Not Under Law
Are Christians still under the Mosaic Law?
First let me say that Jesus kept all the Mosaic Law. The laws He didn’t keep were the traditions that were established by the Jews in Babylon and were added on to the law in order to assist in keeping the law. This is called Pharisaic Judaism. The Pharisees believed that when the Messiah would come He would establish their laws and add to them. However Jesus broke their laws and condemned their laws.
He did however ‘raise the bar’ on the Mosaic Law. He taught the disciples that their righteousness had to far surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees or they could not enter the kingdom of heaven. As regards the law the scribes and Pharisees were blameless. They had added hundreds of safeguards into the law so that they were the most self-righteous people on earth. How could the righteousness of the disciples possibly surpass that of the Pharisees?
The Pharisees kept the law on the outside, what Christ called ‘whited sepulchres’ (Matthew 23:27), but inside they were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. He told them that they appeared righteous unto men but within they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
What Jesus explained to the disciples was that it is not just in their outward actions that the law must be kept but also in what they say, what they think and what they feel. In other words He was showing them that in reality no one can keep the law, only God could keep it. It is the inside that needs changing first and the law cannot change the inside; when the inside is changed you don’t need the law. That is not to say we shouldn’t study the law, we should.
When we read our Bibles (especially the Old Testament and the Law) we start to see the character of a Holy Righteous God and it will have an effect on our lives (see Psalm 1:1-6, Psalm 19:7-8, Psalm 119:1-16). If we read God’s law it will help us to keep from falling into sin. When we read the Bible not only do we find the holiness and righteousness of God but also the love of God and the mercy and compassion of God. It is only as we realise how much God hates sin that we can appreciate how much He loves the sinner and what it cost Him to save us from sin.
In the New Testament we have the love of God and the grace of God, and it is summed up in the gospel of God. The whole point of the law is to expose sin and bring us to Jesus Christ who saves us from our sin. Once it has brought us to Jesus Christ it is redundant as far as the gospel is concerned.
There are many groups of people today who want to bring us back under the law. They say we are justified by grace but sanctified by keeping the law. Sanctification is not found in keeping the law but is found in Christ alone. Christ, and Christ alone, is my sanctification. If I look to anything else for sanctification I will never attain it. We are not now under the law (see Romans 6:14-18, Romans 7:4-6, Romans 10:4, Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14).
The law opens our eyes to see the holiness and righteousness of God and how much we need a Saviour to keep us from sinning; how much we need God in our lives because we haven’t got the strength to keep God’s law ourselves.
The first commandment was given to Adam, God said that they must not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were innocent, but if they had knowledge of good and evil they would be able to be good, independent of God. They didn’t know what good and evil were so they were completely dependent on God. If they knew the difference between good and evil they could do good and avoid evil by their own ability; they would be like God, or so they thought. What they didn’t reckon with was their inability to resist their new lustful thoughts.
The Mosaic Law
We now come to the Mosaic Law, which is about 613 commandments. The law is good and perfect, it is spiritual. The law reveals to us the righteous character of God, how just and righteous God is in all His ways. How much higher is God’s holiness and righteousness than man’s? There is no comparison. By the law is the knowledge of sin.
If we had remained innocent we wouldn’t have needed the law of God. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in order to have the knowledge of good and evil. God gave man what he desired when he gave him the law, the knowledge of sin, or the knowledge of good and evil. If man could keep the law he wouldn’t need God’s Spirit, he could be independent of God in his own righteousness and holiness. He could now be as God; all he had to do was to keep the law.
If he chose to keep the law then he was choosing life. The law promises us life if we keep its commandments (Romans 7:10); however nobody can keep the law so no one had spiritual life when Christ came (see John 6:53, Galatians 3:21).
The law was given to prove to us that we couldn’t keep it. The law leads us to Jesus Christ as the only way that we can possibly receive the Spirit of life.
The Flesh, The Spirit and The Law
Humans are controlled by sin that lives in the flesh (Romans 7:17-20). When we believe on Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit comes into our spirit and makes it alive to God; our spirit and the Holy Spirit are one. But the power of the flesh can be still very much alive within us.
We are now flesh and spirit. Our spirit is in touch with God while our flesh is in touch with the world around us. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other. How does the law affect the flesh? The flesh will sin so needs the law but it cannot keep the law. When the flesh tries to keep the law all the law does is stir up sin in the flesh; sin gets its strength from the law.
What about our spirit? The law is spiritual; our spirit is spiritual so surely our spirit is under the law to keep it? No, our spirit is above the law; our spirit is born of God therefore it cannot sin so what is the point of having a law if it is impossible to sin?
Go to 1 John 3:9. ‘Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.’ Jesus said you must be born again, that which is born of flesh is flesh; that which is born of Spirit is spirit.
When we have put our trust in Jesus Christ to save us then our spirit is born of God and cannot sin. It is impossible for our spirit to sin. The law is not necessary for our spirit. Our problem is the flesh, until our bodies are redeemed at the return of Jesus Christ, the flesh will always have the potential to sin.
The Bible tells us to ‘walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:16). We are a new creation, the ‘old things’ have passed away, and ‘all things are become new’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). In order to walk in the Spirit we have to believe what God says about us.
How do we know we are a new creation? Because God’s word tells us, but not only that, God’s Spirit witnesses with our spirit, that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16-17). We have to know who we are in God and believe it.
We are already sanctified (see Acts 26:18, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, Hebrews 2:11, 10:10). God has given us His divine life (1 John 5:11). It is not just that holiness is expected from us but that we are ‘partakers of’ God’s holiness’ (Hebrews 12:10), we are partakers of God’s divine nature. However, we have to acknowledge it in order for it to become effectual in our lives (2 Peter 1:4, Philemon v6). Our conduct and our behaviour should be an expression of our new life in Christ.
The commandment of Christ, to love one another, should be an expression of the new life He has given us. The reason we are given it as a commandment is to kick start us into doing what is natural to our new nature.
Sin and Grace
Sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace. (While we are under the law sin will have dominion over us.). Should we sin because we are not under the law? Perish the thought (see Romans 6:1-2). If we insist on being under the law then we will still sin because sin gets its strength from the law.
If we wilfully sin because we are under grace and not under the law then, although God will not hold our sins against us, as a father He will chastise us that we might be partakers of His holiness (see 1 Corinthians 11:30, Hebrews 10:26, 12:6). God will deal with us in this life now in order to present us before Christ spotless and without blemish.
If we find ourselves falling to the sin that easily besets us then it is to Christ we look for deliverance from temptation and not to our own efforts in keeping the law. If we look to Christ and Christ alone to keep us from falling then we can trust Him to do it.
Jude verse 24 says that He is quite ‘able to keep’ us ‘from falling, and to present’ us ‘faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy’.
Our faith is in Jesus Christ who has reconciled us to God by His death on the cross so that He might present us before that all-searching gaze, as holy, blameless, and without any accusation against us (see Colossians 1:21-22).
To God be all the glory, who by His grace towards us has done it all.
© Mark Greenwood
Special thanks to Keith Cline for his advice and input.
Special thanks to Keith Cline for his advice and input.