For the law made nothing perfect

He 7:19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did ; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

That better hope is Christ in you, the hope of glory, Col 1:27. The law could not make anyone perfect or mature spiritually, because the flesh is too weak to consistently observe the law, Ro 8:3. Paul wrote a epistle to the Galatians church because outside Jewish elements had approached the members of the church and preached that church had to adopt the law of Moses. If asked to sum up the Galatians epistle with one verse within it, it would be this verse.

Ga 3:3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

A verse in Philippians further hammers this point home.

Php 3:3 For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

Paul in another of his epistles refers to the law as the ministration of death and condemnation.

2Co 3:6 ¶ Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?
9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

I have asked myself what was Paul specifically referring to, when he used the term “law” in his epistles. Certainly not the Ten Commandments. But the 7th chapter of the book of Romans clears up that misconception.

Ro 7:6 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.

Thou shalt not covet is the tenth commandment. The newness of the Spirit encompasses love of our fellow man. The newness of the Spirit would entail we forgive one another as we have been forgiven. It is a matter of what motivates our actions. A external law can’t change the inner nature of a man or a man’s heart but God can purify a man’s heart by faith, Acts 15:9. In the book of Colossians Paul put it like this.

Col 2:20 If you have died with Christ and have escaped from the world’s rudimentary notions, why, as though your life still belonged to the world, do you submit to such precepts as
21 “Do not handle this”; ‘Do not taste that”; ‘Do not touch that other thing”  — 
22 referring to things which are all intended to be used up and perish — in obedience to mere human injunctions and teachings?
23 These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures. Weymouth

Rules governing behavior, which try to enforce certain holiness standards, are often in the taste not, touch not, handle not variety. Often the person seeks to achieve holiness by sheer will power alone. But in actual practice these laws, and observing these laws, do nothing in combating or putting to death our lower natures, the flesh. But those with the Spirit of God, with the help of the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the flesh, Ro 8:13. Only God, by His Spirit, can write His laws on our minds and put them in our hearts, He 10:16. Often it is called the law of love, James 2:8. The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ makes us free from the law of sin and death. So the law is good, just and holy, Ro 7:12. It was added because of transgression, until the promised seed did come, Ga 3:19, which was Jesus. Israel of the promise was basically put into a holding pattern under the law, until the promised seed came, Ga 3:16-19. Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians makes these interesting statements.

Galatians 4:21-26,30 KJVS
[21] Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? [22] For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. [23] But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. [24] Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. [25] For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. [26] But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. [30] Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

The covenant of the law from mount Sinai, is associated with the bondwoman Agar who is in bondage with her children and will not be heirs of the kingdom of God. Earlier in Galatians Paul makes this point.

Galatians 3:14 KJVS
[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.

One should always keep in mind the fact, that if you have not the Spirit of Christ, you are none of his, Ro 8:9. I used to be fairly proficient at woodworking. I have made my beds, end tables and a myriad of other furniture over the years. My neck is too unstable to do much of anything anymore. I used mortise and tennon joints, dove tail joints, and frame and panel construction to build much of my furniture. Scriptures fit together, in my mind, like the various pieces of wood that form a bed, a hutch or a table. So when I read the blessings of Abraham in Gal 3:14, a couple verses out of the book of Acts came to mind.

Acts 3:25-26 KJVS
[25] Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. [26] Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

I will briefly cover how the promised Spirit turns us away from our iniquities a bit later on. But first I would like to turn our attention to another matter. There are various books and studies centered around the law and the Old Testament tabernacle and sacrifices. Wherein the authors assign some spiritual significance and meanings to the tabernacle, altars, sacrifices and other various items contained therein, in regards to salvation. In my opinion, mistakenly so. The book of Hebrews contrast the Old and New Covenant. The High Priest in the Old Testament tabernacle in contrast with Jesus as High Priest of the New Covenant. It is a complex book full of persuasive language depicting Jesus to the Hebrews, as what he was, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Types and shadows with figurative language, in which to use a phrase from the Apostle Peter, the unlearned and unstable wrest with unto their own destruction, 2Pe 3:16. There are more than a few verses in Hebrews that point out how the Old Testament law, with its sacrifices, lacked any value towards perfecting those involved in that religious system.

He 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
8 ¶ The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

One verse often used to lend credence to these books and studies covering the Old Testament tabernacle and the purposed spiritual significance of the structure, altars and various articles within, is He 8:5.

He 8:5 Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Moses was admonished by God to follow the pattern or model of the tabernacle he was shown on the mount. Some bible commentators suggest there is a additional meaning to the verse. That the tabernacle was a model of the layout in heaven. What is easy enough to fail to understand regarding that interpretation, at least from my understanding of scripture, is that if the Old Testament tabernacle reflected any aspect of heaven, it would reflect the status of mankind’s relationship with God, at that time. Mankind had no access to the third heaven at that time He 9:8&9, which did not change until Jesus Christ sacrificed himself and brought salvation and the reconciliation of mankind back to God.

Hebrews 9:23-24 KJVS
[23] It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. [24] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

See also He 10:19-23. Hebrews is a extremely complex book to understand and one should take care when using it to formulate doctrine. Many of the books and teachings regarding the Old Testament tabernacle, extrapolate meanings and insights, using types and shadows. The Old Testament tabernacle and High Priest are used as a type and shadows of the New Testament tabernacle and High Priest, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:1 states that the law was a shadow of the good things to come but not the very image of the things. As such you cannot draw direct parallelisms from the Old Testament law as a shadow of the good things to come. It took me many years and untold readings of the book of Hebrews to be able to understand a majority of the verses in that epistle. One set of verses whose full meaning eluded me for quite some time are these.

Hebrews 13:9-13 KJVS
[9] Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. [10] We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. [11] For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. [12] Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. [13] Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats! Justification by grace is concerned with the purification of the heart by faith, Acts 15:9. Those Levite priest who served in the Old Testament tabernacle, performing sacrifices for themselves and others, did not profit from the activities they preformed in the tabernacle. The service they preformed did nothing towards eliminating their sinful natures or the sinful nature of those they sacrifice animal for. Only the grace of God, due to the salvation of Jesus Christ, teaching, chastising us, along with the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost changes our hearts and makes us righteous and worthy for our inheritance, Titus 2:11-12, Titus 3:4-7, 1Co 11:32, Col 1:12. It is remarkable the additional insight which can often be gained from studying scripture verses that are well traveled and often cited. The above verse He 13:9 states it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. As said, our hearts are being purified by or through faith, Acts 15:9, a lifetime of faith during which God works in our life justifying and sanctify us. Paul, regarding his countrymen, and by extension those who seek to establish their own righteousness by works, sums it up nicely in Romans.

Ro 10:3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

We are advised to go outside the camp and bear his, Jesus, reproach because we have no continueing city, He 13:13. The meaning of this is not readily apparent. But the reproach Jesus faced can be summed up nicely with this verse.

2 Corinthians 5:21 KJVS
[21] For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Religious institutions can often times present themselves to their members, as a essential part of the salvation process. And the body of Christ, the church is, but if these institutions do not teach sound doctrine and promote the believer to establish their own righteousness, by observing the law and other manmade law, then they are little different than the tabernacle and temple of the Old Testament. The altar we, as Christians eat off of, is the sin sacrifice altar outside the camp, where the bodies of the animals used as sin sacrifices were burned. Where sanctification takes place, He 10:10, 10:14, 2:11. For more detail on this altar please read a previous article concerning this subject, if you have not already done so. http://www.justifiedfreely.com/?p=178
But in short, our salvation is the work of God in our lives and is not a work of our fleshly efforts, Php 2:12-13. So it would seem obvious to me, that if a Christian wanted to go on into perfection, He 6:1, they would not look for spiritual significance in a religious system that was never designed to instill perfection. And that is still true today.

