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Finished with the law?
- Jacob Ninan
In the early church some thought that apart from faith one needed to be circumcised also. Now some preach that baptism is also necessary for salvation. Others insist on keeping the Sabbath on Saturday. Some teach that Christians ought to keep the Ten Commandments. Still some others advocate throwing out the Law now that we are under grace!
God has revealed Himself progressively to man in time and through the Bible. The old covenant which was given through the Ten Commandments was not God's ultimate plan for man, but just a step before God set up the new covenant through the death of Jesus. It was like a steward of the house tutoring a young son till he became mature enough to take over the household (Ga.4:1-5), or like a shadow pointing to the full reality which was to come (Co.2:16,17). So its standards were kept at a level which the people of Israel could reach, if they wanted to, with their limited knowledge of God after all the years in Egypt. (Paul kept the Law without blame - Php.3:6). Israel demonstrated through their repeated failures that man needed a Saviour more than commandments, as many of us also have learned. The new covenant came with grace, undeserved favour from God--a major paradigm shift from obeying commandments to God working in us and accepting us freely.
When God gave the old commandments, He had in view much greater expectations in the future. Jesus said that if murder was a sin, so was hating someone in our heart, and looking at a woman with desire just as bad as committing adultery. He shifted the focus from external sins to those inside our hearts. God always wanted this, but He was unable to ask till we had a Saviour and the Holy Spirit enabling us to rise to that standard. He supersedes all the old covenant Law in His law of love--loving God with everything we have and loving others as ourselves (Mt.22:37-40).
What God wants from the Christian is an allegiance to Him that captures all our life (Mt.10:37;Lk.14:33). How can we give Him one day in seven or one tenth of our income and live as we like for the rest? How can someone who 'just lives by the Ten Commandments' enjoy fellowship with God at this level? Is our relationship with others limited to honouring parents and not committing murder, adultery, stealing, false witness and coveting?
When we love God with all our heart, prompted by His grace towards us, that love will compel us to run towards a 'perfect' relationship with God and man, won't we (2Co.5:14,15)? Then we will be able to see the proper place of the Ten Commandments, all the ritual practices that pointed towards Jesus as the Lamb of God, and God's dealings with people through the Old Testament in the light of God's new covenant of grace. When we see the severity with God dealt with sin in the old covenant, we will appreciate the value of grace and free acceptance that God has given us in the new covenant. Then we will also learn how to keep His commandments in our heart (Jn.14:23).