Law and Grace – Part 2

We saw yesterday that although we aren’t under the Mosaic Law we are nevertheless still bound by the commands and strictures of the New Covenant, including the ones which many Christians seem to not like. There is nothing lawless about the Christian life, and we are scripturally bound by what God’s Word terms the ‘Royal Law.’ Not being under the Mosaic Law doesn’t mean that we are not under anything at all. Indeed, not being under Moses means we are actually under the Lord Jesus Christ, and precisely as Lord of all He is meant to be obeyed, and obeyed implicitly! But what about the teaching that many Christians buy into that we are meant to still be subject to the Mosaic Law in some way? Let’s go to the scripture we need then in this regard:

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

‘The days are coming, declares the Lord,

    when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
    It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
    This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
    after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
    and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.’

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:7-13)

I think the problem is that some Christians fear that the idea of the Mosaic Law being done away with in some way impugns it, and therefore disrespects the Lord Himself and His chosen people Israel. This is understandable but mistaken. Paul deals with this in his writings too (Romans 7 and Galatians 3 in particular), and demonstrates how the Law was perfect for what it was designed to do, but that having so wonderfully fulfilled its role is now necessarily obsolete. I hope this isn’t going to be too ‘Trekkie’ for anyone but let’s properly understand this by looking at modern day space travel and getting to grips with the design of the space shuttle and how it works.

The difference between the space shuttle and more conventional spacecraft is that it is designed to return to earth intact after each mission. It is, in such respect, as much an aircraft as it is a spacecraft. But of course in order to get into orbit in the first place it needs far more fuel than it could ever contain within itself. In order to fulfil whatever mission it is on, and then return to earth in one piece, it has to be designed just the way it is, thus precluding any idea of it having tanks large enough to hold enough fuel to get it into orbit. It is therefore fitted with booster rockets which do contain enough fuel, but which are not an integral part of its design. The shuttle is therefore transported into orbit through the agency of these attached booster rockets which, once in orbit, are ejected to be burned up and destroyed as they re-enter the atmosphere, being no longer needed.

Now here’s the point: although once the shuttle is approaching orbital height the booster rockets are jettisoned, it’s not because they were no good, or because they were a load of rubbish, or because they were flawed in some way and couldn’t get the job done, having to therefore be replaced by something better. No! They are jettisoned precisely because they have done their job and are therefore just no longer needed. More than that, if they weren’t jettisoned and remained attached to the shuttle they would actually become a dangerous liability. They would not only hinder the shuttle in the performance of its mission whilst in space, but actually cause its destruction upon re-entry as both boosters and shuttle burn up in the atmosphere. Streamlining is not needed anything like as much during take-off as it is during re-entry.

This is exactly the case with the Mosaic Law. The reason it is redundant since the death of Jesus is because it finished its job and simply has no further role to play. It got Israel, and humanity in general, to the coming of Jesus and therefore to the enactment of the New Covenant. It didn’t fail in any way at all! Indeed, it performed its role to complete perfection! But having done its job, then just like the booster rockets on the space shuttle, it is discarded. But also like the booster rockets on the space shuttle, any failure to properly discard it inevitably results in disaster further down the line, and any mixture of the Old Covenant with the New Covenant will rob the believer of the full experience of what being in the New Covenant is actually all about.

In every respect the New Covenant, outlined largely in the New Testament, trumps the Old Covenant, and therefore also much in the Old Testament. And for anyone who balks at that and wants to hang on to their Old Testament ‘booster rockets’ just be clear that throughout the Old Testament God allowed, and blessed, polygamy. However, neither polygamy nor the Law of Moses are for Christians who are under the New Covenant of Grace. The ‘old’ is gone and only the New Covenant now stands!

One more thing: What about the Ten Commandments? Aren’t they binding on Christians? Answer: Of course not!! The Decalogue, so called, is part of a covenant that is, as we are seeing, dead and gone. None of it’s commands are therefore binding on anyone, let alone believers who are under the New Covenant. But of course nine of those ten commandments are brought over into the New Covenant and are therefore binding on us for that reason! So, of course we aren’t free to lie, or to commit adultery or steal etc; but not because those commands are in the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law) but because they are also part of the New Covenant of Grace. The only command in the Decalogue that isn’t carried over into the New Covenant is the sabbath command, this being why sabbath observance is not part of the Christian life. (Though Paul does give concession that if someone has a weak conscience regarding it, then it is correct for them to observe such!)

So what we actually have here with the whole Law and Grace thing is is another example of the twin errors of Legalism and License. To in any way insist that the Mosaic Law is binding on the believer is to require more than the New Covenant does, and is hence legalism; but to distort Paul’s teaching about Law and Grace so as to imply that there are New Covenant commands we are free to break is to not require as much as the New Covenant does, and is therefore licentiousness. (There were obviously aspects of the function of the Mosaic Law which I haven’t mentioned relative to the nation of Israel whilst it was a theocracy, but we are here only concerned with it as it pertains to the Christian life.)

Definition: We are not under the Law of Moses because it has done its job and has been jettisoned so as to make way for the New Covenant of Grace. However, the New Covenant of Grace, though a free gift that cannot be earned, nevertheless contains commands and demands that Christians are duty bound to fully obey and to be in compliance with. These demands and commands are clearly stated in the pages of the New Testament and are non-negotiable, including those which many modern Christians don’t appear to like very much!

 

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