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How does Paul's teaching in the New Testament fit with separate Old and Sinai covenants?


Let's look at some of Paul's New Testament scriptures that some think indicate the Ten Commandments are no longer of critical importance for Christians. This is not intended to be a complete treatise on this matter, but to just hit the highlights where the law or the covenant may seem to be the focus of the subject . It's not my purpose to go through every example that people have ever used. However, a jump-start showing how these arguments melt away, seems in order. A little bit of background and the proper understanding of the covenants, make a big difference.


Works of the Law

Galatians 2:16, "...a man is not justified by the works of the law ... ". Here is a great example of the Jews including their oral tradition as part of the law. Paul certainly knew better, but what he said was perfectly clear in the context of his time.


This statement made by Paul was part of a tongue-lashing given to Peter. Peter had just proved himself a hypocrite by not eating with some Gentiles in the Antioch congregation (vs.12). Peter withdrew himself from the Gentiles because of some Jewish guests and the Jewish tradition that prohibited an observant Jew from eating with a Gentile. This prohibition is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. Paul in no uncertain terms says these types of "works of the law", or really 'works of law', do not justify anyone.


Refraining from eating meals with Gentiles is nowhere recommended in the Law of Moses let alone the Law of God . Neither of these codes of law is under discussion. What is under discussion is the tradition of the Jews. Yet in ignorance people have assumed Paul was casting a shadow over the Law of Moses and the Sinai covenant. In reality neither is part of the discussion. Peter is being criticized for bowing to the traditions of men at the expense of Gentile believers.


Confusion is also eliminated by the Dead Sea scroll known as 4QMMT, which is the only other document roughly contemporary with Paul found that uses a phrase similar to 'works of the law' (Gr. ergon nomou). Although that document is written in Hebrew (Paul remember was a Hebrew) it clearly indicates the phrase refers to extra-scriptural customs practiced or encouraged probably by the Qumran community . Actually their 'miqsat ma'ase HaTorah' (works of the Law) were intended to keep the Qumran community in compliance with the covenant as they understood it and separate from other Jews and probably especially the Pharisees.


This document refers to various subjects like the construction of pots and jugs, the handling of liquids, treatment of bones, and unborn animals . It clearly says 'we think' such and such and 'we consider' such and such and 'we say' such and such . It also says "And you know that we have separated from the masses of the people... and from mingling with them in these matters and from being in contact with them in these matters. "This indicates they have separated themselves from other Jews, not in issues of the Ten Commandments, or even the Law of Moses, but because of their own ideas on how to handle clean and unclean things.


They call these matters of the Law. "We have also written to you (sing.) concerning some of the observances of the Law (miqsat ma'ase ha-torah), which we think are beneficial to you and your people." (The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, p227 some reference markings not included) However they are not appealing to the Law, but expressing their opinion on peripheral issues. The equivalent Greek phrase is used in other places in Galatians . It refers to traditions outside of scripture.


The Law was added

Galatians 3:19; "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions." This is fairly obviously referring to the Moab covenant and the Law of Moses, but let's go through the preceding context to clarify what is being said.


First let's remember that beginning at Galatians 3:10 'the law' takes the standard definition of Law of Moses, i.e., the Pentateuch . Keeping this law did not justify anyone, but it allowed all the sinners to continue living . The purpose of the Moab covenant was not to provide salvation, but to prevent their physical death as a result of disobedience to the Covenant of the Lord. Christ has now taken the penalty, resulting from not continuing consistently in the law, upon himself . Now, even the Gentiles can receive of the promise given to Abraham.


Galatians 3:15; covenants are not added to or annulled . This is undoubtedly why Hebrews is not clearly saying even the old covenant is totally dead . It was growing old and was about to vanish.


Vs. 16; the promises came to Abraham and his Seed (singular) through faith, when we live by faith as Abraham did (vs. 14 see also vss.6-7). Actually, it was a combination of faith and action. Abraham actually received the promises of the covenant because he obeyed (Gen 26:1-5). He obeyed because he believed. Faith allows one to obey. Faith without evidential action accomplishes nothing, is dead (Jas 2:17, 20).


Vs. 17; "the law, which was 430 years later", (after the promise came to Abraham) is the Sinai covenant. (Ex 12:40). Although this is not clear in most Old Testament translations, Paul's statement here when compared with the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch indicates that the sojourn before Israel entered Egypt is included in this 430 years too. "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years." (Ex 12:40 LXX).

