What does the Bible tell Christians today about Law? Are we as Christians under Law? If we are,
what is that Law? Or, as Christians, do we enjoy freedom in Christ Jesus? Many people today are
confused about the Christian and Law. This article will take a look at Law and determine if
Christians are subject to any form of it.
God has at all times issued Law for his creation to follow and observe. God tells us through the prophet Jeremiah, "O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23 ASV). Men and women cannot know the path to righteousness with God unless God tells them the way, as God's creation is helpless without Law issued from Him.
In the Bible are found various forms of Law that God has issued to his creation. From the beginning of time mankind has received Law from God. God gave the very first Law to Adam and Eve: "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17). This Law was not only the first Law given to humanity, but it was also the first law ever broken by mankind.
The Old Testament reveals that God had two forms of law before Christ came to the earth. These are known as the Law of the Patriarchs and the Law of Moses. Information on the Law of the Patriarchs is very limited in the Holy Scriptures. In Genesis 4:3-7 the account of Cain and Abel's sacrifices is recorded for our learning. From this reading it is understood that Cain and Abel were under some form of Law from God. Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it was not in accordance with God's law. Abel's offering — which was offered according to God's law — was accepted. The Bible teaches that "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Abel offered this sacrifice by faith: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of his gifts: and through it he being dead yet speaketh" (Heb. 11:4 ASV). Abel heard something from God — a law — and he acted upon it.
The Law of the Patriarchs also had a priesthood that offered sacrifices unto God. Melchizedek is called a priest of God. The Bible reads: "Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High" (Gen. 14:18 ASV). It is important to notice that God had High Priests under the Patriarchal law. Knowing that the Law of Moses was not initiated until the book of Exodus, this priesthood is different from the priesthood of Moses' Law. Christ our Savior is called a "Priest after the order of Melchizedek" five times in the New Testament. This is because Christ would not become a Priest after the order of Aaron or Levi, as the Law of Moses demanded, but a Priest after a completely different order. This also shows that Melchizedek was a Priest unto God in a very different way than those under Moses' Law.
The next law in the Old Testament, and by far the most well known and understood of the two, is the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was issued to only the Israelites and their descendants. Exodus 19:5-6 ASV says, "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be mine own possession from among all peoples: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." God then commanded them to obey all his law and teach it to the next generation, which would do the same thing, until God determined when that law would be taken away (Ex. 12:26ff, Deut. 11:19ff).
These two laws, the Law of the Patriarchs and the Law of Moses kept all mankind under law to God until Christ's law came into affect. Romans 2:11-29 teaches that both Jew and Gentile were under Law to God. The Gentiles, who had not the law, did by nature the things contained in the Law of Moses, and were counted as faithful. Yet they died in sin outside of that law if their works were evil. Likewise the Jews, who had the Law of Moses, were counted as uncircumcised Gentiles when they refused to accept and be faithful to that Law. This is how God governed mankind until Christ.
Finally consider the Law of Christ. At the cross Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses and did away with the ordinances contained therein. Paul states in Colossians 2:13-14 ASV, "And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross."
Christ died, bringing a new law to humanity to live under. Over and over in the New Testament we see that the Old Law was done away. But it is this fact that has caused many people to misunderstand the system in which Christians now live unto God.
The simple truth of the matter is that the Old Law was done away, and therefore a new law must take its place. That new law is the Law of Christ. The New Testament states many times in many places that humans are now under law to God through Jesus Christ. Many would claim today that Christians are not under law but under — and only under — grace. But the New Testament never claims that Christians are not under Law. The New Testament simply states that Christians are no longer subject to the Law of Moses. When we read in the Bible that the Law is done away with, it is always in reference to the Law of Moses. For example, we read in Second Corinthians 3:6 ASV, "who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." Many people leap to the conclusion that Christians are not under law, but under the spirit (grace). However, to read such into this passage is to completely divorce this verse from its context. This passage is dealing with the fact that the Law of Moses now brings death; the Law of Christ is what brings life.
Galatians 5:4 ASV is also many times misunderstood. In this verse Paul said, "Ye are severed from Christ, ye would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace." Many people claim that Christians are not under law, and if we try to be, we fall from grace. This simply is not what this verse is saying, when read in its context. The first three verses read, "For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law." (Gal. 5:1-3 ASV). What law contained circumcision? It was the Law of Moses. In Acts 15:5 ASV Luke writes "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, saying, It is needful to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses." Paul is claiming in the book of Galatians that those who would be saved by added elements from Moses' law into Christ's law were 'severed from Christ'.
Christianity is termed "Law" in many passages in the Bible. Christianity is called the "Law of the Spirit of life", "God's law", "Law of Christ", a "Law written on our hearts" (not on tables of stone), a "Perfect law", the "law of liberty", a "Royal law", and Christians are said to be under the law of Christ, which is a "law of faith." (Rom. 3:27, 8:2, 7-8, Gal.6:2, Heb. 10:15-16, Jas. 1:25, 2:8-10, and 1 Cor. 9:21). Because all humanity is under law to God, we do have something required of us. The Bible teaches in Acts 10:35 ASV, "But in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him." We are commanded to keep the Law. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:2-3). Ephesians 2:10 ASV says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them."
We do have a written Law we must follow. It is the law contained in the New Testament. Remember friends, without law, why was Christ put to death for our sins? Romans 4:15 teaches: "for the law worketh wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there transgression." We have law, and Christ died to give it to us.