There are several things to realize about the Old Testament harvests and feasts.
The three harvests (Exodus 23:14-17) parallel the Crucifixion/Resurrection, Pentecost/The Church, and Christ’s Return (1 Corinthians 15:23-24).
The seven feasts of these harvests (Leviticus 23) correspond to the Church’s liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary, Lent, Triduum, Easter, Ordinary.
The harvest seasons can be classified as such: the first (Spring/Summer) gave grain, the second (Summer) gave grapes, and the third (Summer/Fall) gave olives, figs, and more.
The first, of grains, was smaller in weight — because the other harvests were water-dense — but the biggest source of food, as it made up over 50% of the Jewish diet. Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, even though He was merely one Man, are key in the same way.
Notable is that the second big harvest had grapes, and this was just after the wheat was brought in. Perhaps this is a Eucharist reference, relatable to the Church. At every event, bread and wine were crucial. These are also necessary to every Mass, at which they are confected into our new manna, which, like the old, sustains us until we reach the Promised Land. Christ’s Blood redeems and strengthens us. We already have the todah, the ultimate Sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise (CCC #1359-1361), which our rabbinical brethren await!
The third, which has the feast of tabernacles/booths, is important to the Second Coming. This can also be referred to as “the Ingathering”. The great festival involved imagery of water and light, which points toward baptism and Christ as the Light of the world (John 1:4-11). At His Return, Christ will reveal Himself to all as their rightful King (Zechariah 14:16), just as He revealed Himself to the Jews as the ultimate Teacher around this important feast (John 7:1-16). He will then perform His own, final Harvest and gather His flock to Himself (Matthew 13:24-30). At this, we will perpetually celebrate all of His wondrous deeds, just as the Israelites celebrated all of the year’s harvests (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
Typology of the olives and figs is important, too. Olive oil was used to burn the lamps continually (Leviticus 24:2), and so the rule of God, at Christ’s Return at the olive harvest, will last forever. Jesus calls us to join Him under the security and sweetness of the fig tree and learn from Him (Micah 4:1-5, Zechariah 3:8-10) and be grafted into the eternal olive tree (Psalm 52:8, Romans 11:13-32).
[Note: This post deals with the how and the why more so than the that. In the philosophical section, I sought to address the why and move into the how. With the beginning of St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, I intended to touch on how the Holy Spirit might have served in place of the male sperm as an “agent” that brought instructions and form to the genetic material already within the Blessed Mother’s body. I only sought to “prove” (or, rather, sketch out proofs) that this could have happened.]
With the Virgin Birth, you actually have more evidence that it is true rather than untrue.
We have great historical testimony to it, and there is no proof that it did not happen — obviously. But there is more.
How can it be proven by science? Well, I suppose this depends on your definition of “science”. If you refer to that of the exact (quantitative), of course, it could be difficult. But theology, “the highest form of philosophy”, does have an answer. And, just as you trust astronomers to tell you about many things beyond earth, you should trust the Church to tell you about God.
Before I can get into that, you must consider something: how did you come into being, and why do you exist? You cannot know much else aside from that you were ordained for some purpose. If you were not around, things would be different, the environment would be changed — perhaps, this would not just cause some sort of “gap”, but it would be destructive, even. You are necessary, to us and to the “Something” (God) from which you spring.
Let us say that the Virgin Birth, too, was necessary for things to properly function. It was ordained from the beginning, as God knew that He would come to reach out to the lost tribes of the house of Israel (Gentiles). The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection were necessary for God’s “re”-marriage, this time to the Church, His Bride. (This connects to the Church’s teachings on the indissolubility of marriage.) The destroyed Temple and Jewish sacrificial method had to be replaced with a new, universal and eternal system. “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22). If something is truly necessary to proper existence, it comes into being.
Why has this Birth not been replicated, though? It was only needed once, just like you are only needed once. Likewise, there has to be a mystery to it, as there is mystery to you. Uniqueness and mystery pervade.
