Is the Law a curse? Was it nailed to the Cross?...

The Law and the Christian Part V:
Under the Law

"Born to Win"
Daily Radio Program
by Ronald L. Dart
Ronald L Dart
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Ronald L. Dart: What did the great Apostle Paul really think about the law? Those who would not keep the law are quick to cite Paul. Are they right, or are they making the very mistake Peter warned against (2 Peter 3:15-17)? In this lesson we will examine those passages often used by those who would abandon the law, and will come to understand what Paul is really saying about the law.

One of the great misunderstandings in Paul's writings revolves around what he meant by the expression under the law. If you have studied the preceding lessons, you will see immediately how strange this idea is, but there are those areas to be dealt with, nevertheless. We will begin this lesson with a thorough study of the expression under the law and proceed from there to address the problem texts in Galatians and elsewhere.


Only Paul uses the phrase under the law, and he only uses it in Romans, I Corinthians, and Galatians, so it should not be too hard to study. Unfortunately, none of the New Testament writers anticipated our difficulties in understanding what they wrote. They do not always use words with the precision we would like, and the meaning of a phrase can often turn on the idea being developed by the writer at the time. In other words, it may depend on the context.

There are also idioms to deal with. Webster's Dictionary by Random House defines an idiom as "an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual grammatical rules of a language or from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as 'kick the bucket' mean 'to die."'

"Under the law" is a little closer to its underlying meaning than is the phrase "kick the bucket," but it is still an expression that carries meaning beyond the three words found in your Bible. Paul's style is very elliptical - that is, economical in expression or use of words. He is given to shortcuts and expressions that carry more meaning than is at first apparent.

So when we study his use of "under the law," careful attention to the context [story-flow in the surrounding verses] may help us to understand what he is saying - and what he is not saying. We have covered some of these scriptures in a preceding lesson, but we bring them in again here for clarification.


Read Romans 3:19-20

Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. {20} Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

1. The law is said to speak to a certain category of people. Who are those people?

2. What is the object of the law speaking to these people?

3. In a careful consideration of verse 19, is it possible to conclude that it is only the Jewish (or Israelite) people who are "under the law"?

4. Was the activity or utility of the law described here limited to the time before the crucifixion, or was it current as of the writing of the Book of Romans?

5. What is the condition "before God" of those who are "under the law"?

6. Is it possible from this passage that only those who were under the Old Covenant were "under the law"?

7. If the Gentiles were not "under the law" then how could their mouths be stopped by what the law says? How could they become "guilty before God"?

8. Does this passage conclude that the whole world is "under the law"?

9. According to Paul, in this passage, what is it that defines sin? (verse 20)

10. Is the law that defines sin the same law that Paul spoke of being "under"?

Note: We have seen John's definition, that "Sin is lawlessness." Now we learn from Paul that the law defines sin and that it is the same law of which he says, "What the law says, it says to them who are under the law. "


Read Romans 6:12-23

Romans 6:12-23 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. {13} Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. {14} For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. {15} What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. {16} Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? {17} But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. {18} Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. {19} I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. {20} For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. {21} What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. {22} But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. {23} For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

11. Is it possible for sin to have dominion over a man? Would he then be "under sin"?

12. How does one get out from under the dominion of sin: by works of law, or grace?

13. Remember parallel structure? What phrase in verse 14 is parallel to the phrase, "sin shall not have dominion over you"? What phrase is in contrast (inverse parallelism)?

14. When one has broken the law, does the law then make certain claims, certain demands?

15. If the law can make claims upon our lives because of our sins, can we be said to be under the law?

16. If a man is no longer under the law, is he then free to do the things that the law defines as sin? (verse 15)

17. Can we determine whether Paul is making any distinctions as to which law he is talking about?

18. Is the law one is "under" any different from the law that defines sin?


Read Romans 7:1-25

Romans 7:1-25 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? {2} For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. {3} So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. {4} Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. {5} For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. {6} But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. {7} What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. {8} But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. {9} For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. {10} And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. {11} For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. {12} Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. {13} Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. {14} For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. {15} For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. {16} If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. {17} Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. {18} For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. {19} For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. {20} Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. {21} I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. {22} For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: {23} But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. {24} O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? {25} I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

19. How long does the law have dominion over a man?

20. If the law has dominion over a man, can he be said to be "under the law"?

21. In this passage, Paul draws on the analogy of marriage, and concludes that the death of the husband liberates a woman from the "law of her husband." What effect does the death of the husband have on the law itself?

