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Not Under the Law

Question: Did Jesus come to abolish the Law?

Answer: No; rather, He came to fulfill the Law. Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Likewise, the apostle Paul denies the false idea that the gospel abolishes the Law of God. “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31).

1. Since we are sinners by nature, having fallen in Adam, we are unable to fulfill the Law’s moral demands. So Jesus lived and died in our place, to take upon Himself our curse, and to clothe us with His righteousness. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

2. The ceremonial aspects of the Law (e.g. the animal sacrifices and Levitical priesthood), which were prophetic pictures of better things to come, were fulfilled in Christ. He is the reality of the Old Testament shadows. Therefore Christians do not observe the OT ceremonial laws any longer, because in Christ, we have now realized their purpose. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17)

3. The moral law of God, as a guide to life, has never, and could never be abrogated. Our standard - love - is essentially the same as that of the Law which prescribed supreme love to God and love to one another. “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Galatians 5:13, 14). God’s redeemed are characterized by their love and obedience to His Law.

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble.
LORD, I hope for Your salvation,
And I do Your commandments (Psalm 119:165, 166).

Christians are not under the law. We are not under a legal system where acceptance with God is subject to perfect personal obedience to law. If it were so, we would all be doomed. Rather, Christians are under grace. God deals with us graciously, pardoning our transgressions for Christ’s sake.

The phrase “we are not under law but under grace” simply does not mean that we can “live it up”! On the contrary, being united with Christ is His death, burial and resurrection - a truth manifested in our baptism - we are now called to flee from sin and live righteously unto God. “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:15, 16).

In summary, Christ fulfilled the Law:

  • Believers are justified by His perfect obedience and death on the cross.
  • The ceremonial laws are realised in Him.
  • Jesus liberates God’s people from the guilt and dominion of sin that we may live in obedience to God.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi