The Law is Inoperative in Christ
The Law is Made Inoperative in Christ
The previous section notes clearly the biblical depiction of the law of Moses as a “guardian” or a “tutor” in the lives of God’s people until the time when Christ arrived, and maturity was accomplished through him.
Just as the authority of a tutor becomes null and void upon the graduation to “adulthood” by his student, so scripture teaches that the law- as our tutor- has become inoperative to the adults in faith who have found their proper identity as disciples of Christ.
Once grown, a student does not forget his tutor. He remembers the teachings, principles and even may emulate those teachings and principles, though is not obligated further to stringently adhere to the tutor’s instructions. The tutor lives on, in effect, in the collective memories of the student. The teacher will endure as an example and a standard which will inspire the student for all times. Yet, with maturity comes independence from the rule of law of the tutor. With maturity comes the ability to divide the former laws into principles by which a mature mind may rightly vary from the strict standards enforced in immaturity.
Scripture teaches precisely that relationship, in Romans 10.
Romans 10:1-4 (NIV)1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Speaking specifically of Israel’s failure to receive Christ, verse 3 notes, “they did not know the righteousness that comes from God.” This indictment is that Israel rejected Christ, (the righteousness that comes from God) and instead “sought to establish their own.” In so doing, Paul specifically notes that they “did not submit to God’s righteousness.”
What one needs to comprehend in this text is that Israel did continue to serve under the law. It is Christ they rejected, but the law they attempted to continue to uphold. They sought to have the law as their means of righteousness, but that could no longer be because, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
Paul offers no hesitation in his assertion that things have indeed changed. Righteousness is not to be achieve through the law, but is now achieved through Christ’s purchase of blood, rather than the temporary removal of guilt the law provided. Thus, “the end of the law” has arrived. Or, it no longer serves as our “tutor,” as Galatians 3 states,
23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Why this volume of scripture is so difficult for many to accept is unclear to me. Yet, one needs only to study the epistles to clearly see that the law is no longer the standard by which men are to find their path to righteousness. Righteousness, Godliness, “right living” or however one wants to describe the life of a disciple in Christ, is accomplished by grace, through faith alone. “We are no longer under the supervision of the law.” The tutor who observed and held constant the actions of the immature child is now retired. The child, now mature, still retains the training of the tutor, but acts in accordance with maturity in Christ.
Yet, still today, two thousand years after Paul explained so simply the fulfillment of the purposes of the law, people continue to argue over the letters of the law. Still today I meet people who presume a righteousness because of certain foods they do not eat, per the letter of the Old Testament law. Still today I find people who presume superiority over others who have tattoos, or who marry outside of their race; all pursued by a misplaced allegiance to the law of Moses which Paul claims has found its complete fulfillment in Christ, and is now null and void as the standard by which men find righteousness.
Paul claims not only his own understanding, but also the aggregate understanding of his people in the first century concerning this truth.
Gal 2:15-16 (NIV)15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
The law, while coming from Jewish history and being upheld by Jewish people, is understood by those very people to no longer be the observance whereby men find justification according to Paul.
How is it that Gentiles of today are still struggling with this unhealthy sense of loyalty to the former regime of the law? Is it simple stubbornness? Perhaps stringent conservatism, masked as fundamentalism; because “that’s the way we were taught?” Be advised that God will hold us accountable to scripture by our own ability to study the Word. We will not have the leisure of blaming the generation ahead of us for flawed doctrine.
Further clarification is noted in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 7:11-19 (NIV)
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come–one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Hebrews 7, and Romans 7 (below) both refer to a “new” law which was brought into effect by Christ; “the law of the Spirit,” or “the law of Christ.” This new law will be observed in detail in the next section.
Suffice it to say, however, that the author of Hebrews specifically notes as well that the old law is inoperative, as “the former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect).” What strong language is used to notify the reader of the revocation of the former law of Moses! In light of the better hope, in fact, the author notes the new estate of the former law as “weak and useless.” The law was certainly useful in its original context, as noted earlier; it revealed sin, condemned the sinner and pointed the way to Christ. But, now that Christ (maturity) has come, it is useless; tantamount to a 10 PM curfew given to a grown man in his own household.
The time of the rule of law is past. A new season of the rule of Christ has arrived. There is no room for one to obey both. In fact, scripture teaches that those who are in Christ are literally dead to the law.
Romans 7:1-6 (NIV)
1 Do you not know, brothers–for I am speaking to men who know the law–that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man. 4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (emphasis mine)
Just as Christ died and was resurrected to new life, so we in Christ have died to our former lives and have been resurrected spiritually to serve in the “new way of the Spirit, and not the old way of the written code.” One cannot serve the law and Christ at the same time. The entire basis of the book of Galatians is the establishment of that very fact, as Paul wrote;
Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
What is the perversion of the gospel Paul speaks of? It is the very practice of enforcing the law of Moses upon those who are in Christ!
Galatians 2:14-16 (NIV)
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
In Galatians, a group of people known historically as the “Judaizers” were attempting to enforce certain elements of the law upon their Gentile counterparts in Christ. Namely, circumcision (an element of the law) and the observance of the Jewish holy days. Paul’s response to these practices of “returning” to elements of the law was anything but mild. He declares his wish to those who teach such things (Galatians 1:8) to be “eternally condemned!” He elaborates in chapter 3;
Galatians 3:10-14 (NIV)
10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
Scripture uncompromisingly asserts to the believer in Christ that the rule of the law of Moses has ended. Life, to the believer, is found in Christ alone and one’s daily existence is to be wrought not by the Mosaic Law, but by a new law; the Law of Christ.
The next section will observe the “new” law- “in Christ.” Let the reader not stop reading at this point and ascertain from this section that a holy free-for-all now exists in the body of Christ. Indeed, many have attempted to falsify their freedom in Christ to levels of abominable practices, while claiming the grace of Christ as a license to sin. Such is not the case. We do still have a law which we live under, but it is not the law of Moses. It is the law of Christ.