Any religion is a particular form of religious worship and practice. The religion of Judaism is the worship of Jehovah and the practice of His law. It was given by God to Israel at Mt. Sinai. Because Moses was the mediator, it is often called the law of Moses. But it really is the law of God, for it was given by God. The religion of the Jews is called Judaism, which is the practice of God’s law, the keeping of the covenant made with them at Mt. Sinai.
If we believe there was a Jewish dispensation in which the nation of Israel was the focus, then there would be Jewish things associated with it. One of those things was the practice of the law/Judaism. The Gentiles had their own religions, worshiping false gods made of wood and stone (Ez. 20:32). But Judaism was the worship of Jehovah, the one true God. God’s chosen and special people were set apart from the Gentiles by the practice of their religion. This separation was what God meant when He told Israel they would be to Him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6) – they would be separated from the Gentiles and closer to Him.166 The main way God accomplished this was by the practice of the law. God’s purpose was for Judaism to be a wall built up around the Jews, keeping them in the world, but isolated and set apart (holy) to Him (Eph. 2:11–15).167
166 [Israel being a kingdom of priests unto God never carried the idea of the Jews interceding for or representing the Gentile nations. That would be an erroneous conclusion arrived at by human reasoning about the biblical understanding of the word “priests” from the passage. The Jews were to be “nearest” to God in proximity, as those in priesthood are generally those closest to God. It is a phrase which further separates Israel from the Gentiles, while keeping the Jews as still part of the world]
167 [In Eph. 2:11–15, Paul refers specifically to the law/Judaism as the wall of separation God built up around the Jews. Israel’s inheritance and possession of the Promised land was to have a similar effect of separation from the Gentiles. In bringing the Jews into the land under Joshua, God destroyed and chased out seven nations of the Gentiles (Deut. 7:1, Acts 13:19). These Jewish things, during the Jewish dispensation, were all purposed by God to cloister Israel from the Gentiles. Of course, the Jewish dispensation saw the failure of both the practice of Judaism and any thought of an eternal possession of the land by the Jews at that time]
This separation is easier to see if we consider certain realities. God was the one who gave the law, and it was only given to Israel. He never had any intention of giving the law to the Gentiles, nor for the law to mysteriously pass over to them. If He had such a purpose, where in Scripture is the evidence where He worked to accomplish this? God gave the law to the Jews at Mt. Sinai approximately thirty-five hundred years ago. It has been exclusively their religion ever since.168 We readily admit that Judaism was the worship of the one true God; it was, at that time, the only religion God gave to man and the only true religion that existed. So why did God purposely keep the law with Israel only, using it as a barrier around them?
168 [Consider what Jehovah says to Israel in Amos 3:2 – “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.” God only had a relationship with Israel. The Jews alone were God’s chosen people in the Jewish dispensation. God knew Israel only, and to them alone He gave His law]
If we’ve read and understood the previous chapters of this book, then we have a good idea of the answer to this question. During the Jewish dispensation God used Israel as a test-case representing fallen man. He used the law as a means of proving mankind’s depravity. God was looking for the fruit of obedience to His will. As His special people, the Jews were given every possible privilege and advantage He could give to fallen man. By testing favored Israel, placing them under the law, there would be no reason to extend this testing to the Gentiles. Israel was in the best position concerning privileges and blessings. Therefore, there was no reason to give the law to the Gentiles. With Israel and His law, God had everything He needed to prove His point.
Israel was under the law during the time of the Jewish dispensation. With this, we can now make some broader statements about the law, and therefore, about Judaism.
As a test of fallen man, what was the law?
It was the perfect measure of what man in the flesh ought to be in his relationships, with God and with his neighbor (Matt. 22:36–40). The law is the standard of what fallen man’s duty and responsibility was before God, his Creator. It was the definitive test of human/creature righteousness – could fallen man do right before a holy and just God?
The Jews were the children of Adam, just like the Gentiles. This means they were fallen sinners like the Gentiles. Biblically, all fallen men are described as men “in the flesh” or “in Adam.” The same consequences of Adam’s disobedience came on the Jews, as they did on the Gentiles (Rom. 5:12, 18). The Gentiles are in the world; so are the Jews. The Gentiles are of the world; so is Israel – they are “of the world” like the Gentiles. The only distinction was that Israel’s religion separated them from the Gentiles, setting them apart unto God in the world.169
169 [Here is a simple object lesson. I could empty out a large bag of M&Ms on a table top, noticing the many different colors in which the candy is made. Because the green M&Ms are my favorites, I separate them by gathering them into the middle of the table top. I then build a little green lego wall around them. The green M&Ms are now separated from the others, and they are special and treated as such. But they are still just M&Ms like the rest, and they are still on the table top just like the others. This is what God did for the Jews.