So the 430 years is indeed from the time of the promise to Abraham, until Israel left Egypt, exactly 430 years later. The law of vs. 17 then would be the Sinai covenant, since it was confirmed within 60 days of when Israel left Egypt . This qualification precludes this law from being the Law of Moses, but connects it to the Sinai covenant . In any case, that law, the Sinai Covenant, cannot annul the promise made to Abraham by covenant.


Vs, 18; If the inheritance is by law it is not of promise, but Abraham received by promise. This verse is not specific in defining 'law'. Although many translations use 'the law' here, the definite article is not included in the original Greek text. This verse is not being specific and 'any law' more accurately reflects the original text. This non-specific meaning can be seen in the Twentieth Century New Testament, The Emphasized Bible, and The Englishman's Greek New Testament.


Vs 19; So, what then was the purpose of the Law? This reference is specific, uses the definite article in the original Greek, and reverts again to the standard definition, i.e., the Law of Moses. It was added because of transgression. And indeed that is reflected in the historical account of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It was added over 39 years after the Sinai covenant and was confirmed about 470 years after the promises to Abraham. It added to Israel, the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices that brought the promise of forgiveness. There is no promise of forgiveness in the Sinai covenant. It was not added because of transgressions. The Sinai covenant assumed obedience. However they didn't obey. Indeed they deserved death . The Moab covenant, the Law, was added to handle their past, present and future transgressions. This reference is talking of the Law of Moses, the Moab Covenant. Clearly the context around the verse supports this.


This also ought to make it clear the law was not a 100% repeating or explaining of the Sinai covenant, which was made 430 years after the promises . The law was added 39+ years later to include provisions for handling transgressions of that covenant . However one does not add to a covenant, (vs. 15). Therefore the law had to be made into a second covenant as described in Deuteronomy 29-31 .


The law was added. It was an addition, some of which was temporary, until the Seed would come to whom the promise was made, i.e. the Messiah. Discontinuing the law as a binding covenant does not discontinue the Covenant of the Lord that predated the law and the covenant of Moab. Neither does discontinuing the Law as a binding covenant mean that it is "done away" as defined by traditional Christianity. Within a few verses Paul will clarify the new relationship a true Christian will have with the Law. It is not absolute authority as it was before Messiah, but neither is it to be cast aside.


Notice the wording Paul uses, "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made" . When did the seed come? Jesus really 'came' when he started His ministry. Yet many assume He 'did away' with the law at His death, not when he came, but when he left for a place no one else could follow (John 13:36). Paul, on the other hand was familiar with the words of Moses. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear" (Deu 18:15). Jesus was to be the authority above the Law as soon as he began to speak regarding it. Indeed He did exercise this authority. (Mat 19:7-8)


Jeremiah 7:22, "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices...' . At the general time period when Israel was brought out of Egypt no commandment required sacrifices . God preferred obedience . Yet they did not obey and went backward. This is why the Moab covenant was added. There needed to be an agreement on how to atone for sin, short of the death of the sinner . They simply didn't have the heart to obey.


This area of Galatians also reinforces the separateness of the Sinai covenant from the Moab Covenant. It specifically identified the law that was made at Sinai, 430 years after the original promise to Abraham. That was a very important law. However, what the New Testament Christians and Jews commonly called "The Law" was based on and delivered to the Levites and became law at the confirmation of the Moab covenant, almost 40 years after the Sinai covenant (Heb 7:11, Deut 31:9, 1:1-5, 31:24-26). That Law was added to deal with transgressions. The designation "that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later" (Gal 3:17b) distinguishes the law of the Sinai covenant from the law that was added later. "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God" (Deu 31:26ab). Although there are two distinct laws typically the Jews did not distinguish since the Law of Sinai was included in what was commonly called ‘the Law’.


Kept under the Law

Although those who minimize the Law of God do not rely on Galatians 3:23 heavily, it is instructive in our study. The KJV Bible uses the words 'kept under the law'. The Phillips translation says "imprisoned under the power of the Law' . Some understandably think this indicates a loss of freedom from which they are relieved with the New Covenant . Is this the thought that Paul intended?


The NKJV translates this phrase, "kept under guard by the law" . The Greek word in question here is phroureo. According to the Liddell and Scott Greek English Lexicon it means "keep, watch or guard" and "to keep watch over". Thayer's lexicon lists the primary meaning as, "to guard, protect, by a military guard, either in order to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight".


