I. Works of the law are clean laws versus commands.
A. Within Reformed thinking, theologians have historically held to a tripartite distinction/division of the OT law. In other words they have broken it into three categories:
1. Ceremonial: laws pertaining to temple ceremony, sacrifice and duties of the priests.
2. Civil: laws pertaining to commerce, trade, civil and societal duty and ownership.
3. Moral: the ten commandments and those laws which reflect their expansion or explanation.
B. The problem is, no such three-fold (or tripartite) distinction ever seems to be made in the biblical
text. Rather the distinction is two-fold or bipartite. And that distinction is between (what I call):
1. Clean laws: those laws pertaining to what a person must do in order to be spiritually/ceremonially clean before God. Which means these were the laws by which a person GAINED a right/just standing/state with God –since that is what is afforded to those who are spiritually/ceremonially
clean before God. They are viewed as having a right/just standing with God and able (therefore) to be brought into relationship with (and service to) Him. The clean laws consist of: circumcision (Gen 17:9-14; Exo 12:48; Lev 12:3; Rom 4:11), kosher foods (Lev 11; Deu 14), sacrifice (Lev 14:19-20), Sabbaths (Lev 16:30-31) and separation (Lev 21:11; Num 5:1-4; Deu 23:9-14).
2. Commands: all other laws by which a “clean” person lives in order to maintain their right/just
standing before God. An example from the OT where we see both: (Zec 3:1-7)
C. God makes this bipartite distinction for the priests (Lev 10:10-11).
D. Paul understood God’s law according to the bipartite distinction (Rom 2:25-26; 1Co 7:19).
E. Paul saw the clean laws as fulfilled in Christ and the commands as still in force (1Co 6:11 w/7:19; Col 2:6-15, 16-23).
F. Jesus also saw the clean laws as something He would fulfill and the commands as still in force. (Mat 5:17-20)—two things Jesus says He came to do: to uphold (17-18—clean laws), and to see that they are upheld in His followers (19-20 commands—which is where He goes in the verses immediately following these).
G. Christ becoming our fulfillment of the clean laws was prophesied in the OT (Zec 13:1).H. Since the “works of the law” are juxtaposed against faith in Christ in the book of Galatians, they refer to the clean laws only (Gal 2:15-16, 6:15).
I. Wherever law is juxtaposed against faith in Scripture, it refers to the clean laws only (ex. Rom 3:28).
J. The Bible’s mention of “law” or “works of the law” is therefore never a reference to works/merit-based salvation. This was also not the theology of the Pharisees (consider Luk 5:21).
II. The marriage covenant is the theological context for all of Scripture.
A. The marriage covenant is the “lens” through which everything we read in the NT should be interpreted since this is the kind of covenant we enter into with God in order to have relationship with Him (Mat 26:28 w/Eph 5:31-32; Rev 19:7; Jer 31:31-32).
B. The marriage covenant is also the “lens” through which we should be reading the OT (Jer 31:31-32).
C. The marriage covenant is the “excluded middle” of the false “law-gospel” dichotomy often used to understand God’s plan of salvation and another reason the Scripture never teaches a works/merit-based salvation.
D. Paul uses the theological context of covenant to help explain what he is attempting to teach the
Galatians (Gal 4:21-31).
III. Regeneration is the result of faith and the gift of justification which breaks the power of sin.
A. Regarding it being the result of faith: (Eph 2:5-8).
B. Regarding it being the gift of justification which breaks the power of sin: (Rom 6:1-11)
C. Peter calls it “the gift of the Spirit” b/c of its association w/ the Holy Spirit and the NC promises of the OT (Act 2:38; Eze 36:26-27; Joe 2:28-29 – the context of Peter’s words in Act 2:17-18).
D. Regeneration (understood this way) is what Paul is referring to in the book of Galatians when he speaks about “the Spirit” (Gal 3:1-3) (Gal 5:16-18).
(18) IOW: The Spirit is only given to those whose justification is through faith in Christ, NOT those seeking it through the clean laws of the OC (Remember: it is the gift of justification in Christ and the fulfillment of the NC promises!).
IV. Justification can be lost.
A. Never does the Bible teach justification to be permanent once received. Rather, the Bible communicates it as something which can be forfeited due to unrepentant sin (Psa 85:4; Jer 31:31; Mat 6:14-15, 8:11-12, 13:20-22,18:17-18, 21-35, 24:43-51, 25:14-30; Luk 14:34-35; Joh 15:6; Rom 2:25; 1Co 6:11 w/2Co 5:20; Heb 6:6, 10:26; Jam 2:14-26; 2Pe 1:9, 2:1; 2Jo 1:8; Jud 1:5; Rev 2-3).
B. The reason Paul speaks in such serious tones throughout the book of Galatians is b/c loss of justification was both a reality and the dangerous ground the Galatian churches were treading upon (Gal 5:1-5).
Listen to 4 Critical Keys to Understand Your Bible, Part 1 and Part 2