by Rayola Kelley
Q: Whenever I tell people that Christians need to obey God, I am often told that Christians “no longer have to keep the Law because Jesus died for our sins.” This has caused me a lot of confusion because Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey Him. Can you please give me some guidelines that I can use with people? Thank you!
A. Many people are confused about the part the Law is to have in our lives. It is a teaching in itself, but I will do my best to untangle some confusion as to what we as Christians need to understand about this matter.
General information: We must first lay a foundation in order to understand how the Law was structured. We know that Jesus did not do away with the Law (Torah); rather He fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17-18). We know the Law was holy and righteous. We also know that Christ is the end of the Law to those who believe, and that our lives are hid in Christ (Romans 10:4; Colossians 3:3). In other words, the Law was given to serve as our schoolmaster who would point us to Christ. However, as Christians, we are not under the Law (Torah) that reveals our sin and pronounces the consequences of death. We are under a more excellent Law—that of the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2). This is why we are instructed to walk after the Spirit, be led by the Spirit and walk or live in the Spirit. Galatians 5:23 tells us that there is no law that can rightly judge, bring accusation against or condemn that which is of the Spirit of the Living God. In a sense the Spirit leads us into a more excellent life and way where the righteousness of the Law could also be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4)
Psalms 119 made reference to the Law in six diverse ways. Although interchanged with each other, we must understand how each of these six words related to the Law and what they were meant to unveil to us in order to rightly divide the Word of God. These words are: word, testimonies, judgments, precepts, statutes, and commandments. This is what my studies and understanding of how each word relates to the Law, and what is said about it in regard to the New Testament.
Word: It is important to point out that every thing God says is law. In other words, it is final, will not change and must be rightly divided, be properly adhered to, and in many cases applied or put into practice. We need to be sober about God’s Word, fear or dread displeasing the Lord if we fail to properly apply it, and always esteem it in great regard by walking very carefully in light of it.
Testimonies: Testimony points to record that will testify of something. We know in a court of Law testimonies are used to justify or convict someone. We know the main reason the Law (Torah) was given was to testify of man’s transgression, as well as to record any such transgressions as to his guilty status before our holy judge of heaven. All men stand guilty in light of the Torah, but in Christ, they will stand justified by their faith that He totally addressed the issue of the Law. Today, we serve as living epistles that also serve as living testimonies as to the reality of God.
Precepts: These are the same as doctrine. Doctrine is not a matter of belief, but entails how man is to conduct himself in certain situations. Good examples of doctrine are how man was to conduct himself in marriage, in regard to his children, inheritance, and at points of conflict with others. We are told that the Sermon on the Mount is doctrine (Matthew 7:28-29). If you compare the doctrine set forth in the Law (Torah) and the doctrine set forth in the Sermon of the Mount, there is one big difference. The difference is that the Torah demanded an outward compliance to the Law, while Jesus explained that without the right spirit or intent in regard to Scriptural conduct, one stands guilty of breaking the Law (Torah). Without the right spirit, all matters of doctrine will be nothing more than dead-letter that has no real life, purpose or meaning behind it (Romans 7:6). God not only put forth precepts to ensure proper conduct, but to establish a right attitude as well. For the Christian, it involves lawful responsibility, plus His Spirit, and a right attitude that produces godliness (godly conduct) which will equal pure and acceptable doctrine.
Statutes: Statutes are the same as religious ordinances that were to be practiced. These ordinances were intended to set the people of Israel apart in their religious rituals and practices as a people. Ordinances included such things as the offering of sacrifices, the feasts, the Sabbaths, circumcision, dress, dietary practices, and priestly responsibilities. The statutes in the Old Testament were meant to serve as shadows, types or outlines to something that would later be unveiled and prove to not only be an explanation of their purpose but a fulfillment of them. We know that statutes pointed to Jesus, His work of redemption, and in some cases, the establishment of the New Testament Church. We know that when Jesus came, these shadows were reduced to serving as beggarly elements that no longer had a real purpose because the shadows had become a reality. We know that on the cross Jesus actually blotted these ordinances out in order to usher in something that was more excellent and not as burdensome (Galatians 4:9-11; 5:1-6; Colossians 2:14-17). When man adds his own take or rules onto statutes, they become traditions (Talmud) that often nullify the real intent of the Law. Christ has only set forth two ordinances that are to be observed by His Church until He comes again, but sadly the Church fights and debates about them. They are water baptism and communion.
Judgments: Judgments have sometimes been interchanged with the concepts of ordinances. However, judgments come down to what I refer to as a judgment call concerning something that ceases to be black and white. There are unknown or unseen circumstances or elements involved that require a person to actually make a judgment call. One of the Old Testament judgment calls involved the matter of jealousy. If a husband suspected his wife of committing adultery a judgment call had to be made. We know that guidelines were set forth by God to ensure that a right judgment call was made. One of the examples of the Apostle Paul setting forth guidelines as to ensure the integrity of a judgment call about a matter had to do with marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7.
Commandments: These represent our moral obligations. These were never done away with. We have a moral obligation to God (first three commandments), to ourselves (that of rest, the Sabbath), and to others (the last six commandments). However, the Spirit sheds abroad in our hearts that which not only makes us morally obligated to do what is right to God and others, but will fulfill the intent of such obligations in spirit as well. And, what will ensure that we uphold the intent and responsibility we have towards God, our life in Him and others? It is the love of God (Romans 5:5; 13:8-10).
I hope this will put some things in perspective for you in regards to the Law.