In the New Testament there are many comparisons and doctrinal points made between the differences in the law of Moses and the gospel as given to Abraham.
The Saints in Galatia had been taught the gospel of Christ by Paul, but lost their way when those intent on living by the law of Moses convinced them they needed to live parts of that law to be “true” Saints. Paul uses Old Testament stories of Israel and the covenants between God and Abraham to show them that going back to the law of Moses is a step backwards, not forwards. To become heirs of the kingdom of God requires the Saints to learn to walk by faith and to use the Spirit, not by living the old law of performances.
The nature of the gospel of Abraham
I call it the gospel of Abraham only because it is the gospel of Christ that was given to Abraham. Paul refers to what Abraham believed in and taught as being the gospel of Christ. The law given to Abraham by Jehovah (Christ) has the same laws Jesus taught in his mortal ministry. The law of the gospel is based on faith in the Redeemer and Messiah – Jesus the Christ.
Before we continue with this comparison, I think it is important that we clarify some of the verbiage used by Paul and the other writers in the New Testament. Here is a short list of expressions or words and their meanings.
law – always refers to the law of Moses with its physical requirements. Faith was not a major requirement in this law for the law is one of performances and commandments.
faith – used in Paul’s writings, generally it is used as a reference to the law of the gospel Jesus taught, since the gospel is based on the exercise of faith in all things. For example, look at Galatians 3:7. To be “they which are of faith” means to be those who live by faith through the law of the gospel of Christ, that same gospel Abraham was given.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the .
Over and over again Abraham is called a righteous man because he exercised faith in Christ. It is this exercise of faith that Paul says makes the Saints the children of Abraham and they who will inherit the blessings of Abraham.
circumcision – the act of cutting off the foreskin of a male was part of the outward covenant of obedience to God. Initially it was given to Abraham, but became a major separation point between the Jews and all the nations around them. The Jews were the only ones who practiced circumcision. We might think of that as a rather private thing that others would never know about, but the Jews in Christ’s time were living in a society heavily influenced by the philosophies and practices of the Greeks. And because the Greeks did something, so did the Romans who copied them in many things. The Greeks and Romans did sporting and training exercises naked, so it would have been an obvious difference to all those around the Jews, because the Jews were the only ones who were circumcised.
Circumcision came to represent the law of Moses as taught in Jerusalem. When Paul refers to other Apostles as those of the circumcision, he is referring to those Apostles who focused their ministries on teaching the Jews who believed in the law of Moses.
uncircumcision – Paul taught those who were not raised with the belief in circumcision. These were the gentile converts to the gospel of Christ. Many of the Jews who converted were very sensitive to this issue. They thought that to truly be a follower of God the gentiles also needed to make this symbol of obedience in their flesh by getting circumcised. The Church did away with this requirement, but there were many who kept pushing this practice as a necessity of true belief. Paul, as the Apostle to the gentiles considered himself to be the teacher of uncircumcision. Here is what Paul taught in Galatians 5:2-4. We’ll talk more about the concept in these verses later.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3 For I testify again to every man that is , that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the ; ye are fallen from .
It is important to note that there were people specifically brought in by unwary Saints and those who sought to destroy the Church who came promoting the act of circumcision. This teaching caused much doubt and contention throughout the Church in the gentile world outside of Jerusalem, since this was such a Jew-specific teaching and belief.
Here in Galatians 2:7-8 is an example of how Paul uses the terms circumcision and uncircumcision.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the was unto ;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
In the verses just quoted the terms circumcision and uncircumcision refer directly to the belief in the law of Moses vs. belief in the gospel of Christ. The Jews had great difficulty in letting the practice go, but the gospel of Christ taught to the gentiles didn’t teach the importance of circumcision as part of the process of salvation.
faith and Spirit – Both of these words are used to refer to the gospel of Christ, since Jesus taught that the Spirit saves us through faith. So all that we do is based on faith, and we should be seeking the Spirit to guide us at all times and in all things. Many of Paul’s references to these standalone topics are just shortcuts to referring to the gospel of Christ, that same gospel that was given to Abraham.
