“Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall teach and do them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-20).
The question of whether the Christian has anything to do with the law is often discussed. Opinions are divided. Some people hold that a Christian is not free from the law, while others maintain that he is. The latter insist that just as surely as we have been made free in Christ, so surely do we have nothing further to do with the law.
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If we are to get to the bottom of this question, it is necessary for us to have clearly in mind that in the Old Testament God gave many laws which were intended for the Jews only, and were to be in force only during the Old Testament age. Such are the laws governing the priesthood, the tabernacle, the ceremonies, priestly garments, sacrifices, and circumcision. We know that these laws do not extend into the New Testament dispensation.
However, the law with which we are concerned here is the one given by God to Moses at Sinai — the Ten Commandments. It was these that Jesus discussed in the Sermon on the Mount. He emphasized the deeper meaning of the Commandments, and showed what great demands they present to the human heart.
A lawyer once asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied with a counter-question; “What is written in the Law? How readest thou?” The lawyer replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus commended him for having answered correctly. Jesus further stated that he who observed this law shall live. (Luke 10:25-28).
In these words we have the sum of the law. Here we have God’s demands to us in a nutshell. God’s requirement is not merely that we shall desist from sinning; he demands also that we shall love God above all else, and our neighbor as ourselves. Only when we have accomplished this can we claim to live by our works. But it is necessary for us to attain perfection in this activity of love, even as God has; otherwise the words to Israel will apply to us also, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them.” (Deut. 27:26).
Jesus says, “On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:40).
We have to face these facts. God does not accommodate Himself to human opinion. He does not turn, in weather-vane fashion, according to the whims of a godless generation that wants to live as it pleases and still get to heaven.
If God were to ease up on His demands, the law would be cancelled, and God would no longer be a holy God. But our God is a consuming fire, and His judgment strikes all of us; our sin has brought us under God’s wrath.
It was here that Christ intervened. He took upon Himself the form of a servant, shouldered the law, and took our place in the judgment. Thus He redeemed us. He made Himself responsible before God; He was made sin for us that we in Him might be justified before God.
In fulfilling the law Jesus did more than just suffer the consequences of sin and pay the penalty for our transgression; by His holy life and perfect obedience He fulfilled the law in our stead. What we should have been and done He was and did. He has fulfilled all righteousness, and can be just in justifying all who believe on Him.
Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
All our sins on Thee were laid;
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made.
All Thy people are forgiven,
Through the virtue of Thy blood.
Opened is the gate of heaven;
Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.
Thus we may enter the great kingdom of grace. We are saved and liberated by faith in Him. Our faith is reckoned unto us for righteousness, even though we have no works. We are saved for Jesus’ sake. Justice yields to grace.
There are times when a sinner must sing plaintively:
0, whither shall I flee,
From thunderous Sinai?
My sins indeed are many;
0, is there comfort any?
The whole wide world can never,
My soul from sorrows sever.
Even so, with his face turned away from himself and to Christ, he can also sing:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
When we sing thus we are not under the law, but under grace. Then we see that “of His fullness we all received, and grace for grace.” God be praised!
Place me where I see Thee, Jesus,
Face to face with Thee,
So that I my eyes so weary
Rest alone on Thee.
The admonition is no longer, “Do this, and thou shalt live.” It has been changed to, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.” We have learned to see that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but hath everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
“So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:18-19).
There are many who do not know this. Many know it, but do not see it; therefore they never find God.
“The law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them.”
“Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect.” (Gal. 3:17).
“Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.” (Gal. 5:4).
“I do not make void the grace of God; for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.” (Gal. 2:21).
These passages plainly declare that the Christian is free from the law. If ever the Word speaks clearly, it does so here. The law can have no further demands upon a Christian in the sense of requiring him to do something toward his own salvation.
“For the death that he died, he died unto sin once; but the life that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Even so reckon ye yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:10-11).
“If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).
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Are we then through with the problem of the Christian’s relationship to the law? No, we are not. Let us hear what the Word of God declares:
“Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which covenant that broke, although I was a husband to them, saith Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer. 31:31-33).
“And they shall all be taught of God.” (John 6:45).
“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5). “In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and Tin you.” (John 14:20).
The gospel of Christ is not only a declaration of forgiveness; it is also life — a life in God and of God. By faith in Christ we have become partakers of God’s nature. The law is now written in our hearts, not as a command, but as a new nature.
God is no different in His demands upon us than He is in Himself. The new man in a Christian wills that which God wills; he serves God with his mind. (Rom. 7:25). The law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, (Rom. 8:4).
If a Christian is then to say that he is free from the law as a new nature, he declares thereby that he has not been born of God. In other words, he is not a Christian.
“And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (I John 2:3).
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” (I John 5:3).
The new nature in a Christian desires to do God’s will. The life from God cannot do otherwise. It may not have much power over us; it may even die; but it cannot sin. As the new spiritual life gains more and more power over us, we live more and more according to God’s will. The exhortation from God’s Word to us is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ so that we may live as blameless children of God in a perverse generation.
Someone may then ask, “If the law is written in our hearts, do we have any need for the Commandments in the Bible?”
Yes. Every word which encourages us to live according to the will of God finds a friendly response in the heart of every honest Christian. Every admonition is an added encouragement to live according to the promptings of our new nature. When inwardly we desire to do the will of God, and from without we are urged to obey Him, we come to realize more and more how much we are in need of a Savior.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23).
He who would abolish God’s law for a Christian would thereby also do away with the new life in his heart. The new nature hates what God hates, and loves what God loves.
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In conclusion, let us see what Jesus had to say about these matters. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19).
Paul undoubtedly had the same thing in mind when he said: “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest. For the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Cor. 31I -15).
How can a person be saved if that which he has done burns? It is
because that which Jesus did does not burn. By faith we possess Christ’s work.
Hope like this is solid ground;
In Jesus’ death I life have found.
If we do not serve the Lord with the right mind, we lose the reward. This is always a danger for us Christians; we may have selfish motives in serving God. We may want to become great and draw attention to ourselves. Under the pretense of piety we may seek our own honor. This type of work will not stand before God; it will burn. Then it shall be revealed who is great and who is small in the kingdom of heaven.
What God has worked in us and by us will stand His test in that day. He who lives and teaches according to this law shall not lose his reward.
It is no great art to serve in the Kingdom of God. But to serve in such a manner that we can be used of God, that is an art.
“Owe no man anything, save to love one another; for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8).
Love, alone the law fulfilling,
Is the bond of perfectness,
Love, who came a victim willing,
Paid our debt and bought us peace;
Therefore love and peace in union
Ever grows in sweet communion,
And through love we may abide
One with Him who for us died.
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