The Christian’s Relationship To the Law

The Pharisees were strict in keeping the law, but they added many other rules and regulations that were intended to keep believers from breaking the law. It is like building a fence around the law, but in practice the fence soon becomes a law. For instance, we are not to be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14). So to keep our Christian children from marrying a non-believer, we establish additional rules like, “You can’t date non-believers or associate with them.” That may be wise in some cases, but it is not a law. Jesus ignored man made rules, but He never violated the law. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). How then do we as believers relate to the law?

The term “law” in Scripture is often associated with specific commands, especially the Old Testament Mosaic Law. But the concept of law is much broader. The Hebrew word torah, which is the basic word for law in the Old Testament, is related to the Hebrew word hora, meaning to teach or instruct. The fundamental meaning is not “command,” but “instruct.” The word came to be used for the entire word of God. The Jews use the word torah to describe the first five books of the Old Testament. Christians have used law to describe sections of Scripture and Scripture as a whole including commandments as well as promises. The latter is what Jesus meant when He said, “I came to fulfill the law.” He kept all the commandments and fulfilled all the promises. Just as there are physical laws by which the physical world is structured, so also there are personal and moral spheres of God’s creation which are governed by His moral and spiritual laws, which are the expression of His moral nature.

Following God’s laws led to life, and disobeying them led to misery and destruction were the overarching principles in the Old Testament. The New Testament believer is not related to the law in the same way. The former stands before the law in himself as a sinner, and consequently a lawbreaker. He lives under the condemnation of the law. But the believer “in Christ” has the same relationship to the law that Christ has. God’s righteous principles for life are all fulfilled in Christ. We are free from the legal bondage of the law. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

The law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24,25). Now that we are alive in Christ, the law is no longer our tutor. What we could not fulfill in the flesh, Christ fulfilled for us. The means by which we live a righteous life has changed. We now relate to God by faith, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Neil

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