Tag Archives: law

Free to Sin?

On the flip side of this freedom in Christ coin lays a very relevant question, which Paul specifically addresses in Romans 6:15: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?” This is a very real issue, because if I’m truly free from law it seems like I should be able to do anything I want. Paul’s critics in fact accused him of teaching this very thing. But of course that’s not at all what Paul was saying. As we discussed earlier, he repeatedly warns against sin, saying that those who make it a practice of their life will not inherit the kingdom of God. Free to sin? Obviously not!

Time and again Paul made this point abundantly clear: “Do we then nullify [law] through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish [law].”(Romans 3:31) Of course we’re subject to obeying the law of God! But in what way then have we been freed from law? Are we merely responsible for keeping the moral aspects of law, while being freed from performing its rituals? How might one pick and choose what to obey and what to ignore? The Church has sought answers to these questions down through the centuries. But sadly, what they conclude often results in a whole new set of rules to conform to.

More law is obviously not the answer to being freed from law. But the question remains: how can we be subject to law and freed from law at the same time? Certainly a very difficult one to answer, don’t you think? Still, there is an answer—a very simple and straightforward one: in Christ we are dead to sin because we are dead to law. But until we actually understand what this means, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.

Want Some Proof?

The Bible tells us that proof of God’s existence can clearly be seen in nature. Through His creation, God reveals enough about Himself to inspire and motivate our pursuit of Him. Consequently, He has stripped mankind of any excuse for failing to do so.(Romans 1:19-20) But if that were not enough—which apparently is the case for many—God has provided further proof of His existence.

In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about a law, or principle, which is fundamental to our common experience. He claims that all people down through history have instinctively known that a moral law exists by which they ought to behave. It is called the Law of Nature (or Human Nature). He goes on to say that two points are essential to our understanding of how this law operates:

“First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”

Law of the Spirit

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2) is an unalterable spiritual law. In Christ we are no longer condemned for sin. Rather, sin itself has become the culprit worthy of condemnation

The bottom line is that we need to start behaving like dead men—dead to law, that is (and as a consequence, dead to sin). This extraordinary life as believers is all about faith in what Jesus has done, regardless of the weakness of our flesh. Paul’s admonition in Colossians 2:6 says it all: “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

When we were steeped in sin, we freely received God’s gift of grace. Now that we are saved, our job is not to try to appease Him by attempting once again to keep the law, but to live out our lives daily walking in the grace He has so abundantly provided. Only then can we enjoy the confidence that we are truly living a life of godliness.

Excerpted from: Free from the Power of Sin: The Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

Set Free from Law

In Romans 8:4 Paul talks about there being a “requirement of the Law,” meaning that the law obligates us to obey it in its entirety.(James 2:10) But God knows there is no possibility that we can ever obey His entire law. And since the punishment for failing to do so is spiritual death—separation from God—He had to provide a way to overcome this barrier. So, God’s solution was simply to take the law out of the way as it relates to our relationship with Him.

Paul further explains this truth in Romans 8:3-4: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

The effect of having been set free from law—since punishment for breaking it is no longer imputed—is that we are in fact now no longer subject to the realm of the flesh, even though our flesh may continue to brutally oppress us.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:9-10: “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…If Christ is in you, though your body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Consequently the outcome for us—unbelievable as it may seem—is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”(Romans 8:1-2)

Excerpted from: Free from the Power of Sin: The Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

New Testament Law

What about the concept of law found in the New Testament? Have you ever considered how Jesus’ teaching might impact us in this regard? Time and again Jesus startled people because He seemed to be adding to what the Law of Moses said.

The truth is that much of His teaching holds far more stringent demands than anything contained in Old Testament law (take the Sermon on the Mount, for example).(Matthew 6,7 &8) Why? Because Jesus addresses the intentions and motives of the heart rather than emphasizing what we more commonly associate with law—that is, outward behavior.

So, at first blush it seems like Jesus heaps on more responsibility for conforming to God’s law rather than freeing us from it. How then can we say that we are free from the Law? The answer, of course, is that we have been set free in Christ, but this certainly can be a bit confusing when the issue of law continues to stare us in the face.(Romans 8:2)

History of the “Law”

Now we need to realize that law did not originate with the Law of Moses. Law was first introduced to Adam when God said, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”(Gen. 2:17)

So law was there in the Garden—just not “the Law” as it was later given. And sin was also around from the very beginning. But the thing we must understand is that law had to be in place for punishment to be meted out, since sin cannot be charged unless law exists to identify it.(Romans 5:13-14)

We Christians claim—and rightly so—that in Christ we are now free from the Law. But by this do we mean the Law of Moses only, or all law. Well, most of us would be quick to say that we’ve merely been freed from the Law of Moses. But doesn’t this raise another question? Doesn’t Old Testament law contain many commandments which are still pertinent today?

How about the Ten Commandments, for example? Which one of these laws would we be comfortable with breaking? Which one of them might we violate without any thought of consequences?

Excerpted from: Free from the Power of Sin: The Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself

God’s Law

In His eternal wisdom, God chose Israel from among the nations as His own possession. Of Israel God said, “…you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”(Exodus 19:6) He then gave them special revelation concerning His righteousness—its primary expression being the Law of Moses, which came some four hundred years after Abraham received God’s promise. In this Law God laid out the rules for Israel’s behavior, structure for their worship and also a special revelation of His nature. He made such things known to no other nation.

