What ‘Laws’ do Christians have to keep?
Do we have the keep The Law – all the law of the Old Testament?
(Lent Course talk)
This is a very good question! But the answer is not so easy (when is it ever?).
It is very clear from the Gospels that Jesus kept The Law perfectly (He was sinless – and is the only person who can claim that) though He had no time at all for the regulations that humans like the Pharisees had added onto the law in an attempt to ‘help’ people keep them all. He said that until The Law was fulfilled and all had been accomplished not even the smallest part of it would pass away till earth and heaven did (Matthew 5.1-18).
But as soon the early church began at Pentecost and the prophecy of Ezekiel 36 was fulfilled (new spirit and new hearts with God’s law written on them for all believers) it became clear that the OT law no longer applied. Paul reveals the meaning of Jesus’ saying in Matthew about fulfilling The Law – in Galatians 3.19 Paul tells us that OT Law was only in use till Jesus came and finished His mission. Now Jesus had ascended to Heaven the OT Law no longer applied - any of it. Paul tells us that the Law was a ‘teacher’ or ‘leader’ whose task was to lead people to Christ by making them realise they need a Saviour because they sin so much (Galatians 3.14-15). If you try and live by the OT Law and break even one commandment of the 613 then you are guilty of breaking them all (James 2.10) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23). The Law no longer applies because we are saved and made Holy by faith in Jesus – Jesus upheld the whole Law without sin and takes our place for us (Romans 8). You cannot separate out the OT Law from the Old Covenant – and we now live under the New Covenant not the Old (praise the Lord!).
Does this mean we can do whatever we want because the OT Law no longer applies? As Paul would say ‘BY NO MEANS!’ The NT is full of lists of vices and sins that Christians should avoid – and for some of them the offender should even be excommunicated from the church if they commit. It is also full of lists of virtues we should aspire to. The whole OT Law pointed to Christ, it was the shadow and He is the Substance. It reveals what He would do, how He would save us, and it reveals His heart. Christians are called to follow what Paul calls ‘the Law of Christ’ – Love. But love cannot be commanded by laws. If we truly love God and love each other there are many things we won’t do. But we 'don’t do them' because of love, not a law or command, and we don’t think for a moment that doing them makes us more holy or close to God – only faith does that.