How in the World Does the Christian Obey the Law of God?
It is obvious that unbelievers do not keep the Law of God (Ex 20; Dt 5). The natural man is dead in his trespasses and sins (1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:1). The universal fact of sin reveals it is both an inheritance (Rom 5:12–21) and a practice (Rom 3:23). Sin is the very nature of human flesh in the fallen world (Eph 2:3). It is the full-time occupation of man’s faculties, and it has been from the fall (Gen 6:5).
All people sin with their minds, their eyes, their tongues, their hearts, etc. Sinning against God is as common to sinners, as fish having a sip of water. The human conscience is aware of sin, but God issued His Law, so that men could see the extent of their sin enterprise. Sin is so heinous that the introduction of the Law only exacerbates one’s penchant to sin more. All people die because of sin. The multiplication of sins can sometimes expedite death. Regardless, sooner or later, death follows sin.
The soul is dead to God in the womb because of inherited sin (Ps 51:5). The body of flesh appears to live, but in not many years, the process of dying is visible. Death is looming, but with vanity, sinners labor to prevent what is inevitable. They can be in denial right to the end.
There is hope for the born again of God, who experiences, a spiritual re-birth (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3). This gracious gift of God is a profound change for sinners (Eph 2:8–9). Not only do sinners have the title, “saints” ascribed to them, they have a change of heart (Ezek 36:26) and mind (1 Cor 2:16). The Bible considers them a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). The life of God is now constraining them (Jn 6:63; 2 Cor 5:14; Gal 2:20)
The message of the Law never changes…”Obey!” The question now is how the Christian relates to the Law, seeing that positive, spiritual change has occurred. There is some confusion in the church over this matter, and arguably, there has been from the beginning.
In Jesus’ day, a Scribe or Lawyer was zealous for the Law of Moses, which is the Law of God, revealed in the Old Testament, given to Israel at Mount Sinai. The Law is good, right, just, holy, spiritual etc. In fact, the Law informs us of the holiness of God. God showed man the standard for right standing before God (righteousness).
The problem of non-compliance was as true, experientially for the Scribe, as it was for the shepherd or tax collector. God made provision for His holy nation, by giving them the system of sacrifices for sins. If one broke the Law, then, sacrifices for sins were offered at the Temple, with an animal substitute. Nothing helped with obedience, however. Seeing how sin proliferates, even for the most ardent adherent, makes us marvel at the impeccability of Jesus Christ.
Jesus was supernaturally conceived to avoid the inherited sin from Adam (Mt 1:20). He lived a perfect, sinless life before God and men. Jesus was like us, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). His deity is clearly implied with this doctrine of sinlessness, for it is impossible for God to sin.
The death of Christ on the cross (1 Pet 2:24), that is, the precious blood of the unblemished Lamb was shed for us, His people, ransomed and bought for a price (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). Jesus bore our sins in His body, and by this particular redemption (Jn 10:11, 15; Eph 5:25), He canceled our debt of sin (1 Cor 2:14). The sins of those in the covenant of grace have been forgiven by the blood of the covenant (Mt 26:28). Sin no longer reigns over us. It is replaced by the reign of God’s grace (Rom 5:21).
With no condemnation, now, for those in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1), the status of forgiven is unchanging. By God’s doing we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30), and His righteousness before God the Father is imputed to those in His church (Mt 16:18), His holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), the Israel of God (Gal 6:16). This is a permanent position, seated with Christ in heaven (Eph 2:6). The promise of our Savior is that we can never be cast out (Jn 6:37), never plucked from His hand (Jn 10:28–29), and never separated from His love (Rom 8:35–39) that never fails (1 Cor 13:8).
Christians are far from perfect, however, when it comes to the Law. The Apostle Paul, who self-identified as the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15), informed the Christians at Rome that it was a civil war raging within him (Rom 7). The Spirit and the flesh are at enmity with one another. Sin does not go away, until we die, but the Spirit of Christ never leaves nor forsakes us (Heb 13:5).
Paul warned the church at Galatia, not to return to attempts at Law-keeping, as was their practice in Judaism. This is so important, today. Many professors of Christianity tell others to obey the Bible, in the same manner as the Scribes did in Jesus’ day. This is not a possibility, nor a reality. It only sets Christians up for failure.
The Apostle Paul would object, telling his hearers to walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25) and walk in faith, for the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17). It is the Spirit, who causes us to walk in God’s statutes (Ezek 36:27), not we ourselves. So, where there is any imperative in Scripture, calling for obedience, it must be God’s Spirit, willing and doing His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). If the Law concerns us, then it is God who accomplishes what concerns us (Ps 57:2; 138:8).
My dear reader, do not fall prey to modern day Judaisers, who would put you back under the Law, saying, “Wear these clothes. Eat these foods. Celebrate this holiday or season of religious observance. Offer up these sacrifices…and on and on.” There is no merit, nor special favor with God, for any religious exercise. Do not put any confidence in the flesh (Phil 3:3), for there is no good thing that dwells within you, that is, in your flesh (Rom 7:18). Remember that God’s grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor 12:9), working Christ, the life of God’s Spirit in you (Rom 8:9, 11, 29). Your soul is alive to God (Rom 6:11), but your body of death remains what it is by definition.
Christian, if there is to be any obedience in you, it will be in your soul, and it will be a work of the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of your sanctification (Monergism). Therefore, your trust is in Him, as is your rest from any Law-keeping labors. He is able. He will do it, and He will be glorified for it.
Spokane Valley, Washington
December 4, 2020