Summary: Are Christians obligated to keep the law? What is the Christian’s relationship to the laws of God?
SERVITUDE OR GRATITUDE
THE CHRISTIAN’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE LAW
Are the Ten Commandments binding on us today? Are Christians obligated to keep the law? Why make a big deal about modes of baptism or place an emphasis on tithing? Isn’t that simply legalism? Aren’t we under grace and not under the law? Does it really matter as long as one’s heart means well? After all, isn’t what matters is the heart not what one says or does? I mean God looks at the heart while man looks at outward appearances. What is my relationship to the laws of God?
I. What is the law?
A. One of the words translated “law” in our Bible is the Hebrew word “Torah” and is used to refer to the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses or to the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.
B. Within the Torah are contained by the ceremonial law given to Israel by God through Moses and the moral laws of God which are summarized in but not limited to the Ten Commandments.
C. The law is sometimes referred to the entire will of God.
D. Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
II. What is legalism?
A. There are two forms of legalism.
B. There is legalism which teaches that salvation is in some way connected to works of the law, either keeping the Ten Commandments, being baptized, engaging in religious rites, or performing commendable actions.
1. Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
2. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
3. Those who believe that a person is a Christian as a result of living a certain kind of life or going through certain rituals is illustrated in the amusing story of two farmers who had a talk about Christianity. One of them said to his friend, "I hear that you’re a Christian." "That’s right," the other replied. "Well, what does it mean to be a Christian?" the curious farmer asked. "Well, I don’t drink, smoke, or run around with women." "In that case," the friend responded, "my mule must be a Christian too, because my mule doesn’t drink, smoke, or run around with women!" That’s legalism in a nutshell, and that’s how it makes Christianity sound to many a sinner. - Michael L. Brown, Go and Sin No More, p. 151, © Regal Books.
C. There is a legalism that says while we are saved by grace, we must keep the law in order to receive God’s continued love, earn His favor, or gain reward.
1. We can’t do anything at all to earn God’s favor
2. Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?
3. Galatians 3:11-12 ...no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, the man that does them shall live in them.
D. The very purpose of the law was to show man his inadequacy to save Himself or to please God. The Law makes it abundantly clear that we all fall short and need the salvation that Jesus offers by faith.
E. A number of years ago on I-5 in Washington, a man was traveling the wrong way on the divided highway. When the state troopers finally got him stopped they asked him if he knew he was going the wrong way. He stated that he did know this, and so they asked why he didn’t get off at one of the off ramps and get on the right side of the highway. He said that he started to do this several times but every time he started to do this he saw a sign that said, Wrong Way, do not enter. He wanted to obey the law even though he was disobeying it. But, every time he tried to do something to obey the law he found that he was unable to do that which he wanted to do. In our own strength we are all unable to obey God’s law. The indwelling Christ makes this possible, however, when we get saved.
III. The Christian has been freed from the Law
A. In Romans 7 Paul illustrates the believer’s relation to the law like that of the relation between a husband and wife. As long as both are alive they are bound by the laws of marriage. But when a man dies, and the connection between him and his wife is dissolved, the marital law ceases to be binding on the wife. In like manner for the Christian a severance has occurred with the Law. In their dying with Christ they have become dead to the law.