Letting go of the law

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From one perspective, the law of Moses is a beautiful thing. “Oh, how I love your law!”; “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul”; “His delight is in the law of the lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 119:97, 19:7, 1:2). Even Paul says, “In my inner being I delight in God’s law” (Romans 7:22).

There certainly is something attractive about a law that reflects God’s holy character and has such lofty requirements. Isaiah says, “It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious” (Isaiah 42:21). Moses asked, “What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:8).

But the Old Covenant, however great and glorious, does not compare to what we have in Jesus:

“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? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” (1 Corinthians 3:7-11)

There is no real comparison between law and grace. The law gives us a glimpse of perfection but leaves us as we are; grace actually “brings righteousness,” both in the sense of being accepted by God and being transformed to be like him (see Hebrews 10:14). The law reveals some things about God’s character, but grace enables us to meet him face to face and know him as our Father, beloved and friend.

A certain kind of logic might say: now that we have been empowered by God’s grace, we are finally able to keep the law. But this is not the New Testament. What we actually do is fulfill the law without reference to the law, living by the Spirit and operating out of love instead of rules and regulations – however “great and glorious” those rules might appear to be.

It is safe to let go of the law when what we have is so much greater.

For reflection:

All of history was leading up to the revelation of God’s grace, and it will bring him glory for all eternity:

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-12)

“God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7).

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