The word is used again in II Cor 11:32 where the governor is posting guards throughout a city to look for someone . It is also used in Philippians 4:7, where the peace of God keeps our hearts, and 1Peter 1:5 where believers are being kept or protected by God . This guarding is not for the purpose of restricting, but for the purpose of protection . What Paul is saying here is that the Law was implemented as an extra precaution to protect and keep Israel until they could have access to the faith that was to come. One could deduce that the guards were the Levites.


During the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness it became painfully obvious to God that Israel simply did not have the heart, faith or ability to walk in His ways (Deut. 8:5-6, 5:29). The Law was given in an attempt to define more precisely for Israel how to conduct itself. It also provided for a human representative whose job it was to know the ways of God . They could consult with the Levite if they had any questions. The intent was to keep them from wondering off the path until they were given the heart and the faith that they needed to walk the path without such an aid . Being released from custody allows us to prove we can walk in the law of God without the aid of the Levite .


Under a tutor

"But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Galatians 3:25). Some try to use Paul's explanation of the law being a tutor to prove that we no longer need the law. Although Galatians is a Greek document it is referring to a Hebrew document . We need to remember that there is no native word in the Hebrew language for 'law'. 'Torah' which is typically the word that would have been used by Hebrew speakers means more correctly, 'instruction' . However it is certainly reasonable to treat God's instruction as law. It was considered the constitution of the Jews. Of course it is also the common name of the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses. Can we ignore God's instruction?


The word for 'tutor' likened to the law here is the Greek word, 'paidagogos' . "Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class." (Thayer's Greek - English Lexicon of the New Testament ) The paidagogos particular aim was to improve the soul, and to train his charge to a virtuous not an intellectual life. (See: William Barclay New Testament Words. P206-209).


These trusted slaves were protectors and moral educators to the sons of wealthy people until the sons reached adulthood. When the charge reached legal age the paidagogos was no longer responsible for the boy. However if the paidagogos had done his job, the boy would not have suddenly repudiated everything he was taught. As adults do we no longer need manners or morals? Typically the slave/tutor and his charge had a very close relationship, and the slave remained a trusted advisor for the rest of his life. The slave was acting in the place we would put the parents today. Should it be a surprise that a responsible adult child would sometimes seek the advice of the paidagogos? (See further: "Novum Testamentum", vol 29, 1987, "Paidagogos: The Social Setting", by N.H.Young p174)


So like the function of this tutor, the law kept Israel under protective custody, (Gal 3:23) until maturity. If we are mature believers we should fully understand the application and intent of the law. We no longer then, automatically follow the letter of the law by rote, because we understand the spirit and intent. The spirit and intent are not in opposition to the letter, but are in agreement. Intent is simply at a higher plane because it allows the instruction to be applied correctly to situations that the letter might not specifically address.


We put our faith in Christ. We don't primarily depend on ourselves to provide for our protection and daily living. This allows us the confidence to know that we can fully keep the intent or at least make progress toward that end. All of those detailed regulations that required helping the poor, being impartial in judgment, respectful of employees, slaves and foreigners, and fair in business dealings even with people we don't necessarily consider friends; all those selfless actions are now understood to be the way God would have us live, because that is the best way. That conduct is good for others and good for us even if it seems to put us at risk. If we do it God's way, He will take care of us. Faith enables and promotes obedience. Jesus lived that way. He will keep us if we walk in His ways.


Neither the Sinai covenant nor the covenant of the Lord is even under discussion in this account of the tutor. Both predated the law and are not affected by the coming of the 'Seed', Jesus Christ, (Gal 3:19). As we saw, the Law has no legal connection with the Covenant of the Lord. The law is the instruction, or old covenant, that was attempting to keep Israel within the terms of the Covenant of the Lord spoken at Sinai. If we understand and live by the intent of the words of the Covenant of the Lord, the words of the law, or old covenant, are redundant. However, if there were a question, we would do well to consult with a trusted advisor. The Law may hold helpful or pertinent examples in this case.


Unfortunately, much time has passed and we have lost a complete understanding of the times of Moses and the Exodus. Thankfully we have the law, the books of Moses, to fill in details we would otherwise not know. Actually we would be very ignorant of the way of God without the Law.


Elements of the World

Some think that 'elements of the world' in Galatians 4:3 refers to the law of Moses. Of course the Law of Moses was hardly enforced worldwide. However Paul included everyone as 'we' in this discussion (Gal 3:28). Certainly all the Gentile population of Galatia had not lived under the Law of Moses. "Elements of the world" then is referring to the customs of society, not the Law of Moses.


