Not Under Law

 

I was perusing the web a couple of days ago when I came across a sight that boasted this statement:

The Law of Christ is the law we are under in the New Covenant era.

I threw up a little bit in my mouth when I read that. I haven’t seen that or heard that in a while and it took me by surprise. It’s what I used to believe. Ten years ago, I would have been shaking my head in hearty agreement with this statement. But today, it saddens me. I saddens me because it takes away from the cross of Jesus. It saddens me because it exchanges one moral code (Moses) for another one – a newer one – and it reduces Jesus to little more than a new law-giver, not much unlike Moses. It saddens me because it misses the point of grace entirely. It saddens me because not unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, it gives one permission to tie heavy burdens on the backs of those who embrace the idea, believing it to be true. It saddens me because having zealously believed that myself all those years ago, I know those who hold to that belief can’t see the fallacy of it while they’re in it.

To insist that a believer today is under law, any law, goes against the New Testament. Twice in the letter to the Romans, Paul states that a believer is not under law (Romans 6:14, 15). The lack of the definite article on both of these occurrences leads me to the conclusion that he isn’t just talking about the Old Covenant law of Moses, but ANY law. Any set of rules or laws that attempt to corral and control sin by behavior modification is doomed from the start. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 6.

He’s writing this section in response to the objection that too much grace leads to unbridled sin; “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1) But instead of giving them more rules or laws to live by, he gives them more grace! He reminds them of who they are in Jesus and their new identity in them. in other words, he gives them more gospel, not more rules. By grace we have died with Christ in order that sin might be put to death, having lost it’s power to win the day! By grace our identity is in him and his death and resurrection become our death and resurrection, rendering sin defeated and conquered. Because of grace, not law, we consider ourselves dead to sin and sin no longer has dominion over us:

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

The problem with living life under the law of Christ mentality is that rule-keeping becomes central. When rule-keeping takes center stage, weird things result, people get hurt, and we get a little neurotic about the wrong things. Here’s a few that come to mind for me:

  • We become the sin police, monitoring the behavior of others and ourselves and people get hurt.
  • We go on sin witch hunts because our sin radar is always on and people get hurt.
  • External behavior modification replaces the gospel and people get hurt.
  • We forget that sin has been done away with by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus and people get hurt.
  • The message of grace morphs into a message of “Do more, try harder” and people get hurt.
  • We disregard the truth that rule-keeping has a temporary, external appearance of wisdom but no real power in stopping the indulgences of the flesh (Col. 2:23) and people get hurt.
  • We become self-righteous and condescending to those not performing at our level of performance or at the level we’ve set for them, and people get hurt.
  • Moralism becomes our gospel and we adopt a legalism of “do, and do it right” and people get hurt.

The law of Moses was historically time-bound and temporary (Hebrews 8:13). It was weak and useless (Romans 8:3-4, Hebrews 7:18). Similar to Moses, any law functions the same way with the same results. Law, any law, stirs up more sin in spite of what may be our good intentions to the contrary. Grace alone trains us to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12).

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20–23)

We’re going to return to this topic often.

-Mike


Photo Credit:
Mark Duffel

One Reply to “Not Under Law”

  1. I have the same concern with how some teach the Law of Christ as a legal code that rules our lives. I look forward to other posts on this topic. Many thanks1

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