English blog

lawless?

26-07-2012 - Posted by Andre Piet

From a visitor to this site, I received an email with a list of questions about the law of Moses. One of them was (approximately): When we as believers in Christ are “not under the law”, does that not mean lawlessness? The clearest answer to this question I found in 1 Corinthians 9:20 and 21, where Paul writes:

20 … I became to the Jews as a Jew, that I should be gaining Jews; to those under law as under law (not being myself under law), that I should be gaining those under law; 21 to those WITHOUT LAW as WITHOUT LAW (not being WITHOUT God’s LAW, but legally Christ’s), that I should be gaining those WITHOUT LAW.

Four times the apostle speaks, in verse 21, about “without law” (Gr. anomia). Did Paul live “without law”? Indeed, Paul was, what concerned himself, not under the law and could, therefore, easily conform to his pagan (goi) environment. Remember that during the thousand years, from Adam to Moses, all lived without law (Rom.5:14). The law was only given on Mount Sinai, at the time of Exodus (Gal 3:17). But “without law” does not mean “normlessness”. Even though Paul did not live under the law, he was not “without God’s law”, “because” he writes, I am (lit.) “legally of Christ.” Almost no translation, that I consulted about this, is here to the point:

  • KJV: under the law to Christ
  • NKJV: but under law toward Christ
  • NIV: under Christ’s law
  • ESV: under the law of Christ etc.

In contrast, the Concordant Version rightly translates: “legally Christ’s”, that is: lawfully belonging to Christ. The Greek word ennomos (Str. 1772) is once more used in Acts 19:39, where it speaks about “the lawful assembly.” How wonderfully clarifying this makes Paul’s statement: I’m legally of Christ, i.e. I officially belong to Christ. It is an identity statement. Paul’s life was not defined by imposed norms or standards, but by his identity, by who he was. He was the property of the risen Christ and that gave his life direction and content (Gal.2:19,20). What an example for us, also in this, to be an imitator of Paul (1Cor.11:1)!

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