinkers, yes, there will be a future change of conditions. The authorization to eat meat itself came with a change in circumstances after the flood. Namely, that the friendly relations between people and animals previously would be replaced by a fear and dread. In the Millennium, that fear and dread will be rolled back, so that the relationship between people and animals will revert in large part to what it was before the flood. Whether that will affect the command to eat meat in the future, scripture does not say, and I will not speculate.

But in spite of any future change of conditions, all of the commands of the Noahic covenant will continue to apply. People will still be expected to be fruitful and multiply (and they will multiply exceedingly). People will still be expected to abstain from eating blood. Capital punishment will be enforced (most rigorously, I expect). And the promise of the rainbow will still apply. Meanwhile, for the time being, the command (yes, it’s a command – imposing a duty) to eat meat is still operating. Vegetarians and vegans, better get yourselves back in compliance with the will of God.

Did I forget to mention? No one is exempt from the provisions of the Adamic and Noahic covenants. They are both binding on every single person alive today. That’s because both covenants are binding on the descendants of the original parties, and everyone alive today is a descendant of both Adam and Noah. That’s what happened as a result of the great flood – all the people who were not descendants of Noah were killed. And Noah, of course, was a descendant of Adam. (What – you thought those genealogies were stuck in the Bible for no good reason?)

The biblical accounts of Adam and Noah are not mere morality tales or spiritual allegories. They are real history, and the things God said at those times are binding agreements (divine covenants), imposing actual legal obligations on all of us who came afterwards. Here, you should begin to get a feel for the importance of how we regard the divine covenants – not just the Mosaic covenant, but all of them. These things really matter in our lives, and we need to pay attention to them.

Abrahamic Covenant

The Abrahamic covenant is a little more complex than the prior divine covenants, seeing as how it was delivered in three parts over a span of 24 years. See Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 15:1-21; 17:1-14. Unlike the Adamic and Noahic covenants, the Abrahamic covenant is not applicable to all people in the world. It only applies as a legal framework to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (i.e., the nation of Israel). Nonetheless, it is an eternal covenant, continuing for all time (even through the Kingdom Age). Plus, the Abrahamic covenant undergirds the Mosaic covenant. That is, without the Abrahamic, the Mosaic covenant could not exist.

The Abrahamic covenant has three major purposes: 1) the promise of numerous offspring to Abraham, among them a great nation (Israel – surprise!); 2) a specific parcel of land (i.e., the land of Israel) given to Abraham’s offspring as an everlasting possession; and 3) an everlasting covenant with Israel, signified with the outward sign of circumcision. Both the possession of the Promised Land and the covenant with Abraham’s offspring are expressly declared to be eternal (Gen. 17:7-8). The entirety of the Abrahamic covenant is ultimately directed to the nation of Israel – the same people covered by the Mosaic covenant. If the Mosaic covenant was only temporary, then why was its covenantal foundation (Abraham’s covenant) expressly made everlasting?

Like the Adamic and Noahic covenants, the provisions of the Abrahamic covenant are inextricably bound together – another package deal. The promise of a great nation and the Promised Land are bundled together in Gen. 12. The promise of numerous offspring and a son of promise are bundled together with the Promised Land in Gen. 15. The everlasting covenant with Abraham’s offspring and circumcision as a sign of that covenant are bundled with the everlasting possession of the Promised Land in Gen. 17. These provisions are all inseparable from each other.

The same is true for all the other provisions of the Abrahamic covenant. Thus, the blessing of all the families of the earth is bound together with the great nation (Israel) and Promised Land of Gen. 12. And the example of Abraham’s faith as a model for Christians is bound together with the promise of Isaac’s birth and the Promised Land in Gen. 15. You cannot separate these things. Do you consider yourself a spiritual son of Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9)? Then you must embrace the eternal viability of the nation of Israel and its unequivocal right to the land of Israel. Take the whole thing, or take none of it – but taking it piecemeal is not an option.

