Gnostic Doctrine

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Law Of Moses As the Devil

The Law Of Moses As An Adversary

The law was the tree. It has power to give the knowledge of good and evil. It neither removed him from evil, nor did it set him in the good, but it created death for those who ate of it. For when he said, "Eat this, do not eat that", it became the beginning of death. (The Gospel of Philip)

For this reason Jesus appeared. He put on that book. He was nailed to a cross. He affixed the edict of the father to the cross. (The Gospel of Truth)

He was nailed to a tree. He became a fruit of the knowledge of the father. He did not, however, destroy them because they ate of it. He rather caused those who ate of it to be joyful because of this discovery.
(The Gospel of Truth)

15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

16  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

When Peter was explaining how Christ had opened a way for Gentiles to obtain salvation without the Law, he reminded them how Jesus had healed “all that were oppressed of the Devil” (Acts 10:38). ‘Oppressed’ meaning literally ‘held down’, is he hinting that the people Jesus helped had been hopelessly in bondage to the Jewish system? “Him that had the power of death, that is the Devil” (Heb. 2:14) may refer to the fact that “the sting (power) of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the (Jewish) Law” (1 Cor.15: 56; see also Rom. 4:15; 5:13;7:8, where ‘the Law’ that gives power to sin is clearly the Jewish law). Bearing in mind that the ‘Devil’ often refers to sin and the flesh, it seems significant that ‘the flesh’ and ‘sin’ are often associated with the Mosaic Law. The whole passage in Heb. 2:14 can be read with reference to the Jewish Law being ‘taken out of the way’ by the death of Jesus [A.V. “destroy him that hath the power of death”]. The Devil kept men in bondage, just as the Law did (Gal. 4:9; 5:1; Acts 15:10; Rom. 7:6-11). The Law was an ‘accuser’ (Rom. 2:19,20; 7:7) just as the Devil is.

One of the major themes of Galatians is the need to leave the Law. “You have been called unto liberty... for all the Law is fulfilled... this I say then (therefore), Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit... so that you cannot do the things that you would”. It was because of the Law being impossible for sinful man to keep that is was impossible to obey it as one would like. “But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the Law”. This seems to clinch the association between the Law and the flesh (Gal. 5:13-18). The same contrast between the Spirit and the Law/flesh is seen in Rom. 8:2-3: “The Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law (of Moses / sin) could not do...”. The Law indirectly encouraged the “works of the flesh” listed in Gal. 5:19-21, shown in practice by the Jews becoming more morally degenerate than even the Canaanite nations, and calling forth Paul’s expose of how renegade Israel were in Romans 1.

Gal. 5:24-25 implies that in the same way as Jesus crucified the Law (Col. 2:14) by His death on the cross, so the early church should crucify the Law and the passions it generated by its specific denial of so many fleshly desires: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections (AVmg. “passions”) and lusts”. This seems to connect with Rom. 7:5: “When we were in the flesh the motions (same Greek word, ‘affections’ as in Gal. 5:24) of sins, which were by the Law, did work in our members”. “When we were in the flesh” seems to refer to ‘While we were under the Law’. For Paul implies he is no longer ‘in the flesh’, which he was if ‘the flesh’ only refers to human nature.

Hebrews 2:14 states that the Devil was destroyed by Christ’s death. The Greek for ‘destroy’ is translated ‘abolish’ in Ephesians 2:15: “Having abolished [Darby: 'annulled'] in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances”. This would equate the Devil with the enmity, or fleshly mind (Rom. 8:7) generated by the Mosaic Law; remember that Hebrews was written mainly to Jewish believers. The Law itself was perfect, in itself it was not the minister of sin, but the effect it had on man was to stimulate the ‘Devil’ within man because of our disobedience. “The strength of sin is the Law” (1 Cor.15:56). “Sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me (Rom. 7: 8,11). Hence “the wages of sin (stimulated by the Law) is death” (Rom. 6:23). It is quite possible that the “sin” in Romans 6, which we should not keep serving, may have some reference to the Mosaic Law. It is probable that the Judaizers were by far the biggest source of false teaching in the early church. The assumption that Paul is battling Gnosticism is an anachronism, because the Gnostic heresies developed some time later. It would be true to say that incipient Gnostic ideas were presented by the Judaizers in the form of saying that sin was not to be taken too seriously because the Law provided set formulae for getting round it. The Law produced an outward showing in the “flesh”, not least in the sign of circumcision (Rom. 2:28).

There is a frequent association of sin (the Devil) and the Mosaic Law throughout Romans (this is not to say that the law is itself sinful- it led to sin only due to human weakness). A clear example of this is found in Romans 6 talking about us dying to sin and living to righteousness, whilst Romans 7 speaks in the same language about the Law; thus “he that is dead is free from sin... you (are) dead indeed unto sin” (Rom. 6:7,11) cp. “You also are become dead to the Law” (Rom. 7:4). Other relevant examples are tabulated below:

Romans 6 (about sin)
Romans 7 (about the Law)
“Sin shall not have (anymore) dominion over you: for you are not under the Law” (:14)
“The Law has dominion over a man... as long as he lives” (:1 )
“Dead indeed unto sin” (:11)
“She is loosed from the Law” (:2).
“Being then made free from sin” (:18)
“She is free from that Law” (:3)
“As those that are alive from the dead... you have your fruit unto holiness” (:13,22), having left sin.
“You should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (:4), having left the Law.
“Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin (as a result of sin having dominion over you)" (:13,14).
“When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members... but now we are delivered from the law” (:5,6).
“Therefore... we also should walk in newness of life” (:4).
“We should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” of the Law (:6).