But St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, also, “According to the Philosopher [Aristotle] (De Gener. Animal. i, ii, iv), in conception the seed of the male is not by way of matter, but by way of agent: and the female alone supplies the matter. Wherefore though the seed of the male was lacking in Christ’s conception, it does not follow that due matter was lacking.” (Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 28, A. 1, R. to Ob. 5)
That point is key. Mitochondrial DNA, for example, come exclusively from the mother, and there is also talk of “female sperm“. “Female sperm” could, theoretically, develop within a woman, given the right impetus. (Of course, the impetus for normal procreation is male sperm.) The point is, the material necessary for life sufficiently exists within women — that is evidenced by the fact that the X-chromosome contains far more genetic material than the Y-chromosome. All the material needs is the masculine influence to trigger it, to give it form and shape. Even without the Y-chromosome from a man, one could still be a “XX male“, at least. And it is clear that the distinctions and origins of the Y-chromosome are a mystery, anyway [1, 2]. In Mary’s exceptional case, this trigger was the Holy Spirit, which poured out abundantly on her and directed her body on what to do (Luke 1:30-35). “…[T]he Divine power, which is infinite, can transmute all matter to any form whatsoever” (Aquinas). This mutation can be rationally explained — “random mutations” occur frequently.
Is it not ironic that we have confirmed this by reckless science, which has sought to artificially create “test-tube babies” [1, 2] and introduce “transgenderism”? God has drawn straight with our crooked lines, yet again.
Christ’s body was not tangled to any imperfect man. This connects to scientific proof of Mary’s perfection, too. It has been shown that groups of cells from infants transfer to mothers’ brains [1, 2], after traveling through the placenta. Because of this, the Blessed Mother must have been perfect, for she literally had, in purity, the mind of Christ.
Why else must the Theotokos be a virgin? St. Augustine of Hippo wrote, “For it behooved that our Head, on account of a notable miracle, should be born after the flesh of a virgin, that He might thereby signify that His members would be born after the Spirit, of the Church a virgin…” (Of Holy Virginity)
Let me try to explain, simply, what the Church teaches on the Trinity vis-à-vis monotheism.
The Trinity’s source is the Father. The Son is “begotten” from Him — not created by Him, “for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence” (St. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, Book I) — and the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son”, “proceeds from” the Two, and is “co-equal” to Them.
All must “honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23) and recognize the Holy Spirit as “the voice of the Lord” (Isaiah 6:8-10, Acts 28:25-27). All are key to the “I Am”, the Logos, the principle on which everything — including reason itself — depends.
Philosophically speaking, because the Persons are so intricately connected (in mind, substance, action, etc.), They are One. This unity is to be mimicked in both the Church and sacramental marriage.
However, They clearly act distinctly (but not separately). This makes most sense, I think, in the context of the Eucharist: Father as being sacrificed to, Son as Sacrifice, Holy Spirit as the Person Who inspires sacrifice. They each have a place in the communitarian model.
They all must be God, though, because only God has these authorities. They must all be of equal power, also. How else could the Son be our Lord (John 20:28) and perfectly alike to the Father (John 5:19)? How else could the Holy Spirit bring forth the Son to earth (Matthew 1:18), how else could lying to the Holy Spirit equate to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4), and how else could our bodies belong to this same Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?
That, in a nutshell, is how Catholics look at the Trinity — One, but Three; Three, but One. Thus, we chant, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
(cf. Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed)
Why did God allow for the striking-down of people in the Old Testament? How is this reconciled with the dogma of a loving God?
Protestants and modern-day “Jews” don’t have an answer for this — one beyond dualism or “mystery”, I mean. But the Church does.
There is mortal sin, and there is venial sin (1 John 5:17). Mortal sin — willful and of grave nature — separates one from God, practically killing the soul. Venial sin — all other — must simply be cleansed, and it does not eternally separate us from Him. And this distinction is shown in the Old Testament.
