No Longer Under Law
I’m going to attempt to talk about a rather controversial topic in the church. That issue is addressing how the new covenant believer should relate to the law. I hope the experience is enlightening, freeing, and life-giving. If you feel strongly that we are still under the law, please realize that I am not advocating sin or saying it is proper for the christian to behave sinfully, but rather I am showing a way in which we can effectively live in the righteousness and freedom that God puts in us.
The switch from living under law to living under grace is a fantastic and humbling experience. Under the new covenant, Paul teaches us that we are no longer under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). But, telling somebody that they are no longer under the law can be offensive to them and maybe even frightening. I hope you don’t feel this way and I myself was at one time like this, for I had lived under the law for years before realizing Christ has set us free from it.
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace… Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished” (Galatians 5:4,11).
The message of the cross is offensive, because it takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on Christ. We no longer are trying to earn righteousness, justification, and blessings through our human effort but we receive it as a gift from the spirit. The law is wise and good (Romans 7:12), but the essential problem is, it cannot make you good (Romans 7:5,9,10 and Galatians 2:21 and Galatians 3:21). But it will expose your faults and make you aware of sin (Romans 3:20). This is its primary biblical purpose, to lead you to Christ by proving that you cannot earn righteousness and need his righteousness to justify you. Once you have Christ, you are no longer under the supervision of the law.
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25).
Does this mean that we act contrary to its good nature? By no means, we have it written in our hearts and minds through the spirit so that we do by nature the things required by the law (Hebrews 10:16).
“14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law… even though they do not have the law… 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness” (Romans 2).
“Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31).
What Paul is arguing in the book of Romans is that the believer is no longer under law, but he clarifies saying, ‘does this mean we go on sinning, using our freedom to disobey the law?’ ‘Not at all,’ he states. He is saying that it is only the people who operate by faith rather than the law who are actually fulfilling it’s purpose, to bring us to Christ. To understand what he is saying, requires us to understand the nature of the law and faith. The law is not based on faith,
“The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them” (Galatians 3:12).
“For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath” (Romans 4:14).
The law, even though it is good, does not produce good in the believer but rather inspires sin! In Romans, he realized that even though he willed to do good, the law only brought out the sin that was in him.
“But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.” (Romans 7:8-11).
“The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20).
“For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:5).
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:14-25).
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56).
So, though the law is good and spiritual it cannot make a man good, in fact, it only stirs up his sin. Do you see the irony of trying to live under the law? The more devoted, passionate, determined you are at fulfilling the law, the more tempting and difficult sin becomes to you. So, is right behavior impossible? Not at all! But, we must realize where right behavior comes from. It does not come through the law. It is because we have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and because we have the Holy Spirit and a new nature motivating us (2 Corinthians 3:18) and leading us into the expression of the righteousness we already possess through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) that we desire to do what’s right (Philippians 2:13). This faith, a faith that we have been made completely righteous by Christ alone, produces the good works prescribed in the law. Without this knowledge is the fear that some people suffer, a fear of sinning because of their newly found freedom. But, God has given us another way to pursue righteousness. This righteousness is no longer earned through human effort, but rather is imparted through the Spirit through the power of knowing you are forgiven, righteousness, and holy already. And while the spirit is changing our outward behaviors, God’s grace continues to forgive and see us as having already been made perfect.
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4).
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).
“In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare” (Jeremiah 50:20).
“And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:27).
So, what’s the difference between pursuing righteousness through the law, and pursuing righteousness through the spirit? Before I answer this question, I want to take a moment to address a belief that the law can be separated and that believers are only freed from the ritualistic law, not the 10 commandments.
The Complete Law
In Romans 7:7, he says,
“What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”
‘Do not covet’ is not written in the mosaic law, it is written in the 10 commandments.
Also in 2 Corinthians 3:7-8 he says, “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?”
The ritualistic law was never written and engraved on stone. The 10 commandments were. Paul calls the 10 commands the ministry of death, even though it had glory. In Romans he refers to this law that brings death, it is the same 10 commandments, not just the ritualistic law. Another question I want to pose is this, are you aware that the law says you must keep the sabbath? If you believe we are still under the law, then keeping the sabbath is just as important as any other law. I know the law is good, and it presents praiseworthy standards, however it cannot make you good and as long as you are bound to it, to that degree you struggle with sin.