22. In the analogy, the woman is free to be married to another. Would she then be bound by the law to the new husband?

23. In verse 4, Paul shifts to the object of the analogy. How do we become dead to the law?

24. According to Paul in verses 5-7, what is it that defines sin?

25. How is it that we are delivered from the law?

26. If we are dead to the law, what does that suggest about our former relationship to the law?

27. What law is Paul talking about here? Is it merely the ceremonial law?

Note: The law requires our death for the transgressions we have committed against the law. The law has dominion over us in the sense that it claims our lives. When we become dead to the law, we are liberated from its claims. To be under the law is to be under its claims because of sin. From verse seven on in this chapter, Paul often uses personification to discuss sin. Personification is "the attribution of a human nature or character to inanimate objects or abstract notions, especially as a rhetorical figure." In other words, Paul speaks of sin as though it were a person, thinking, planning, working, deceiving. This passage is difficult if one tries to take it literally rather than as the figure of speech Paul intends.

28. Was it the law or sin that "slew" Paul?

29. What was the weapon the killer used'? (verse 11)

30. Is the law sin?

31. What was it that enabled Paul to recognize sin for what it was? (verse 7)

32. Was the law a bad thing?

33. What was it that actually "worked death" in Paul?

34. Considering what Paul has said earlier about being guilty of sin even when one does not know the law, how can we understand verse 9? (See verse 13 also.)

35. How does verse 13 confirm what you know about the definition of sin?

36. How would you describe Paul's attitude toward the law in the "inward man"?

37. Did Paul see the law as a physical thing?

38. Did Paul believe it was right to obey the law of God?

39. Now pause and consider what Paul seems to mean when he speaks of being "under the law," and of being delivered from the law. Does being delivered from the law free a man to commit sin?

40. Does being out from "under the law" mean that the law no longer defines sin?

Note: One thing becomes clear. The phrase "under the law" does not merely mean "under an obligation to keep the law." All men are under that obligation. But because all men have sinned, all men have come under the discipline of the law. If the law requires death, then man is under the penalty of the law. I Corinthians 9:20 is easily understood if we understand "under the law" as under the discipline of the law.


Read Galatians 3:10-29

Galatians 3:10-29 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. {11} But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. {12} And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. {13} Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: {14} That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. {15} Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. {16} Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. {17} And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. {18} For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. {19} Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. {20} Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. {21} Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. {22} But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. {23} But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. {24} Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. {25} But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. {26} For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. {27} For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

41. Is Paul saying that the obeying the law brings a man under a curse?

42. How does a man come under the curse of the law?

43. Is the question under discussion whether one should obey the law, or whether the law can justify?

Note: Verse 11 may well be the topic sentence of the Epistle to the Galatians. The problem addressed in Galatians is not the keeping of the law, but legalism. Legalism is defined as "strict adherence to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit; or the theological doctrine that salvation is gained through good works." The heresy of the Galatians was that one had to achieve salvation by circumcision and "works of law" - a form of legalism.

44. Had the Galatians been "under the curse of law" and in need of redemption?

45. Had the Israelites of old been justified by works of the law? (verse 11)

46. The word redeem means "to buy back." Write a short paragraph for yourself explaining what it means in verse 13, especially in the light of Leviticus 25:47-55 and Romans 7:14.

47. Is being "under the curse" essentially the same thing as being "under the law"?

48. Does being "under the curse" come about from keeping the law or breaking the law?

49. Must the Gentiles also be redeemed from the curse of the law? (verses 13, 14)

50. Did the law give life in Old Testament times?

51. Did righteousness come by the law in Old Testament times?

Note: Verse 23 and 24 require translation notes. The word kept in the KJV is translated "kept in custody" in the NASB, and "imprisoned and guarded" in the NRSV. These are terms one uses for law breakers, not for law-abiding citizens. The word schoolmaster (KJV), or tutor (NASB), is the Greek word for pedagogue. Pedagogue, in English, has come to mean "teacher," but in the early Greek society, a pedagogue was literally "a guide to boys." He was the custodian to see to it that the young man - who would likely disobey unless watched carefully - got where he was supposed to go. The relationship between "kept in custody" and being "under a custodian" adds to the understanding of this passage.

52. When a young man grew up and left the supervision of the custodian, was he then free to do the wrong thing?

53. We are no longer "imprisoned and guarded" by the law. Are we now free to break it?

54. If we once again begin to live in sin, is it possible to find ourselves under the law again?


Read Galatians 4:1-10

Galatians 4:1-10 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; {2} But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. {3} Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: {4} But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, {5} To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. {6} And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. {7} Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. {8} Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. {9} But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? {10} Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

Note: Chapter 4 will develop the analogy of the schoolmaster or pedagogue still further. An analogy is defined as: "A similarity between like features of two things, on which a comparison may be based." When we use an analogy, we take something with which people are familiar and use it to explain something they do not understand so well. Paul is fond of analogies, but we are often not familiar with either side of the comparison. Galatians 4:1-5 is an analogy in which two sides are connected by the phrase "even so" at the beginning of verse 3. In this case, it is as easy to go to the object of the analogy as to try to understand the connection.

