Galatian Churches: Confused About God’s Law
One of the most important things to know before a person can understand the Bible correctly is that the Bible divides history into different parts. At the very beginning of time, Adam and Eve (and their descendants) were subject to the laws that God gave them. This period, which lasted from the Garden all the way to the cross of Christ, is sometimes called the Patriarchal Period of Bible history, since God communicated His will to the heads of families, or patriarchs (like Noah, Job, and Abraham). Around 1500 B.C., God brought the descendants of Abraham out of Egyptian bondage and gave them their own covenant at Mt. Sinai. This period is usually referred to as the Mosaic Period of Bible history, and the law God gave to the Israelites is called the Law of Moses. When Jesus died on the cross, these two systems of law were done away and replaced by the law of Christ. Since that time, everyone is under the same law—the teaching of the New Testament.
When Paul wrote a letter to the Galatian churches, he emphasized that they were to obey the Gospel and not be diverted to any other (1:6-9). The Gospel that Paul preached came by revelation of Jesus Christ (1:17). He insisted that Christians live under a law that is distinct from the laws that both Jews and Gentiles lived under before Christ came (2:14ff.; 3:17,23,25). Once Christ died on the cross, the covenant given at Mt. Sinai was ended (4:24ff.). In fact, for a Christian to try to be saved by God by obeying the Jewish covenant is to be cut off from Christ and to fall from grace (5:4).
So today, we are to “fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). That means we must study the New Testament in order to find out how God wants us to live. We should also study our Old Testaments, and learn from the principles there. But we need to remember that the Old Testament laws were given to Jews and Gentiles before Christ came. It is not the same law that Christians are under today.