But over the centuries Israel debated both the meaning and the implementation of the Law of Moses. Over time an oral tradition evolved, handed down from teacher to student, ultimately resulting in a written collection of traditional rabbinic laws called the Mishna (compiled over 335 years from 200 B.C. to A.D. 135). Jesus made mention of this supplement to the Law when He chided the Scribes and Pharisees: “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”(Matthew 15:3)

Eventually the Mishna became a cornerstone of the Talmud, an exhaustive interpretation of both the Mishna and the Law and Prophets compiled over 250 years from A.D. 250 to 500. An English version of this work is comprised of almost 36,000 pages in 36 volumes.  

In Judaism, man has raised the complexity of religious law to an astonishing level. But the question is why they would be motivated to make law so burdensome. The answer seems to lay in their belief that righteousness before God is possible only through strict adherence to His law—and the more works of the law one performs the holier he has the chance to become.

The Jews have indeed brought the complexity of law to a new level, but their beliefs concerning law in general are not unique to them. These beliefs are also deeply embedded in the psyche of mankind as a whole, and therefore found as a common denominator in most of the world’s religions.

The Righteousness of Law

Scripture tells us that God is righteous. We commonly define righteousness as being in right standing with God. But what does it mean for God to be righteous? It would be silly to think that He has achieved some sort of excellence that allows Him to be good enough to be God. No, God doesn’t need to meet a standard of righteousness; He intrinsically is that standard. God’s righteousness means that He is by nature the essence of all that is good and just. Explaining God’s righteousness in The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer says:           

            “In the inspired Scriptures, justice and righteousness are scarcely to be        distinguished from each other. The same word in the original becomes in English     justice or righteousness…Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the             way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to             conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given   situation…Everything in the universe is good to the degree that it conforms to the       nature of God and evil if it fails to do so. God is His own self-existent principle of      moral equity…”           

Now since God’s righteousness (justice) is the benchmark by which He will ultimately judge His creation, He had to provide mankind with the means to relate to His standard of perfection. He revealed that standard to man through law. So a good understanding of biblical law is essential, because it’s impossible to fully comprehend God’s amazing provision for our own righteousness (justification) without it.

On Criticising Others

I think I’ve acquired a pretty good understanding of God’s truths over the years, and can’t help but be a little put off by those who haven’t applied themselves to the same degree. But frankly, I’d be appalled if those who’ve gone further looked down on me the same way. My immediate response would go something like this: “Try not to be so judgmental!” Kind of humorous, isn’t it?

The criticism I dislike so much in others is the same criticism I don’t have much trouble dishing out. Well, this paints a pretty good picture of what I was like in my early life as a Christian, and the truth be told, to some degree still am. Yes, my parents named me wisely!

But let’s be honest, aren’t you a bit like me—maybe just a little? I thought so. It’s a rare person who has been able to totally eradicate this weakness so common to human nature. Why do we so easily fall into the snare of judgment? It’s law that’s behind it all. Rather, I should say it’s the weakness of our sinful flesh with its predisposition to pride that’s at the bottom of it. But without law, we’d never recognize this Achilles’ heel for what it really is. Nor would any basis for judgment even exist.

Because of the Bible, we know what a Christian’s behavior ought to be like. God’s law makes sin so obvious in those around us. It’s so easy to become critics! We find it quite natural to fall into the trap of judgment the moment we witness somebody violating His commandments. But on the other hand, we fail to keep His law ourselves, not thinking much about the hypocrisy it must provoke. It’s Pharisaism at its core! And yet we’d be shocked to think of ourselves as such.

Dead to Law?

In the 7th chapter of Romans, Paul lays out in detail the remarkable truth regarding the basis for our freedom from the bondage of sin. Here we find that our liberty hinges on freedom from law—that is, being dead to law. And here the nagging question as to how we can be free from the power of sin, even as we continue to encounter shameful problems with it, is finally answered.

He begins his argument in Romans 7:1-3, where he says that law has jurisdiction over a person’s life only as long as he lives. This reinforces what he had just taught—that we have in fact died to sin. Without question we have, but not in the way we tend to think about it, since our death to sin is not really a personal death at all.

Let’s look a little closer. Paul says that freedom from law is actually the basis for our freedom from sin. He uses the example of a woman being held accountable to the Law by virtue of the fact that she is married. Consequently, she can’t pursue a relationship with another man without being labeled an adulteress. But when her husband dies, she is free from any responsibility the Law placed on her regarding her former husband.

Why is this important? Because although in this instance the wife is the one who has been freed from (dead to) law, she didn’t die at all; her husband did! And so it is with us. By comparison, we’re like the living wife rather than the dead husband when talking about our own death to sin. Just as the commandment concerning adultery now no longer applies to her, in Christ we have also been removed from the realm of jurisdiction of law.

We are in fact just as dead to law in regard to our sin as she is to the commandment which once governed her marriage. But law has lost its jurisdiction over us not because sinful behavior can now be considered legal, permissible or acceptable, but because our sin is no longer punishable. God has acquitted us of wrongdoing because the punishment for sin—that is, separation from Him—is no longer enforced. And this is the key to understanding the true nature of our death to sin.

Excerpted from: Free from the Power of Sin: The Keys to Growing in God in Spite of Yourself