My dear friend, this is an excellent question, and I might tell you that the importance of this issue is the very heart of the new Covenant in Christ Jesus. The short answer is that those who have trusted in Christ Jesus as their Savior, who have faith in His finished, redemptive work on Calvary’s cross, are not bound by the law, but are under Grace.  But, this does mean that God’s law is not relevant. First of all, the term “Law” is used in Scripture in a number of ways. .  It sometimes refers to the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, where the Jewish ceremonial laws and feasts are recorded; and often, the law may refer specifically to the Ten Commandments, or simply to God’s moral law for mankind. I believe the New Testament makes a strong case that Christians are not bound by the Jewish ceremonial laws; but the moral principles embodied in the Ten Commandments do spell out God’s guidance for men and governments here on earth. Now, the definition of sin in Scripture is “lawlessness,” or that tendency of man not to want to be governed in any way, but always to do his own will. We read in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.   I have been asked just what the glory of God means, and I believe it to mean God’s excellence and absolute perfection. 

I mentioned lawlessness, and we see sin or lawlessness right from the beginning—Adam sinned, and we have been sinning ever since.  Adam and Eve clearly knew that God had told them to avoid only one tree in the Garden of Eden.  He told them of the consequences of violating this first law which God had given them to obey.  But despite the fact that God commanded this thing, they chose to listen to Satan’s lies, and they broke this law—they rebelled in the sense that they disobeyed God, and thus sin entered the world, and this brought on the consequence of death. Being the children of Adam, we all have this sin nature. We clearly know God’s standard for mankind; but, this standard is so high.  It is perfect obedience or judgment. It really doesn’t matter if we feel we have sinned very little, or if others have sinned much worse than we have.  We read in James 2:10 that “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” We have either broken God’s law or we have not.  And, which of us has never sinned in some way?  So, if there is found in us even one sin, we are lawbreakers or sinners and fall into condemnation as a consequence. We read in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death,” and so the consequence of our lawlessness is death.

Now, what was the purpose of the law in the first place? The law was like a straight edge given by God to show us that we were sinners. The “law entered that the offence might abound ” (Romans 5: 20). Putting it another way, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:24-26, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Now, Paul in the book of Romans speaks much of the law, and the situation of man before the law. We read in Romans 3:19-24, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….” Then in verse 28, we have, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

So, those who are in Christ are not under law but under Grace.  But, does this mean that we ignore God’s law altogether? Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

The Christian is not under the law in the sense of its condemnation (John 5:24—“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” ) And yet, even though we are not under law, but under Grace, the standard for the Christian goes way beyond the letter of the law.  In Matthew 5: 21-22 we read, “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire”. Now, “raca” is an Aramaic term meaning worthless or empty. The Ten Commandments refers to murder, but according to the Word of God, becoming so angry with someone that we refer to them as “worthless” is likened to murder. Now, moving on in the Sermon on the Mount,  we read in verses 27-28, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Again, God’s standard is seen to be much higher than even the letter of the Ten Commandments, and we as sinners can’t keep even those perfectly–“should our zeal, no respite know; should our tears forever flow.  Naught for sin could e’er atone, but Thy blood and Thine alone.”

We are sinners, both by nature and by choice.  But, God in His great love for us sent His son into the world to save sinners (John 3:16, and 1 Timothy 1:15). The Old Testament sacrifices merely pointed to Christ, but they in themselves could not take away sin.  At Calvary, our Lord Jesus was made a “sin offering” for us, that through faith in His finished work at Calvary, we might be forgiven for our sins. Christians no longer have the wrath of God before us, once we have repented and believed on Christ as our Savior. Thus, God’s standard, the law, is not removed, but we are sheltered by His blood from wrath, and are born again, the Holy Spirit indwelling us and giving us a new nature. It is the Holy Spirit and this new nature that gives us the power to walk a holy walk in this world, and this new nature loves to do the will of God. Thus, it is not a matter of “having to abide by God’s laws”. Indeed, we cannot ever earn salvation by keeping the law, but for Christians, we actually want to keep His commandments because of the love and Grace He has shown us, and we can only keep His commandments by this new nature and the power of the Holy Spirit.  (412.5)  (SF)