ARE WE UNDER LAW?
THE FOLLOWING material was recently
presented by the editor in an inter-computer, e-mail exchange of thought.
Here we amplify and enlarge upon it for purposes of clarity and explanation.
There are two extremes that may be taken on this subject. (1) One is a
sterile "letter of the law" legalism that limits us to the mechanics of
what is written in God's commands and misses out on the very spirit behind
the words (and thus the great principles and implications accompanying
the teaching). (2) The other is to unscriputrally emphasize grace to the
point of there being no law, and thus no personal responsibility and accountability.
In either case, in a sense, God's commands are circumvented, nullified,
or watered down as far as practice is concerned. The question before us
is: Are we under law?
1. Obviously we are not under the Law
of Moses (John 1:17; Eph. 2:15; Col. 2:14; Gal. 5:4).
2. But this does not negate law as
such (Rom. 3:31).
3. We are under the law to Christ (I
Cor. 9:21; Heb. 7:12; 9:15-17).
4. It is called the perfect law of
liberty (James 1:25).
5. It is the law of the Spirit (Rom.
is the law of Love (Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Rom. 13:8-10).
Paul asks in Romans 6:1 and 2, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue
in SIN, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to
sin, live any longer therein?"
May I ask? What is SIN? I John 3:4 reads, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth
also the law: for SIN IS THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW." These words are
a representation of the Greek work anomia (from anomos,
A + NOMOS, literally "no law"). Do a word study of this in the New Testament.
So, Paul is saying, "Shall we continue in SIN [no law, lawlessness], that
grace may abound?" His answer is quite apparent. "GOD FORBID!" Anomia,
this word for lawless, is commonly translated "iniquity" throughout the
New Testament. Even in Romans 6, it is found in verse 19. The falling away
from the original church was characterized as the "mystery of INIQUITY
[anomia, lawlessness]", which was already at work (II Thess.
2:7). And at the summit of all of this would be the "man of SIN [one who
transgresses the LAW, I John 3:4]."
Let us say that we are not under law in the sense of the Law of Moses.
The Law per se cannot be a system of justification, for "all have
sinned [I John 3:4] and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We
are under the law to Christ (the law of Christ). That law is LOVE. Love
is the fulfilling of the law (Gal. 5:14) for the essence of the law is
accomplished through love (Rom. 13:8-10). That being the case, we don't
have to have the law like a club hanging over our heads to be coerced into
right. We are not under the law in the sense that we are not under the
penalty of the law. Now in the context of love and grace we render obedience.
Paul said, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in
Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the
law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law
of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1,2). Paul further said that Christ "gave himself
for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity [anomia,
lawlessness], and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good
works" (Titus 2:14). It makes us wonder about some people's concept of
grace when they start emphasizing it, then let up on their devotion and
consecration to the Lord. Notice also Titus 2:11 and 12.
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). John echoed,
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments
are not grievous [burdensome]" (I John 5:3). Love is the fulfilling of
the law in that the law is fulfilled in love and through love.
Notice the Sermon on the Mount; especially Matthew 5:21 and following.
The kind of righteousness Christ wants includes the letter of the law,
but is not limited by it; it goes further. It involves the heart. There
is nothing righteous about disregarding the letter of Christ's teaching,
and calling those who want to carefully follow it LEGALISTS. But the letter
of the commandment is not enough. We must from our hearts practice the
very spirit of what Christ taught, and with what he taught there are principles
and ramifications tied in with each command that cannot be ignored. God's
law said, "Thou shalt not kill" (Cf. Mt. 5:21-26). The New Testament teaches
that we can be guilty of murder in the heart by hating our brother (I John
3:15), and anger and name calling are put in the same category. God's law
said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Cf. Mt. 5:27-32). The Pharisees,
the old "letter of the law" legalists, probably felt self-righteously pleased
with themselves. They were not guilty of breaking this commandment. However,
Jesus taught that there was more involved than just the letter of the law,
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." The law as such
would not prohibit watching the garbage on television or the movies, but
the teaching of Christ goes beyond the letter of the law, and would prohibit
anything that would ensnare us in this way. Immodesty of dress, and many
other things, would fall under this command. Yes, the spirit behind the
command, with the ramifications and principles, cannot be ignored.
Men, throwing the term around in a derogatory way, may call Christians
who wish to follow the Scriptures closely LEGALISTS, but we don't want
to be ILLEGAL, do we? To be without law is to be like a leaf falling from
a tree, unattached. No, Christ is not teaching the abandonment of law.
To be without law, and to have no respect for law, really, in the final
analysis, is to be an outlaw.
Actually many who call others LEGALISTS, in their way of using the term,
are more legal than those upon whom they heap the appellation. They hold
to the letter, and won't be bound by thought beyond the mechanics of what
is said. Then some are only legal with the prohibitive commands, and the
positive ones they throw to the wind. Let us recognize the spirit and principles
that go with all of God's teaching.
What kind of obedience do we render to the Lord? Is it only a bare bone's,
"letter of the law," legalistic obedience like that of the scribes and
Pharisees in the Sermon on the Mount? Or, do we go beyond the rattling
of the dry bones of a skeleton to add muscle and sinew? With muscle and
sinew on the bones, it would be like recognizing the principles and implications
that accompany the command. We are posed for movement and action. However,
there must be more than bones, muscle and sinew. There must be the heart
and vital organs within. The very spirit of the command must be obeyed
from the heart. With all the components of the body "fitly" joined together,
there now is life, and we are ready for concerted movement, obedience and
Let us look to, yea, we point you to, the person and personality
of Christ to obey the LAW OF CHRIST, which is the LAW OF LOVE. It is a
different kind of obedience from that of the LAW OF MOSES, but nonetheless
obedience, and of the highest order.
Hearts that are right with Christ are quick to obey (and will not gainsay).
35, NO. 1, 1997)