Among mortal sins punished: irreverence (2 Samuel 6:1-7), despair/disbelief (Numbers 11:1-3), and false claims of authority (Numbers 16). These crimes have always been condemned.
Why did punishment change from body-centric to soul-centric? First, it didn’t, because unrighteous people were also kept from entering the Limbo of the Patriarchs, which, after Christ’s Sacrifice, later led to Heaven. Second, temporal punishment was the only way to get at the Jews’ consciences: As liberal scholars love to point out, the majority of Jews did not believe in an afterlife!
God does not desire death, though it can be used to give us the best chance at salvation (2 Peter 3). (I think here of St. Rita and her sons.) Even in the old days, He merely wanted a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), and He wanted devotion.
There is no change in principle: God is immutable.
Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?
“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.
I like to think of sola fide in terms of criminal law. Imagine that someone went before a judge and was proven guilty of heinous crimes, but then pleaded to the judge that he believed in the judge’s authority to convict him and so the judge should not do so – and had that as his only defense. Should the judge convict him – to any degree – or should the judge completely let him off, and then give him a reward?
Do you find the “faith alone” argument compelling in such an instance? I do not. Of course, a “faith alone”-r would say that there is some sort of significant difference between such a scenario in terms of temporal law and such a scenario in terms of eternal law, but there really is not. Protestant arguments for the belief simply do not stand in the face of such scenarios or substantial scrutiny.
I strongly believe that sola fide is at the heart of many Western problems. Self-professed Christians have used it as an excuse to not care for the disadvantaged, to engage in profane sexual activity, etc. – the list goes on and on.
Martin Luther told his followers to “sin and sin boldly” (among other things, as I have documented) because he taught that we are saved solely by our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, apart from our actions. This method of thinking has been adopted by millions of Protestants since his time. But is it supported by the Bible? No. See Hebrews 10:26-27:
“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
“Faith alone” has had a terrible impact on society. People often now shy away from discussing religion or morality with others, fearing conflict. Take, for example, something that transpired between a Lutheran family member and me. After I privately and politely informed her that she had committed a grievous sin (like we are called to do – see Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Ephesians 4:15), she immediately jumped to the “Who are you to judge?” defense and paired it with the “Jesus paid the price” line. I am sure that, for many Catholics, such occurrences are unfortunately familiar.
God has written in our hearts (Romans 2:15) that we should serve Him and others, not our selfish desires — and we will be punished if we defy Him. The necessity of both good works and abstinence from grave sin gives our lives concrete meaning. If someone takes away the eternal significance of our actions, they rob us of any real purpose: we all just become random, faceless, unimportant beings.
Sola fide does not work either logically or practically; it fails on all counts. Now, you know why I hate it.
Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? (Of course, it does! But with Sola Scriptura, that might be unclear!)
(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)
Does the Bible really teach that premarital sex is wrong? Well, as a Catholic, I know that it does. So, I suppose the real question should be: can a Protestant reasonably think that premarital sex is okay? I think that they can. And here’s why.
When the Bible condemns “fornication”, the Greek word porneia is used. It is an all-encompassing word for sexual immorality, and this can make things unclear to a Protestant. Take Hebrews 13:4, for example: it uses the Greek word moichos to condemn adultery. That’s very clear language. But, then, it uses porneia for fornication. So, the verse can, potentially, be seen as unclear on the latter.
Now, probably the most convincing passage against premarital sex is in 1 Corinthians 6. In this passage, “sexual perversion” is clearly banned. But again, that could be unclear, as “sexual perversion” can even occur within marriage. The thing here against becoming one with prostitutes offers what is probably the best argument. But even that, I think, could be seen as unclear. Paul could easily be seen as referring to literal prostitutes only. Obviously, should an otherwise-devout Christian have sexual relations with a current prostitute, that could cause grave scandal.
