The Law of Moses And The Gospel of Christ (VIII) The Duration of the Law

By Cecil Willis

Last week we studied the purpose of the Law of Moses as taught by Paul in Galatians 3. We saw that (1) it was added because of transgressions till the seed should come (3:19), (2) was to shut up all things under sin (3:22), (3) and was to bring us unto Christ (3:24). These purposes of the Law of Moses are suggestive of the nature of the Law. Each purpose for which Paul said the Law was given is a temporary purpose, and therefore one may make a valid conclusion that God did not give the Law to be a permanent fixture. Hence, this week we want to solicit your serious consideration of the subject, “The Duration of the Law.”

As previously we have stated, the book of Galatians has as one of its themes the discussion of the Law in relation to the Gospel of Christ. After having discussed the purpose of the Law, Paul also taught us how long the Law was to last, and this is what we mean by the duration of the Law. We want to learn how long the Law of Moses lasted.

There are some people who inform us that the Law of Moses is yet binding upon us, and that therefore we should keep the Sabbath Day (or, Saturday) instead of meeting for worship upon the First Day of the week as prescribed in the New Covenant. And there still are people who believe and teach that all one has to do to be saved is to keep the Ten Commandments. Paul told us that the Law of Moses was for a certain purpose, as we tried to learn last week. Then he said that the Law of Moses served its purpose, and therefore was done away. We are no longer under it. But let us turn now to the words of the great apostle Paul, and see what he taught about the duration of the Law.

Till the Seed Should Come

The first point we would like to make on the duration of the Law is stated in Gal. 3:19. Notice the context: “Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise. What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made: and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.” Notice especially the statement, “It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come.” The first part of the expression we studied last week, but the latter part of Paul’s statement enlightens us as to the duration of the Law. It was to last “till the seed should come.”

The word “till” implies a point of termination. Henry Thayer, one of the great New Testament Greek lexicographers, said that the original Greek word used means “even to, until, to the time that” (Thayer, pg. 91). To use these definitions in the verse, Paul was saying that the Law was added because of transgressions “even unto,” or “until,” or “to the time that” the seed should come. Thayer also commented that the Greek word which Paul used which is translated “till” is “a particle indicating the terminus ad quem,” or he was saying the word “till” implies the place at which a certain thing will terminate.

We frequently use the word “till” in exactly the same sense in which Paul is using it. In fact, it is difficult to conceive of it’s being used in any other sense. Some of us remember back during World War II when we all had rationing books. We had to present so many stamps for a pound of sugar, or a pound of meat. But the rationing period lasted only “till” the duration of the war. When the war was over, the rationing period expired. Or we may speak of our automobile license plates as being valid until or “till” March of next year. That means that they expire or will become invalid at that time.

So how long was the Law to last? Paul said it was to last “till” the seed should come. Well, how long was that? If we simply read the verse preceding the one we have just read, this will be clear: “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Paul said that the seed spoken of is Christ. The Law was to last “till” Christ should come. When the seed, or Christ, came the Law was to be done away. This coincides perfectly with’ what Paul had previously said about man’s being made dead to the Law through the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4). The duration of the Law, therefore, was until the death of Christ. At that time Moses’ Law was nailed to the cross. The nature of the Law was temporary.

Till We are Brought To The Instructor

In Gal. 3:24, 25, Paul made another statement that gives us light into how long the Law of Moses was intended to last. We also studied this passage last week, but at that time we read it in connection with the purpose of the Law. Verse 24, says, “So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” We saw that one purpose of the Law was to bring us to Christ. The Greek word translated “tutor” ‘ in this passage (ASV) is translated “schoolmaster” in the King James Version. However, one can best get the meaning of the term that Paul used by consulting a Greek lexicon. When one uses the term “tutor” today, he means a private instructor. But such was not the meaning of the term in New Testament times. Henry Thayer specifically says, when speaking of the word translated “tutor”, “They are distinguished from hoi didaskaloi” (472). Didaskaloi means teacher, said Thayer, but he said this is not the idea conveyed in this particular passage. A tutor is different from a teacher. The Greeks had a different term to be used when the idea of instructor was intended. Yet it is understandable how the word took on its present connotation when one understands the Greek usage of the term. A “tutor,” as used in this passage, according to Thayer is “a guide and guardian of boys. Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood” (pg. 472).

In many instances a private teacher would be selected for the son of the nobleman, and the “tutor” was the. one entrusted with seeing that the son safely arrived at the teacher, and was returned safely home. So the Law was our “tutor” or “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ. It was a purpose of the Law to see that mankind was safely delivered unto Christ, the instructor.

Now, in order that the truth stated by Paul may be all the more clear, look at the passage again: “So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Gal. 3:24,25). If there is any one passage in the New Testament that makes it unequivocally plain that the Law of Moses was temporary, this is it. In language which no man can misunderstand Paul stated the duration of the Law of Moses. This might be language which some do not believe, but it is not language which is not understood. He first said that the Law is our tutor to bring us to Christ (v. 24). Then, he declared that now that faith is come we are no longer under a tutor (v. 25). If the Law is a tutor, and Paul said we are no longer under the tutor, how can men yet declare and argue that we are bound by the Law of Moses? Paul’s argument is that we are released from the Law of Moses, and that we have perfect freedom in Christ. So here is a second statement of Paul as to the duration of the Law. First he said the Law was added because of transgressions till the seed should come (3:19), and then he said the Law is a tutor, but we are no longer under a tutor.

We will consult but one other passage in the Galatian epistle on the duration of the Law. In chapters 3, and 4, Paul demonstrated the relationship between the Law of Moses, and the Gospel of Christ. So now turn to Gal. 4:21-31: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not: Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit, so also it is now. Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.”

In this passage Paul said that those who yet want to be under the Law do not even pay attention to what the Law says, for in the Old Testament we read of Abraham’s two wives, and his two sons. These historical realities, Paul declared, contain a vital and important lesson. The two women represent two covenants. Hagar is representative of the covenant given from Mt. Sinai in Arabia, which can be no other than the Law of Moses. This covenant answereth to the Jerusalem that now is. Jerusalem was literally the center of worship under the Old Testament Law. As Hagar’s children are of the flesh and are in bondage. Sarah, Abraham’s real wife, is representative of the Jerusalem that is above, or the heavenly Jerusalem: “but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” Sarah’s children are not after the flesh, but are of promise, and are not in bondage, but are free. Then Paul said, but brethren we are children of promise.

Remembering that Paul said the children of Hagar, the handmaid, represented the Law of Moses, let us see the conclusion of Paul’s teaching: “Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman” (Gal. 3:31). Hagar represented the Law, so Paul said that brethren in the Lord, members of the church, are not under the Law. This would be plain enough for any who are willing to accept the Bible as the final standard of authority.


How long did the Law last? It lasted until Christnailed it to the cross. Paul said, “God having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manner, hath in these last days spoken unto us in his Son” (Heb. 1:1). We are not to go by the Law of Moses, but by the Law of christ. Christ died to take the Old Testament out of the way.

Truth Magazine, XX:11, p. 3-5
March 11, 1976