Every once in a while, it is a good idea to review some basics. Protestants love to tell you that the Law was done away with, or that it was nailed to the cross or that the Law was replaced by the New Covenant. However, even the clear teachings of Jesus tell us otherwise.
“You Mean You Have to DO Something?”
One of my favorite quotes from GTA is when the question of salvation comes up, “You mean you have to DO something to be saved?” Even Jesus tells us, yes, we have to do something!
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
~ Mt 19:16-17
Jesus then starts ticking off the last 6 of the Ten Commandments. He intentional leaves one out and the subsequent verses show what the young man’s problem was.
Furthermore, Jesus Himself taught that the Law would not pass away.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
~ Mt 5:17-19
Yet, many people do reject God’s commandments all the time, and they teach others to do the same. They reject the seventh day Sabbath, they reject God’s Holy Days, they reject the dietary laws, they reject tithing and then they do not understand most of the rest of the Bible because the puzzle pieces are missing (or rather, thrown away).
The real question at this point is whether or not Jesus was lying. If the Law has been done away, then He was a liar and a false prophet rather than a Messiah.
Does This Mean We are Saved By Keeping the Law?
Let’s be clear that forgiveness of our sins is a free gift. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. He was blameless, and He was the perfect sacrifice. It is by His blood we are justified (Ro 5:9). We did not, nor could we, earn it.
However, Scripture is clear we must accept the gift. We do this by repenting – turning from our sins 180 degrees. In other words, it involves more than being sorry for our sins, but it means we start keeping God’s Law!
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
~ 1Jn 3:4
That means that those who claim to know Christ but do not do their utmost to keep God’s Law have not repented and therefore are not true Christians!
The manner in which some treat God’s Law is frankly one of ingratitude. Rather than be thankful for forgiveness of sins, they are like one who is caught for reckless driving and the judge forgives his traffic violation. However, instead of being more careful to follow the traffic laws, he figures he is forgiven and so carelessly disregards all traffic laws. He reasons that they are only traffic laws, and the judge’s forgiveness means he must no longer follow them. He not only shows careless disregard for his and other’s safety, but he also shows ingratitude for the judge’s forbearance.
What About Love?
Some will ask at this point, “Well, what about love? All that Jesus said was to love each other!”
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
~ 1Jn 5:1-3
Love is equated with the commandments! In fact, Jesus said that the Law and the prophets (basically, most of the OT) hung on the Two Great Commandments:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
~ Mt 22:35-40
So, do you want to love God? Do you want to love your neighbor? Keep the commandments! Keep God’s Law! It will show you how to do both!
Aren’t We Under Grace?
Yes, Romans 6:14 makes that quite clear. However, what does “under grace” and “under the law” really mean?
Grace is one of those religious sounding words that often get used without putting any meaning behind them. “Grace” comes from Strong’s G5485, “charis”. Just so you don’t think I’m cheating, I’ll paste in the entire entry:
a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
2) good will, loving-kindness, favour
a) of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
3) what is due to grace
a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
b) the token or proof of grace, benefit
1) a gift of grace
2) benefit, bounty
4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward
Notice how the Amplified Bible puts it:
WHAT SHALL we say [to all this]? Are we to remain in sin in order that God’s grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow?
~ Ro 6:1 (Amp, brackets theirs)
It should be clear that we are under favor – a favor that is unmerited. We under God’s mercy because He took for payment of our sins the blood of Jesus Christ. We did nothing to earn that.
So, what’s the opposite of that? To be under a penalty, to be convicted of our crimes against God. That’s what it means to be under the Law. The Law can only tell us what sin is. It cannot save us, it cannot grant us mercy and it cannot justify us.
Romans 6:1 also tells us that we are not to go on sinning – i.e., transgressing the the Law!
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
~ Ro 4:15
If there is no Law, then there is no sin. If there is no sin, there is nothing to repent of!
What is a Covenant?
God is a covenant God. He made covenants with Noah and all living things, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Later, He made a covenant with the nation of Israel.
A covenant is an agreement. It may be a solemn agreement between people, such as marriage. It may be an agreement between God and humans.
Some say that the Ten Commandments is the Old Covenant. Some say the entire OT Law is the Old Covenant. However, those are laws, regulations and commandments. A covenant spells out what both parties will do.
In a very real way, God was merely reconfirming His covenant with Abraham when He covenanted with Israel. God made a covenant with Abraham and expanded upon it at various intervals. God repeated the same covenant with Isaac because “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Ge 26:5) showing that God’s Laws were already in effect.
In the Old Covenant, God spelled out that He would make them a great nation. Why would He do this? To make them an example for other nations (Dt 4:6). To provoke them into the worship of the One and True God.
So, What is the New Covenant?
The New Covenant was actually prophesied of in the OT. In fact, the Book of Hebrews quotes from it once and referred to it again.
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
~ Heb 8:9-10
OT Israel could not keep God’s Law because they did not have a heart and mind to obey! God wants obedience. He wants people who are willing to live His way and not their own (unlike Adam and Eve who decided to do it their way). Israel had a heart problem (just like the rest of mankind does).
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
~ Dt 5:29
It is important to note why God wanted them to obey. Because it was good for them! Too many have a view of God that He is sitting up in Heaven with nothing better to do than to wait for someone to step out of line so He can zap them. Yet, God said it was so “it might be well” with Israel! It was for their own good!
What About Non-Israelites?
Even if you are not a physical Israelite, you must be a spiritual Israelite. Paul takes great pains to describe how Abraham became the “heir of the world” (Ro 4:13) and “the father of us all” (v 16; cf 3:29). However, not all of fleshly Israel “are of Israel” (9:6; cf 2:28-29), but there will be some who are not called Israel that will be called “my people” (v 25). No, but the elect will attain to the Kingdom (11:7). Gentiles will be grafted onto the tree that the Israelites of the flesh have fallen off of (vv 11-21). Notice that the Gospel is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (16:26). God wants more than mere obedience, but He desires obedience accompanied with faith.
Of course, some in Paul’s time took this to the extreme and demanded that Gentiles become physical Jews as well as spiritual Jews, i.e. become circumcised. Rather than Acts 15 doing away with the Law as some would twist Scripture, it is obvious from the beginning of the chapter that the issue was that “certain men … taught … Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”
Faith does not void the Law.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
~ Ro 3:31
What About All Those Rules and Regulations, Then?
There are laws pertaining to agriculture, laws pertaining to the tabernacle/temple sacrificial system, there are custom/cultural, health, dietary and moral laws. Which of these apply today? I recommend you read “How the laws of God apply to us in today’s society” for a framework.