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A yoke of bondage

In his Galatian letter, as in others, Paul argues against the church falling prey to those who would force them to adopt parts of the Law of Moses. He offers this at the start of chapter three: O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

He asked them rather pointedly if they had received the gifts of the Holy Spirit through following the Law of Moses. Paul then answered the question himself. He said they had not come to possess the Spirit of God through obedience to the Law. They had faith in Christ and had received those helpful things in response to their obedience in Christ.

His argument clearly enforces that the inclusion of any part of the Law or its ceremonies is to be rejected in obedience to the truth. The call of those who would enforce such things within assemblies then must not be heeded, now as then. It has no foundation in Christ.

The Apostle continued: But the Scripture has confined all under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

As has been clearly identified, Paul was particularly teaching against enforcing circumcision upon converts to Christianity. But his argument included the wider base of the Mosaic Law too. He then pointed out that there is no distinction in Christ for background or previous conditions: there is no Jew, no Greek, etc. etc.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

The Law of Moses is here likened to a yoke of bondage — as a terrible inconvenience. A yoke serves to keep the working beasts at task; it does not allow them to go their own way, but only so as they may be guided. It is therefore not described as a yoke because God was enforcing some punishment upon Israel, but because they themselves saw it as a yoke and refused to follow in it for any length of time. Jeshurun has waxed fat and kicked. It was adequately equipped for the inclusion of the needs of God’s chosen people, to guide them in service to God, with all necessary elements to maintain order until Christ appeared. But it was rejected by them and they in time were only offering up lip service. My people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

We have become much the same today in our service to God, as we tend to be concerned more with the externals and not the greater part of the Word. The first commandment in the Old Law is called the Great Commandment by Our Lord. Obedience to it has always been enjoined and required.

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Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”

(Matthew 22: 35 — 38)