Are We Still Under the Law?

 This question is one that is debated throughout the church world. Even those who say we are not under the law often bind themselves to the law in one area or another (i.e. tithes, Sabbath days...). There are numerous Scriptures which show that believers in Christ are not under the law.


One reason why we are no longer under the law is because belief in Christ places us under a new and more perfect covenant with God (Galatians 3, Hebrews 7, Hebrews 8, Hebrews 10:1-17). The new covenant is better because, through one sacrifice, it accomplishes what the Old Testament could not: the perfecting of the conscience, the purging of all sin, and the eternal salvation of the soul (Romans 11:27, Hebrews 9:9 and 12). In an allegory about the old and new covenants, the Apostle Paul writes that we should cast out the bondwoman and her son - the old covenant - for her son shall not be heir with the freewoman's son - the new covenant (Galatians 4:21-31). Further, Scripture indicates that duration of the old covenant and its ordinances was only until the coming of the better covenant of Christ (Romans 7:6, Romans 8:2, Hebrews 8:13, Hebrews 9:10).


As proof for our need to keep the law, many people point to Matthew 5:17-18 where Jesus says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled". The key to this statement, however, is in HOW Jesus fulfilled the law. Romans 13:10 states "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Similarly, 1st Timothy 1:5 says, "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." The love or charity referred to in these Scriptures is not an expression of love governed by how we feel. It is the Greek word agape signifying a selfless and deliberate choice to love regardless of how we feel. This is the type of love that allows us to not only love those who love us, but to love our enemies as well (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:32-35). That is why Jesus said that all of the law hangs on two commandments to love (Matthew 22:37-40). We know from Scripture that God is this kind of love (1st John 4:8, 1st John 4:16). Jesus' sacrifice was the ultimate demonstration of God's love to mankind (John 3:16, John 15:13). Therefore, the law was fulfilled when God came to earth in the person of Jesus to be crucified for our sins. When we accept Christ, this same love is imparted to us (John 16:27, 1st John 3:23, 1st John 5:1)


Another way in which Scripture shows that we are not under the law is through an examination of righteousness. 1 Timothy 1:9-11 states that the law is not made for a righteous man. Jesus, being without sin, was a righteous man. He didn't need a law telling Him what to do or what not to do to please God. He obeyed God and did His will by nature. Similarly, when we abide in Christ, the gift of righteousness is imputed onto us (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 6:33, Luke 1:74-75, Acts 10:35, Romans 4:5, Romans 5:17-21, Romans 6:18, 2nd Corinthians 5:21)


As you read the Scriptures, you can see how the religious leaders of Jesus' day were always trying to bind Him by the law. When we look at one example where they questioned Him about the Sabbath law, we hear an interesting revelation from Jesus (Mark 2:24-28). Jesus says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. In other words, man was not created for the purpose of serving the law, the law was given to serve a purpose in man. The purpose of the law was to help man restrain his sinful nature inherited from Adam. As further illustration, Jesus reminds them how even David was allowed to do that which would ordinarily be considered unlawful because he was operating under God's anointing. Jesus goes on to say that He is Lord of the Sabbath. The word translated Lord in this Scripture is the Greek word kurios meaning supreme in authority, controller, Master, or God. Here we can see how life in Christ frees us from the law. Jesus is a higher authority than the law. He does not direct us to the law of sin and death (Acts 15:24) but to new life in Him.


This is the key not only to understanding the issue of the law, but to understanding what salvation is about. In the Old Testament, individuals did not have the ability to kill the old, Adamic nature. So, God gave laws to guide man so that he wouldn't stray too far. The best they could do was struggle with the lusts of the flesh in an attempt to keep it in line with the commandments. However, it was not possible for man to keep the commandments for although the law was righteous, man was not (John 7:19, Galatians 6:13).


Through the sacrifice of Jesus' life, we have been given the ability to change our nature. Although the Holy Spirit could rest on individuals in the Old Testament, it wasn't until Jesus' death and resurrection that the Holy Spirit could indwell man to transform him into the image of God in Jesus. Through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, we can now be made righteous through faith in Christ. And again, the law was not made for a righteous man.


We don't gain God's acceptance by trying to keep the law. God expects us to believe in His Son, and to be transformed into His image through the power of the Spirit. Did the law serve a purpose? Yes, but now we serve the Lord in the Spirit of the law, as the nature of Christ indwells us.


Salvation then is not man's ability to conform to God's will through his own obedience to a law (which results in self-righteousness), but acknowledgement of our own sinful nature by putting to death the old man and experiencing new life in Christ, which obeys God by nature. In terms of the life of liberty in Christ, we are told, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).


For those who would still like to hold the Church captive to aspects of the law, look to James 2:10:

"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."


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