Summary: This message deals with a second New Covenant marriage - that between Christ and his Church (the Lamb and the Bride). It examines the significance of the Law in the life of the believer today.
The Bible: A Love Story
Pt 4: The Law of Love
The question is often asked: are we, as Christians under the New Covenant of Grace, still obliged to keep the law (as much as is possible with the help of the Spirit of God)? And if so, what does it mean that we are "no longer under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14)? And didn't John say that "the law was given through Moses; grace and truth was given through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17) In fact, Paul did go on to describe himself and other believers as being dead to the law, (Romans 11:7; Galatians 5:19).
So what's the story? Is the law irrelevant to the believer today?
To answer this question, we must go back to the time when the law was first give at Mt Sinai. The Old Covenant that Yahweh made with Israel is what gives us a clear insight into the nature and purpose of the law - as well as its specific relevance to us in the Church, the spiritual Body of Christ.
Let me make this clear at the onset: although I will, in this message, be equating the keeping of the law to an expression of true love for God, I am doing so strictly in the scriptural context of this discussion of the Old and New Covenants. Love is, of course, far greater, deeper and more wide-ranging than the mere keeping of the law.
But back to our subject:
In our previous messages in this series, we saw how that the law - specifically the ten commandments - was given to the nation of Israel as part of a "Ketubah" - a marriage contract - the "Old Covenant" (Exodus chapters 10, 20 and 24). It constituted no less than a record of the obligations imposed on the bride as a means of her demonstrating love for, and devotion to her intended 'husband'. It was her side of the covenant and required of her because genuine love and willing obedience always go together. One can never operate without the other: they are two sides of the same coin - operating spiritually in the specific context of a love relationship! We see this conjunction of love and obedience (loyalty) in the following verses:
Deuteronomy 7:9 "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments."
As Christ said to his disciples: John 14:21 "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me."
And John adds: "In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands." (1 John 5:3)
Christ himself demonstrated this perfect blend of love and obedience in his relationship with the Father:
"I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me."(John 14:31)
And in his turn, Christ asked the same of his disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands." (John 14:15)
We further saw how Israel's marriage to Yahweh ended in divorce because of her lack of love for God and her consequent inability to obey her "husband". Even the Pharisees'' attempts to stick rigidly to the outward requirements of the law proved to be mere legalism. Not only had their hearts not changed, but Christ levelled this chilling indictment:
John 15:24 "they have hated both me and my Father."
Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And what does He find there?
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? " (Jeremiah 17:9)
No wonder Christ identified the inward motivations of the heart as being the impulse and motivation for outward actions:
Matthew 5:28 "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
This verse has been often misunderstood. Christ wasn't saying that a lustful look and adultery are synonymous - but simply that it is adulterous thoughts in the heart that lead to the outward lustful look. Sin must begin somewhere - and it begins in the heart - then manifesting itself in action. That's also the thought behind Christ's statement that:
No wonder Israel was incapable of keeping her side of the old contract - as faithful obedience can only be produced by genuine heart-felt and perfect love:
Luke 6:45 "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."