Judaism is a religion that God adapted for man “in the flesh” and man “of the world.” It is a worldly religion. And it is sensual – a walk by sight, as well as the other senses. All the religions of the world were sensual; so was Judaism. All the religions of the world were walks by sight and the other physical senses; Judaism was no different. Man “in Adam” and “in the flesh” can only walk by sight. A religion requiring faith makes no sense to him – he will not walk by things unseen (Heb. 11:1).
It was a sensual experience for the Jews to see the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, to worship with the aid of the tabernacle and its furniture, or Solomon’s temple with all its glory, to hear the sounds of the sheep, goats, and heifers being sacrificed, to see the blood spilt out or gathered in basins. Judaism had outward washings of the flesh. The sprinkling of blood and anointing of oil served a similar purpose. They had gold and brass coverings, beautiful vestments, candles to light and burn, trumpets to sound. There were required pilgrimages to Jerusalem for all the men of Israel to make, three times a year for the Jewish High Sabbaths (Ex. 34:23–24). There was the burning of incense, the smell of animal flesh burnt with fire, and the ark of the covenant with Jewish artifacts stored inside. There were tablets of stone on which the finger of God wrote His commandments (Heb. 9:1-10). The sign of God’s covenant with the Jews was circumcision of the outward flesh. God had given Judaism as His religion to fallen man (Israel), and all mentioned here shows the practice of it was a walk by sight and an appeal to the flesh and senses of man.
In all respects, Judaism is God’s religion of the earth and world, adapted to man “in the flesh.” It was the one and only religion God ever gave to man in Adam, a religion God adapted to the present state/condition of man. The law was given to God’s chosen people who had the earthly calling to inherit the Promised Land. The practice of the law was earthly in its character – fleshly ordinances imposed for a period of time (Heb. 9:10). The Spirit of God through Paul rightly described Judaism as a form of bondage to the weak and beggarly elements of the world (Gal. 4:3, 9–10).
In all honesty, Judaism was a yoke of bondage (Gal. 5:1-3). Those “of the works of the law” were, without exception, under the curse of it (Gal. 3:10). This simply included all the Jews. The law was never a walk by faith; the law could never generate faith (Gal. 3:12, 23). It only catered to a walk by sight – the Jews requested signs for the physical senses (I Cor. 1:22, Matt. 12:38, 16:1). The redemption Israel received was a deliverance from physical slavery in Egypt. It was a geographical change in where they would live – an external separation from the Gentiles, but still of the world. Judaism kept the Jews in association with the earth and very much part “of the world.” The biblical answer of what the composition of the world is today is that it is made up of Jews and Gentiles – all those in unbelief.170
170 [Those of faith in Jesus Christ are genuine Christians. They, as a group, are not “of the world” – John 17:14–16. But when Jesus addressed the Jews, He characterized them as from beneath and of this world (John 8:23–24). But Jesus is from above and not of this world. So too are all those who believe in Him]
The law was a testing by God of fallen man in the flesh. It was the perfect measurement of man’s sinful condition. Judaism, the practice of the law, was one means by which God proved man’s depravity.
But where would I go in Scripture to find God’s reason or purpose in giving the law to Israel? Would I search the Old Testament? Should I read Moses, the law giver? The Prophets and Psalms? Maybe I would find the answer in the words of Jesus in the gospels? I have observed that most theologians and Christian seminaries go backwards in order to make their attempts to answer such questions. They believe God’s purpose for the law had to have been revealed at the time He first gave it, or soon after. And if not, they believe that Jesus would have certainly answered the question.
Unfortunately, the practice of going backwards in Scripture to discover revelation concerning God’s purpose, in this case for giving the law, is misguided scholarship. The Old Testament never reveals God’s purpose; nor does Moses, the Prophets, or Psalms. Even Jesus remains quiet concerning the true purpose of the law.
