The Law

by Dan R. Smedra

"God has one prupose: to glorify Himself in Christ. This involves glory in two spheres, the earthly and the heavenly. In keeping with this purpose, God has made the Church distinct from Israel, though salvation of all saints is ever and only by grace, in view of the atoning work of Christ."

God never intended the Church to replace Israel.  Yet this is the widespread misunderstanding that has prevailed throughout Christendom for nearly 2,000 years.  While advent of the Church was in the context of Israel and amongst Jews, the corporate, new-creation Body of Christ and individual members (Christians) were a "mystery...not made known to men in other generations."  By direct revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul labored to explain and clarify this in his letters to the various local churches, as well as to the other Apostles.

While Paul touched upon the subject of law in most of his writings, his Epistles to believers in the cities of Rome (Romans) and Galatia (Galatians) form a vital core of Christian teaching on this subject. Since day one, triumphal religionists have mixed Mosaic Law with Christianity, co-mingling law and grace--and tragically this represents the status-quo for most of Christendom's history.

Whether Mosaic Law, Ten Commandments, or Sermon on the Mount, none are the Christian's rule for living "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."  As illustrated below, the Church is heavenly, positioned above. New Creation Christians are to 'abide above'.

By contrast, the world and its governments, and select, biblical institutions appropriately operate under the principle of law to create order, accountability, establish justice, and bring judgment and punishment on those who do evil.

There are two erroneous systems of belief simultaneously devastating the church and paralyzing Christians today. One is Christian humanism, as vividly expressed by the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, and at a less emotional and more subtle level in other Anglo-Catholic denominations. The other is age-old legalism, which is championed by the Reformed/Covenant theology, law-based Christian denominations and para-church organizations. The Apostle Paul specifically addressed legalism, the error of combining the contrary systems of law and grace, in his Galatians letter. Consequently, this syncretistic error has also been synonymously referred to as Galatianism.

This page presents a list of what Paul taught concerning law, its history, and its relationship to the New-Creation Christian, using text taken from his epistles. Throughout the page, supporting quotations are from the New King James and New International versions of the Bible.


First, the principle of law was given to unregenerate mankind--the First Adam and his descendants.  It pertains to 'accountability' toward God and governing earthly authorities.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Romans 4:15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Romans 5:13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
Romans 13:1,4 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities...for he is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
1 Timothy 1:8-10 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine...

The principle of law was neither given to bring us into right relationship with God nor empower us to live a life pleasing to God.  Law has to do with Adam, sin, and death, not righteousness and life.  Law does not impart Life.  The Mosaic law was not meant to replace the principles of promise, grace, and faith, but was brought in alongside.

Acts 13:39 "and by Him [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.
Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
Romans 8:3 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,
Romans 9:31 but Israel, who pursue a law of righteousness, has not attained it.
Galatians 2:16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:21 "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."
Galatians 3:11-13 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law , because, "The righteous will live by faith." The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law...
Galatians 3:17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
Galatians 3:21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
Galatians 5:4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Hebrews 7:19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

Key to understanding the Christian life is seeing that law increases our awareness of our lost condition as well as our propensity (nature) to sin, which we congenitally inherited from the First Adam.  Law exacerbates bondage (no so-called "free will") and most often leads to hypocrisy (Rom. 2:17-24).

Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
Romans 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
Romans 7:7 What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  Certainly not!  On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.  For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."
Romans 11:32 For God bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Galatians 3:19 What purpose then does the law serve?   It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Galatians 3:23,24 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.

Rather than producing holiness and godliness, our Adamic life is energized and gains mastery over us when we are "law oriented".  Contrary to widespread religious belief, successful "law-keeping" either before or after regeneration is not God's intention for the New-Creation Christian. Jeremiah 31:33 is a (New) covenant promise to individual Jews who will live during the future Millennium.

Romans 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 7:5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.
Romans 7:8,9 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.  Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

The bottom-line result of either Law or law as a "rule of life" [for either Jew, Christian, or other] is SIN and HYPOCRISY.  This truth is supported by both Scripture and six thousand years of recorded religious history.

Romans 2:17-23 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew [or Christian]; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth -- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Law primarily addresses the life-force (consciousness) of the First Adam and his descendents.   The New-Creation Christian's death with Christ separates him/her from their relationship to the First Adam and the realm of the principle of law.

Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead (separated) to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
Romans 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
Galatians 3:25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 4:5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Ephesians 2:15 by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.  His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
1 Timothy 1:9,10 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers--and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me [Paul].

From the beginning and up to the present day, a candid reading of Paul's Gospel of Grace, together with time amongst legalists, turns upside-down the erroneous notion that law as a "rule of life" produces moral integrity or genuine holiness.  Either as an external principle for the Jews or an internal principle for the rest of humanity [Romans 2:14,15], law produces bondage to sin.

Cartoonist Wiley, with tongue in cheek, echoes our sentiments:

Absolutely NO Machete Juggling


ARE YOU FALLING ALL OVER THE DANCE FLOOR?

A Reformed sister named Robin writes that after her awakening to the truth of God's sovereignty in her salvation "sanctification has become a dance instead of a duty."  What a beautiful analogy!  Robin continues: "...y'know what a legalist is?  (S)he's a dancer that keeps looking at his or her FEET to be sure (s)he's getting it exactly right.  Kinda misses the whole point of dancing, doesn't it?  Our eyes should be on His face, not on our own feet - or worse, on OTHER PEOPLE'S feet!"

William K's - THINKMAIL

However, little does Robin yet realize that in spite of the wonderful "truth of God's sovereignty", the Reformed tradition will bind her to a life of 'feet watching'-----law, not identification with Christ, as a "rule of life"!  DS


Good morning, Dan!

Good to hear from you.  My earlier email, as you have observed, was the beginning of my struggles to comprehend my position in Christ Jesus.  I did not want to turn loose of the Law for fear of falling headlong into some dark abyss of sinning.  And I suppose I felt like "keeping the law" as a "rule of life" afforded me opportunity to gain a measure of acceptance on a daily basis with our Lord.  The heart is indeed "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked".  

Probably the greatest single truth that has helped to free me from this kind of thinking is the distinction between the Two Adams.

The law has to do with sin, and therefore it applies to the Adam-life, the old man....The law is not made for a righteous man......it has nothing to say to the new man in Christ Jesus...The old nature is law-oriented; carnal, not spiritual...Being in Christ Jesus, the believer no longer has need for the law as a governing principle--he can now live by nature, effortlessly and naturally. (THE COMPLETE GREEN LETTERS, pp152,155,156).

At long last the Holy Spirit has enabled me to see this!!  But I resisted this teaching for many years.  It was not so much "pride of doctrine", but WRONG doctrine and "pride of life" that kept me from seeing this!  But the Lord has His own ways of dealing with that!  And I am finding that He deals with each of His children INDIVIDUALLY.  He knows exactly the "prescription" that is needed, and the precise "dosage".

When I wrote to you in June, I was deeply hurting inside because I had been terminated from my job after almost 8 years of dedication to the same company.  This has been a humbling experience.  Little did I know it was of the Lord's arrangement to apply experientially Romans 8:28ff, and that it was an answer to our Lord's "High Priestly Prayer" in John 17:17: "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth".  This whole experience quickly turned my attention once again to both the Living Word and the written Word.  And then for some reason I remembered Miles Stanford and THE GREEN LETTERS which I had read about 30 years ago.  Immediately I did a search on the internet.  So here I am!!  I am glad for your fellowship, and I treasure those of "like precious faith".

Continuing in His Grace,
Frank J.

 

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