Historically, Israel as a nation has waxed and waned, suffering enormous persecution and many attempts at eradication. Its possession of the Promised Land has been interrupted twice – once for decades, and once for centuries. Even now, while it has regained possession of much of the Promised Land, it does not possess all of it. And most crucially, it lacks control of its most holy site – the Temple Mount. Yet, all of these will be fully restored in the Millennial period – that is the promise of scripture. So despite the changes in conditions over the years (i.e., repeated dispossession), none of the purposes of the Abrahamic covenant (nor any of its terms) have changed. It is still in effect, and will continue to govern the nation and the land of Israel, until the end of time.

Other Divine Covenants

What more do I need to say concerning the other divine covenants of scripture, except that they follow the same pattern? The Davidic covenant (coming about 500 years after Moses) is expressly declared to be eternal. It concerns the succession to the throne of Israel by a descendant of David. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7:16). Like the possession of the Promised Land, the occupancy of the throne of Israel has been disrupted by circumstances (namely, the deportations of Israel by Assyria and Babylon). As a result, Israel’s throne has been unoccupied since 586 B.C.

Yet, the terms of the Davidic covenant have not changed. Thus, at the birth of Jesus, He is expressly shown to be in the royal line of David through Solomon (Mat. 1:1-16). Throughout His life, Jesus is declared to be the Son of David. Scripture names Him as both the root and branch of David. Plus, He was heralded as the King of the Jews at both His birth and His death. These all identify Him as the sole true heir of the throne of David. Now all of that only makes logical sense if the Davidic covenant – despite the change in circumstances – was still in force and effect throughout Jesus’ life.

Further, the Second Coming of Christ, and the establishment of His earthly kingdom, only make any sense at all if the Davidic covenant is indeed eternal. So, perhaps we should take 2 Sam. 7:16 at face value, and admit that this is so.

Similarly, the new covenant in Christ (a/k/a the Church covenant) is also eternal. It is hinted at in the last line of the Great Commission, when Jesus stated, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat. 28:20). It is also expressly declared that the ministry of Christ as head of the Church and as high priest on behalf of all who believe will be forever. (Eph. 3:21; Heb. 7:17-24). And the chief attribute of salvation under the Church covenant is the reward of eternal life, spoken of in John 3:15-16 and numerous other N.T. scriptures. On the flip side, the reward for those who disobey is eternal destruction, as mentioned in 2 Th. 1:5-9 and elsewhere in the N.T. Yes, the purposes of God for the Church are eternal (Eph 3:10-11).

Thus, the Davidic covenant and the Church covenant, both of which came after the Mosaic covenant, are eternal just like all the divine covenants that came before the Mosaic covenant. That would seem to suggest the likelihood of a continuity among the divine covenants, i.e., that all of them (including the Mosaic covenant) are eternal.

I will take it further. The idea that God made the Mosaic covenant (or any part of it) temporary, instead of eternal like the other divine covenants, is contrary to His nature. Similarly, if He made the Mosaic covenant divisible instead of a unitary whole (i.e., a package deal) like the other divine covenants, then it would also be contrary to His nature. Because God exists from everlasting to everlasting, His purposes for mankind are eternal, and His redemption and reward of believers is eternal. This is the nature of who He is. Plus God, who exists in three persons, is one indivisible God. This, too, is the nature of who He is. How could any of His divine covenants be anything else?

Therefore, the Mosaic covenant must also be an eternal covenant, the purposes of which remain unchanged to this day, and whose purposes will continued to be fulfilled until the end of time. Though historical circumstances have imposed various changes in conditions, and its full observance is suspended temporarily, it is as viable and effective today as it was in its inception. Nothing has happened in the last 3,500 years to change that. However, I do not wish to make this merely a matter of inference. No, the scriptures are quite explicit: all aspects of the Mosaic covenant are eternal. We’re almost ready to look at these scriptures – just bear with me for one more contextual consideration.

WHAT THE MOSAIC COVENANT IS ALL ABOUT

A Civil Constitution

Earlier I made the claim that the Mosaic covenant was/is not a covenant of faith. What do I mean by that? Well, what were the stated purposes of the Mosaic covenant?

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exo. 19:5-6).