Now, before I go on to make this important point of Scripture, I will point out that we do find the founding principle of the law in the Old Testament. Moses, who God used to give the law to Israel, reveals this,
You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. (Lev. 18:5)
If a Jew could do the works of the law, that is, obey God’s statutes, judgments, and commandments perfectly, and do so his entire life, then he would have life as a reward. It is a straightforward principle – if a man does (them), he shall live (have life). But this isn’t any different than the principle of creature responsibility we learned in previous chapters. The founding principle of the law is human responsibility; God was looking for obedience to His commands from the Jews; if they obeyed and did the works, in response, God would pay them life as a wage or reward. This principle, as connected to the law, was repeated many times in the Old Testament: Nehemiah. 9:29, Ezekiel. 20:11, 13, 21. Using different words, the principle is repeated various times by Moses in Deuteronomy thirty. And then Jesus implies the principle in His dealings with the rich young ruler, without telling him the impossibility of earning life by performance of the law (Matt. 19:16–19). Finally, we find that Paul also repeats the principle twice in His epistles (Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12). But this founding principle never speaks to God’s purpose. The principle of human responsibility is identified as the basis of the law, and outcomes for doing or not doing are listed – the blessings and curses (Deut. 27, 28). But never is the law’s real purpose for being given revealed.
God’s purpose for using the law in the Jewish dispensation was to test man in Adam, proving his depravity. This truth wasn’t revealed by Moses or the prophets. It is only vaguely referred to by Jesus.171 But God’s purpose was revealed and taught by the apostle Paul. He boldly declared that the law was a ministration of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:7,9). This was the curse of the law, and condemnation and death were constantly upon those who were of the works of the law (Gal. 3:10). Paul understood that the end result of the law was, without exception, upon everyone associated with it. Wouldn’t we agree that this speaks to God’s purpose?
171 [In the Lord’s encounter with the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16–26), He does refer to man’s depravity, but only indirectly and obscurely. In verse seventeen, He says no one is good but God. In verse twenty-six, He says with men this is impossible when asked by Peter, “Who then can be saved?”]
It is just as important in hearing what Paul is saying, to understand what he isn’t saying. He doesn’t teach that the tablets of stone were a ministration of life or death. He doesn’t say the law could be either justification or condemnation. Although the law had its temporal glory, Paul was resolute in teaching that the only possible outcome for those under it was death and condemnation. The principle of the law promised life to those who would do it (Rom. 10:5); but Paul found that the law only brought death (Rom. 7:10).
Paul’s emphasis is completely different from those who preceded him. No longer do you see the listing of both blessings and curses as Moses had, or teaching which gives the impression that either one is just as possible as the other through the law/Judaism. The apostle shows that what is guaranteed for those of the works of the law was a curse. Any association with the law is a one-way street that only results in a negative outcome.
Earning anything good wasn’t possible for corporate Israel because of mankind’s fallen state. This state/condition of man (his utter depravity) was revealed by Paul’s doctrine (Rom. 3:9–19). Therefore, one of the conclusions the Spirit brings the apostle to is that by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20, Gal. 3:11). A little further in Romans, Paul teaches that Adam’s disobedience brought sin and death into the world. The Spirit inspired conclusion is that the entire human race, Jews and Gentiles alike, can expect nothing but judgment and condemnation (Rom. 5:12, 18). And again, Paul arrives at a similar conclusion in this passage in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
The Spirit through the apostle details mankind’s state/condition: He was spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, walking in step with the world and devil; he was labeled by God as a son of disobedience, whose general practices were in the lusts of the flesh. And make no mistake, this included without exception both Jew and Gentile, men and women – “…among whom also we all once conducted ourselves…” But there is a further proof in the passage of this generalized state. The apostle concludes that all are by nature children of wrath. This depravity comes to every person naturally, through their physical birth.
Why are these things important? Just that Paul is not writing to the Christians at Ephesus, Philippi, or Rome as himself being a Jew (Phil. 3:5); he is not writing as a Pharisee in Judaism, a teacher of the law and Israel (John 3:10). He used to be all these things until he met a glorified Christ on the road to Damascus. In order to pursue after Christ, he makes the conscious decision to disown his former life in Judaism (Phil. 3:3–14, Gal. 1:14–16). He is now of a different religion. He writes his epistles by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as a Christian and called by God an apostle to the Gentiles. One of the big-picture realizations from Paul’s teachings is that the law/Judaism may have been useful in identifying the depravity of mankind’s fallen natural state and its cause, but it was useless and powerless to do anything about it.
