There are at least three reasons why a study of the Christian and the law is necessary.
A Central Place in Scripture
First, the law has a central place in the Scriptures. Consider the words of Jesus:
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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Jesus did not denigrate the law; He commended it! Paul also praised the law:
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Romans 7:12)
… I agree that the law is good. (Romans 7:16; cf. Deuteronomy 4:8; Nehemiah 9:13; Acts 7:38)
Other than matters directly relating to Jesus Christ Himself, few topics receive more extensive treatment by Paul than does the law. Thus, to misunderstand or neglect the law is to misunderstand or neglect a large portion of the Word of God.
Necessary for Salvation
Second, a right relationship to the law is necessary for salvation.
… Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace …(Galatians 5:1-4)
According to Paul, when a person tries to be justified before God through keeping the law, he has become “alienated from Christ” and has “fallen away from grace”! Certainly this means he is not saved. Thus, the Christian must have a right relationship to the law – at least regarding the major issues. It is necessary for eternal life!
Third, many Christians are confused about the law. This is because there is much wrong teaching on the subject. Areas of common misunderstanding include the following:
- Were the Israelites in the Old Testament saved through keeping the law?
- Is the Christian under the Law of Moses in any sense? Perhaps we are free from having to keep the ceremonial and civil parts of the law, but are we still obligated to keep the moral law, the Ten Commandments?
- Is the Christian supposed to keep the Jewish feasts, the Sabbath or other religious observances?
- If the Christian is not under the law, then are we free to break the law?
These and other questions trouble the minds of many believers.
To begin with, let’s establish the meaning of the term “the law” in the Bible …
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