Where does the Law fit in Paul’s Gospel?
The confusion of many of “those in Christ” in the early church is understandable. Paul’s words on this issue were not always easy to understand and not everyone had the ability to read Paul’s writings for themselves. For one thing, only scribes and educated persons even had the ability to read. Also there was a lot of confusion because certain groups of people were intentionally opposing Paul and his words. One example of a group that Paul warns against and rebukes is the Judiazers. The Judiazers in Galatians chapter two are Jewish Christians that teach that one must be circumcised and obey all of the Mosaic Laws in order to truly be justified and saved. This is sort of the best of both worlds, Judaism and Christianity. Paul taught that “saving faith” through Christ’s blood was the only way to be saved and then groups, like these Judiazers, as well as other “false teachers,” came in later preaching that the Law was the way to be justified.
Paul made it clear that justification only comes through Jesus Christ and not through obeying the Law. But Paul was not completely against the Law, in general. The Law was not evil, according to Paul. The Law had purpose and was good, holy, spiritual, and righteous.3 What Paul was against was misuses and extreme uses of the Law. There is no Greek word for the terms “legalism” or “legalist.” But it is still obvious that Paul was not against the Law.4
In Paul’s writing, the Law highlights sin. The Law helps men to define and see the reality of sin. The Law reveals sin to man.5 In other words, sin is now specified and defined, clearly laid out in the Law. These Laws must be kept, if they are not kept then one commits a transgression or sin.6 Disregard to the Law is disobedience. The Law is not God; it merely illuminates God’s rules. The Law, though, causes sin, because it increases our knowledge of God’s standards and increases our knowledge of how to rebel against God. The Law shows how dangerous sin really is.7
Kulikovsky, suggests also that the Law, according to Paul, was a “tutor” or “custodian8” of sorts, whom guided and instructed Israel until Christ came. The Law identified and punished sin. When Christ came, this was no longer necessary and saints are no longer under the supervision of the Law.9 There is some controversy over this idea, which will be discussed later. Galatians and Romans are two letters of Paul’s that more specifically address the issue of the Law more in depth than his other letters.