“For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20)
The apostle teaches that the law exposes the presence of this thing called “sin” in man. But it would be a mistake if we assumed Paul is referring to sinning – the committing of specific actions (transgressions) which break certain commandments. Instead, he is speaking of the presence of something evil residing in man – a sin nature which automatically produces the state of depravity. God used the law to reveal its presence in fallen man.
What else does the apostle teach about this evil nature? It entered the world as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience. Mortality and death were accessories attached to it. And we can rightly assume it passes to each individual through natural birth, for all the children of Adam were subject to physical death (Rom. 5:12). Because of this sequence starting with Adam’s act of disobedience, judgment came to all mankind, resulting in condemnation (Rom. 5:18). Paul also teaches that this thing called sin exercises dominion over men, making everyone a slave to it (Rom. 6:6, 14, 17).172 All mankind, including Paul, were sold under sin (Rom. 7:14).
172 [Jesus teaches the same truth as this in John 8:34, only not as directly as Paul does. Yet from the Lord’s statement we should be able to reach the same correct conclusions. However, it becomes increasingly obvious that teachings which come “later” in the word of God concerning the same subject are always more revealing and enlightening. One of the biggest reasons for this is the giving of the Holy Spirit to every Christian believer in the Christian dispensation. The Spirit becomes the revealer and teacher of God’s truth to the believer (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, 13–15, 25, 2 Cor. 2:10–12). The Jews never had this in their dispensation.
Just as teachers refer to the Pauline doctrine of justification/righteousness by faith because it is practically exclusive to his epistles, for the same reasons we could refer to the Pauline doctrine of the depravity of mankind. This doctrine also is exclusive to Paul. And the Spirit through him exposes man’s condition quite thoroughly. First from sin’s original entrance into the world by Adam, along with its general effects (Rom. 5); then by its relationship to Israel’s religion (law/Judaism, i.e. Gal. 2:19–21)]
It is fascinating that God chose Paul to unveil things like this, considering how his early life was thoroughly immersed in the Jewish religion, far more than the other apostles. Before he was known as Paul, the Christian apostle to the Gentiles, in Judaism he was known as Saul of Tarsus, circumcised on the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. He could brag that concerning the law, he was a Pharisee; that concerning zeal for protecting Judaism, he actively persecuted the church; that concerning his performance of the law he was blameless (Phil. 3:3-6).173 In the Jewish way, he knew all there was to know about the law. As a Pharisee, he would have taught the law to the Jews. But Paul receives the Holy Spirit at the time of his conversion to Christianity (1 Cor. 2:12). He is now a Christian with an apostolic mission given to him directly from Jesus Christ. Now here is the point of this entire discussion – what does this former Pharisee, turned Christian apostle, now teach concerning the law? The Spirit of God uses Paul to teach the true purpose of the law – the exposing of the presence of sin in fallen man and his true state of depravity.
173 [As a Christian, when Paul looks back on his former life in Judaism, he considers it as only the “confidences of the flesh” – Phil. 3:3–4. This is further verification that Judaism is a religion of the world and earth, adapted to man “in the flesh.” The greatest achievements in Judaism, of which Paul had many, are now considered by him as “the confidences of the flesh.” We might remember Paul teaching that as a Jew, he was in the flesh (Rom. 7:5), and that those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom. 8:8). Do you think that these “confidences of the flesh” he gained by being born a Jew and achieving high standards in Judaism, even becoming a Pharisee, impressed God? Now as a believer, Paul says these things are rubbish and dung, and must be discarded if he is to pursue Christ (Phil. 3:7–8). This passage in Philippians may easily be used to show certain differences between Judaism and Christianity, between the Jewish and Christian dispensations]
Paul taught that the law, in and of itself, was righteous, holy, and good (Rom. 7:12). God gave the law to Israel. He could not have given anything evil to them. As we said previously, the law was the perfect measure of man’s righteousness, towards God and towards his neighbor. The problem was what mankind had become because of Adam’s sin. This is the revelation the Spirit of God gives to Paul, which he teaches in his epistles, especially Romans.