And, as far as I know, in every case of premarital sex in the Bible, there is no clear divine punishment for the sexual act. The only obvious penalty is in the realm of financial compensation. Even the Song of Solomon does not explicitly refer only to acts within marriage. In fact, in it, the lovers are separate. They don’t seem to live together, and there’s evidence that could be understood to mean that they weren’t even married (see 8:8, for example). And, judging from Scripture alone, as long as lovers intend to get married someday, their acts together aren’t always necessarily bad (see Exodus 22:16, for example).
To someone raised in the Catholic Tradition on this issue — including many Protestants who have borrowed the Church’s ancient teaching on this — these verses are clear. But to a Sola Scriptura Protestant, who demands formal sufficiency of Scripture, this wiggle-room can shake their world.
Catholics can say, “Well, the Bible is only materially sufficient” — meaning that, well, while the Bible implicitly or explicitly references every doctrine and dogma, you must still have the Church to interpret it, because the Church is the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). But Protestants don’t have that luxury. Formal sufficiency demands clarity, and when clarity is not there (as is frequently the case), questions like this arise.
So, in conclusion, to a Catholic, this is clear. But to a Protestant, not so much.
“[The Church] does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means.” – G. K. Chesterton
Sola Scriptura is the Protestant doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Under it, only doctrines that are found directly within the Bible or are drawn indirectly from it by simple reasoning are allowed. (See material vs. formal sufficiency & perspicuity.)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the primary passage used to defend this view, which always boggles my mind. Perhaps I need spectacles, but I do not see an “Only” at the beginning of this verse. The Church teaches (as Scripture teaches) that all Scripture is valuable. She does not, however, turn it into an idol.
Some Protestants also claim to honor other authorities, like the Church – but do they really? In a short written debate with a Protestant professor, he said, “Sola Scriptura does not even claim that there is no other authority besides the Bible; it maintains that the Bible is alone (sola) as the only infallible authority.” Some apologists concede this position, but I see no reason to, and so I responded, “The practical effect [of Sola Scriptura] is that it denies the authoritativeness of any other authority – making that authority not an authority at all.” The professor quickly changed the topic.
Sacred Tradition (capital ‘T’) is, obviously, a stumbling block for many, but it is perfectly reasonable. Not everything of relevance could fit within the Bible (John 20:30-31, John 21:25). This is evidenced by the elaborations of the Church Fathers, as well as the decrees of the Councils. And much of this has been written and can therefore even qualify as (extra canon) Scripture! Anyway, all Scripture must be interpreted “according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church” (Origen).
Pope Francis noted, “Sacred Scripture is the written testimony of the divine Word, the canonical memory that attests to the event of Revelation. However, the Word of God precedes the Bible and surpasses it. That is why the center of our faith isn’t just a book, but a salvation history and above all a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh.” (cf. CCC #108). All teaching is valuable – God is not limited to a book compiled by His Bride. On this point, the Bible is like a wedding album shared by two spouses: the husband, typically, arranges and provides for everything, while his wife fills in the details – but still, at the end of the day, it does not sum up their whole marriage.
Another great blow to Sola Scriptura is that the Bible did not put itself together, and it does not list the books that belong within it. It took the Jews thousands of years to decide on the Tanakh (their canon) and, even then, “Hellenistic” Jews preferred the Septuagint! The only reason that we know which books comprise the Testaments is that the Church has informed us. If the Church, as Her own entity, is not infallible on such doctrine, then the Bible cannot be trusted.
Many Protestants also allude that absolute truth can only be found within the Bible. If I throw an apple up into the air, it will fall. Where is that in the Bible? Of course, one could quickly retort with the idea that the Bible only necessarily contains the absolute moral truth necessary for salvation. But many Protestants do not actually believe that – just look at the large crowds of literal creationists! To be clear, the Bible is not guaranteed to be totally historically or scientifically inerrant in a literal sense. “Inerrancy extends to what the biblical writers intend to teach, not necessarily to what they assume or presuppose or what isn’t integral to what they assert.” [Catholic Answers] And if a Protestant would like to say otherwise, he must prove his position from the Bible – which he cannot do, at least not to any definite degree. Even natural law, which exists outside of the Bible, does not encompass such. Leaders like Ken Ham could be defeated with these points.
