The Law of Christ

matthew 518The law and whether Christians are obliged to follow it is a hotly contested theological issue. Liberal-inspired licence infects the Church like a plague.

On the surface, Scripture seems to give us conflicting answers to this question. However, as is often the case that this conflict is never in the Gospel word of Christ. Christ was quite clear:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. Matthew 5:17.

Covenant law is different to the legal structure of say a state. Political states both add and subtract from their own legal codes as circumstances and political weather of the moment dictates. However, covenant law is underpinned by one fundamental premise – God’s word is eternal and forever – therefore Covenant Law in the Bible is not a matter of abolition/addition but revelation. Each successive covenant, rather than supplanting the previous one, therefore builds on the previous one. More of the law is revealed as each covenant is made guiding us to the true purpose of the law to bind us to God and make us worthy of his grace and glory.

Christ is telling us exactly that above, ‘I come not to abolish the law’, because no such thing can be done, but to fulfil.  The question therefore becomes not which laws does the covenant of Christ ‘abolish’ but which ones does his sacrifice on the Cross fulfil.

Lets start with the commandment made under Mosaic law to honour the sabbath day. Christ tells us:

For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day Matthew 12:8

It is therefore to say when it comes to the sabbath day we can safely tick that box. LAW FULFILLED THROUGH CHRISTS SACRIFICE. This is the nub of the issue. Christ’s sacrifice freed us from the hypocrisy of religious ritual and freed God from the same hypocrisy. The Church however has brought that hypocrisy right back in. How many people turn up at Church on Sunday and call themselves Christian but have no FAITH? Faith is no longer to be demonstrated in empty words and ritualistic observances, this is what made Christ’s Gospel, the good news so subversive for the priestly royalty and their Roman patrons. Incidentally, it also frees God from the taint of this hypocrisy. People think they are pleasing God through these rituals, nothing could be further from the truth;

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Amos 5:21

These things please the Church but its self absorption in these rituals deeply displeases God.

God wants holy, sinless living, something that has recognised is beyond even the most pure-heated human which is why through Christ we are offered the free gift of salvation and it is our FAITH that is rewarded. However, this does not give us carte blanche. The Law of Christ, when it comes to moral questions is tightened vis a vie Mosiac Law; in other words, it is further revealed, let us, for example, look at adultery:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a]28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

Now, it is not just the physical act of committing adultery that is sinful but even thinking about it is sinful. When it comes to these laws, the moral laws, ones pertaining not to ritualism or specific ordinances in regard to practical living it is quite clear that far from vanishing, this law, in the words of Christ:

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:18.

We have to reject the view of the law that it has simply vanished into thin-air. I happen to think that conveying that impression was not the intent of Paul, who is often quoted to justify excessive licence, that as a polemicist of his age, he ‘bent the stick’ and it is once again the Church that is guilty of the heresy of distortion.


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