Even though Paul taught that the law was holy and good, still he understood that there was an intimate connection between the law and the evil residing in man’s flesh. When the law came in, it only served to arouse the passions of this evil nature in man.
“For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” (Rom. 7:5)
Now you must ask who specifically is Paul referring to in this passage? All unbelievers are described as “in the flesh”, but all of them didn’t have the law. Only Israel was given the law; only the Jews practiced Judaism. Although the law would serve as an outward restriction on the Jews, at the same time it activated something evil residing in their flesh. Again, Paul explains that this thing inside him he calls “sin” took opportunity by the law to produce in him all manner of evil desire (Rom. 7:8). Further, he states that when the commandment came, sin revived and he died, so that he realized that the law, which was to bring to him life, only brought death (Rom. 7:9–10). As in Paul, so also in all Jews, the evil nature took advantage of the law to have this two-fold result: the production of all manner of lust, as well as bringing in a certain spiritual death (Rom. 7:11).174
174 [In Rom. 5:12, the death associated with the sin nature’s entrance into the world through Adam’s disobedience is physical death and is a matter of natural birth as a child of Adam. All mankind became mortal, subject to physical death. But it is clear in Rom. 7:8–13 Paul is referring to spiritual death (as well as in Gal. 2:19, Eph. 2:1, etc.). Without getting too technical, it seems that Paul is saying that spiritual death is a fruit of sinning – the committing of acts (Rom. 7:5). But certainly, the committing of evil acts is the fruit of the evil nature residing in the flesh of fallen mankind. If “sin” has a close association with the law, then Paul’s argument that spiritual death also has a close association with the law is easier to follow. Also, this might shed some light on a difficult Scripture to understand – Rom. 5:13. Those who were given the law had the specific knowledge of God’s will. This removes any excuse. Specific acts committed could not be charged or imputed when there was no law]
Romans 7:12–14 (NKJV)
12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.
This passage is particularly useful in teaching God’s purpose with the law and the Jews. God’s intention was to have sin “appear” to mankind, no longer being hidden and a mystery. The giving of the law to the Jews allowed God to expose the presence of this evil in man in such a way that it was obvious. Sin became exceedingly sinful. Then Paul repeats mankind’s state – sold under sin (a slave to sin and under its dominion; utter depravity).
In other passages Paul teaches the same connection. The law entered so that sin could abound (Rom. 5:20). The strength of sin is the law (1 Cor. 15:56). One particularly insightful passage from Paul that shows this connection with its dispensational implications is found in Romans.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)
This verse is speaking of the Christian believer being under grace, a clear reality of his redemption in the Christian dispensation. During the Jewish dispensation the Jews were under the law. It is reasonable and insightful to imply from the verse that being under the law maintains the mastery of sin over the individual. This was the real condition of any Jew during their dispensation. There was no deliverance from sin to be found in the law or in Judaism. This verse indirectly implies an important difference between the Jewish dispensation and the Christian dispensation which followed it.175
175 [This distinction made between the two dispensations comes from seeing and understanding differences which exist between the two religions – Judaism and Christianity. Biblical redemption always involves two important works – justification and deliverance. For Israel during the Jewish dispensation, their justification involved God covering their sins with animal blood and His judgment passing over/by them. Their deliverance was to physically move them out of Egypt and end their slavery. In contrast, the Christian believer’s redemption is through the blood of Christ, not animal blood. Our justification involves our sins born away, totally removed and gone. Our deliverance is from the dominion and mastery of “sin.” This makes for large, outstanding differences between the two religions, and also, in consequence, between the two different dispensations associated with the two religions]
There is another passage worth exploring, found in Matthew’s gospel. A lawyer was testing the Lord by asking Him a question about the law. The Lord’s answer has insights not only concerning the law, but also concerning the Jewish dispensation.
Matthew 22:35–40 (NKJV)
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
You might be thinking, what’s so special about this passage? It seems to be common knowledge that many are familiar with. However, I would encourage you again to look for the bigger picture, the broader understanding. The understanding begins with the acknowledgement that the practice of the law is always associated with the Jews and the Jewish dispensation. What Jesus does for them is condense the ten commands into two, exposing the two general areas of human responsibility for man in Adam. These are the two spheres that are inclusive of all mankind’s relationships. Man “in Adam” was to love God with all his heart and love his neighbor as himself. There are no other relationships which exit for fallen man; there is no other responsibility. The founding principle of the law was human responsibility – do this and live (Lev. 18:5). These two commands encompassed the perfect measurement of all man’s duty before God.