I just cannot help but despise this great heresy of Sola Scriptura, the implication of which is that the Bride of Christ does not know Her Husband.
I love the Second Vatican Council’s statement on all of this: “[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.” (Dei Verbum)
Let us put it this way: only trusting the Bible without the Church would be like loving “Romeo and Juliet” and hating Shakespeare’s explanation of it.
The Church is my greatest weight. Of course, the weight of over a billion souls would likely be rather large, especially post-McDonald’s, so I suppose that nothing else is really comparable.
What does this mean? In an age of moral relativism, instability, and self-gratification, much like the age of the Roman Empire prior to its Christian conversion, I found myself alone and empty after a scarring experience. So, I sought the counsel of philosophy and history – surely, men had answered my questions before! – and I was, after seemingly endless struggles with myself and others, eventually comforted. The Church became vindicated in my heart.
The more I study, the more I am forced to accept Catholicism as the true Faith. The depth and size of it, as well as its impacts on culture, force any serious student to step back and pay at least a bit of attention. It took me a while to overcome my initial ambivalence toward any religion in particular – though I was always appreciative of God and enamored with the subject in general – but once I had crossed the proverbial Tiber, there was no going back.
I was baptized Catholic, and I vaguely recall some crossing with holy water and lighting prayer candles, but I was hardly raised to practice the Faith. In high school, I dug into a box of things from my infancy. I spotted a rosary within it, along with a note saying that it belonged to my great-grandmother. I mentioned it to a Catholic friend, and he gave me some information about it. That set of events started the arduous process of reconciliation.
Later, at the urging of the aforementioned friend, I casually flipped through the writings of the Church Fathers (prominent ancient Christian leaders). I quickly became impressed. I only did this, originally, to assuage my ego. I had made a theological speculation, and he answered me with, “Well, did the early Christians believe that?” I did not know. Anyway, he was right, and I was wrong.
My advice for anyone that wishes to be a Protestant is to avoid the Church Fathers like one would avoid a plague. I once remarked to a professor that introducing the former to the latter is like shaking a baby: it might teach them a lesson, but it also might kill them.
In my search for the Truth (capital ‘T’ intended), I asked a long series of questions.
On the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church, I asked: Does God still reveal things to us, or does His message end with the Bible? What would He reveal things through?
The idea that God arbitrarily ended His message with the Bible and deliberately chose to allow confusion over doctrine became untenable to me, especially in light of verses like Deuteronomy 31:6 (He will never leave us) and John 17:11 (He requests Christian unity). The Protestant position on this (Sola Scriptura) then made little sense. How could that idea, unprecedented before the Renaissance and ungrounded in Tradition or common sense, be true? I have found no sensible argument in favor of it.
What would His mouthpiece be, though? His Bride (Mark 2:18-20), the Church, of course! As a wife understands the workings of her husband, so does the Church understand Christ. From there, how is She structured? This is where apostolic succession (the lineage of bishops from the time of the Apostles to the present) comes in. Bishops are given special power (Luke 21:15) – which even Simon Magus knew was handed down (Acts 8:18-19) – after the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6) in their consecration ceremonies. They can trace themselves back to the very beginning of Christianity. All of this “clicked” in my head when I first read these words from St. Ignatius of Antioch: “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.”
