Here is an interesting question worth considering, because it goes to the heart of what the New Covenant is all about.
Do you need the law?
Man reveres law because they seek order and structure. We see this reverence for law in the way that the law and lawyers are depicted in books, television shows and movies. We see it also in the similar reverence for lawmakers and politicians who, even though many individuals are fallible and have done some terrible things, the institutions of the political processes and democracy are held in high esteem as necessary to ensure stability in our society.
We know also that God gave the law to Moses, also for the purpose of giving Israel structure and to promote a better standard of life for those who followed the law. God wanted people to live well and it is His law that formed the basis of most of the laws that govern life today, albeit some have since been perverted.
Paul wrote in Romans 7 that the law of Moses given by God is holy, just and good because there is great wisdom in the law. They were after all the words of God given for the benefit of man.
But the question remains, in spite of all of this, do we need the law? The answer may be a surprise to some.
What Jesus said about lawyers
Jesus was not a big fan of the lawyers in His day. We see part of the reason why when going back and looking at the ministry of John the Baptist.
All the people came to John to be baptised by him when he went out and preached the message that was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. However we see that the lawyers and the Pharisees were not of the same mind as the people. In Luke 7:29-30 we see the following words.
29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)
The lawyers along with the Pharisees “…rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” How did they reject it? By believing they could become righteous through their own works of the law.
In essence they put the keeping of the law ahead of the righteousness of God. They were filled with pride and arrogance believing in the embodiment of the law they had all they needed. They did not understand that the law was meant to lead them to God, not to BE God.
And this is the nature of the thinking of lawyers. The law to them was above all else. They saw the law was something to be served rather than being given to serve man. They failed to see that it was God who was to be served and the law was given by God to show man the way so that man would be able to find His righteousness, not through works of law, but through faith.
As a consequence Jesus spoke to the lawyers and condemned them in the same way He condemned the Pharisees. We see this in Luke 11:45-46 where Jesus said,
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
And this is no different to lawyers today. Lawyers will interpret the law to you and give you an opinion, but they will not give an answer. In this way they load people with burdens but do not lift a finger to move those burdens. They say instead that if you want an answer you need to go to court and present a case for a judge to give a ruling.
And they have made the law so convoluted and so complex and so ungainly that the common man cannot even understand it. The law is couched in words and phrases that only lawyers understand. And this should not be so.
Purpose of the law
There were a number of reasons why the law was given and all of these were for our good.
The law given by God to Moses was given for mans benefit to teach him how to live a better life. In the law were many instructions about how to live a healthy life and what to avoid if you were to ensure you remained as healthy as possible.
The law also contained a standard of morality for how people were to live with one another to promote peace and harmony.
But the law was also given to define sin for what it is and to make it even more sinful for those who chose to ignore it and break the law. It also defined the penalties to be meted out for those who did break the law. The law is not sin, but it shows us what sin is and for those who know the law, makes it more sinful. As an example of how this works note what was said by Jesus in Luke 12:47-48.
47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.
Another function of the law was to act as the guardian or schoolmaster to lead people to Christ, as Paul wrote in Galatians. The law and the nature of the law bore witness to the nature of God and the minimum requirements to be acceptable to God.
So there are many good reasons why the law was given, and the law itself as given by God is good for man. But again I ask, do we need the law?
The New Covenant
When Jesus came and when He died He issued in the new covenant. The new covenant is vastly superior to the old covenant for it does things the old covenant cannot do.
The basis of the new covenant is freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from the passions and desires of the flesh and freedom from law.
It is evident in many places that a person cannot be made righteous by doing the works of the law, which was given under the old covenant, but here we see that righteousness by faith is not only possible but also the point of the new covenant.
Under the new covenant we can be made in the image of Jesus Christ and we can stand blameless in the presence of God. Not through anything we do, but through what we believe and through the grace of God.
The aim of the new covenant is transformation. It is meant to change us so that we put on the nature of Jesus Christ who was in the image of God the Father.
Man cannot be transformed by the old covenant law because in it the reminder of sin is constantly there condemning man when he fails to meet the requirements of the law. But in Jesus Christ the law is removed and where there is no law there is no transgression of the law. You cannot break a law you are not under, and we have been removed from the law, separated from it so that we can receive the righteousness of God through His immeasurable grace by faith.
But why would God take away the law? Wouldn't that lead to complete anarchy?
No…providing the people who are removed from the law are seeking the transformation that comes through the knowledge of the new covenant and the working of the Holy Spirit.
God intends to create a people who want to do what is right, not because of the fear of punishment but because of the desire to do the right thing. He wants people to walk in love, which does no wrong to another person, not walk in fear of retribution.
And if a person does what is right because through the working of the Holy Spirit they are transformed so that they choose the right way always, where is the need for law? As Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:8-11,
8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.
The law was laid down to control those who choose to do evil. It was laid down to condemn their evil ways and to convict them when they do what is wrong.
But when a person chooses to do right, they do not need a law to tell them they are right. The law is not required where a person does the right thing. It only comes into play when a person does the wrong thing. There is no law against doing what is right, only against doing what is wrong.
Under the new covenant the work of transformation is to bring all who seek God to a place where they always choose to do what is right. And if they do that, there is no need for the law. You can be sure in the kingdom of God when all is finished and accomplished, there will be no law as we know it for it will no longer be needed.
In the end what is being sought by God is that his people are obedient to HIM. It's not about the law but about the giver of the law. He wants people to look to Him, to seek Him and to want to come to Him to learn about the love of God that is found in Him. The law is just a shadow of all that God is but the substance belongs to God and it is the substance that we seek which we see in Jesus Christ when we come to Him.
Do you need the law?
So in summary let us look again at this question whether you need the law or not.
In brief there are three stages in which a person may find themselves with respect to Christianity. They are either a non-Christian, that is a person of the world, a Christian going through the transformation into the image of God, or perfected in His image.
The non-Christian or person of the world needs the law to keep them in check. The law teaches and judges their sins and by the law God will judge the people of the world. To them the law is a master and judge.
For the fully transformed Christian who is perfected in the image of God by the working of the new covenant and the Holy Spirit, there is no longer any need for the law for they do what is right always. However I do not know when any person reaches that place. Only God knows. But I am certain it is possible for a person to attain perfection through the teachings of the new covenant when they are fully transformed, and for those people the law ceases to be relevant because they keep the tenets of the law by their nature. They do, act, behave and think in accordance with the will of God because they have been transformed into His nature.
This leaves the third group, those who are going through the transformation as the Holy Spirit works with them and trains us in godliness. They do not yet think, act and behave fully in the perfection of the image of God but are going through the change process as the Holy Spirit works with them.
Under the teachings of Jesus and by the grace of God the people of this third group have been set free from the law by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are no longer under the law because God has declared them to be righteous by faith. But they are not yet in the image of God.
We know the law is holy, just and good and that it contains the wisdom of God. So those who are going through the transformation need to learn from the law. They are not under it, they are not condemned by it for God has released them from it. But they can learn wisdom from it to understand what God seeks of his people.
So to them the law is not a master and a judge like the world, instead it is a reference and source of wisdom.
We who are on this journey of transformation should give thanks to God for the release from the law because where there is no law there is no transgression of the law because by grace God has removed us from the law. But we also should not neglect to understand the wisdom contained in the law for it points to Jesus who reflects the glory of God the Father.
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