55. What might Paul be describing by the expression "elements of the world" in verse 3? (See also Colossians 2:8.)

56. Is Paul describing the law in terms of bondage, or is he speaking of something else?

57. Jesus is said to have been "made"' or "born under the law." How did Jesus come to be "under the law"?

Note: Paul does not here use the customary word for "born," but rather the word normally translated "become." What he says here literally is that Jesus came of a woman and came under the law. He wanted to use the parallel construction, but the usual word for "born" might have led his readers to misunderstand. Jesus came under the law because He took our sins upon Himself.

58. Were the people to whom this section is addressed Gentiles or Jews?

59. Did these people formerly worship the true God or false gods? (verse 8)

60. Paul says they were turning back into something. Would that something have been the Old Testament worship of God or Gentile customs?

61. They were turning back again to "weak and beggarly" elements. From what you have studied so far, would you think Paul would describe the law of God as "weak and beggarly"?

62. Are these elements the elementary things of God, or the elements of the world?

Note: The word for "elements" or "rudiments" as used by Paul is the Greek word stoicheion. It comes from a verb that means to march, as in (military) rank. It is a reference to Greek religious customs that had rigid rules of conduct. The word comes into our language as "stoic," an adjective that means "of or pertaining to the school of philosophy founded by Zeno, who taught that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity." What this passage says is that a person who is in bondage under - the elements of the world is also "under the law" and must be redeemed from that condition by the Son of God. Note further the phrase "how turn ye again" in verse 9. The construction is emphatic in that it says one not only turns, but turns back or turns again to the "elements." Paul is writing to former pagans who were returning to their old practices.

63. Is it then possible for the days, months, times, and years of this passage to be referring to the holy days of Leviticus 23?

Note: It is important to acknowledge that Paul's main thrust here is not the question of obedience to any law, but of justification by law - any law. The Galatians had fallen into legalism and, curiously, some had returned to pagan customs in the process. But of course adherents to the Greek religions were also prone to legalism.

64. Now write your own one paragraph summary of what you think Paul meant by the phrase "under the law."

When we finally come to understand the real purpose of the law, many things become clear. The law was not given to bring a man into a right relationship with God, but simply to define the difference between right and wrong, between what hurts and what works. It makes no more sense to speak of the abolition of law than of the abolition of light. Man's problem is the great mountain of trouble he has made for himself by ignoring the law. Getting out from under the mountain is not possible by works of law. That is a work of grace.


Read Colossians 2:1-23

Colossians 2:1-23 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; {2} That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; {3} In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. {4} And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. {5} For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. {6} As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: {7} Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. {8} Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. {9} For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. {10} And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: {11} In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: {12} Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. {13} And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; {15} And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. {16} Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: {17} Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. {18} Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, {19} And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. {20} Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, {21} (Touch not; taste not; handle not; {22} Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? {23} Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

Note: The King James Bible speaks of a law that was nailed to the "cross" and the larger theological discussion on this passage uses the term extensively. Even though the Greek word is "stake" rather than "cross" we adhered to the King James usage here for the sake of clarity for many readers.

65. What did Paul see as the greatest threat to the faith the Colossians had been taught? (Verses 7, 8).

66. Is there any way that Paul would have considered the Ten Commandments as "traditions of men" or "rudiments of the world"?

Note: There were two battles the early church was constantly fighting. One was the legalism of certain Jewish sects who followed a very strict version of their own traditions. (Jesus addressed this firmly in Mark 7:9, and its context.) The other was the Greek philosophies and traditions which pervaded the ancient world. As Gentiles came into the church, there was more and more a merging of the two belief systems, a syncretism. What they had in common was a kind of legalism - a dedication to the letter of the rules and a belief that God would get you if you stepped out of line. When Paul speaks of the traditions of men and the rudiments of the world he could be talking about either Jewish or Gentile legalism.

67. Were the Colossians mainly Jews or Gentiles? (Verse 13)

68. What, historically speaking, was nailed to the cross'?

Note: The Gospel records tell us that there were two things nailed to the cross. Jesus and a sign that identified Him as the "King of the Jews." Nothing more. Yet there is a strong doctrinal argument in some quarters that the laws, specifically the Ten Commandments, were nailed to the cross (see verse 14). Plainly, verse 14 is a kind of metaphor, but what is the basis of the metaphor?

69. Metaphorically, what did Jesus take with Him to the cross? (2 Corinthians 5:2 1, see also Hebrews 9:28)

70. In the metaphor of Colossians 2:14, what was nailed to the cross?

71. Would the writer of the 119th Psalm have considered the Ten Commandments "against" him or "contrary" to him?

72. Under what circumstances might the Ten Commandments be "against" us?

Note: Take special note of the structure of this passage. "Having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us." These two phrases are a couplet. They say the same thing in different words. The way in which we are forgiven our trespasses is by having the record of those trespasses blotted out. This is an oblique reference to a very old law.