Now, who leads it? This is answered by Matthew 16:18, the famous verse, which helped me grasp that Christ built His Church on Peter (aka Cephas), the faithful “rock” (Greek, Aramaic). It’s a parallel to the story of Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20-22), who represented his king. St. Peter, called by Christ to “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:17), likewise represented his King. Some in the historical-critical movement have, naturally, raised objections to St. Peter’s primacy. But even agnostic Protestant historian John Julius Norwich wrote of the pope, “It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill…[and] there can be little doubt that he was the generally acknowledged leader of Christ’s disciples.” Whenever I doubt, I latch on to this information: the historical basis for the Papacy is rock-solid.
My goal is to increase the powers and jurisdiction of this great entity to the fullest capacity, because I recognize the impact that She has had and can have on the world. Documents like Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae urge respect for the sanctity of life, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno offer economic principles rooted in good morals, and so on. If only humanity would follow the path that the Church has set forth! This temporal aspect, even by itself, is enough to drive me, despite how burdensome this desire can be.
In conclusion, I will leave the reader with a quote from G. K. Chesterton. “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”
“For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.” – St. Theophilus of Antioch, to Autolycus (Book 2, Chapter 27) [link]
Are we still under a Law? Yes. However, we are not under the Mosaic one.
The Mosaic Law worked for a while, but ceased to be the best option after the “time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). At this time, Christ came to redeem humanity (Hebrews 9:15) and to universalize the Law and open it up to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28, Romans 11:11), which He could have done within Judaism if the Jewish leaders had not rejected Him (He is “the stone which the builders rejected” – Mark 12:10). Due to His work, we are now under “a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6).
None of this means that we are now apart from a Law.
Christ commanded us to “treat people the same way [we] want them to treat [us], for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). He said to do something, and then gave as His reason that it is the intent of the Law. He also positively referenced the Law in Luke 10:25-28. A lawyer asked what is required to “inherit eternal life,” and Christ asked the man to look to the Law. The lawyer said that the Law commands us to “love [Him] with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] strength, and with all [our] mind; and [our] neighbor as [ourself].” Christ replied, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
In Mark 10, a wealthy man asks Christ what is required to reach Heaven, and Christ cites the Ten Commandments (v. 17-19). The man says that he already observes them, but Christ corrects him and cleverly makes the point that the man must practice charity, which the man, unfortunately, refuses (v. 20-22). Christ was not adding anything new to the Law, but was getting at the intent of it — charity was already commanded in the Old Testament (Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, Sirach 29:8-13)!
Paul realized that, because a man “hung on a tree” (here, “tree” would equal a wooden cross) is cursed according to the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) and Christ most certainly did not deserve to be cursed, at least some parts of it are no longer binding. Christ both took upon Himself the penalties for sins committed under the Mosaic Law and opened “the blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit” up to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13-14).
Paul did not, however, reject the necessity of good works. When Paul denounces “works of the Law,” he is referring to things such as ritual circumcision. Passages like Romans 3:27-30 and Galatians 3:27-29, which are surrounded by statements that seem to advocate “faith alone,” are key to understanding Paul’s thoughts. Paul placed emphasis on the facts that Jews and Gentiles 1) serve the same God, 2) share a common heritage, and 3) are judged by the same general standards — we are all “one in Christ Jesus”. That is partially why he so strongly insisted on the universality of Christ, the importance of faith, and the worthlessness of divisive cultural practices (e.g. circumcision).
Does the existence of a Law always “nullify the grace of God” or mean that “Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21)? Absolutely not. First, it makes His grace remarkably plain. If He did not provide us with a path to redemption and salvation, then His justice would demand our damnation. To provide us with a Law is merciful of Him. Second, it is still only through Christ that anyone can attain salvation. “[N]o one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6).
Truly, “what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19) and “unless [our] righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, [we] will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
This all undermines the idea that we are not bound by a Law. The Law will not fail (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17). We are still under a Law, minus Mosaic cultural practices. “[H]e who does the will of [God]” will reach Heaven (Matthew 7:21), and God will say, “Depart from me,” to those who “practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” – Romans 3:31
(All verses are from the NASB translation, except for the passage from Sirach, which is from the RSV translation.)