by Rayola Kelley
Q: There are a lot of teachings today about keeping the law in order to be saved. Does that mean Christians have to keep the Ten Commandments? I’m confused over this issue. Just what laws are we to keep? Thanks.
A: One of the Apostle Paul’s big contentions in some of his epistles, especially Galatians, is the part that the Law plays in the Christian life. The Bible does make it clear as to how we as believers are to regard the Law. First of all the Law could not save or justify anyone. As a result, it was to serve as our schoolmaster that clearly points to our need for Jesus (Galatians 3:24). After all, the Law’s main goal was to show each of us that we were transgressors against God’s Law (Romans 2:12; 3:20; 4:15)). In other words, in our state of sin, independence, rebellion, or lawlessness, we oppose His justice and righteousness, thereby, we are deserving of His wrath.
The Law passed a death sentence upon all sin (Romans 6:23). The only way the Law could be satisfied was through atonement or through one becoming an advocate who would satisfy the judgment of the Law on all sin. For the Old Testament, atonement or the shedding of the innocent blood of certain animals where the Law required it, was the only means to address certain sins, but not all of them could be covered by such sacrifices, such as idolatry, murder and adultery. The blood simply covered some of the sins, but could never take them away. However, in the New Testament, the Bible clearly shows us that Jesus Christ came as the Lamb of God, and served as our advocate (took our place on the cross), to satisfy the death sentence pronounced by the Law. As a result, He actually took away our sin. (Hebrews 9:11-15, 22; 10:1-20; 1 John 2:1-2).
The Bible tells us that Jesus actually fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17-18). In other words, He satisfied all of its requirements and judgments of it. As a result, He is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believes (Romans 10:4). Since our life is hid in Christ by faith, God sees us in the light of Jesus’ righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). However, we also have a responsibility to fulfill the Law. The Bible tells us to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh, which will ensure that we will fulfill the Law. We also are responsible to fulfill the Law with godly love (Romans 8:4-5; 13:8-10).
This brings us to another aspect of the Law. The Law is made up of commandments (moral laws), testimonies, statutes (ordinances and rituals that had to do with how the Israelites were to conduct themselves in religious matters, such as holy days, sacrifices, sanitary practices, food, dress, etc.), precepts (similar to our doctrines), and judgments (how they were to handle different issues that would confront them, and the consequences that would follow deviant actions).
Testimonies serve as a record or a witness; therefore, the Law was to serve as a record of what is acceptable according to our holy God, and as a witness against those who have transgressed it (Romans 3:19-21). Since the sins of Christians have been taken away by Jesus’ redemption, and they are now positioned in Christ, making them subject to a greater law; that of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the testimony or record of the Law no longer applies to them (Romans 8:2). However, those who are walking in the flesh will be held accountable by the record of the Law that clearly serves as a witness against all sin or transgression(Romans 7:4-6; 8:3, 8, 12-13).
Colossians 2:14 tells us that the statutes or ordinances of the Law were blotted out by nailing them to the cross. The reasons they were blotted out is because they served as beggarly elements or shadows that simply pointed the Jewish people to Jesus and His work on the cross (Galatians 4:8-11; Colossians 2:16-17). When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He fulfilled these statutes; therefore, blotting them out.
In the matter of precepts, as believers, we have been translated into a spiritual kingdom that not only calls for excellent conduct on our part, but excellent character. Keep in mind that the children of Israel were to stand distinct among the pagan nations by the conduct that was clearly stipulated by the holy Law. However, for Christians, it is not just a matter of conduct, but possessing an excellent character that expresses itself in a right spirit, with acceptable attitudes, and in honorable ways in every matter. This reminds us that, as Christians, we must walk in the Spirit, in order to fulfill and maintain the integrity of godly doctrines.
Judgments are to serve as the Christian’s example. Examples of such judgments can be found in the laws such as the laws of jealousies (Numbers 5:29-31). These judgments bring a contrast to a matter as far as the fruits or results of rebellious, wicked or immoral actions. We see these judgments being passed down on the children of Israel in various ways, but for the Christians, it is not a matter of making a judgment, but discerning between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). Once again, we must walk in the Spirit, in order to properly discern such matters, so that we can rightly judge a situation (1 Corinthians 2:9-15).
This brings us to our moral obligation (commandments) towards God and others. Such obligation has never ceased to be our personal responsibility. However, as Christians, it is not just a matter of obeying these commandments but fulfilling or satisfying the real intent or principle behind them. It is not unusual for people to comply outwardly with the commandments of God. But, such compliance will not really fulfill the Law (Mark 12:29-31). This is why, as Christians, we must be motivated by godly love to ensure inward integrity towards our godly responsibilities. This inward integrity will ensure that our conduct towards God and others is honorable or exemplary in every way. Granted, initially God is the only one who will know if we possess integrity that truly fulfills the intent or spirit of the Law, but others will eventually know if we possess it by the fruits that are coming out of our lives.
I do hope this concise summation on the subject of the Law answers your question.