written by Alex Medina

The Bible paints for us the grand story of God-maker of all things, who chooses a rebellious people to covenant with. Covenant entails intentional commitment, guarantee of promises or obligations agreed to by one or both covenanting parties 1. To what end? To display His glory through their redemption and the redemption of his entire creation. The Bible tells us of two covenants, one old and one new. The arrangement and conditions for the people of God within them differ. The old covenant anticipates the new with the promises of God culminating in Christ (Ps 110; Heb 7; 2 Cor 1:12). So how should the people of God in the new covenant, living in the last days, relate to the old covenant and its laws? Are we not expected to obey the rules that God set forth for his people in the Law of Moses? I will contend that the Mosaic covenant and its laws came to an end at the advent of Jesus Christ. Thus, New Covenant believers are no longer bound by a temporary, external guardian, which could not provide that which it demanded, chiefly faithfulness to God. By establishing a new covenant, the people of God now obey God from within (Jer 31, Ez 36). This miracle reveals salvation is truly an act by the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Following the Father’s election the Holy Spirits unites the believer by faith to the finished work of His son, Jesus Christ. Thus, believers, operating with a new heart, demonstrate love of God and faithfulness to Him from internal
1 P.R. Williamson, “Covenant,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds. T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 420.



desires rather than external demands. You may ask yourself, “So what? What impact does this have on me day to day?” I believe it is of major importance. First, it affects the way you understand the historical narrative of Scripture. Second, it allows for proper scriptural application. Third it affects your love for God and people along with your dependence on the Holy Spirit to bear fruit as He fills us (Eph 5). Battling the influence of the Judaizers, a group of people insisting that Christians in Galatia were still required to keep the law, the Apostle Paul states in Galatian 3:24 that, “the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” When Paul talks about the law he is generally referring to all of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. In particular, the law Yahweh had given to Moses at Mount Sinai when He entered into covenant with people of Israel. In Galatians 3:24 the word that sits under the English word “guardian” is paidagogos. It is from this Greek word that we get the English word, pedagogue, meaning school teacher. Douglas Moo points out, “the word denoted a person, usually a servant, who had charge over young children. The ancient ‘pedagogue’ was not a teacher but a babysitter.”2 Picking up on this understanding of pedagogue in the Greco-Roman world as well as in Judaism, Richard N. Longnecker gives the following description, “He was generally a trusted slave charged by the father of a family to supervise his son’s activities and conducts…” 3 The word had more of a disciplinary and custodial nuance than educational or instructional. Moo goes on to make the case that, Galatians 3:24, 25, “is asserting that the Mosaic Law functioned among the people of Israel to direct their behavior until the time of their maturity, when the
2 Douglas J. Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses,” Five Views on the Law and Gospel, ed. Wayne G. Strickland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 338. 3


Richard N. Longnecker, “The Pedagogical Nature of the Law in Galatians 3:19-4:7.” JETS 25 (1982):


promised Messiah would be received.”4 In Galatians 4:1-7 Paul expounds on this analogy of child-guardian “that the son of the maters is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.” The specific time set by the Father was the arrival of Christ. Until that time the people of God were under supervision by the law. As the slave or pedagogue was temporary until the child had reached maturity so was the Law of Moses was temporary until new covenant life was reached in Christ. Positively, the law set apart and unified the people of Israel. It forced upon Israel certain dietary and lifestyle conditions that would keep them intact and “set apart” for God’s purposes. Israel also functioned as a holy nation. Thus, the law also had geo-political ramifications. Although it was good and holy (Rom 7:12) it could not resolve the problem of human sin. It failed to eradicate the power of sin. All of history, in particular the history of Israel, attests to the fact that human beings are weak, sinful, and unable to keep up with the demands of the Holy God on their own. We dig for ourselves broken cisterns that cannot hold water and forsake the spring of living water. Douglas Moo shares that the law also has the effect of worsening the problem of sin by “revealing even more clearly the degree to which people fall short of God’s demands.”5 The law names sin, It gives greater clarity to what sin is making people were more aware of God’s demands and more aware of how often they failed to meet those demands. With greater detail came greater accountability. To love God with all of one’s heart, soul, and mind was central to the requirements of the Old Covenant. In Deuteronomy 30, Israel’s future failure to maintain their end of the

Moo, Five Views on the Law and Gospel, 338.

