JohnSWilson3 Blog

“…the law does not apply for those who are innocent…”
July 28, 2014, 1:24 pm
Filed under: R - First Letter to Timothy

This section of the letter to Timothy seems to hearken back to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. After Paul describes the overarching goal of love for the ecclesia, which enables the working of God in His people, he then, in this same sentence clarifies the main issue or the bottom line of these “certain persons.” They have wandered from the focus of love to a focus on law in their gatherings. Their “teaching differently” emphasizes the law over selfless sacrificial love. “They desire,” they want “to be teachers of the law, not understanding either what things they say nor concerning what things they emphatically assert.” (1)
Paul has dealt with this terrible teaching with an emphasis of law over grace before with the gatherings in Galatia. They had the same problem. For most of his letter to the Galatians Paul spoke about this issue. It is interesting how Paul’s first letter and his last letters over a span of at least a couple decades would deal with this same issue. It perhaps bespeaks to our times, the movement of some gatherings that swerve out of line of God’s purpose to focusing on matters of the law. Paul is not at a loss for words when it comes to legalism in the Galatian gatherings, or for any other ecclesia for that matter, then or now.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all.” Logically Paul says: if it is a different good news, then it cannot be good news. “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let that person be cursed!” “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?…Are you so foolish?” (2)

In typical fashion Paul describes the different teaching of these brothers and sisters in Ephesus who think they are “law teachers” as “babble.” It is meaningless and empty of life. It is unhealthy for the body of Christ. If you are predisposed to details, to following rules over and above relationships then legalism can be something you will need to deal with in your life, it has been the case in mine. I could see Paul right now, rolling his eyes with what is going on, thinking to himself: “How many times do I need to go over this, do I really have to repeat myself to every ecclesia?” Yep, you do. For Paul it is part of his testimony. And again he takes a bit of time in the front part of his letter describing his testimony again to Timothy (as if Timothy had not heard it before already) but writing it down for the record so to speak giving historical merit for the apostolic helper. I’ll go into that in a later blog.

In this first letter to Timothy Paul does not go into the details of the usefulness of the Old Testament like he does with the Galatians. Timothy has heard Paul’s teaching on legalism already, quite a few times but he does say “we know now that the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully, knowing this, the law does not apply for the innocent.” (3) Paul understood the law in context for those who are in Christ. In Christ we are innocent. Christ gives new meaning to how we understand the law and why the law is good. Before Christ we were under a curse, but because of what Jesus did on the cross, that curse has been removed. The Old Testament law showed to every man and women that they could not stand approved or innocent before God. Even when Christ came during His earthly ministry He showed this to be true. In and of ourselves, in our flesh, we are not innocent, we are guilty. Our conscious tells us this. But in Christ we are no longer condemned but stand innocent before the Lord. We are considered innocent of every sin, everything that was against God. Paul told the Galatians that the reason for the law was to lead us to Christ. The law was to show we could not do it but needed Christ to do it for us.

The law is for those who live by the flesh. Not just the Old Testament law, but in general the laws of other cultures as well. The law was put into effect to help curb the entropy of the fall, the downward spiraling effect that the flesh causes. The depth by which a person who lives by the flesh who lowers themselves to such selfish levels can be horrendous, and its affect on human and spiritual relationships catastrophic. It is a curse. So in this regard the law is good.

But I think Paul’s meaning regarding why “the law is good if anyone uses it lawfully” implies using it. How do we, who are innocent before the Lord, use the law lawfully? What is the usefulness of the law for those who are innocent? The law of the Old Testament is good if anyone uses it like it was meant to be used. The first thought that comes to mind is what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel (an apprentice of Paul by the way):

To the disciples “going to a village called Emmaus” Luke says that Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” These disciples told each other after Jesus left: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” And later when these disciples returned to Jerusalem with the other disciples Jesus appeared and He said “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (4) In other words “all the Scriptures.” Even today the Jewish people break all the Scriptures into these same three parts. (5) And interestingly Luke mentions that “he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

The law of the Old Testament shows two things, it was meant to help control the flesh and second show the grace and mercy of God in Christ through types and shadows and stories. This requires the mind to be opened by Christ in us. If we come to the Bible without Christ in view and without His help then we will begin to wander away from what Jesus says it was intended to be used for: it was “written about me.”

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 613.
(2) Galatians 1:6-7, 9; 3:1, 3.
(3) Marshall, 613.
(4) Luke 24: 27, 32, 44-45.
(5) The Jewish Bible is called the Tanakh. It includes the three parts of Torah (the five books of Moses), Nevi’im (the Prophets), and Kethuvim (the Writings). Tanakh: A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, According to the Traditional Hebrew Text; The Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

1 Comment so far
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The law of the Old Testament (which focuses on the law of Moses) was indeed not able to be kept by Israel, due to the weakness of the flesh. And Jesus’ focus on love included his pointing to the commands about loving God (in Deuteronomy) and neighbor (in Leviticus). So Jesus’ commands about love, about how to love God now (in his new covenant) and our neighbor (now everyone, not just fellow Jews) are Christ’s law for his disciples, his kingdom. And only through the Spirit he gives disciples can we overcome the weakness of the flesh and be obedient to his way of love.

Comment by jesusandthebible

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