Martin Luther had much to say about the law of God, which makes sense when you consider that he firmly believed that God had revealed His holy will to mankind in the Moral law we have been studying for the last nine weeks, known as the Ten Commandments.
He said of the 10 Commandments, “(In them) we have a summary of divine teaching. They tell us what we must do to make our whole life pleasing to God; and they show us the true fountain from which, and the channel in which, all good works must flow. No deed or conduct can be good or pleasing to God unless it is in accord with the 10 Commandments, however great and precious it may be in the eyes of the world.”
We look at the world today and we see what he must have been talking about. When you have no truth, there can’t be any law because the law is based on truth, and our world has been struggling with truthfulness. People understand that if we can make the truth foggy enough in people’s minds then the law can’t stop them from leading any life they wish. They promote things that are great and precious in their own eyes while practicing the villainization of God’s holy church and they find the world following step by step. All the while furthering themselves from God. Those who have lost truth have also lost their direction.
So, because there is definite truth, God gave us direction through His law. And, because law is only developed between people in a particular relationship and He is the one true God in relationship with His people, it was only right that He would give us rules to live by. In our Old Testament lesson in Exodus 19 it says:
“while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
This being said, we have found that the law, though it is good for direction and guidance, can’t save us. It can’t save us because of the sin we have inherited, and because of this we all stand damned on our own. And this was the reason for Christ, the perfect sacrifice who took that sin upon Himself so that we might be made right with God and sanctified as His adopted children. So, what was originally bad news, became supremely good news because of Christ. So, let’s talk about the role that the law plays in the Christian life.
First, the law serves as a form of justice and, as odd as it sounds, the death of Christ was a demonstration of God’s justice. We can see the importance God puts on the law when we are reminded of what He had to lose to satisfy that law. Christ had to die so that justice by the way of the law could be satisfied.
And because Christ put upon Himself the penalty for our sin, we have been given the incredible gifts of repentance and forgiveness that effectually wipe the slate of the charges against us clean. By this God is not pretending that the law does not exist or that it doesn’t matter. To the contrary, He shows us how much it means to Him by sending His only Son to fulfill the requirements of the law. God has done everything that was needed so that He could justify the ungodly and he doesn’t violate His own righteousness in this way by declaring us righteous.
This is the glory and wonder of God’s amazing grace. Even though we deserved damnation, he did what He had to do to fulfill the law so that we might be with Him for all eternity, free from the sin that plagues us on earth.
We are no longer justified through the law we had no hope to keep. Because of Christ we are now justified by faith. Acts 13:38-39: “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man (Jesus), forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
Now we are free to be God’s children without the curse of sin that once separated us. This is why they call the Gospel “Good News.” Even though we didn’t deserve it, God guaranteed our salvation purely by His grace alone. There can be no better news than that.
So, if law is given and it is good but cannot save us, then what is the role of the law in the Christian life? The law exists because, even though we have been made righteous by God, sin still exists. Rules must still be established to keep us in that Gospel grace through faith.
People of faith, by their nature, want to please God. They want to do their best to live a godly life so they might set a godly example. They realize that the law has been satisfied through Christ but they yearn and even look forward to pleasing God by obeying His statutes.
The believer’s relationship with God is strengthened by the law because it has been turned from an instrument of judgement into an instrument of faith. Just because Christ fulfilled the law does not mean that rules in that relationship no longer exist, but we obey them now, because of our love for God and our want, through faith, to obey Him in all things.
Too often, people think of religion as if its little more than a list of rules. God didn’t want us preoccupied with rule keeping to the extent that our love of God would become something we had to earn. Our relationship, therefore, had to be based on faith and not in the keeping of the law. He wants us as His children, not His hired servants.
To make this possible, God had to provide a new kind of righteousness. God’s law then had to become the law of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 9:21 Paul says:
“To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (Not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”
Now under the law of Christ, forgiveness is given for every sin, this forgiveness that has been granted by faith and received by faith, not by works lest any man may boast, and not by paying a certain penalty for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28). This is the kind of law, we as believers in Christ, have grown up with.
Christianity is and has always been a faith, not a set of rules and Christianity has always been based on God’s grace by that faith we hold so dear. God not only wants us to be saved by His grace but He wants us to experience the new life we have in Him because of that grace. Once we were selfish, living only for ourselves. But now we are sanctified through the blood of Christ and we live for our Savior. We do all this because, by God’s grace He sent us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to live in us, not because we have suddenly become righteous ourselves, but because of the righteousness we may now claim through Christ.
Now, even though by God’s grace we are saved, that does not mean we no longer have certain expectations which we must live by. But these laws should be seen as a result of faith and not blind obedience. The law should never be the basis for our faith, it must be something we obey naturally because of the confidence we have in Christ crucified. The law is no longer a measurement of our righteous standing with God, and that is good because we would fail to measure up every time.
Because we have no righteousness on our own, we put our confidence and trust in God to make us righteous through faith. Paul speaks of Abraham’s faith in Romans 4:20-25:
“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was fully able to do what He had promised. But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
We now have peace with God through Christ and a new righteousness that doesn’t come from the law. Its fulfillment only comes by God’s grace.
Any righteousness then, is not really ours, it is Christ’s. When God looks down on His people, He does so through the prism of Christ. Because Jesus Christ was the only truly righteous person, it is on His righteousness we should depend. Not only that, but He works in us through the Holy Spirit to live righteously.
When our minds are firmly set on Christ, on truly knowing and loving Christ, then the Holy Spirit can work in us to bring forth fruit in keeping with that faith. When our minds are set on sin, then the only fruit we produce is sinful and we are condemned by the law.
It’s only because of Christ that we have the hope that we share and it is only because of Him that we are able to be seen as righteous in the eyes of God. Because Christ overcame the condemnation we all shared based on the law, all the glory is His.
We are no match for the sin that so easily entangles us, but when we are in Christ, the victory over sin and death has already been won. We no longer are governed by rules we had no hope to keep, we no longer have to let sin rule our lives, because it no longer has any power over it. The condemnation of the law has become the sanctification we can now claim.
So we keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For those who believe, our weakness has found new strength and our battle with sin has been won.
That is why it’s so important to be disciplined in our Christian walk. That is why it’s so important to keep ourselves grounded through Bible study, prayer, worship and service. These are the basic duties of the Christian life apart from the law but every bit as valuable. God is never going to force you to dedicate your life to Him but He has given you every opportunity to do just that. He has given us every resource we need to keep ourselves “tuned in” to Him. He has given us truth to believe in and depend on. He has loved us as His children, eager to protect and direct us. He has given us the courage to stay faithful even in a world that seems lost to the law.
God’s grace and power are wonderful beyond description and because of them we no longer have to depend on the law to save us. Now we obey because we want to be with God and directed by His mighty hand. Martin Luther told us that the law, “tells us what we must do to make our whole life pleasing to God; and they show us the true fountain from which, and the channel in which, all good works must flow.”
May God grant you the passion to follow His law so that He may direct you onto the path of righteousness. Amen.