The Law demands what it cannot give. But, Grace gives what it cannot demand. The law was designed to bring out your sin, not your righteousness. It remembers your sin and forgets that you are righteousness. It activates the flesh, our man-power, will, effort, and sinful nature with which it is impossible to fulfill the law (Romans 7:5-11). Because of this it can never impart righteousness to us nor can it change our hearts (Galatians 3:21). It motivates through punishment/curse (Deuteronomy 28:15), condemnation, guilt (2 Corinthians 3:7-9), and fear. It is not based on faith (Galatians 3:12). It teaches you the awareness of sin and causes you to be self-introspective, monitoring, judging, criticizing yourself and others.
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” (Romans 3:20).
In Romans 7, Paul describes the result our nature contrives from living under the law in this passage.
“14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.”
The law may be able to tell you what is right and wrong and convict you of sin, but when people try to earn righteousness through the law by human effort, they end up in the same situation that Paul was in, desiring to do good but not having the ability to carry it out. The law cannot produce the fruits of forgiveness or love (2 Peter 1:9). Its knowledge will keep you distant from God, fearing encountering him or drawing close to him because it disqualifies you from his presence (2 Corinthians 3:15).
The Spirit of Grace
But, God has given us an Influencer much greater than the law and our willpower to change our behavior. The Spirit, through grace and love (Zechariah 12:10), reminds us of our righteousness (1 Corinthians 2:12), writes God’s law on our hearts, and conquers the flesh (Romans 8:13). It does not motivate through guilt (Hebrews 10:22), condemnation (Romans 8:1), curse (Galatians 3:13) and fear (1 John 4:18). God’s grace keeps no record of your sins (1 Corinthians 13:5). Romans 1:17 says, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Have you wondered how people can live righteous? How they get their act together and are able to do right? I believe this verse is not only talking about righteousness in our standing with God but that the secret to right living is found in this verse. It is through faith. We saw a moment ago what righteousness looks like under human effort. ‘The evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing.’ But here the verse says the righteous shall live by faith. The law is not based on faith, as Galatians 3:12 says, “The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, ‘The person who does these things will live by them.'” But a secret to right living is found in Paul’s conclusion in the passage we recently read from him. We see all through Romans 7 and even through the entire book of Romans Paul has been getting to a point. Romans 7 is the climax and when Romans 8 opens up, he releases his insight.
“1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,a 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh , God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.c And so he condemned sin in sinful man,d 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
The Greek word for flesh not only means the sinful nature, that part in our humanness that desires sin, but it is also translated ‘human effort.’ Consider what this could mean in his statement that the requirements of the law might be fully meet in those who live according to the spirit not according to the flesh, or ‘human effort’. Paul could be saying that the righeous requirements of the law are fulfilled not through human effort but through the spirit. Paul has been giving us the keys to right living and behaving in these previous verses. It is not by human effort or willpower, but it is by faith, through the spirit, and with no condemnation. Galatians 5:5 says, “But by faith, the eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” 2 Peter 1:9 also says, “But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.” By ‘them’, he is referring to the list of godly traits he mentioned earlier that should be growing in every believer. In this statement, he is saying that the reason a person lacks them is because he has forgotten that his past sins have been cleansed, or in other words, is living under condemnation. So then, those of us who desire to do good should not seek this right doing through the law, but through faith by waiting through the spirit for that righteousness to be imparted as a gift. Then we will see not only outward modification, but inward transformation!
Under the definition of the new covenant spoken by God, He not only saves us from the punishment and condemnation of our sin, but he no longer remembers them. “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17). Remember the big sins you’ve committed throughout your life? And the ones you may have committed recently? God doesn’t remember them. Unlike the law, God does not teach you the awareness of your sin, it has left his consciousness. You might argue, I don’t believe it is accurate to say God is not aware of our sins, that He has forgotten them. Ephesians 1:4 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” If God knows your sins and faults and calls your holy and without fault in His eyes, do you need to be conscious of your sins?
“For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins” (Hebrews 10:2). Another translation says, “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?”
