The law is strict and demanding. Jesus taught that even a wrongful thought in one’s heart transgresses against the will of God. No one is capable of living his or her life in a way that does not transgress against the will of God. Nevertheless, the law is unconditional and demands complete obedience.
The perfect work of Christ
Paul taught: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Rom 8:3)
Because man is not perfect and is not able to live without transgressing against the will of God, God Himself has done it in our behalf. The Son of God was born into this world as man to redeem all who are living under the law (Gal 4:4–5).
Only Jesus has lived entirely according to the will of God. Our redemption is not based on our own innocent life, but instead on the perfectness of Christ. The way to fellowship with God is not obedience to the law, but rather Jesus Christ. The purpose of the law is to awaken penitence and drive an awakened person to Christ, to his flock of followers. Through the power of the Spirit Christ’s own have the gospel that gives life. The Holy Spirit awakens faith in a person, which faith allows that person to own the perfect work of Christ.
Righteousness of the law and righteousness of faith
The Scriptures clearly differentiate between righteousness based on obedience to the law and righteousness of faith. In his teachings Paul used Abraham, the forefather of faith, as an example. Abraham believed in God’s promise and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham was not righteous, meaning he was not acceptable to God on the basis of his own deeds, but on the basis of faith. But, those who trust in obedience to the law are under its curse (Gal 3; Rom 4).
Paul emphasized: “And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Gal 3:12–14)
Righteousness based on obedience to the law and righteousness of faith do not fit together. They exclude each other. Paul stressed this to the Galatians: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4)
Bondage under the law and freedom of the Spirit
Paul instructed: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal 5:1) The law does not give power to obey the law, it only places demands and requirements on a person. That is why Paul calls living under the law bondage and says that Christians should not consent to doing so. A slave has to obey the will and demands of his master in all things.
Bondage under the law means following rules. The human mind might think a prepared list of rules would make believing and life as a believer easier. They appeal to reason. However, living faith is not obedience to rules. No one is acceptable to God simply by obeying outward rules, and it is not possible to compile instructions or operating models for everything. God through His Son has freed Christians from needing to even attempt it. God Himself guides them through His Holy Spirit, which He has given into the heart of every believer. A Christian’s conscience is bound to the word of God. The Holy Spirit also instructs in matters related to faith and life within the congregation of God.
The law drives a person as if from the outside. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit guides a believing person from within. Christians obey the will of God voluntarily. The Spirit of God teaches that the will of God is right and good, and gives the desire to be obedient to His will. The grace of God teaches us to deny all ungodliness (Tit 2:11–12). The Holy Spirit also instructs when a Christian has transgressed against the will of God and fallen into sin. Then the Spirit instructs to ask for forgiveness and correct the transgression, and it also gives the power to do so. The Redeemer’s perfect work rectifies man’s failings before God, but man must bear temporal responsibility for his deeds himself.
Text: Ilkka Lehto
Source: Kristityn vapaus, Ajankohtaista 2014
Julkaistu englanninkielisessä kieliliitteessä 6.5.2015.
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