Ga 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. [21] I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

5 thoughts on “For the law made nothing perfect

  1. Greg K

    Nice one Luke, lots of ‘sharpening’ there. A few notes, most of which you’ll probably be aware of already. Hebrews was probably the first book written by Paul, with the last chapter added shortly prior to his death. His love of his fellow Hebrews is why the book is so complex, he was pleading the case for Christ to his own people. Reading the OT and finding the relevant sections that are expounded by Christ, Peter, Paul, and other authors of the NT is a joy, and brings insight about the practices and beliefs of the patriarchs. It’s also worth noting that in the Hebrew mindset, prophecy is pattern, therefore the ‘shadowing’ is essential for their understanding. A time is coming (soon probably) when it will be necessary for the book of Hebrews to be the focus of the nation of Israel, with 144002 witnesses to help them understand it 😀

  2. Luke Wagner Post author

    Greg,good to hear from you. You make some well thought out points. As you know He 10:1 makes it a bit difficult to draw exact types and shadows from the law,He 10:1, specifically the day of atonement sacrifice for sin. So it is necessary to read closely the verses that allude to the sacrifice and offerings talked about in the tenth chapter of Hebrews. I wish I had a dollar for ever time I read that chapter. Paul makes this statement in Romans that is intriguing.
    Romans 15:16 KJVS
    [16] That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
    Now some might just say Paul was using the imagagry of offerings made in the tabernacle to illustrate a point. But if you view it in light of a couple verses from Hebrews, it has a deeper meaning.
    Hebrews 2:11 KJVS
    [11] For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
    Hebrews 10:10 KJVS
    [10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all .
    And finally.
    Hebrews 10:5 KJVS
    [5] Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
    The body prepared for him, was prepared for him at the foundation of the world.
    Ephesians 1:4 KJVS
    [4] According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
    Jesus Christ is our seed, Gal 3:16, and we’re are ultimately sanctified by being offered up with Christ on the sin sacrifice altar outside the camp mentioned in He 13:10-13, and have the sin nature in us destroyed, Ro 6:6. I wonder how many members of the body of Christ are aware of this reality in Christ? Much work still remains for teaching what is contained in the book of Hebrews to the body of Christ before the age to come Greg.

  3. Greg K

    We had our men’s group meeting last night (currently in the early chapters of John), and we were talking about where our MInister was going with his preaching this year. I’m not sure how, but the subject of Hebrews came up, and he an I both expressed our hesitancy to speak on it (I lead one of our Bible study groups). Having said that, I’m thinking I need to study it again, it has been quite a long time since I’ve read it fully (in part I get to most books every month). It was a small group, but we spend a bit of time in prayer for each other, and we prayed for your health, and asked for a special blessing for you from our LORD. Bless you Luke…

  4. Luke Wagner Post author

    Thank’s for mentioning and praying for me with your group. Hebrews is a tough book to get a handle on. I went to a fellowship many years ago that was established by a man that wrote a book about the tabernacle. It was about the spiritual aspects of the various items in and of the tabernacle in regards to salvation. I brought up He 13:9-13 and it was not received well. Zionism has had a negative influence on Christianity. You have He 7:19, 8:6-7, 10:1&2 which all put the tabernacle in the proper perspective.
    Romans 3:20 KJVS
    [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.
    I don’t know how your group views the tabernacle but if they are like most of Chistindom, walk carefully or you may find yourself without the camp. What is the nature of the church you belong to, if I might ask? Does it have a parent organization.

  5. Bobbi

    Very good article Luke. I always loved Hebrews. Being raised in a legalistic religious home all the epistles were read as to and for all of us. Thank you Lord I got to learn about Paul, and the Lord’s earthly ministry… right dividing the scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, getting saved three years or so ago! You compared it well with the proper times noted. Thank you for sharing! Indeed I think Hebrews will be the transition book for Israel soon.

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