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Christians and the Law


Christians and the Law

Sometimes the laws that were given to the nation of Israel can be confusing for Christians. We think that of one of the ten commandments like not committing murder is a good idea. Since it has been incorporated into the secular laws of most nations, we can then begin to think of the bible as a sort of rule book. However, it becomes a little more difficult when we consider things like not eating pork, working on Saturday, or a requirement to make an offering at the temple.

Christians sometimes attempt to follow the laws in the Old Testament because they feel that this honors God, makes them sort of “extra credit" Christians, or that they are supposed to. Some can even end up with the same self-righteousness created by a feeling of accomplishment demonstrated by the Pharisees, which is one of the reasons Jesus warned his disciples to be cautious about the pervasiveness of this influence (Luke 12:1).

The law presents requirements that we measure ourselves against. Some come to think that they have been successful (Mat 19:20) and even end up having contempt for others (Luke 18:9). Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount that lust was a violation of adultery and anger a violation of murder to show that the law was not so limited as to be finagled around. Paul shows us an honest struggle with the demands of the law in Romans chapter 7 where he describes his frustrations and failures in attempt to keep the law.

The reason the law is so difficult is not to showcase our mastery but to clearly show our utter inability to keep it. Paul tells us that the law is to act like a school teacher to show us our need for a Savior. (Galatians 3:21-26). We need righteousness to get to heaven and righteousness is unobtainable by the law. The solution is found in Jesus. When we trust (have faith) in Jesus we are born again with his life. This is how we get eternal life and how we get righteousness. Since the law is not necessary for salvation and sometimes even a hindrance to those who think that can achieve righteousness on their own, the Christian needs to consider what his relationship to the law should be.

Much in the law was intended for our benefit. For example the keeping of the Sabbath not only honored God, and was a sign identifying the special relationship God had with the nation of Israel. (Exodus 31:13), in addition, there is a benefit to men in not being worked to death seven days a week. A Christian employer does not have to worry about what rule to follow. Living for Christ and motivated by love for his Christian brothers and sisters, he extracts from the law the principle of not over-working his employees. (Romans 13:10).

Many of the laws of Moses were designed to establish a social order for the nation of Israel. The Christian who tries to follow all these laws would find them a poor fit. However, we can benefit from the principles we can extract from the laws and apply them with wisdom from God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We might not have a temple at which we can offer the first fruits to God, but we can and should sanctify God in our hearts, walk in gratitude and thanksgiving, and give voice to our love for our Savior. The Christian life is not about getting better and better, but about recognizing how completely we have failed and will fail and how we depend completely on the Lord. It is out of this complete and abject recognition of our failures that a deep faith can arise out of which like Paul, we can “do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”




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