Under the Law

Now Jesus was born under the Moab covenant, the law (Gal 4:4), to redeem or buy back those who were subject to that covenant. But not only did Christ redeem those under the law, but he also opened the way for the rest of the nations to be made clean before God as well (Eph 2:12-13). Can we then ignore the Covenant of the Lord? God forbid! The Ten Commandments specifically define sin (Rom 7:7, Ex 20:20). Because we can be forgiven, doesn't mean we can ignore God's instruction (Rom 6:15).


It was impossible that the sacrifices they offered could make them complete/perfect (Heb 10:1-4). That was a problem needing remedy.   That was the purpose of Christ's' sacrifice.  Messiah, Christ, came to do the will of the Father.  Having done that and since He created mankind under the direction of the Father He was a spotless offering, which could be applied to the whole world, not only the Jews.  It atoned for everyone since He was the Creator of all (Col 1:15-16). Messiah replaced the offerings prescribed in the Law establishing His own.


Christ did the will of the Father (Heb 10:7, John 5:30).  He set the example of obedience.  His sacrifice can wash us clean, but if we are to be the child of the Father we must live like our elder Brother and keep ourselves clean (I John 1:7).  True children of the Father will come to the full stature of Jesus Christ (Eph 4:13).  So we can all be restored and adopted by the Father (Gal 4:5).  It is only those who do His will that are accepted and adopted (Mat 7:21).


Adoption in the Greco-Roman world is an interesting study. The purpose was not like today, mainly to provide a home for orphans. The relationship was born out of more of a mentor relationship, on steroids, so to speak. Often the adoptee was a full-grown adult. Upon adoption the son left his old life for a completely new one. Any debts he had were cancelled, as the original person no longer existed. The new son was then expected to totally embrace the new father and his way of life. "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts : and I will be their God and they shall be My people." (Jer 31:33). (See, Adoption as Sons of God, by James Scott) 

Anyone truly living under the new covenant will strive to think like God thinks, and act as God would act as a human. The record we have of the life of Jesus is the foremost example. Among other things he was fully Torah observant. At His trial there was no fault found in Him except that He claimed to be whom He was (Mat 26:57-66).

Does this mean everyone needs to be fully Torah observant and obey the Law of Moses? The intention of the Father has always been that we obey the Covenant of the Lord, i.e. His Law. If that is written in our heart such that we obey it, we will be in compliance with the intent of the Law of Moses too. However, we should diligently seek to understand the mind of God (Heb 11:6). Western society has experienced years of flawed understanding and been cut off from God for centuries. We should be diligent to study and ponder the Law of God. We would be entirely derelict to not also carefully examine the Law of Moses to glean the extra detail it includes so we can better understand the Law of God.


A number of times in Galatians (4:4, 5, 21, 5:18) Paul makes a statement about people being 'under the law'. He also uses this expression in Romans 6:14. Now that we understand a bit more about what the law is and what it is not, we can certainly understand that, whether or not we are 'under the law', has no effect on the status of the Covenant of the Lord and the definition of sin. Although included in the terms of the Moab covenant, the Covenant of the Lord stands by itself. It is clarified in the Sinai covenant by Exodus 21-23:19. It predates the law, and is not void because the Law, the Moab covenant, is served by an inferior priesthood (Heb 7:12), or any other reality that has caused the Law to become unworkable as a covenant.


Romans chapter six is not attempting to be instructive about the law. The whole chapter is about avoiding sin. It indicates this over and over again (cf. vss. 1, 2, 4f, 6, 7, 11-13). Then, vs. 14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace". This is attempting to encourage believers after they have sinned. There is no way sin can have dominion, or own them, if they don't sin. That is not the issue. Only if they sin, does sin have any hope to hold power over them. If there is no Moab covenant and no Covenant of the Lord, there is no sin and no need for grace. ".. sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom 5:13b)


Only after sinning is it shown that sin has any power over them. However because the blood of Christ can wash our sin clean, we need not offer the sin offering prescribed by the law (Lev 4-7, Heb 10:11-18). We are not under that administration.


For the Roman believers this must have been an incredible relief. They were not required to cart their offering half way around the Mediterranean to the temple in Jerusalem in order to be made right before God. Many would simply not have been able to make that trip. Now, we can all receive forgiveness simply for the asking after repenting and changing our ways.  If we grasp what our Creator is trying to accomplish, our heart yearns to love God and participate in His Covenant.  We reject our old way and walk in the light just like Messiah was in the light.