Read Numbers 5:12-31

Numbers 5:12-31 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, {13} And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; {14} And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: {15} Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. {16} And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: {17} And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: {18} And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: {19} And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: {20} But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: {21} Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; {22} And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. {23} And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: {24} And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. {25} Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar: {26} And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. {27} And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. {28} And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. {29} This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; {30} Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. {31} Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

73. What did the priest write in a book relative to the alleged crime of the woman? (Verse 23)

74. What were these curses?

75. What did the priest do after he had written down the curses?

76. Did he do this before or after the woman was made to drink the bitter water?

Note: This is a classic example of the presumption of innocence. The curses were blotted out before the woman drank the water. It took a miracle, the judgement of God, to find the woman guilty. Unless a man had a lot of faith, he probably wouldn't have bothered with this trial.

Returning to Colossians 2:

77. Is it consistent with the context of Colossians 2 to consider the "handwriting of ordinances that was against us," as the written curse for breaking the law?

78. Did Jesus bear a curse for us? (Galatians 3:13)

Note: Christ became sin for us. Christ became a curse for us. Christ was nailed to the cross. Therefore it is our sins and the curse against us that were nailed there. This is consistent with the passage. The idea that the Ten Commandments were nailed there is not.

79. Do verses 16 and 17 say that Christians should not keep the Holy Days or the Sabbath or that they should not let people judge them for doing so?

Note: The things they were not to allow themselves to be judged in are these five: food, drink, Holy Day, new moons, or Sabbath days. Diagraming the sentence would lead one to the conclusion that if Sabbaths are done away, so is eating and drinking. The NIV has an egregious error in verse 17: "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." The verb estin (Gk.) is present active indicative, and the KJV has it right: "Which are a shadow of things to come..." It is true enough to call the festivals, with their eating and drinking, "shadows of things to come" but in doing so, we admit that they are out there in the future and we acknowledge that a Gentile church late in the first century was still observing these days. For a specific reference, see 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

80. Why would anyone judge them for eating and drinking? Was there anything in the law that was opposed to eating and drinking on the feast days (or any other time for that matter)?

81. Was there anything in the Gentile religious systems that might have created such a judgement? (Verses 20-23)

Read Ephesians 2:11-22

Ephesians 2:11-22 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; {12} That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: {13} But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. {14} For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; {15} Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; {16} And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: {17} And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. {18} For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. {19} Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; {20} And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; {21} In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: {22} In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

82. Were the Ephesian Christians Jewish or Gentile?

83. What was their status in time past, relative to God?

84. How was their estrangement ended?

85. Study carefully the structure of verses 13 through 16. What has the blood of Christ accomplished for Gentiles?


A. They have been brought near.

B. It has made both Jew and Gentile one.

C. It has broken down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile.

D. He has abolished the enmity between Jew and Gentile.

E. He has made of two, one.

F. He has reconciled both Jew and Gentile to God.

"The enmity" is placed parallel to "The law of commandments contained in ordinances." Many assume this means the Ten Commandments were abolished with the enmity.

86. In what way did the Ten Commandments create enmity between Jew and Gentile?

87. Did the law of God insist on separation of Jew and Gentile? Did God make a distinction in the law for Jews and Gentiles? (Numbers 15:13-16).

Note: The law made certain requirements for strangers, but they were not kept apart. They were even able to offer offerings under certain circumstances. A simple concordance search on the word "stranger" in the Old Testament will reveal nothing at all of the separation of Gentiles that was common among Jews in the first century.

88. Did first century Jews separate themselves from Gentiles? (See Galatians 2: 11 ff.)

89. Was the "law of commandment in ordinances" that had to be set aside, the Ten Commandments, or the ordinances of the Jews who barred Gentiles from their fellowship and even from drawing near to God in the Temple?

Note: There was nothing in the law to drive a wedge between Jew and Gentile. It was the legalistic ordinances some Jewish traditions had created that had to be set aside. Note also that the word "abolished" in verse 15 is precisely the same Greek word used in Romans 3:31 and translated "make void." Paul asks, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

The law is not a problem for the Christian. It is a guide to his feet and a light to his path. It is legalism that confuses the issue and crushes the grace of God out of the Christian life.


Before you begin, write to us and request the cassette tape that goes with Lesson 9, "The Law and the Christian Part V: Under the Law." Then take your time and write down your answers to each of the questions before you listen to the tape. This is an important step in the learning process. When you get the tape, you can compare what I have to say with your answers and grade yourself on how you have done.

CEM Christian Educational Ministries Bible Correspondence Course
by Ronald L. Dart

The address for all correspondence concerning this course is:
Christian Educational Ministries
P.O. Box 560
Whitehouse, Texas 75791

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