Ask Norm!

By Norman S. Edwards

From SVM – Fall 2015 – 2

June 26, 2015

Hello Norm,

In Everett’s article on the so called ‘added law’ he seems to have concluded that the Law of Moses is that written in the book of Deuteronomy. I certainly agree that all this needs a rethink, but I feel he has missed the point and made the whole subject far too complex. Israel agreed at Sinai to keep all that Moses would say to them. That agreement covered the period Moses was alive—forty years. The reason Moses reiterated and added to what was covenanted at Sinai was because the children of this second generation who were about to enter the land hadn’t ratified that first covenant. Their parents had, but they were too young at the time to do so. Therefore, God required another covenant from them before they entered the land, and it had additional info because they were now about to live there.

However, the intent of the first covenant was always to do everything Moses said, so it was open ended. God could add whatever He liked.

Paul says in Galatians 3:17-18 in answer to the question, Why the Law [which he would term the ‘added law’] that it came 430 years after a Covenant God ratified with Abraham. If Everett is going to say that the ‘added law’ was the Law of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy, then that was 480 years after the Covenant with Abraham. This idea that the law can be divided into parts like he is trying to do is stymied by what Paul is saying. Anything given after this 430th year, which seems to be the whole point of his paper, is re- butted by Paul who says ‘the law’ came in this one single year.

“Now this am I saying: a covenant, having been ratified before by God, the law, having come four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not invalidate, so as to nullify the promise. For if the enjoyment of the allotment is of law, it is not longer out of promise. Yet God has graciously granted it to Abraham through the promise” (Galatians 3:17-18, Concordant Literal Version).

So, this cannot be what he means by the added law. The Law he is talking about came in one year. The same year Israel left Egypt and arrived at Sinai. The same year they ratified the Covenant.

So, unless he can satisfactorily explain how the Law of Moses [what you are calling the ‘added Law’] came in just one year and that being the year Israel arrived at Sinai, then all he has said doesn’t make sense.

Look closely at what Paul said. He said ‘the law’—the one which most of the COG’s, including yourselves, try to divide into parts in order to explain how some of it can be done away—came in the 430th year after God’s covenant with Abraham. That’s where you need to start to refigure all this because what you and he are saying is not right. Paul is calling ‘the law’ here the Covenant agreement. He’s not talking about individual laws within this agreement, but that this agreement is faulty and temporary and will be replaced by a New Covenant which relies on Christ to make us righteous, not our own efforts or works of law.

I have a series of papers on all this if you care to read them.


Graeme McChesney

Dear Mr. McChesney,

I believe the reason I and many others have not understood the covenants in the Old Testament is because they are complex and efforts to oversimplify them prevent adequate explanations. It is not that every believer must understand this, but those who have studied the Word and are gifted with knowledge should teach it as it is. The added “law of Moses” did not start in the book of Deuteronomy, but in Exodus 32 at the incident of the golden calf. This was about 40 days after the giving of the Ten Commandments and other laws that formed the initial covenant between God an Israel. In Exodus 32:10-14, God intended to destroy Israel and make a new nation of Moses, but He changed after hearing Moses’ impassioned speech. Nevertheless, there were many consequences for Israel because of their sin (verses 25-35). Both God’s law and the law of Moses began that same year.

When compared to the first four books of Moses, the book of Deuteronomy repeats some laws, changes a few laws (like Exodus 20:8-7; to Deuteronomy 5:12-15) and adds some laws. This is true both for the laws of God and for the “Law of Moses”. It is possible these additions and changes were given during the first year and then written for preservation in the Book of Deuteronomy many years later. It is also possible that the additions were not made until later. In any case, the language of Galatians 3:17, does not exclude later additions. The “perfect tense” of the Greek verb ginomai is used in, “the law, having come four hundred and thirty years afterward”. The perfect tense refers to a past action that may have a future completion. Their language does not require the entire law to be given in one year as you suggest. Certainly both laws began 430 years after the covenant with Abraham.

The covenant with Abraham, God’s law given at Sinai and the “Law of Moses” are three different things. Abraham’s covenant was described in Genesis 12:1-4 and Genesis 17 which required Abram to:

  1. leave his family;
  2. move to the place that God would show him
  3. walk before God blameless,
  4. change his name to Abraham,
  5. circumcise every male child born in their houses throughout his generations on their eighth day,
  6. change Sarai’s name to Sarah,
  7. call Sarah’s son Isaac.

In return, God promised to:

  1. make him a great nation;
  2. bless him;
  3. make his name great;
  4. multiply his seed exceedingly;
  5. make him a father of many nations;
  6. cause kings to come from him;
  7. continue His covenant with his descendants;
  8. be their God;
  9. give them the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession;
  10. make Sarah the mother of nations kings and peoples and
  11. give Sarah a son about the same time next year.

While some might say the “Old Covenant” began with Abraham, we see little here about commandments, laws or judgments. We simply see following God, in faith, as Paul says three verses before your quote, above:

“that the blessing of Abraham may be coming to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we may be obtaining the promise of the spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).”

 Salvation does not come through keeping the Law of God or the Law of Moses, but by yielding our lives to Christ in faith (Romans 3:20, 28). Are laws still useful? Yes! They show us the righteousness of God and what sin is (Romans 7:12; 1 John 3:4)

We do not know how much of the Ten Commandments or other biblical laws were revealed to Abraham. The following verse shows that he obeyed some of them, but the first thing mentioned is Abraham’s obedience to “My voice” and “My charge”— whatever God was telling him at the time.

“because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5).

 I needed several months of study on this issue to understand the concepts and accept them. In the end, you and I both agree that salvation does not come by the works of any law, but by faith in Christ.

To take a practical example, what should be done with a child in a family or an adult in a community caught with property they have stolen? Asking them to restore double, according to God’s law in Exodus 22:4 is a very practical thing that both teaches them not to steal and reimburses the victim—much better than jail-time, which the Bible does not teach. Should they also offer a “sin offering” as in Leviticus 4? That is a part of the Law of Moses, for which God has ended the priesthood. People would be better off to keep only the spiritual intent of that law, and accept the sacrifice of Christ for their sins, and “bring the sacrifice of praise to God.” (Hebrews 13:15).

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