What Shall We Do With The Law - Part III
|“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”—Romans 7:6
In the last two issues of The Evangelist we have attempted to deal with the subject regarding the proper relationship that is to exist between the new covenant believer and the Old Testament law. The Scripture declares that the first covenant with the Old Testament laws have been deemed obsolete. One cannot enter into a new agreement until an old agreement has been rendered inactive or is no longer applicable. Therefore, the old covenant and the Old Testament law was rendered obsolete when Christ nailed them to His cross, blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us. A new covenant—a better covenant with better promises—is now what we live under, and we are to be held responsible to. Ours is not a mixture of old covenant law with new covenant promise. Ours is a brand-new covenant that does not rely upon the old covenant in any way. Both old and new covenants reveal God to the human race. But the old covenant was transitory in nature while the new covenant is referred to as the everlasting covenant. So what should be our relationship to old covenant law as a new covenant believer?
Accountability To Righteousness Under Grace
There seems to be two false directions that bring confusion to this issue. The first argument was heard first in the days of the apostle Paul. Opponents to the message of grace that Paul taught believed and preached that unless a person kept the old covenant law, he could not be saved. Those who believed this felt that it was impossible for mankind to live a holy and righteous life outside of a personal effort to keep the law, in addition to accepting Christ. They felt that any approach toward holiness that didn’t depend upon the individual’s zealousness and commitment to God could not produce the righteous life that God desires of His people. They believed the righteous living could only be obtained by religious labor, disciplines, and rules, as prescribed by the old covenant law. In addition, there were some who listened to Paul’s message of grace and came to the mistaken conclusion that it didn’t matter whether the believer lived righteously or not. If God’s grace was applied as a result of faith alone, then, in their minds, the actions or attitudes of the individual was not important. Since God’s grace covered sin, it really didn’t matter whether a believer sinned or not. Men seem to either be too liberal with the application of grace or would deny grace and faith as the means to righteousness in favor of laws and works. Therefore, both views—one of license, the other of law—are incorrect.
The Knowledge Of Right And Wrong
As new covenant believers, we receive the moral code of God into our hearts at the moment of conversion. According to Hebrews 8:10, which refers to the prophecies of Jeremiah 31:31-33, one new covenant benefit was that the laws of God—the knowledge of right and wrong—would exist in the heart of every born-again believer. God no longer operated by a Ten Commandment system, but rather re-created the spirit of man in regeneration and implanted the person of the Holy Spirit into the heart of that man. Then the Holy Spirit would begin to teach, lead, and guide the believer into the moral code of God. So under the new covenant, we are not accountable to the righteous demands of the old covenant laws, but we are to be held accountable to the voice of the Holy Spirit who is able to guide us into a life of righteousness and who has the power to enable us to live that life. We are not to attempt to live out our lives as those accountable to old covenant laws. But we become accountable to the voice of the Lord, who lives in us through the person of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is not an option!
The Transitory Nature Of The Law
Let’s discuss for a moment the transitory nature of the law. One should understand that the law was God’s first major revelation of Himself to mankind. While men knew the Lord prior to the giving of the law, what they could understand about Him was limited. When God brought His people out of Egypt, He parked them at the base of Mount Sinai for a year and one month. It was during this time frame that the law was given to Moses. In that law God addressed moral code, civil law, and the laws concerning worship and sacrifice. Just like a child who learns the alphabet in school, the law revealed the base elements of God, His character, and a means of continued relationship through sacrifice and worship.
For the first time, man learned basic truths about who God was, what He approved and disapproved of, how to approach Him in worship, and received a more detailed procedure relating to the sacrificial system. We do not know what these people entirely understood about the sacrificial system, but we do know that it all pointed to what Christ Jesus would accomplish for mankind in the future. So God revealed Himself through the law, and that law would teach us the basics of moral code, how to treat one another, how to worship God, and to look forward to the unveiling of God’s redemption plan that would be made manifest in the future.
According to Galatians 3:19, the law was to stand as God’s revelation of Himself only until the Promised Seed—the Redeemer of the world—would replace it with Himself. Therefore, the law was only intended to be a temporary entity that would begin a knowledge of God in the world. However, the law could not save nor could it give power to those who embraced it. That would come only with new covenant.
The Principles Continue
The law revealed to man true and basic principles regarding the character of God. Therefore, the precepts and principles that are revealed in the law—that show us the nature of God, that guide us to truly worship God, that point us to His redemption plan through Christ—are all still true today. For example, we are not responsible to keep the Sabbath day, but that old covenant law laid the groundwork and the precept for the truth regarding man’s need for rest. Not just a physical rest as experienced under the old covenant law but the truth of the need for a spiritual rest that one encounters when they come to Jesus Christ. The principle of rest still remains a truth. Under the law, believers were required to worship through the sacrificial system at the location of the temple or tabernacle. Worship and sacrifice are principles that we still embrace. But today, we no longer worship at a location or offer sacrifices. We worship God in Spirit and in truth. The author of Hebrews declares that Jesus replaced the law as the source of revelation regarding God when he declares in Hebrews 1:1-2, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son ….”
Jesus Christ replaces the law of the old covenant and speaks to the believer the moral code of God by His Spirit, directly to the heart. He is the eternal and everlasting revelation of God to mankind. And in Him is both the knowledge of righteousness and the power to live right.