THE LAW AND THE CHRISTIAN
Confusion prevails about the question, whether a Christian needs to obey the Law. In order to clear the air, we need to go into the details and context of instituting the Old and New Covenants.
The Old Covenant
We read about the Old Covenant in Exodus 19:3-24:18. Exodus 19 is about the preparation for the giving of the Law, on condition that "we will obey all that the Lord has spoken." In Exodus 20, Moses went down to the people from the presence of God on the mount and 'spoke' to them the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 21,22 and 23, are ".. the judgments which you shall set before them." The actual instituting of the 'covenant' is described in detail in Exodus 24. It is a covenant between two parties: the Lord and the people, through Moses' mediation. In Exodus 24:3, we read, "So Moses came and 'told' the people all the words of the Lord and all the judgments. The people answered with one voice and said, "All the words which the Lord has spoken, we will do."
We see that this was a conditional covenant for a special purpose. The purpose was: "And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." The condition for that is: "if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, THEN, you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people" (Exo. 19:5).
Instituting The Covenant
"Moses wrote all the words of the Lord" (Exo.24:4). In verses 4, 5, we read about the sacrifices offered as part of the covenant. In V.6 we read, "Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. V.7 reads: "THEN he took the Book of the Covenant and READ it in the hearing of the people. And they said, 'All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient'." V.8 says, "And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you, ACCORDING TO ALL THESE WORDS. In the remaining verses of Exodus 24, we read about the covenant meal, often associated with a covenant. So, we see that the Old Covenant was a conditional covenant God made with the children of Israel, on the basis of their agreeing to DO all that the Lord has spoken. A covenant is a solemn binding agreement.
Reading the rest of the Old Testament, we know that none of the children of Israel could keep the whole law. In Acts 15:10, to those who insisted that "unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved," Peter answers: "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the (Gentile) disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." In Romans 3:20 we read that "by the deeds of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight."
Didn't God know that they would not be able to keep the Law? Of course, He did. Then why was it given? Romans 3:20 says, "FOR BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN." "Whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that, every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom.3:19).
So, the Law shows us clearly the standard of righteousness by which God wants us to live. But, by the Law came only the knowledge of sin. Law diagnosed the universal problem of human beings that we all are guilty before God, but did not give the medicine. None of us is able to reach that level of righteousness by our own effort (in the flesh).
God Almighty had a plan in place for this human problem. He gave out that plan through His prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, among others.
Why New Covenant?
Jeremiah 31:31-33 says, "Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-not according to the Covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My Covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
In Ezekiel 11:19, 20 we read about this New Covenant: "Then I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgements and DO them; and they shall be My people and I will be their God."
In Ezekiel 36:26, we read, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statute and you will keep My judgements and DO them.”
Why do we need a new spirit? Because our spirits are dead. All descendants of Adam are led either by what their body needs or by the thoughts of their minds. Why is God putting His Spirit into us? So that through our new spirit, in communion with God's Spirit in us, we may know how God wants us to live and be empowered to be live a righteous life, which is right according to God, as revealed in the Law.
What God promises is 1) a new covenant, 2) a new heart, 3) a new spirit, and 4) His Spirit in us, so that we can walk in God's statutes and keep His judgments.
So, in the New Covenant, God is putting a new spirit within us. Also, He puts His Spirit within us, Who causes us to walk in His statutes and keep His judgments. Jesus Himself promised to send God's Spirit for us before He instituted the New Covenant. In John 14: 16,17,26, 15:26, 16:13,14, we read about the function of God's Spirit in us. He is the Spirit of truth, will abide with us forever, will be in us, will teach us all things, will bring to our remembrance all of Jesus' teachings, will testify of Jesus, will guide us into all truth, will tell us things to come, and will glorify Jesus.
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus instituted the NEW COVENANT, as we read in Luke 22:19,20; "He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the NEW COVENANT in My blood, which is shed for you." We read the same in Mark 14:22-24 also. So, both the Old and the New covenants are blood-covenants. But, we do not see any condition attached to it.
New Covenant Believer
Everyone accepting Jesus Christ as the Saviour and Lord of his life is entering into this New Covenant relationship. The walk of a New Covenant believer is described in detail in Romans 8. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom.8:1).
Who are the ones in Christ? Those who are in Christ, are those who walk according to the Spirit. Those who walk according to the flesh are not in Christ, and they are condemned.
Romans 8:3, 4 says, "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that the RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US WHO DO NOT WALK ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT. Romans 8:1-16 is a contrast between those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit.
We, the New Covenant-believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, abiding in us to fulfil the requirements of the law. Romans 8:9 says, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God" (Rom.8:14). God's standard of righteousness, as revealed in the Law, has not changed over the years. He is the same God, and His standard even today is the same.
The New Covenant of Grace does not make us lawless, but righteous. Salvation produces righteousness and not lawlessness. The whole purpose of Jesus' coming was to "save His people from their sins" (Matt.1:21). So, how can we continue in sin? So, today if a believer sins, it is because he/she wants to sin, not because they lack the power not to sin. Because "the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the Law of sin and death" (Rom.8:2). Jesus on the cross has broken the power of sin over my life. I only need to appropriate it by faith. It is not only for our justification that we need to put our faith in Him, but also for our everyday victorious life, that the righteous requirement of the Law can be fulfilled in our lives. "For in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." It starts with faith and ends in faith.
Today, we do what is right according to God, not because we have to, but because we want to. Today we give, not because we have to tithe, but because we want to give and give more than one-tenth. We are going to be judged by the 'Law of liberty' (Jas.1:25, 2:12). God had provided the cities of refuge for those who sinned unintentionally (Num.35:11-15). The New Covenant believers too have a similar provision. Our city of refuge is in 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." But, unintentional sin cannot be a daily practice!