Jesus came to establish His kingdom and inaugurate a new law by which we can approach the Father. But Paul makes an interesting statement to the Corinthians while defending his preaching this “new law” to the Gentiles. He says, “To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:21*)

His parenthetical qualification actually identifies three laws. First is the Old Law. This was the Mosaic Covenant or the “Ten Commandments” to which the Jews had been under since it was inaugurated in Exodus 24. It was to this law to which the Gentiles were “outside”. It was also the law to which Paul says he became “outside of” in order to teach them effectively.

Chart to show the three parts to the Old Mosaic Law - Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil - and how they relate to passages and concepts under the New Covenant

The second is the "law of Christ". Paul makes sure we that we understand that when he says he "became as one outside the law" he didn't mean he personally was still under the "Old Law". He was a Jew by birth, but he had been converted to be "under the law of Christ". Paul had been "been baptized into Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:3) under New Covenant, of which he was a was "made a minister according to the gift of God's grace." (Ephesians 3:7)

Finally, he also notes a third - "God's law". Paul acknowledges that in the midst of these two laws or Covenants that he was presently discussing, there was still the existence of "God's law". From his clear distinction between the three, we can infer several things:

  • "God's law" supersedes both the Old and the New laws. Before the Old Law, which preceded the "law of Christ", there was "God's law". And above or over the "law of Christ" that is now and forever is still "God's law".
  • From the beginning, mankind was subject to "God's law". It was always "by faith" that man would be made righteous before God, the Father. "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (Romans 4:13)
  • The nature of God is unchanged regardless of Covenant. While certain observances may have changed between pre-Old Covenant, Old Covenant, and finally New Covenant, God's moral law and pattern for reconciliation never changed.
  • Finally, it's the basis by which we understand that "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16*) regardless which "Testament" of our Bibles we're reading.

Jesus seems to draw on these same three "laws" when He states, "The Law and the Prophets were until John [Old Covenant/Law]; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached ["law of Christ"], and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law ["law of God"] to become void." (Luke 16:16-17*)

He first identifies the fact that the Old Law, which He lived under, was being supplanted by His own law (e.g. "the good news of the kingdom of God"). It would be inaugurated at His death. Jesus then makes a statement confirming the permanence of God's word as a whole. Just as the "heaven and earth" were called on to witness and testify to the first covenant, Jesus likewise uses their relative permanence to illustrate the preeminence of God's word.

Together, Paul and Jesus confirm the consistency of all of God's words -- to which we must all take heed to read, understand, and obey.

*reference scripture blocks

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

To Jews I [Paul] was like a Jew in order to influence them. To those under the [Mosiac] law I became like one under the law in order to influence them (though I of course wasn’t actually under the law).  To those Gentiles not under the law I became like them (though never being outside the law of God but always under the law of Christ) that I might win over those outside the law.

Paul is admonishing the Corinthians throughout 8:1-11:1  to temper their “rights” and freedoms in Christ for the sake of others’ conscience.  His main point through these chapters is that they should “endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12).

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient. And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.
Then he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it so that all the people heard. And they confirmed that all that it said they would do and obey. So Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold, the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
After Moses received the Old Covenant (‘Law of Moses’ or ‘Old Law’) from God on Mt Sinai (beginning chapter 20 with the Ten Commandments), it is ceremoniously entered into between God and the people.

It’s this every scene that referenced and quoted (vs 8) in Hebrews 9:18-22, 10:11-14, and connecting to having “hearts sprinkled clean” later in 10:22.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
What’s the conclusion then?  We should never continue in sin just so that God’s grace will be magnified. We can’t continue to live in sin after dying to it.  It was our baptism into Christ Jesus that united us in His death.  Our baptism was a death burial together with Him so that just as He was raised to glory by the Father, we too will be raised to have a new life.

Paul is making the broader point of the richness and fullness of God’s grace toward sinful man (chap 5) before turning to man’s response (and responsibility) for salvation. Through the beginning verses of chapter 6, Paul correlates Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection to the Christian’s “death, burial, and resurrection” to a new [spiritual] life.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
All Scripture is spoken by God and necessary for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and training in righteousness so that a man of God would be spiritually equipped and ready for any good work.

Paul is writing to the younger Timothy and giving general advice about his work in preaching the Gospel. Paul has repeated contrasted those that are teaching false doctrine and their motives for doing so against how Timothy should conduct himself.

About the Author: D Brackett

I have lived most of my life as a Christian but admittedly not a serious Bible student until mid-life. I don't hold any theological degrees nor is my profession related to the church or ministry. However, Scripture tells me that God has given us His Word for any layman like myself to understand.

Authors are free to express their conclusions about Bible topics and others are free to offer their thoughts through public comment. In keeping with the mission of this site, all commentary is expected to be based on and backed up by Scripture that is – to the best of the person’s ability – used as Scripture itself would interpret it.

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