But what we miss are the implications from His words at the end of the passage.
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
The Law and the Prophets are God’s dealings with Israel during the time of the Jewish dispensation. The entire Jewish dispensation is characterized by these two commands, and the success of the dispensation hung upon, depended on, the obedience of the Jews in this responsibility.
This is the critical understanding which characterizes Judaism, the law, government, Israel, and the Jewish dispensation. All these things depended on the responsibility of Israel. In the dispensation, God was testing fallen man by testing the Jews. The coming of the Jewish Messiah was Israel’s final test. After He was rejected, the dispensation had to soon end. In God’s mind, this brought an end to Israel’s covenant, and the practice of their religion. God’s purpose for Judaism should easily be perceived as the same purpose for the Jewish dispensation.
We will look at a few more passages to gain some general spiritual impressions concerning Judaism. Again, I’ll emphasize that the practice of the law was the religion of the Jews, that which we may call Judaism (Gal. 1:13–14). The law was given by God at Mt. Sinai and it was a covenant to be kept by Israel. These passages from Galatians were written by the apostle Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paul was the one to whom God had revealed the true purpose of the law. This we see in this first passage.
Galatians 3:16–19 (NKJV)
16 “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God to Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.”
Abraham’s covenant involved unconditional promises God made to him and his one Seed, Jesus Christ. Paul cautions us that God did not say, “And to seeds,” as possibly meaning the nation of Israel directly. Another thought we might have is that Isaac was Abraham’s one seed, but for the confirmation of this covenant of promises, he only serves as a type of Christ. The confirmation takes place in Genesis twenty-two, when Isaac was offered up by his father as a sacrifice to God. God stops Abraham from killing his own son, and provides His own sacrifice. Jesus Christ would become the sacrificed Son offered up by His Father. After this, God confirms the unconditional covenant to Christ by saying to Abraham, “And to your Seed” (Gen. 22:18).
Standing completely apart from Abraham’s covenant, the law was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai; it was a conditional covenant God made with the Jews four hundred and thirty years after the confirmation of promises to Christ. Paul makes the point that the later conditional covenant of law, where the blessings of God depended on Israel’s corporate performance of keeping commandments, could not invalidate the earlier unconditional and confirmed covenant of promise. God was obligated to be faithful to fulfill every promise He made to Abraham, whenever that time would be and regardless of Israel’s failures in their history. The law could have no effect on what God had promised Abraham, and confirmed to Christ.
So then, what was the purpose for God giving the law and making this conditional covenant with Israel? This has to be the question on everyone’s mind if we have read the epistle and followed Paul’s argument to this point. The Galatians were being taught by the Judaizers that the work of Jesus Christ alone wasn’t sufficient in the eyes of God to redeem and justify them. They were being told they must also practice the law, practice Judaism, if God was ever going to accept them. Also, the Judaizers taught that Paul’s apostleship was phony and illegitimate.
From beginning to end, this epistle is Paul’s defense against these accusations and false doctrines spread by the Judaizers. And Paul doesn’t mince his words. After defending his apostleship as given directly from God, and the Christian gospel he preached as also given to him directly by God (Gal. 1:1– 24),176 he shares some personal experiences which serve to verify the authority of his apostleship and the truth of his gospel (Gal. 2:1–21).
176 [In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul makes some statements about his former life and conduct in Judaism (Gal. 1:13–14). This passage has similar elements to the passage in Philippians, where Paul again uses strong language to warn of the harmful influence of the Judaizers (Phil. 3:2–9). Notice Paul’s use of the word “Judaism” in the Galatian passage. This a reference to the religion, the traditions and rituals practiced by the nation of Israel. In its practice, Paul had advanced well beyond his contemporaries. As for his performance in the law, he felt his righteousness was blameless. But in both epistles Paul indirectly identifies Judaism as a religion which could only cater to the flesh of fallen man (Gal. 3:2–3, Phil. 3:4–6). This justifies my use of the term “Judaism” in naming the religion of the Jews, and the descriptions of the fleshly and worldly character this religion possessed. As revealed by the Spirit to Paul, Judaism could only produce the “confidences” of the flesh; as a religion, he describes the practice of it as being in bondage to the weak and beggarly elements of the world (Gal. 4:3, 9), a true yoke of bondage for all who partake of it (Gal. 5:1–4)]
At the very end of chapter two and into chapter three, Paul begins to directly speak about the shortcomings and failures of the law and Judaism. God’s righteousness, that which alone can redeem, was never available through the law (Gal. 2:21, 3:21). The law served to automatically curse the Jews – those practicing Judaism, the “many” of the works of the law (Gal. 3:10). Although the founding principle of the law seemed to promise life (Gal. 3:12),177 because the law was impossible for fallen man to obey, the law never actually was able to reward anyone with life (Gal. 3:21).