That’s it. A specially treasured nation, and eventually a kingdom of priests (not a reference to the Levitical priesthood, but to all Jews). Holy in the sense of set apart, not sinless or saved. What things are missing from these purposes? Personal redemption, salvation, atonement, faith, and righteousness. Yep, none of those are in there. Being a Jew was never obtained by faith or belief, but solely by biology – specifically, by being a descendant of the sons of Israel. Thus, when I speak of the nation of Israel, I mean it in the biblical, which is to say, an ethnic sense. The only members of the nation of Israel are biological descendants of Jacob/Israel.

I suggest the Mosaic covenant had, and has, a primarily national purpose, not an individual one. Namely, a national setting apart from other nations and a national identification with Jehovah God. A nation consisting of God’s own people, whom He will dwell among, and who are known by God’s holy name. This purpose remains unchanged. The Jewish people are still a nation uniquely set apart and identified with Jehovah. The Mosaic covenant isn’t directed to individuals at all.

Also consider the context of Exo. 19:5-6. Immediately prior to this conversation, Moses had just set up a nationwide system for the administration of justice – a hierarchical system of judges. (Exo. 18:13-27). Immediately afterwards, God delivered to Moses the Ten Commandments, which according to the scripture, are the substance of the Mosaic covenant. (Exo. 34:28; Deu. 4:13). Since the Ten Commandments are the very essence of the Mosaic covenant, and the covenant is a national one, the Ten Commandments may rightly be regarded as the national constitution of Israel.

And of course, following the delivery of the Ten Commandments, the people of Israel were shown to the Promised Land – again serving a corporate purpose, not an individual one. Thereafter, the throne of Israel was established with the descendants of David. A throne, by definition, does not serve an individual purpose, but a national one.

Remember the Abrahamic covenant, which the Mosaic covenant rests upon, has three chief aspects: the promise of a great nation, a national homeland, and a national covenant. Circumcision – the sign of the Abrahamic covenant – was bestowed on all of Abraham’s male descendants not because of a profession of faith (how could they, at only 8 days of age?), but merely because of their birth into the Abrahamic line. So again, the Abrahamic covenant, which is the very foundation of the Mosaic covenant, is both national in purpose, and determined solely on the basis of biology, not faith.

I am not denying that Abraham was a model of individual faith, or that by keeping the Mosaic covenant one might come to a personal knowledge of God. These things are true. However, neither exercising the faith of Abraham, nor coming to know God through the keeping of the law made anyone, ever, a member of the Abrahamic covenant or of the Mosaic covenant. And the flip side, of course, is that merely by being a member of either of those covenants (i.e., merely by being born a Jew) never made anyone a faithful believer or follower of God.

The Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are not antithetical to faith and belief, but they are not the same as faith and belief either. Belief, and participation in the covenant, are two different things. A person can do both, either one or neither one (if a Gentile), but faith or belief on the one hand, and membership or participation in the Mosaic covenant on the other hand, are completely separate and independent. Why do people not get this? How could God have possibly made it more plain?

A Constitutional Analogy

At this point I will borrow an analogy from my good friend, Kerry Morgan. He has pointed out that it is not difficult to show, and many people have recognized, that the U.S. Constitution was founded on covenantal principles consistent with biblical examples. Let’s assume that to be true, arguendo. Even so, no one would say that by obeying the U.S. Constitution, founded on biblical principles, such obedience would cause a person to become saved. Why? Because being bound by the U.S. Constitution is generally not a faith proposition – no one born a U.S. citizen is required to believe in the Constitution. Plus, the Constitution is not an individual covenant, but a national one. Individual faith or belief is irrelevant to its legal effect.

Similarly, the constitution of Israel (the Mosaic covenant) is not an individual covenant, but a national one. Individual faith or belief is irrelevant to its legal effect. Merely by obeying the Mosaic covenant does not give anyone a legitimate claim to being saved. (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11). It does not matter that the terms of the Mosaic covenant were founded on biblical principles – indeed, that they were dictated by God Himself. Faith or belief on the one hand, and membership or participation in the Mosaic covenant on the other hand, are completely separate and independent.

A Comparison of Israel and the Church

So let’s recap briefly how Israel and the Church compare with each other. If you don’t get this right, you’ll never understand how the Church covenant and the Mosaic covenant relate to each other.

