Law and Grace?
The term Law can mean more than one thing in Scripture. The word “Law” can mean the Mosaic code or Covenant or moral principle in general. We will be using the term Law to mean the Mosaic code and Covenant and all its contents. There has been much wrangling over what part of the Mosaic code is applicable and required of a New Testament Christian. From my study of the issue, we are not under the Mosaic code or Covenant at all. We are under the New Covenant. This issue was settled at what is called the Jerusalem Council Acts. 15:1ff. Read the account closely. The issue was “Do Gentile Christians have to become Jews before they can become Christians?”
1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Acts 15:1 (KJV)
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. Acts 15:5 (KJV)
It is very clear that certain zealous Jewish believers were convinced that Gentile believers in Jesus must become proselytes (or Jews) before they could become Christians. The rite of becoming a Jew was circumcism which required a person to accept all the requirements of the Mosaic Covenant (Law).
What was the conclusion or decision of this Council? The final decision was stated by James who was the spokesman for the Council.
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Acts 15:19-21 (KJV)
The verdict was that Gentiles were not to be placed under the Law of Moses or the Mosaic Code or Covenant. However, the Gentiles were to be encouraged to abstain from four different things: 1)pollutions of idols, 2) fornication, 3) things strangled, and 4) blood. These were things exceedingly repugnant to Jewish people which would hinder the Gentile’s fellowship with Messanic Jews.
It is also clear from the book of Hebrews that the Mosaic Covenant became obsolete with the introduction of the New Covenant which replaced it.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. Heb 8:13 (KJV)
Even Jewish believers would no longer be under the Mosaic Covenant according to the above verse which directly applies to Jewish believers.
We are not even under the ten commandments. Does that then make us lawless people? No, we are under Law to Christ. It is interesting that nine out of the ten commandments are restated in the New Testament. The Sabbath commandment is the only one missing. Does this mean we are still under the Mosaic Covenant because nine out of the ten are restated in the New Testament. No! Just because the New Testament states the same nine principles does not mean that this is the Mosaic covenant. It simply means that the New Covenant includes these concepts in it. That does not mean that the New Covenant is the same as the Mosaic or Old Covenant.
Does the Mosaic code still have application to New Testament Christians. Well, there are principles in the Mosaic Covenant which are still relevant to today’s believers. For instance, the ten commandments (probably even the Sabbath concept) are still objectification of moral principle. If a Christian commits adultery, he would know that he had sinned because by the Law is knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20). Paul states some of the ten commandments in Romans 13:7-10 to give objectifications of what it means to truly love. Love is like Hippocrates’ saying in medicine: Do no harm. Actually, love is more than negative “Do no harm”. Love is positively “Do good”.
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:7-10 (KJV)
Dr. Charles Ryrie has the best article on this matter entitled “The End of the Law for Righteousness”
Do you find this impossible that we are totally not under the Law? Remember, every person prior to the Mosaic Covenant were not under any law. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph as well as all other persons were not under any Law of God. Law does not improve a person’s behavior, but just reveals it more clearly.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (KJV)
The New Testament principle is “walking in the Spirit.” “Walking in the Spirit” indicates a habitual process of yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Just like any other habit, a habit takes time to form. As we walk in the Spirit, God will enlighten us to our needs of improvement a little at a time. Walking in the Spirit means that we call upon God, the Holy Spirit, regularly to empower us in our behavior.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Gal 5:14 (KJV)
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. Gal 5:16 (KJV)
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Gal 5:18 (KJV)
May we walk in the Spirit regularly and continuously!