Lest someone think I'm trying to slip something by, I will point out that Romans 6:14 does not have the Greek definite article associated with 'law'. So it really does not say 'under the Law', but 'under law' just as the NKJV translates it. However where Paul uses this expression in Gal 4:21 the NKJV does translate it 'under the law' even though there is no definite article in that case either. The context in Gal 4:21 is clear. Paul is chiding those who wish to be 'under law' to listen to 'the law'. In the latter instance the definite article is present. It is apparent 'the Law' of Moses is the law they wish to be under.


However as we will soon see we are not under the administration of the Sinai covenant either.

Ministry of Death

II Corinthians 3:7 is sometimes used to condemn the Ten Commandments written on stones as a law of death. "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which was passing away".

A careful reading will find that it is not the Sinai Law that is under discussion here, but the ministry of Moses. It is referring to the function Moses was performing.

"Ministry" in this verse is a translation of the Greek word, "diakonia". It refers especially "to those who execute the commands of others". Specifically, in this case, it is the "office of Moses", (Thayer p137). This verse tells us that the functionaries in place to administer the Sinai covenant and the law are passing away. Jesus Christ, our High Priest replaced them. The Sinai covenant itself is not under discussion.

Verses 8-11, & 13 all contrast Moses ministry, function or administration with the ministry, function or administration of the spirit. Moses was the chief human judge of Israel and it sometimes fell his lot to dictate the penalty for breaking of the then current law. Too often that penalty was death.

Under the Sinai covenant especially, there was often no other option. Even under the administration of the Moab covenant, the law, death was required too. Fortunately it was not always the death of the human involved. Later, during Jesus life the administration was done by the Sadducees, or scribes, and the Pharisees, "...The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat." (Mat 23:2, Ex 18:14).

Before the Moab covenant was confirmed, Moses directly administered the covenant between God and Israel. As that law was written, you could make restitution for stealing, or help restore someone to health who you had a hand in injuring, but most other offenses resulted in death. When the Moab covenant was confirmed Israel came under the Law. Atonement could be obtained with the blood of an animal.


"All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous" (Rom 2:12-13 NIV). Those that obey are declared righteous.   If they miss the mark they are forgiven by means of a blood sacrifice. Their sin is forgiven preventing the separation from God one would normally expect. However, if they do not recognize Jesus blood as applying to them they can only be forgiven by means of the sacrifice of the law.


Paul then goes on to explain that the gentiles that are not schooled in the law nevertheless have some of God's law written in their heart, (vs 15) because in some ways they conduct themselves according to the law. It is clear that having the law written in the heart is evidenced by the believer doing, that which is enjoined in the law.


With the new covenant, we can accept Jesus blood as our atonement, which provides a better means of grace and forgiveness. "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission (forgiveness) of sins" (Mat 26:28). "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people" (Heb 2:17). Jesus died to provide a better means of forgiveness, not to void 'My Covenant', which defines sin.


By accepting Jesus sacrifice we should be acknowledging that we understand we are guilty and worthy of death. We should be anxious to cast off that destructive behavior and turn to serve our new master, Jesus Christ. We should then live to represent Him 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If we are failing in this, we have not truly repented. This could be because we don’t fully understand His ways or His Law. That is why the subject of this document is vital to understand.


The better promises of the new covenant include especially forgiveness, Jeremiah 31:34. "...For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more". Of course this follows immediately after Jeremiah 31:31-33 where Hebrews got the very concept of the New Covenant.


We are not responsible to the Sinai covenant as administered by Moses. We are not responsible to the Law as administered by the Levites. That law attempted to keep them in reasonable compliance with the original Sinai covenant and especially the Covenant of the Lord, but Israel never really 'got it'. Since Jesus came He set the example and properly interpreted the Law and the prophets. If we recognize Him and wish to take up His challenge to be complete as the Father is complete (Mat 5:48), we accept His sacrifice and go and sin no more. The Covenant of the Lord is forever (Ps 111:9, 5). The New Covenant, His Law, is written on the heart, so it is actually kept by the faithful believer in the full intent.


On rare occasions a believer might sin (I John 2:1). If we do sin, sin will not own us, for we are not under any law as written on paper, but we are under the administration of grace. Who we obey is whose servants we are (Rom 6:16). Therefore we willingly yield ourselves to the Law of God. God forbid that we would willingly sin."I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts , and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jer 31:33b, Heb 8:10b).