ISRAEL CHURCH
A nation An association, i.e., a Body
Membership acquired by ancestry/birth only Membership acquired by faith/choice only
Biological (physical) birth Spiritual (second) birth
Covenant is corporate – “we” Covenant is individual – “I”
Faith is not required to participate Participation requires faith
Administered by a human priesthood Christ is high priest – no human high priest
Human priesthood is a segregated class Universal (lesser) priesthood among believers
A physical temple building Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit
Physical circumcision is sign of the covenant Sealed by the Holy Spirit as a sign
Limited to Jews only Open to all people
Sins are covered only Sins are permanently forgiven
Jesus is Messiah, will be earthly king Jesus is Head of the Body and fellow-heir

The bottom line is that Israel and the Church have NOTHING in common, except for the fact both were instituted by God. They are apples and oranges compared to each other. They will never merge, subsume, or be the same. One is a physical nation defined by biology. The other is a spiritual body defined by faith. How can Israel and the Church, or the Mosaic covenant and the Church covenant, ever be mashed together? They are completely different kinds of entities – two parallel lines that never intersect. Let not man join together that which God has made separate.

No One Annuls a Divine Covenant

Admittedly, many people have become confused about this, primarily because they take texts in isolation without comparing them to the rest of scripture. Take this text from Galatians, for example:

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Gal. 3:23-25).

The confusion centers around the word, we. The text makes it sound like the same people who were under the Mosaic law are no longer under it (in some sense), once Christ came. Let us admit this is true – but who is we? The writer of Galatians is Paul, a Jew by birth. When he says we, who is he referring to? All Christians, Jew and Gentile alike? No – that is impossible. Paul is writing on behalf of himself and the brothers who were with him (Gal. 1:2), of whom he says, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” (Gal. 2:15). Don’t just shrug this off – this is key.

Paul wrote on behalf of himself – a Jewish believer – and his fellow Jewish believers. For them, yes certainly, they were born under the Mosaic law. That does not mean that you and I, as Gentile believers, are in the same position he was. The work and ministry of Christ will affect us the same, but the relationship we have to the Mosaic covenant is not the same. He was under it – we are not, and our ancestors never were, either. The Mosaic covenant was given exclusively to the Jews. You don’t become subject to the Mosaic covenant by choice – you become subject by birth, that is, by being born as a biological Jew.

So in what sense were Paul and his Jewish brothers no longer under a guardian (or tutor)? In the sense that they no longer needed a mere shadow of things to come to lead them to Christ, because Christ has already come. Was Paul, by this statement (we are no longer under a guardian) asserting that he was no longer governed by the Mosaic covenant? Hardly. Just a few verses earlier, Paul wrote,

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. (Gal. 3:15-17).

Do you really think Paul was taking the position that the Mosaic law – a God-made covenant – was more susceptible to annulment (less ironclad) than a human covenant? Or that adding to a covenant was bad, but subtracting from it was OK? Rev. 22:18-19 would seem to mitigate against that view.

The point Paul was making is that the Mosaic covenant did not terminate the Abrahamic covenant just because it came along later. No one annuls a covenant ratified by God, not even God. Instead of bringing the Abrahamic covenant to an end, one can easily argue the Mosaic covenant (and the Davidic covenant as well) actually came under the umbrella of the promises made to Abraham. Thereby strengthening and reinforcing them, not annulling them.

The implication of Gal. 3, of course, is that the new covenant in Christ did not annul the promises given to Abraham (and Moses) either.

Remember also, that Paul is the guy who wrote this: “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised (i.e., the Jews) to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” (Rom. 15:8). Paul knew that nothing Christ did annulled the Mosaic covenant. He wasn’t about to contradict that in writing Galatians. You have to read Galatians 3 in the light of the entirety of scripture – not in isolation, and not in contradiction. Part of that broader context is the expressly stated eternal duration of the Mosaic covenant, considered next.

Intro: Main Page; Introduction Part 2: Expressly Eternal; Nothing Has Ended It; Decoupling Covenants Part 3: Destruction of Jerusalem; Future of the Covenant; Conclusion


ENDNOTES
*     Copyright 2019 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission.