Paul, the law and the operations manual – part 3

Concluding the short series, David will make strong comparisons with the ‘hotel’, the ’employee’ and our walk with God.

What the Galatians were struggling with would be similar to a hotel employee expecting the owner to give him a Partnership in dictionarypartnership on the grounds that he fulfilled the employee contract. The first problem with that expectation is that it is impossible that the employee followed the operations manual perfectly, which means he was in breach of contract. The second problem is that the employee contract nowhere offers a partnership. It simply is not part of the agreement.

Likewise… the Old Covenant never included things like justification, or true forgiveness, or salvation.

God promised many physical blessings, but there were limits to that agreement.

Hebrews 8:7-8, 10 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—…For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

The fault in the covenant was not with God’s law, but with “them.” The problem was with their faith—with their trust—in the God they made the agreement with. Hebrews 3 calls it “unbelief.”

Going back to our example

  • If the employees don’t trust the owner, they are not going to follow the pattern he set down for them, and the hospitality will suffer.
  • If God’s people do not trust Him, they are not going to heed His instructions, and everyone will suffer. The instructions are not the problem. The lack of trust is the problem, and it manifests itself in disobedience.

Notice that God’s laws do not disappear in the New Covenant.

Instead, He promises to put His laws in our mind, and write them on our hearts.

The law cannot save anybody, but it does prepare us to live the way God lives. The law goes from being simply a checklist to becoming the core of how we live. As it is written on our hearts, people around us begin to catch a glimpse of the superior Intelligence behind this standard of conduct—this law of love. They may not be inclined to follow suit, but they will recognize the positive fruit.

checklistIn our example, a rebellious employee might say, “If the operations manual can’t give me that partnership, then I don’t see the point in following it.” Or he might say, “I’m not real big on rules and procedures; this is who I am, and the owner is just going to have to accept it.” Likewise, the carnal mind in Romans 8:7 might say, “The law cannot save me, so I don’t see the point. I’m just going to be a good person, and love everybody, and that is better than the law.” Or it might say, “Nobody can keep the law perfectly, so I’m not going to do any more than I am already doing. God is merciful, and He is just going to have to take me as I am.”

The purpose of the law is not to save, but to guide and to prepare. Under the New Covenant, the application of the law is not exactly the same, just like the operations manual for a beachside hotel in Florida is going to be somewhat different from a ski resort in Alaska. But the principles of hospitality do not change. For parts of the law, there is not a literal application, because we no longer have a physical priesthood, or tabernacle, or animal sacrifices. And yet because they are part of the pattern given by the Creator God, we can still glean foundational principles for the best way to live.

Law in heartInstead of being tossed out, the law is being made personal and permanent within us. The New Covenant addresses the problem of sin by getting to its source, and that is the heart—the heart is replaced through the relationship with the Creator that the New Agreement makes available. The Old Agreement is obsolete for us, but under the New Agreement we begin to understand the eternal principles of conduct, and they prepare us to live as God lives.

In my opinion David has presented the clearest – and simplest, explanation of what seems like contradictions in the writings of the Apostle Paul. It has been my pleasure to present his message for your thoughtful consideration.

Shalom

Susan

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