“For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin” (Rom. 8:3) - cp. Gal. 4:4-5, “Made of a woman, made under the Law (cp. “sinful flesh”) to redeem them that were under the Law”. The drive of Paul’s argument in its primary context was that having been baptized, they should leave the Law, as that was connected with the sin from which baptism saved them- it introduced them to salvation by pure grace in Jesus. The Hebrew writer had the connection in mind when he wrote of “carnal ordinances” (Heb. 9:10; 7:16). To be justified by the Law was to be “made perfect by the flesh”, so close is the connection between Law and flesh (Gal. 3:2,3). “We (who have left the Law)... have no confidence in the flesh (i.e. the Law). Though I might also have confidence in the flesh...” (Phil. 3:3-4), and then Paul goes on to list all the things which gave him high standing in the eyes of the Law and the Jewish system. These things he associates with “the flesh”.

Paul summarizes this argument in Colossians 2, where, in the context of baptism and warning believers not to return to the Law, he argues “If ye be dead with Christ (in baptism) from the rudiments of the (Jewish) world, why, as though living in the (Jewish) world, (i.e. under the Law) are ye subject to (Mosaic) ordinances...?” (:20). The Law was “against us... contrary to us” (Col. 2:14) - hence it being called an adversary/Satan. The natural Jews under the Mosaic Law, as opposed to the Abrahamic covenant regarding Christ, are called “the children of the flesh” (Rom. 9:8). Similarly those under the Law are paralleled with the son of the bondwoman “born after the flesh” (Gal. 4:23). Paul reasons: “Are you now made perfect by the flesh?... received you the Spirit by the works of the Law?” (Gal. 3: 2,3) - as if “by the flesh” is equivalent to “by the law”. Now we can understand why Heb. 7:16-18 speaks of “The Law of a carnal commandment... the weakness and unprofitableness thereof”. Not only is the word “carnal” used with distinctly fleshly overtones elsewhere, but the law being described as “weak” invites connection with phrases like “the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41). Rom. 8:3 therefore describes the Law as “weak through the flesh”.

"The god of this world"
If Scripture interprets Scripture, “the god of this world (aeon)” in 2 Corinthians 4: 4 must be similar to “the prince of this world (kosmos)” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Both the Jewish age [aeon] and kosmos ended in A.D. 70. In the context, Paul has been talking in 2 Cor. 3 about how the glory shining from Moses’ face blinded the Israelites so that they could not see the real spirit of the law which pointed forward to Christ. Similarly, he argues in chapter 4, the Jews in the first century could not see “the light of the glorious (cp. the glory on Moses’ face) gospel of Christ” because they were still blinded by “the god of this world” - the ruler of the Jewish age. The “prince” or “God” of the “world” (age) was the Jewish system, manifested this time in Moses and his law. Notice how the Jews are described as having made their boast of the law…made their boast of God (Rom. 2:17,23). To them, the Law of Moses had become the god of their world. Although the link is not made explicit, there seems no reason to doubt that “the prince of this world” and “Satan” are connected. It is evident from Acts (9:23-25,29-30; 13:50,51; 14:5,19; 17:5,13; 18:12; 20:3) that the Jews were the major 'Satan' or adversary to the early Christians, especially to Paul. Of course it has to be remembered that there is a difference between Moses’ personal character and the Law he administered; this contrast is constantly made in Hebrews. Similarly the Law was “Holy, just and good”, but resulted in sin due to man’s weakness - it was “weak through the flesh”, explaining why the idea of Satan/sin is connected with the Law. Because of this it was in practice a “ministry of condemnation”, and therefore a significant ‘adversary’ (Satan) to man; for in reality, “the motions of sins... were by the Law” (Rom. 7:5)

The tree of knowledge thus comes to represent the Law - because “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The fig leaves which Adam and Eve covered themselves with also represented the Law, seeing they were replaced by the slain lamb. Their initially glossy appearance typifies well the apparent covering of sin by the Law, which faded in time. The fig tree is a symbol of Israel. It seems reasonable to speculate that having eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, they made their aprons out of its leaves, thus making the tree of knowledge a fig tree. Both the tree and the leaves thus represent the Law and Jewish system; it is therefore fitting if the leaves were from the same tree. It is also noteworthy that when Christ described the Pharisees as appearing "beautiful" outwardly, he used a word which in the Septuagint was used concerning the tree of knowledge, as if they were somehow connected with it (Mt. 23:27).

The law was the tree. It has power to give the knowledge of good and evil [for without it we would not know sin nor could we become "as gods" setting ourselves up as gods in the temple of god (our bodies)]. It neither removed him from evil, nor did it set him in the good, but it created death for those who ate of it [there is no salvation available from the works of the law according to the “letter” but the “spirit” of the law was life for those who discerned it as an allegory pointing to the Savior and the power of sonship]. For when he said, "Eat this, do not eat that", it became the beginning of death [This Command was the groundwork for the great task of creating sons.  Shortly after the precept Adam was given his first taste of free will and his conscience failed him and as a result construction could now begin on the greatest temple (not made with hands) ever created!]. (Philip 75)

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