Under the Sinai law if someone was not careful to protect his fellows from a known dangerous situation and someone was killed as a result, the one responsible, who knew of the situation, was liable for the death. In that case the one responsible was to be put to death (Ex 21:29). Certainly the principle behind this law still applies. If we are aware of and responsible for a dangerous situation, which then results in someone's death, the Sinai covenant dictates we be put to death. "You shall not murder" (Ex 20:13).


However, because of the incredible grace and mercy of God, we are not under the law as written in the Sinai covenant if we acknowledge Jesus as Savior and example. We must repent of our own ways and diligently seek to live as He lived. The covenant of the Lord is administered differently than it was under Moses in the Sinai covenant. However if we grasp the new covenant we will have the Covenant of the Lord written in our heart. We will be anxious to obey that law in the spirit and the letter. We will not be careless and cause injury to anyone.


We will keep dangerous animals securely contained. We will drive our cars with courtesy and caution. We will not allow hazardous situations to develop around our homes or in our workplaces. We will properly handle dangerous substances. We will go to the same lengths to honor all the other instruction of the Sinai covenant as well. This demonstrates our love of God and love toward our neighbor in its pure and full sense.


II Cor 3:14-16 is interesting. Paul likens the veil that Moses had over his head, to the veil that covered the Jews when reading the "Old Testament". (The Greek word for testament is the same word as is used for covenant in Hebrews 8). Paul was unaware the Hebrew scriptures would be called the 'Old Testament', since there was not yet a 'New Testament' when he wrote 2 Corinthians. 'Old Testament' here should really be translated 'old covenant'. So when the Jews read the 'old covenant', the Law or especially Deuteronomy, they didn't understand it. When we truly turn to the Lord that veil is taken away and we can then understand what the law has been saying for thousands of years. Of course nowhere does the Law of Moses indicate that the Covenant of the Lord is to be cast aside.


What it does tell us is how to love, honor and respect God and how to respect and love our neighbor. It gives specific examples of how the Patriarchs exercised faith, and recommends we do the same. It also gives bad examples, so we can learn what not to do. It's all there if one reads it carefully and applies the principles, or spirit of what is being said.


"...but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Cor 3:5b-6) If we just read God's instruction for the letter we will miss the point. For instance Exodus 23:19 tells us to not seethe a kid in its mother's milk, which was a popular pagan tradition. If we determine not to do that, but continue to pay homage to other pagan traditions, we will have obeyed in the letter, but still be liable for worshiping other gods, because we have missed the spirit. Unfortunately, this was much of the problem with ancient Israel. They read the letter, but missed the spirit. The veil Paul spoke of prevented them from completely understanding the intent of the law. The result was ultimately their death.


God spelled things out more clearly in the Moab covenant. "When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30. Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.'" (Deut 12:29-30)


Some may still see, "written and engraved in stones" in II Corinthians 3:7 and be confused. Although it is easy to connect this to the tablets of the covenant Moses received in Exodus 34 that is not likely the case.


The Law of Moses was etched into stones as Israel entered the Promised Land (Deu 27:8, Josh 8:32). So thinking that Paul is specifically referring to the tablets of the covenant of the Lord is an assumption. If Paul had been thinking of those tablets He could have highlighted the significance of what he was saying by mentioning the tablets written with the finger of God. Instead he chose to indicate engraving. Etching into plaster, as was done by Israel, is a form of engraving.


It should also be noted that 'was glorious' also leaves out a significant thought in what Paul said. Alternative translations are, "was produced with glory" (EGNT) and "was brought into existence with glory" (Emphasized Bible). The word 'was' in the NKJV is actually Greek 'gennaw' which means 'to engender'. So the service of Moses was brought into existence with glory as evidenced by the brightness of his face. The covenant was not shown to have been engendered or made glorious by the brightness of Moses face. God made perfectly evident who He would use to administer the covenant by the shining of Moses face.


In any case Paul is saying that even Moses function written on stones was instituted with glory. However Moses function was not written on the tablets of the covenant (Ex 34:28, Deut 5:22). Only the words God spoke from Sinai were written on them. The context is talking of Moses function. As such these stones written in Israel would have had the administration of Levi included in their text (Deut 17:9). The priests especially, but also Levi in general, inherited the 'seat of Moses' after his death. Many Levites served as judges. This text written on these stones was from the covenant of Moab. Of course, that is now the Old Covenant.