177 [The principle of Judaism was “do this and live.” It was the reward of “life” to the individual, if he performed the responsibilities. In other words, responsibility first, then life later. Judaism is a religion which places responsibility up front, while life can only come after. This description of Judaism will become a stark difference when we compare it to Christianity in later chapters. The important question will be, where is life? Concerning the two different religions, is life first and up front, or is it last and at the end? And as always, the differences between the two religions become notable differences between the two dispensations]
But the passage from chapter three we quoted above asks the question, “What purpose then does the law serve?” Paul’s answer? It was added because of transgressions. The law was an addition which brought to the Jews the knowledge of God’s will for fallen man. It demanded obedience from the creature. Transgressions were now known and imputable to the individual under it (Rom. 5:13); they were the violations of God’s commandments and laws. But also, transgressions were the fruits of the evil nature dwelling in the flesh of fallen man. The law directly revealed what the specific transgressions were, and by this, indirectly revealed the presence of their true source in man.178
178 [I realize that Paul doesn’t take us all the way to these conclusions in Galatians. Instead, he stops short by identifying only the bad fruit and not the bad tree. It is in Romans 5–8 where he thoroughly and unmistakably reveals the presence of “sin” in fallen man. It is proper to say that the law directly revealed the knowledge of sins to man, while it indirectly revealed the presence of sin in man (Rom. 3:20, 7:7, 17). Galatians is going down the same road as Romans, just not with the same amount of detail]
Then Paul limits things even further, saying the law had purpose only for a certain period of time – until the Seed should come. The law and Judaism are to end, now that Christ has come. God officially put an end to the law, the covenant, and the practice of Judaism, by bringing in the Romans to destroy the city and temple in 70 AD. At the same time, the Jewish dispensation officially ended. All these Jewish things are related, and so, ended together when God placed Israel aside, no longer acknowledging their calling as His people.
The last passage from Paul we will look at is found in Galatians four and five. Again, using some strong language, Paul writes a passage which is quite descriptive of the law and Judaism as a covenant (Gal. 4:21–5:4). The gist of his discussion is using types to contrast the differences that exist between the two covenants – Abraham’s and Sinai. Because the passage is lengthy, I am not going to quote it here, but leave it to you to read. However, in it, Paul equates the covenant of law to being “according to the flesh” and producing slave children under bondage. He does this by directly referring to earthly Jerusalem and her children, the Jews. His ending conclusion is a warning to true Christian believers to not allow their faith to be Judaized – the mixing and merging together of Christianity with Judaism. The law and Judaism are a yoke of bondage that all Christians are to avoid; they are warned to never be entangled with it (Gal. 5:1–4).
In summary: As the religion of the Jews, Judaism isn’t any different from the law or the covenant Israel was given. The practice of Judaism is the practice of the law and the keeping of Israel’s covenant received at Mt. Sinai. The law was holy, righteous, and good; it was the perfect measure of what man in Adam should be before God his Creator. But because mankind’s fallen state was evil, God’s purpose for giving the law was to use it as a means by which He would prove and expose this depraved state. The law directly gave the knowledge of transgressions. This indirectly revealed the presence of “sin” in fallen man. This all took place with the Jews, but only with them, as they were the only nation given the law by God. The purpose of the law was the purpose of Judaism, the official religion of the Jews and the Jewish dispensation. Therefore, we do not need to look any further to gain an understanding of the purpose of the Jewish dispensation. It is the same as that of Judaism, the religion associated with it. The law could not justify fallen man; it could not impart God’s righteousness to him; Judaism had no power or means to change or rectify man’s depraved condition. All that the law did was identify the problem; it never could solve it.