The nature of the gospel of Abraham – Continued
To Abraham was given many promises. He would not only become the father of nations, and that all the world, through his posterity, would be blessed, but the very Son of God would be his descendant. In Galatians 3 there are several verses that talk about the relationship between Abraham and God. All this was done through the covenant that God made with Abraham for his faithfulness.
16 Now to and his seed were the made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Abraham had many children before his death, most of whom were born after Sarah’s death. But even his firstborn was not the chosen one, for he was born by someone outside of the covenant God made with Abraham and Sarah. God’s seed would come from Sarah and Abraham who was Isaac. Isaac was the bearer of the covenant lineage. All of Abraham’s other children would be blessed and multiplied, but the covenant blessings would only come through the chosen lineage of Isaac.
Israel and slavery
Abraham’s first child was born of Hagar, a servant of his wife Sarah. She was cast out of the house, along with her son. God promised Hagar that her son would still be blessed to be a father of many people, but he was not the son through which the covenant would be passed down. Paul calls Hagar Agar, but it is the same person. He also explains how she and her son is a symbol of covenant Israel. Because of transgression (wickedness) Israel was put on hold for many generations. They were made to wait 430 years in bondage until a prophet would be born who would free them from physical slavery. Moses was that prophet. He gave them a law he received from God that was meant to act as a schoolmaster to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. It was the Messiah who would give them back the law they had rejected that Abraham had left to them.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt 430 years, and it was at least another one thousand four hundred (1,400) years before the birth of Christ. For 430 years the Israelites lived a corrupted form of the covenants given them from Jacob, Isaac’s son. Then it was another almost 1.5 millennia before Jesus was born and restored the gospel he had given Abraham. Israel had the law of Moses for a very long time, and in that time they corrupted the law to the point that God finally removed all the prophets from among them several hundred years before Jesus was born. In that intervening time Israel developed the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, and much of the way of life Jesus was born into. This is the Jerusalem Paul says is in bondage with her children, for they have lost the covenants given them by the prophets.
This is why Jesus took such issue with the Pharisees and other intellectuals who guided Jewish society. They were there taking the place of actual prophets who received their instructions from God, Himself. They were the embodiment of human intellectualism, and had completely reinterpreted the law Moses had given them. The Jews now lived only an outward show of the law originally given to them.
Here is Galatians 4:28-31.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Here is a verse by verse explanation.
28 – Isaac was the child of promise, the one through which the priesthood and the covenants given to Abraham were to be passed down.
29 – Hagar’s son mocked Isaac and persecuted him, just as the Jews who have lost the covenant and priesthood persecuted the Saints who embraced the gospel of Christ and were receivers of the covenant.
30 – Just as the scriptures stated that Hagar and her son should be cast out, for he could not be an heir with the son of the covenant, the son of Sarah, so too are the Saints to reject the teachings of the Jews who have been leading the Galatian Saints to do wrongly and not follow Christ’s teachings as they should.
31 – Paul assures the Galatians that they are children of the covenant, and shouldn’t pay any attention to those who have rebelled against the covenant.
The whole point of Paul writing to the Galatians was because they had received the gospel, embraced the covenants and the spiritual freedom those covenants brought then listened to those from Jerusalem who turned them back to the old ways of worshipping like the Jews. This completely separated them from the covenants they had made with God and hence denied them the blessings of living by the Spirit.
Paul is trying in these verses to show the Galatian Saints that they are trying to combine two different religions. The religion he had brought them taught them to live by faith and to follow the Spirit in all things. Exercising faith in Christ would make them heirs of salvation, just like it did for Abraham and his covenant-keeping posterity. Reverting back to any form of Judaism was only a forsaking of their covenants, turning the children and heirs of the King back into servants who had no promise.
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