Through Christ, we have been cleansed once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). This is a point that is strongly emphasized throughout Hebrews. Thus, the consequence of our forgiveness and cleansing is that we no longer bask in the guilt, consciousness, and memory of our sins. We learn to be love-conscious, conscious of Christ’s love for us. That is a far greater motivator to good works than a loveless motivator. The law is a loveless motivator, because it keeps record of our sins, while love keeps no record of sins. Love covers over a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8), while the law exposes it. The forgiveness of God’s grace enables the righteousness we desire and imparts to us Christ’s love, not only changing our behavior, but also our hearts, so that we obey whole-heartedly.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47).
So God does not condemn, judge, criticize, punish, or scare us, for these have all been given and finished in Christ’s crucifixion. Grace will produce joy and peace, drawing you close to God casting out all fear.
He Convicts Us of Righteousness
There is an argument that the Holy Spirit teaches us our sin. This verse it usually taken out of context:
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin…”
But, the verse goes on to show who the Holy Spirit convicts of sin.
“and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:8-11).
We are no longer of the world, because we believe.
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19).
To those who don’t believe In Jesus, he exposes their Sin (a noun) so they are convicted of their need for forgiveness and a Savior, because unless they have been forgiven, their sins are still held against them. But, to us believers, who have already received the remission of our sins and our Savior, he shows us our righteousness, the righteousness that comes as a gift from God through Christ and is not merited from our works.
“and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me” (John 16:10).
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25).
Because Jesus himself is not longer with us to teach us our righteousness we have something even better, the spirit who will convict us ‘concerning righteousness’. Have you realized how easy it is to forget who God has made you? Amidst all the teachings, society, your many mistakes, it’s easy to forget that God actually made you righteous. The Holy Spirit was sent to teach you and remind you of your righteousness. He teaches the things that God’s has freely given you.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12).
What has he freely given us? Righteousness, holiness, perfection, cleanliness, grace, every blessing, communion with God, forgiveness, etc…
“how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
Righteousness is a gift and the Holy Spirit tells you about this gift God has given you. And when we know that we are righteous, that righteousness exerts its influence over our desires, will, and behavior causing us to express it.
Changing our Mentality
So then, what is the consequence in our behavior and thinking as our minds are renewed into living under grace instead of law? There are so many it would be impossible to describe them all. The one I most wish to emphasize is how we are not to go through life living in the consciousness of sin but rather in the consciousness of love. Always being aware of what you are doing wrong or what you have done wrong brings guilt and condemnation. It can lead to sickness and despair. The knowledge of sin is addictive. You never have enough of it. You are constantly wondering, what should I be doing? What’s wrong with me? How can I fix it if I don’t know its there. But, the awareness of love brings contentment and peace. It produces joy, life, and health and brings good works. God’s forgiveness and love takes away the awareness of sin and when you spend time in His presence, you will find yourself forgetting your sin just as He does. The second consequence I want to emphasize is how we begin to trust in the work of the spirit to change our behavior without worrying about it and forsaking our forgiveness.
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:17-21). Later he says, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (Galatians 5:5).
Paul is saying, if while we are receiving our righteousness through faith and not through the law we find sin in our lives, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Not at all. Paul’s response in those instances is then to say that we are not to lay aside the grace of God, reverting back to the condemnation and punishments of the law because it cannot impart righteousness. Instead, he says the spirit imparts our righteousness and we shall patiently wait for it. The spirit is a powerful motivator and we need to respect his ability to change us rather than forsake our forgiveness and righteousness to get some puny act together. Will you sell Christ’s work for you own? Will you lay aside his righteousness to you to create your own. Then don’t revert to condemnation, guilt, and punishment to train yourself in godliness but rather entrust yourself and submit to his grace. Don’t give room for your pride and refuse to accept the love of Christ. (James 4:6)
“11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
It is from grace that comes the power to live upright, self-controlled, and godly lives. So instead, we switch our mentality from sin-consciousness through the law to love-consciousness through grace. But the law mentality does not only include the ten commandments, but human ordinances and practices. There are hundreds of conflicting social rules and ideas on how to act. Rules governing body language, courtesy, and appearance. These rules can be good, but they can also bring worry and wondering. It may cause you worry about which behaviors to choose, what rules you are breaking instead of resting in God’s love for you. In these cases, instead of scrutinizing ourselves, we need to trust the power of the spirit to produce his rightful behaviors in us and move our eyes to Jesus. We are to live in the awareness of his love, without worrying about the opinion of man. In summary, if you want grace to change your life, then let it change your life. If you want to learn how to love, you must learn to let yourself be loved.