The title of this teaching may sound like it’s going to be information you already know. Law, Grace and Biblical theology. We all know what those things are, right? As a Christian you are probably already familiar with those words. So the temptation will be to tune me out. My prayer is that you would instead listen carefully, expecting the Lord to show you something brand new, in a topic that may sound very familiar.
What I have found as someone who has been teaching for a while is that what I’m about to share are things that, not only do I still seem to have to learn all over again every day, but I have to continually encourage other experienced Bible teachers and writers to remember these things.
First, what is the Law? Do we mean when we say, for example, we love and follow God’s Law? Are we talking about the Ten Commandments, just the moral laws, or the Torah, or the entire Old Testament, or something else? And as Christians what is our relationship to this Law?
Today I want to propose that, as Christians, we are totally free from the entire Old Testament law, the Ten Commandments included, and here is what I mean: We have a duty to study the Law and endeavor to obey it as we are told in God’s Word to “be holy as God is holy” (1 Peter 1:16). That’s a pretty tall order, to be holy as God himself is holy? Unless we think that’s just a one off verse, we’re also told by Jesus to “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) But since no one does this perfectly (1 John 1:8) these commands serve only to condemn us (that is, before we place our trust in Christ for his perfections and his obedience). We’re guilty of being angry, and therefore guilty of breaking the 6th commandment to not murder. (Matthew 5:21) We deserve God’s justice, which He says is death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23) After believing in Christ, we’re free from the perfection of the law, and we’re also free to admire it and obey it to the best of our ability by His Spirit. Here is how. Sometimes we like to say we’re only free from ceremonial or civil laws, and this is understandable, because we don’t require that people stop wearing garments of two materials or keep our beards long on the sides (Lev 19). And moral laws like do not murder obviously, and more apparently, seem like they should always apply. However, those weird laws in Leviticus are still apply, and are to be studied. They matter, and they are part of God’s Law. Listen to Jesus in Matthew 5:19: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Jesus is talking about the entire Old Testament here. He says these commands are from the “law and the prophets.” This is a reference all the Scripture they had at the time. And we know all Scripture is God-breathed; it’s God’s Word to us. (2 Timothy 3:16) So the strange laws in Leviticus 19 implores us not to be like the nations (the world). We are to be set apart.
Additionally, Jesus’s sent-one (Apostle Paul) does not differentiate between parts of the law like moral and ceremonial. So, we can assume when God’s Word says we’re free from the law, he means the most obvious portion, the part his audience would have understood as the law, which was primarily the Torah, (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and which certainly includes the Ten Commandments. Listen to what Paul calls this precious law. Don’t miss this. He calls it, “the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone” (2 Corinthians 3:7) Did you catch that? The ten commandments, the best part of God’s law, the moral law – it’s the ministry of death! God’s word in Romans goes on to teach us that we’re released from it, like a woman is free from the marriage to her dead husband. (See all of Romans 7). It’s called an old code. This is Romans 7 verse 6: “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” God’s Word says we’re no longer under the law. Here is Galatians 3:24-25: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” We’re not under the law! The law is also called “legal demands” (In Greek χειρόγραφος cheirographos, literally, ‘written record’) which created a debt and which God’s Word says in Colossians 2:14 “he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14) So to summarize I believe we obey the Torah and Ten Commandments as Christians because we sincerely desire to do so. A Christian who doesn’t desire to please God is an oxymoron (in other words, such a person doesn’t exist, except in name only). So we do admire and obey God’s Law but we are simultaneously free from it, thanks to God Himself!
God’s law doesn’t save us, it shows us our sinfulness.
God’s law doesn’t make us holy, it shows us the holiness of God.
God’s law doesn’t give us eternal life, it kills us.
God’s law, written down with pen and ink, doesn’t keep us from sinning – only by God’s Spirit living in us, in a life made new by faith in Christ, desires to do God’s will, because He has written His law on our hearts.
The best part of the law is that it’s like a mirror showing us how evil we are and how good God is. The purpose of the law, the entire law, is only to show us our need for Jesus. That’s why the law is good. It magnifies Jesus. It shows us our need for him and shows us how good he is to fulfill that need.
From here all of our obedience to God is totally and only an act of gratitude and worship, since we’re not being good people in order to gain His love. God has already loved us and set us free and we simply love him and others back by doing what we already know in our hearts is the right thing to do.