5 Douglas J. Moo, “Romans,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds. T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 296.


covenant is revealed to them. Everything written after Deuteronomy is the realization of what is foreshadowed in this chapter. Israel’s failure will result in cursing instead of blessing and the scattering of God’s people. But it does not end there; there is a glimmer of hope, a promise of future grace. We are also told that God will do what the law could not do and circumcise their hearts so that they may love him, with all their heart and soul. Throughout the Old Testament we progressively see the development and description of a coming day when God will deal with sin and cause his people to walk in his ways. We see this most clearly in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27. The prophet Jeremiah speaking on behalf of God points to the day when God will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah that is different from the one that he made with their fathers. It is in this passage of Jeremiah that we are first introduced to the idea of the New Covenant. Three features of this New Covenant are mentioned. First, God will be their God and they will be his people. Second, the instruction in the knowledge of God will no longer be necessary because the law will no longer be written on stone tablets but on their hearts. The stone tablets harken back to the tablets give to Moses at Mount Sinai. Which were written by God, and kept in the tabernacle. Yet, the fingers of God would not write on stone any longer, but now engrave human hearts. And third, iniquity will be forgiven and sin will be remembered no more. Speaking of the same day, the prophet Ezekiel looks upon the New Covenant from a different angle. It is important to mention that Ezekiel was prophesying shortly after the Spirit of God exited the temple due to Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness (Ezek. 8-11). In Ezekiel 36:26 the prophet speaks of a heart of flesh replacing one of stone and the giving of a new spirit, or attitude. In v. 27 he speaks of the Spirit dwelling in his people resulting in obedience, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you talk in my


statues and be careful to obey my rules.” Although we do see evidence of Ezekiel’s interaction with the Spirit of God (Ez 2:2), the prophesied conversion was something neither him nor the people of Israel had ever experienced. “God would no longer reside in the temple but by His Spirit He would dwell in His people.”6 Throughout the Old Testament we see evidence that even interaction with the Spirit in the temple had a sanctifying work leading to repentance. Those faithful to God in this age, although regenerate, were not indwelt by the Spirit 7. So, their growth in holiness and sanctification was tethered to their activity at the temple, where the Spirit resided. The Psalms speak of the loveliness of God’s dwelling place causing the heart of the psalmist to long, even faint, for the courts of the Lord (Psa 84). Under the Old Covenant the people of God were sanctified and made holy through the covenantal presence of God filling the temple. This glorious reality is spoken of by the testimony of Asaph. The Psalmist wrestled with envy over the prosperity of the wicked and it did not cease, “until [he] went into the sanctuary of God; then [he] discerned their end” (Psalm 73:16,17) It wasn’t until he entered into the dwelling of God, that he was able to get God’s perspective, that the end of the wicked is death. Where the Spirit of God is there is freedom, freedom from sin. The Old Testament’s expectations of the Spirit-anointed Messiah were realized in Christ. Luke records Christ entering into a synagogue, reading Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who
James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 42.
7 6

Hamilton, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, 45.


are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”, thus fulfilling this passage in their hearing. John recognized Christ to be the one ushering in the new era (4:23; 5:25) and as the one able to give the Spirit to those who receive him by faith (15:26; 20:22). The Apostle Paul sarcastically asks the church in Galatia if they received the Spirit by faith or work of the law. For the law does not bring about the Spirit but only curses. It is faith in the one who redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse that we are justified and given the Spirit. The believer is then united to Christ. The Apostle John presents Jesus as the replacement of the temple with regard to the presence of God and sacrifice for sin (John 2:20-21). So we are able to agree with T. Desmond Alexander when he notes, “the Gospel passages that present Christ’s own body as a temple also help us understand how the church can be a temple constructed of people. Since Christ’s body is the temple of God and since, as Paul repeatedly emphasizes, Christians are those who are ‘in Christ’, it naturally follows that the church, as the body of Christ, is also the temple of God.”8 Christ is the new temple of the Lord and is also the foundation which the new dwelling place of God is built on. Paul recognizes Christ as being the cornerstone, “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” He then adds, “In Him you also are being built together into the dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” In this new era, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in the believer producing the fruit of faithfulness the law never could. The believer pleases God because he is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in him (Rom. 8:9). The Christian is to live out and rely on the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. This is precisely why Paul implores