The context is also contrasting the Old Covenant with the New Covenant (vs 6, 14). It does not really mention the covenant made at Sinai. However Moses was especially the chief administrator of the Sinai covenant. So the concept seems to apply. However, Paul is not necessarily limiting himself to that function during Moses lifetime. He is talking of the institution or beginnings of Moses office. He indicates through the rest of the chapter that Moses office continued until it was replaced by Christ. This was of course 'Moses seat' that was occupied by the priesthood of Aaron and those who inherited that office.(Mat 23:2)

The set of stones on which Moses directed Israel write evidently the complete law of Deuteronomy had the administration of Levi included in their text (Deu 17:9). The priests especially, but also Levi in general, inherited the ‘seat of Moses’ after his death. Many Levites served as judges. This text written on these stones was from the covenant of Moab. Of course, that is now the Old Covenant.


Righteousness apart from the Law

Romans 3:21, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets...." Righteousness without the law is now possible. Was there righteousness, before the book of the Law was written?


'My Covenant' was in effect from at least Genesis 6. Just because the full terms weren't detailed for us until Exodus 20, does not indicate hundreds of years passing before the patriarchs were made aware of the terms. They knew the terms in their time. Abraham kept 'My law' (Gen 26:5). Joshua and the children of Israel would have understood this as the Covenant of the Lord in particular and the Sinai covenant in general. They would also have understood, "My Covenant" as spoken by God (Gen 17:10), to be the same as, "His Covenant" as spoken by Moses (Deut 4:13). The Books of Moses were written especially to these people.


Notice Romans 3:21 says the Law and the Prophets witness to righteousness coming "apart from the law". If this is intending to mean the Covenant of the Lord is to be void, where is the witness in the Law or the Prophets?


What the Law and the Prophets do indicate is that people will be freely forgiven. (Jer 31:34) No longer will the Romans, for instance, be required to pack up their goods and drag their offering half way around the Mediterranean to Jerusalem. They can be made right with God though, apart from the requirement of the Law of Moses. They are made righteous by the cleansing blood of Christ.


The Law of Moses, as a covenant, is impossible to keep because the temple no longer exists and the priests have been scattered. The understanding we can glean from what was written in the law is however, invaluable in understanding the mind of God. This includes the instruction on the sacrifices.


Without the ability to offer sacrifices according to the law, what is the remedy for someone who breaks the Covenant of the Lord? According to the Sinai covenant, usually death. Fortunately for us all, by the righteousness of God, He allows the sins of those who truly believe to be cleansed by the blood of the one who created them (Rev 1:5, Luke 22:20). We are not under the administration of the Sinai law, as written, either.


Two covenant allegory

The allegory of the two covenants of Galatians 4:21-31 would seem to indicate more strongly than anything else that the Sinai covenant is to be, "cast out". Indeed it seems odd that Paul would claim that 'Hagar is Mount Sinai', and "the one from Mount Sinai, which gives birth to bondage". Nowhere else is there any hint that the Covenant of the Lord engendered bondage.

Remember, Paul is talking to those who desire to be 'under the law', vs. 21. This is clearly referring to the Law of Moses. Paul also refers to Hagar and Ishmael, both of whom are mentioned in the law, but not the Sinai covenant.

Paul's conclusion begins with Galatians 4:31. 'We are not to be children of the bondwoman. Stand fast in the liberty of Christ, and don't be entangled in bondage. If you become circumcised Christ profits nothing.'  Indeed almost half of chapter five is then devoted to circumcision. Paul's main purpose is to show circumcision as unnecessary.


However, nowhere in the Sinai covenant is there any mention of circumcision. The instruction is given while Israel was still camped near Sinai (Lev 12:3) but it was after the golden calf so after the Sinai covenant was confirmed. Of course it was assumed this practice would be followed even before Israel left Egypt (Ex 12:44-48). However it was not practiced the whole time Israel was in the wilderness after the Sinai covenant was confirmed(Josh 5:2-9). For whatever reason God chose not to include it in the terms of the Sinai covenant, nor was he concerned that those born in the wilderness were not circumcised (Josh 5:5). He chose a different sign or token at Sinai. So was Paul mistaken in making what appears to be a connection with the Sinai covenant?

