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John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Here the scripture says law was given through Moses.

And again from

Galatians 4:21-22 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.

it seems like the law existed before Moses at the time of Abraham.

So what is the law referring to in these two verses? Are they different? If different what are they? In scriptures is the old covenant and the law same?

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The law in both places is the same - the Torah. Do not be distracted by the reference to Abraham as nothing in this text suggests that Abraham was subject to the Torah. The illustration of Abraham and the two wives, is about the difference in righteousness by faith (ie in God) vs righteousness by works and obeying the law. Nothing more.

The Torah with all its regulations was supposed to teach people about righteousness by faith and the substitutionary death (to come) of Messiah (Heb 9:8, 9, 11-14, 10:1). That is, the Law had no salvific value (Heb 9:9, 10:4, Ps 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22). But the People made the ceremonies an end in themselves and tried to make the keeping of the law a way to win God's favour. Repeatedly, we see God trying to disabuse them of such ideas. Isa 1:10-17, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22, Hos 6:6, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Jer 6:20, Micah 6:6-8, etc.

Even Abraham struggled with the built-in human tendency to want to do something to earn righteousness as the sad experience with the handmaid shows.

  • So when Romans 7:4 says we died to "the law". Does it mean we died to the Torah? or does "the law" refer to some thing else here? – Siju George Jan 3 '19 at 13:49
  • In the NT "Law" most often refers to the Torah (Matt 12:5, 22:36, Luke 10:26, 16:17, John 7:51, 8:17, 18:31, 19:7, Acts 6:13, 7:53, 18:15, 21:20, 24, 28, 22:3, 12, 23:3, 29, 25:8, Rom 2:12, 13, 17-20, 23-27, 3:19-21, 28, 4:13-16, 5:20, 6:14, 15, 7:1-9, 8:3, 4, 10:4, 5, 13:8, 10, 1 Cor 9:8, 20, 14:34, 15:56, Gal 2:16, 19, 21, 3:2, 5, 10-13, 17-19, 21, 23, 4:4, 5, 21, 5:3,4, 6:13, Eph 2:15, Phil 3:5, 6, 9, 1 Tim 1:8, 9, Heb 7:5, 12, 16, 19, 28, 8:4, 9:22, 10:1, 8, James 2:9-11, 4:11) but occasionally also refers to other "Laws" as well. – user25930 Jan 3 '19 at 21:20
  • For example, "Law" can refer to a spiritual conscience or general ethical principle (Rom 2:14-16, 3:27b, 7:21); “Law” is also used of a general principle, similar to above but still discernibly distinct (Rom 4:15b, 5:13, Gal 5:23; “Law” is used to describe the law of natural human nature (Rom 7:21, 23); • “Law of Christ” (Gal 6:2, 1 Cor 9:21) is fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens. Compare John 13:14, 15, 34, 35, 15:4 and the plethora of instructions about the Imitation of Christ; etc. – user25930 Jan 3 '19 at 21:24
  • “Law of God” (Rom 8:7) is opposed to the mind of flesh (human nature) and such a person cannot obey the law; “My laws” (Heb 8:10, 10:16) refers to God’s spiritual law of the new spiritual person and so is equivalent to “Law of the Spirit”, “Law of God” and “Law of Christ”, etc. There are other uses too but I will not clog the system by listing them all unless someone asks a specific question. – user25930 Jan 3 '19 at 21:25
  • Fine answer! The "law" in the given places of John and Paul is the same, as you, User 25900, so convincingly show. – Levan Gigineishvili Dec 18 '19 at 22:38

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