8 T. Desmond Alexander, From Eden to New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008), 71.


believers to “walk in the Spirit’ (Gal 5:16), ‘be led by the Spirit’ (Gal 5:18), ‘manifest the fruit of the Spirit’ (Gal 5:13), ‘Live by the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25).9 Not only are Christians no longer under the law due to its temporal nature, but also no longer under the law because Christ fulfilled all the requirements and is demands. Jesus spoke as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law. He established that he did not come to abolish but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Matthew 5:17-20 is paramount to the entire discussion of Christ as the transitional point from the old age, under sin to the new age of the Spirit. Fred Zaspel concludes that, “Matthew presents Jesus as the new Moses and as a new lawgiver. But he is much greater than Moses, even greater than Moses’ law. He bears a supreme authority that is his by inherent right. It is within this Christological context that Jesus is presented as the ‘fulfiller’ of the law.”10 Paul working off of the words of Christ establishes that Christ is the “end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Christ is now the point of reference for God’s will, the Christian does not begin with individual Mosaic commands but with Christ.11 He is the lens by which we interpret all the Old Covenant. At this point many may ask, “So, since Christians are not bound to the Mosaic Law do they have a green light to do whatever they want?” Yes and no. Yes, because a regenerate Christian empowered with God’s Spirit desires to please God. The Spirit of God provides new hearts, which springs forth, godly affections and love for God. The fruits that the Spirit of God

9 T.R. Schreiner, “Law,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, and Ralph P. Martin (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 544. 10


Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel, New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002),

11 Jason A. Meyer, End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 283.


manifest are, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and selfcontrol (Gal 5:22). On the other hand, no, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the fresh, these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17). Although the Spirit has circumcised the heart and indwells man, this dwelling has not been fully perfected. Compounding the issue is Satan, the enemy of God, who aims to destroy the Christian by tempting them to sin. It was love of God and love of neighbor that Christ considered to being the greatest commandment; it is on these two commandments that all other commandments stand on. Freedom from the law is not meant to give opportunity to the flesh but rather to lovingly serve one another, bearing each other’s burdens so fulfilling the law of Christ. Jason Meyer wisely adds to this question, “The whole law is fulfilled by love according to Gal 5:14, and Gal 5:22 adds that the first “fruit” of the Spirit is love. Thus the behavior of the believer conforms to the standards of law (Gal 5:23) even while the believer is “led by the Spirit” and not ‘under the law’ (Gal 5:18)… Believers died to the law and are joined to Christ with the result that they ‘bear fruit’ for God. Unregenerate life in the flesh means that the law arouses sinful passions which result in “bearing fruit: for death.”12 Christ reorients our Christian ethic around himself. If we understand how he has loved us, then we will reciprocate that love to others. For the scripture says, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 15:34). Here the work of Christ is the basis for the law of Christ. And it is this fruit of love produced by the power of the Spirit in those no longer under the law that will fulfill the law and show that we are Christ’s disciples.


Meyer, End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology, 283.


To this point we have asserted that the law was given to Israel to lay out covenantal requirements and to be a guardian over them until they reached maturity. The law, although good and holy, would only serve to increase sin and put the people under a curse. God knew that Israel would break the covenant. Thus, embedded in the Old Covenant was the promise of someone greater to come who would fulfill the conditional obligations of the old and bring about the unconditional promises of salvation. This covenant would involve God placing his Spirit in the hearts of his covenant people so that they may walk in his ways. Under the old era the Spirit of God dwelt in the temple among the people of Israel. It was through interaction with presence of God in the temple that the faithful were made holy. All the expectations of a coming renewal find it’s fulfillment in Christ, the Spirit-anointed Messiah, who would give the Spirit of God to those who by faith would receive him. It is this Spirit giving Messiah that will be the new temple of God where His presence dwelt. Those who by faith receive him are indwelled by His Spirit building up God’s dwelling place. God’s new covenant people in this new age manifest spiritual fruit produced by the Spirit no longer under the law but under Christ. The Bible also speaks about another day. It is the day when Christ will return, the end and the beginning. On that day the people of God will dwell in sweet eternal fellowship with God in the new heavens and new earth. No longer pressed by Satan, sin, and death because they will be dealt with once and for all. So, as partakers of the new covenant, a covenant of greater glory than the old, let’s behold the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces until that day when we are fully transformed into the same image.


Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2008. Hamilton Jr., James M. God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2006. Longnecker, Richard N. “The Pedagogical Nature of the Law in Galatians 3:19-4:7.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 25 (1982): 53-61. Meyer, Jason A. End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009. Moo, Douglas J. “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses.” Five Views on the Law and Gospel. Edited by Wayne G. Strickland. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996. Moo, Douglas J. “Romans,” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. Schreiner, T.R. “Law.” In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, and Ralph P. Martin. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. P.R. Williamson, “Covenant.” In New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander, and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. Zaspel, Fred and Tom Wells. New Covenant Theology. Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002.


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