HOW DOES ONE KEEP GOD’S LAWS?
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There is an interest in some places about the need to keep the Ten Commandments. This is understandable in that the current teaching of “grace” definitely leaves the impression that there are no laws governing Christians, except possibly “the law of love,” which is no law at all in that it is based on our feelings.
By the “law”, the reference is to the Ten Commandments. The remainder of the Law of Moses is not emphasized as much, such as the dietary laws for example.
The question is: Are Christians under the Ten Commandments, or are they not? And if not, what law are they under, if any?
This is an important issue in our day, because sin abounds in the Christian churches due to defining Divine grace as a way of having fellowship with God while we continue to yield to the sinful nature. In fact, the idea of conviction of sin sometimes is viewed as being a relic of the dark ages.
The issue of whether Christians are free to sin is of double importance because we now are entering the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement, in which the Holy Spirit is pointing out the sins in us and giving us the strength to confess them and renounce the practice of them.
Perhaps the first concept we must understand is that the Ten Commandments are part of the Law of Moses, and have no authority over believers in Christ who count themselves as (1) dead with Christ on the cross, and (2) raised with Him to walk in the newness of resurrection life.
Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? (Romans 7:1)
The Apostle Paul urged us to count ourselves dead. We may regard our being dead as a figurative expression of some sort. However, God regards us as actually dead to the world, and He requires that we behave accordingly.
The second concept we must include in our thinking is what is meant by the new covenant. Does it mean the Ten Commandments are written in our mind and heart, or does it mean the eternal Law of God, of which the Ten Commandments are an abridged version, is written in our heart?
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (Hebrews 10:16)
Are these laws the Ten Commandments? I do not believe so. The Ten Commandments, as well as the rest of the Law of Moses, were a temporary solution to the problem of sin until Christ should come.
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. (Galatians 3:19)
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Galatians 3:23-25)
I would say that the major emphasis of Paul in the book of Galatians is that we no longer are under the authority of the Law of Moses. Paul was quite vehement about this.
When I read of preachers who are insisting that we observe the Jewish Sabbath Day, I realize they do not understand how the new covenant operates.
To maintain, as do the proponents of lawless grace, that grace takes the place of a need to overcome sinful behavior, is utterly denied by multiple passages of the New Testament that warn us if we continue to sin we will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Paul goes so far as to say that if we continue to yield to
the sinful nature we will die. Since in
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11)
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13)
Since the Apostle Paul spoke so many times about our overcoming sin through Christ, what law is being assumed? There is no evidence in the New Testament that Paul was referring to breaking one of the Ten Commandments. But there must be a law somewhere that governs the sins mentioned in the New Testament.
It is interesting, in the book of Galatians, the response Paul gave when he was being charged with breaking the Law of Moses. Notice Paul’s defense, for it provides the answer to the question, “How does one keep God’s law?”
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Paul did not protest that he was righteous, that he actually was keeping the Law, although indeed he was but not in a man-controlled way, or give some other complicated answer.
Paul’s response was, “I have been crucified with Christ.” It was Paul’s crucifixion that freed Paul from the authority of the Law of Moses. A dead person is no longer under the authority of the Law. That is a legal principle.
But it does not stop there. “The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God.” Now, how does that work? To live by faith in the Son of God means that we are giving all of our thoughts to the Lord Jesus. We look continually to Jesus that He will guide the words of our mouth. We depend on Jesus for all that we do, just as He depends on the Father for all He does. We depend on Christ for all we think, say, and do in every circumstance and at all times. We live by faith in the Son of God.
This is how we keep God’s laws. It is an eternal Sabbath, an eternal dialogue with the Lord Jesus.
We cease from our own works. We keep listening to Jesus and obeying Jesus. There is no law that prevents this. It is the ultimate step of redemption, leading to the immortalizing of our body and the dwelling in us of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit of God—the fullness of God, as Paul named it.
What might we name the law under which we Christians live? Paul referred to it as “the Law of the Spirit of Life.”
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
The passage above refers back to Romans chapter seven in which Paul shows the superiority of the new covenant. The Law of Moses made demands on our unregenerate nature that our personality could not satisfy because of the sin dwelling in our flesh. What shall we do? Our desire is to please God, but we are carrying around a sinful body. All that the Law succeeds in doing is making sin more sinful.
However, in chapter eight, Paul assures all of us, especially the Jews, that through Christ we are released from the Law of Moses and its penalties and now are without condemnation.
By the way, let me mention that this is what Paul meant by “grace.” He did not mean that grace is an alternative to a godly life. He meant that grace is an alternative to the Law of Moses. In any case, sin eventually causes death. But under the new covenant, the death is postponed while Christ has the opportunity to release us from the compulsions of sin.
The heart and intention of the new covenant is that we be released from the power of sin, not merely forgiven of the guilt of sin. After all, under the Law of Moses, forgiveness could be obtained through the offering of the blood of innocent animals. Therefore the new covenant is an infinitely better covenant, from God’s point of view and also from our own.
If we are in Christ Jesus, we no longer are under the condemnation imposed by the Law of Moses. How so? The law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the death imposed by the Law of Moses by taking the place of the Law of Moses.
The Law of Moses is unable to subdue our sinful nature. God remedied this problem by the offering of His Son as a sin offering. In this manner, God pointed out the deadly effects of sin, forgiving transgressions through the blood atonement.
Now we are without condemnation because of the blood of Christ. But something additional is true. If we continue to obey the Spirit of God, instead of our sinful nature, the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses that were fulfilled in Christ are imputed to us as though we had satisfied them. It is as though we had kept the Law of Moses perfectly.
However, and this is a requirement that I do not believe is emphasized sufficiently in today’s preaching, the assignment of righteousness to us depends on our not living according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit of God.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
I would venture that those who are insisting that we follow the letter of the Ten Commandments are preventing the believers from understanding the operation of the new covenant. They are leaving Christ and going back under the Law of Moses. There is no way in which Christ and the Law can be followed at the same time. In order to obey the Law of Moses, we must remove our attention from Christ and the Spirit of God.
The way to attain to behavior that pleases God is to look to Christ every moment of every day. This may seem impossible to the new convert. But, like any other art or discipline, it is a matter of dedication and practice. Anyone who chooses to do so can see himself or herself as crucified with Christ. From then on it is a matter of looking to Christ for every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25)
Let’s do it!
(“How Does One Keep God’s Laws?”, 3592-1, proofed 20211001)