Actually no. It is our own confusion that makes this connection. Paul made the connection with the area of Sinai not the covenant made at Sinai. Perhaps the symbol of a mountain was important to him. The Moab covenant was confirmed on a plain (Deut 1:1). Jerusalem, which Paul also ties closely with Sinai, is of course, on a mountain. More likely though, Paul was referring not specifically to the mountain, but to the general area of Sinai.

Mount Sinai is also mentioned in Acts 7:30 & 38. In both these cases the definite article is used. Each really refers to 'the Mount Sinai'. The definite article is not used in Paul's allegory. It is therefore more than likely a general reference to the area of Mt. Sinai, not the specific location or time of the giving of the Sinai covenant. Indeed Malachi 4:4 confirms that God actually gave the Law of Moses to Moses in the area of Horeb or Sinai. "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel."


Even though the Law of Moses was not confirmed until Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, the bulk of it was actually given to Moses in the area of Horeb. God did speak to Moses on the mountain (Lev 26:46, 27:34). He also spoke to Moses in the tent he set up just outside the camp below the mountain (Ex 33:7-9). After the tabernacle was constructed God dwelt in the tabernacle and spoke from there. (Num 1:1, 7:89, 9:15) The great bulk of the instruction that made up the Moab covenant came to Moses when Israel was still camped around Sinai although after the Sinai covenant was confirmed and after the episode of the golden calf.


Remember they didn't leave until Numbers 10:11 & 33 almost a year after the Sinai covenant was confirmed. Much of the rest of Numbers describes their various adventures rather than rules and regulations. Of course Deuteronomy, the words of the Moab covenant, is a summary of their adventures and all the instruction Moses had received. The bulk of this instruction was received in the immediate area of Sinai.


So we need to ask, what is Paul's purpose in the allegory of the two covenants? This connection with Hagar, and some suppose, the covenant at Sinai is part of an allegory. These things are by definition something symbolic or fictitious. The root Greek word with which Paul labels his instruction is allegoreo, (Gal. 4:24) the very word from which our English word 'allegory' comes. The symbols used, i.e. Hagar and Sinai, are by definition, symbolic or fictitious. It is the point of the allegory that should instruct us. Stand fast in the liberty Christ gives us. Circumcision of the flesh does not improve our spiritual standing with God. The symbols Paul used are of little significance. The instruction should come from the point Paul makes. Paul's purpose is to show circumcision as unnecessary for gentiles. It is not attempting to cast a shadow on the Covenant of the Lord, which doesn't dictate circumcision in the first place. Any shadow that falls, falls on the Law of Moses that actually does require circumcision.


A final Summarizing point

What Romans, Galatians and Hebrews are all saying is that we are not under the administration of especially the Moab covenant, the Law. It is still instruction from God. It is very useful, in some cases vital, for understanding the Sinai covenant and the covenant of the Lord. But it is not the final authority. If the scroll that was placed beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord deteriorates, what does that do to the covenant of the Lord in the ark? The Covenant of the Lord is not void because a covenant made 39 years after Sinai is superseded. It is still the Covenant of the Lord. Fortunately though, how it is administered has changed.

We need to keep in mind that the Tabernacle constructed near Sinai was patterned after the heavenly tabernacle (Heb 9:24). Typically two copies of covenant documents were made in a covenant. One kept by the subjects and the other by the lord or suzerain. Revelation 11:19 states, "Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple." The indication in scripture is that the Tabernacle Moses made and all the furnishings, were a copy of the temple in heaven. His covenant has more than likely been in this heavenly temple since time began and will remain there until at least the time of the end. Indeed, sin is recorded in Genesis before Abraham was party to his special relationship with God (Gen 4:7). The original ark in which the heavenly version resides is still in His temple to this day.

Our High priest presides at the eternal temple of God. He does not serve the shadow that the Levites served (Heb 8:1-5).

Even though the temple built in Jerusalem is destroyed with all its furniture, the covenant of the Lord still holds its place of honor at the throne of the Almighty.

A major purpose of the law was to keep Israel within the bounds of the Sinai covenant (Gal 3:23). Even though we as believers ought not to need a tutor, or older guardian (vs. 24), it behooves us to remember what the tutor taught. We would be wise to make the law our trusted advisor, as the paidagogos was to the mature heir. In any case we should not make void the Covenant of the Lord.

It is imperative that we reject sin, if we slip on rare occasions, our New Covenant is based on better promises, with an ever-living High Priest sitting in the presence of God who understands our difficulties and can renew us to the Father (Heb 4:15, I john 2:1).