Many Christians have struggled trying to understand their relationship to “the law”. There are some common misunderstandings on both sides of the spectrum. There are Christians who believe that the entire law is binding on believers. Many Christians would say they are not bound by the law, but that the Ten Commandments are binding. Some say that only ceremonial law has been put away. And some simply ignore the law altogether, or flee from it.
We have quite a bit of material to work with in Scripture, from statements by Jesus to letters like Galatians and Romans. Here are some highlights:
Exodus 20, 20-23 and 25-30
People normally divide law into moral, civil and ceremonial. The law is not actually divided in that way. Rather, it proceeds from Decalogue (principles of the covenant), The Book Of the Covenant (exposition of the stated principals, direct application in the context of the nation of Israel), to Tabernacle and Worship (sacrifices, the temple, calendar observances, etc.). Decalogue emphasizes faithfulness as the primary concern of the law, first to God and then to people. The “Book” emphasizes practical realization of the principles found in the Decalogue, and then tabernacle and worship is God telling his people the manner in which he has prepared for them to approach a holy God as a holy people. There is a wonderful book by Baylis called “On The Way To Jesus” that describes this and goes to a much further depth.
Paul confronts Peter that he is being two-faced. Peter, who has discarded the law, knows full well that righteousness does not come through the law, nor acceptance and approval from God. We die to the law in order to live for God.
Until faith in Christ, the law acted as guardian. Once faith in the savior was possible, the law was no longer necessary as a guardian.
Paul pleads with them to live in the freedom Christ provides, as he himself does, having become “like a Gentile”.
Living by the Holy Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
The reason we have been freed from the law is to focus on loving others without restriction.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22
That by all means some might be saved… Our freedom is not for our own benefit, but for the sake of the gospel.
Conscience in practice
Do not judge on the basis of particular days of worship and patterns of consumption.
Emphasizes Jesus’ concern for the hurting over and above his concern for the cleanliness restrictions of the law.
Luke 7:11-16/Numbers 19:11-13
Is a man unclean if he touches a dead body that comes back to life?
More Baylis-derived content:
Paul was opposed to a false pretence, but recognized the law as beneficial for instruction. The law is included in the “Scripture” mentioned by 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Law is not code (covenant) or point-gaining (legalism), but a source for insight into God’s point of view on life (instruction). The repeated returns to “Scripture” are referring to the Old Testament, a huge portion of which is the law. It was certainly expected to be useful for developing as a believer!
Jesus predicted the law’s fulfillment in Matthew 5:17-18, while expressing that he has no wish to “abolish” it.
Hebrews at large is a statement of how Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, dealing with sin permanently.
Jesus fulfills the righteousness of the law, the only one not guilty before the law. The righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by keeping it as a merit system. That is doomed to failure. The righteousness of the law is established by receiving the gift of righteousness by faith in Christ (Romans 9:30-33) Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4)
Our focus is not the law, but Christ himself!