Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
What is Christianity all about? Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law? Is this new life just about more rule-following? Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so! Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do. Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.
The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts. No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful. Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.
It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28). Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more. And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.
Romans 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
As Christians, it’s no longer our duty to live up to the Law. The commands given to those under the old covenant are no longer our marching orders. What then; do we throw away all of the commands as if they don’t matter? No, we fulfill the Law by obeying our new command.
Jesus did not tell those under the new covenant to try and keep up the old. Instead He gave a new command: to love. (Romans 13:8-10)
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
It’s really as simple as that. You want to obey God? Love. You want to please Him? Love. You want to do what’s right? Love. Freedom from the Law is freedom to walk in love, and in doing so to fulfill the Law.
Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh
We misunderstand the Law handed down by God if we think it’s our job to keep it fully in order to be on the Lord’s good side. I’m not talking about earning salvation, most Christians would agree that we are saved by grace through faith alone and that our good works don’t get us there. But what happens after that? Something seems to change inside of us that makes us think we can now earn God’s favor by obedience to His Law even after we’ve been saved.
Just as we couldn’t keep the whole Law before we were in Christ, we still can’t keep the whole Law after we’ve been saved. We’ve been freed from sin and empowered to obey, but we’ll still never make it to the perfection the Law requires. We’re still human.
So, if we can’t keep the Law, what purpose does it serve Christians? If it doesn’t earn us salvation and it doesn’t perfect us in sanctification, what is it good for?
The Law does serve a purpose in showing us our sin. It shows us our need for Jesus. This is true on both sides of salvation as it shows us our need for a Savior before when we are lost and then shows us our continual need for the power of the Holy Spirit working in us as we walk in our faith. God knew we would never live up to the Law. It’s why He sent His Son to fulfill the Law that we might be freed from it’s bondage. Now it serves as a reminder that we need Him every single day.