The Law

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. KJV

Rom 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law , but under grace. NIV

The New Testament clearly teaches us that Jesus set us free from the Law of Moses. In this brief article we would like to take a look at the Biblical teaching about the Law. Specifically, we would like to clarify some misconceptions about the role that the Law has in our lives – both as an unbeliever and a believer. When we think about “The Law” our minds typically take us to Moses, as they should, and when he received the Law written in stone on Mt. Sinai. God gave Moses ten commandments for the people of Israel: 1) You shall have no other god's before me. 2) You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth 3) You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain 4) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy 5) Honor your father and your mother 6) You shall not murder. 7) You shall not commit adultery 8) You shall not steal 9)You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor 10) You shall not covet. These are not the only commandments given by God; there were a total of 613 commandments given to Israel. God gave very detailed instructions for following each of these commandments including the punishment for those who broke them, which was sometimes death. But some questions that must be examined are: Are these Laws something that we as believer's must continue to follow? Will we be considered out of the will of God if we do not follow them? Are these a rule or guide for our lives? And should we at least follow just the ten commandments as they are considered the “moral” Laws? Let us investigate what the Bible says.

1 Tim 1:8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly NIV

Rom 7:12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. NIV

Paul tells us that the Law is good, righteous and holy. The Bible also declares that the Law itself is perfect and without fault. When we look into the Law we see how sinful we are in that we fall short in living by these commandments. Yet God demands perfect righteousness from us. Jesus said, “Be perfect , therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matt 5:48. When we look at the ten commandments we see a standard that not only seems difficult to maintain, but impossible. This is not the fault of the Law, but of the people.

Rom 8:2a For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature... NIV

Rom 3:10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; NIV

No one can obtain that perfection Jesus spoke of through the Law. To think we could “follow” the ten commandments in order to merit favor with God is not only beyond human potential, it is not biblical. Moreover, when we fail at one point of the Law we fail the Law as a whole, note:

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. NIV

If God demands perfection, and He has given the holy commandments that are required, then is the standard of the Law simply too high? No, again the Law is perfect, righteous, good and without any fault; it simply shows us our faults. The Law acts as a mirror. For example, in the morning when we look into a mirror to see what needs grooming, the mirror reveals to us our imperfections. That is what happens when we look at the law, we see our own faults. When we break even one command, we are guilty of violating the entire Law, and we are considered by God a lawbreaker. This is the role the law was intended for, to show us that we are sinners. When we express to an unbeliever that he is sinful, putting that mirror of the Law before them, they can see that they are lawbreakers. Take a look at what the Bible says:

Rom 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law , so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. NIV

1 Tim 1:8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. NIV

Lawbreakers will be judged according to the Law and they will be found guilty of breaking the law unless they put their trust in Christ. Now as the unbeliever looks into the Law and it reveals their sin, the Law serves to express their need for a savior and lead them to Jesus Christ.

Gal 3:23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. NIV

Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus was sinless, and desires to give to the unrighteous His perfect righteousness. He can then become the savior of the unbeliever, rescuing them from their vain attempts to gain righteousness by following the ten commandments. He will give them His sinless life, in exchange for their sinful one:

2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. NIV

When we put our faith in Christ, He gives to us His Law abiding life and we meet the requirements of the Law, through Christ. In Galatians 3:24 Paul taught us that the Law leads the unbeliever to Christ, look at the verse that follows:

Gal 3:25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. NIV

This takes us to the role of the Law in a believer's life. Now that our faith has come we simply are no longer under the supervision of the Law. This means that we no longer look to the ten commandments as a guide or rule for our lives! Note what the Bible says:

2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant- — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! NIV

We do not have to keep the demands of the Law in order to be right with God, Jesus makes us right with God when He justifies us through our faith. In fact the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus abolished the Law:

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. NIV

Col 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. NIV

Rom 7:4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 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. NIV

We are made righteous through Christ because He has given us His righteousness. The Law is not made for the righteous, though many people still believe that we have to look to the Law that Moses received as believers in Christ. Note what the Bible says here:

1 Tim 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work — which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers — and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. NIV

This then leads us to the moral conduct of the believer. What is the motivation behind living our lives that would be pleasing to Christ? We certainly are not motivated by rules and regulations, our desire is based on love. Jesus gave us a new commandment, and it is love:

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." NIV

John 15: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. NIV

The Bible teaches that Love is the fulfillment of the Law. This is an important point to understand, because when we love Jesus we will desire to live according to the Scripture. Love is a powerful motivator. If I love my neighbor then I will not sin against him by stealing from him or lying to him or coveting his positions. My love will keep me from bearing false witness against him or murdering him. I don't need to look to the ten commandments in order to know what is right and wrong, rather love helps keep my heart pure so I know that these things are sinful. Therefore my guide is never going to be the the letter of the Law, rather it is a love guided by the Spirit of God. Note what the Bible says:

Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. NIV

Gal 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." NIV

All Scripture is profitable for correction, doctrine, and instructions for righteousness. We can look to the Law of Moses and glean from it the holiness of God, as well as His wondrous perfection. When taken in context, we can, at times, learn the moral will of God. But our transgression against the Law must be paid for, and the wages of sin is death. The Law was a shadow and picture of Christ, and He has fulfilled the Law, taking it away – paying the debt that it required. We no longer need to look to the law for our righteousness, rather we rest in Christ who has given all of His righteousness. How could we ever improve upon that? We cannot. Of course, this is not a license to sin against God, as Paul declared in Romans:

Rom 6:14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law , but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! NIV

The wonderful thing about grace is that it is grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. As a believer, no matter what we have done, or will do His grace covers our sin.

Rom 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. NIV

The Law is a perfect, revealing our sinfulness and leading us to Christ who abolished the rule of the Law over our lives. The Scripture teaches that we are to live by the Spirit of God, under the Grace of God, motivated by the new commandment which is love. In our conclusion we would urge everyone to read the New Testament on this subject. We would recommend a close examination of the following passages:

Romans chapter 2 – 7
Ephesians 2-3
Colossians 2
1 Timothy 1

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