There is a divide between the rule spewing and the young, wild and free Christians. It seems this disconnect happens as some leave God’s law behind, making a new set of laws based on what pleases the flesh, while others cling to every word of the law. The problem in the battle of rules vs. freedom is understanding that the use of God’s law is to lead and guide, not to save.
“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4 NKJV)
First, a little background on the book of Galatians. Paul wrote this letter to the church in Galatia with the intention of teaching the members about their freedom in Christ. In attendance during any given service in Galatia, there were both people who thought following rules induced salvation (everlasting life) and others who didn’t get that memo. Paul agrees with the latter and constantly clarifies the law does not give us our salvation. Instead, salvation was a gift given when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We receive salvation by faith, not by following rules. So, why do we need God’s law (God’s revealed will, commandments)?
“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 NIV)
Plain and simple, crisp and clear: by studying God’s law we become conscious of our sin. The law rids us of our “holier than thou” nature because, through the law, we realize the insurmountable moments we fall short. These shortcomings elicit our desperate need for the savior, Jesus Christ.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)
God’s law is the perfect standard for behavior and one we will never hit. Therefore, believing that we can earn God’s favor, love and grace instead of receiving it freely is not trusting what Jesus completed on the cross. If the only way we were saved is by following the law, no one would be saved.
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21 NIV)
We know that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). So, if we truly believe in God, our love for Him will pull us in the direction of living out His commandments. Therefore, the law gives us direction on how to live out our faith in God. Saying you love God and not acting on this love is not genuine. It’s like saying you love your spouse or a family member, but never putting in work to cultivate a relationship and/or always doing wrong by them. In other words, the law gives action to our faith because “talk is cheap”.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 2:16a NIV)
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8 NIV)
God’s law is a one-stop shop for His will. We often try so hard to understand the will of God for our lives. We fast, pray, search the scriptures and seek wise counsel all to make sure we are going in the route of God’s will. All these acts of faith are beneficial and necessary, however, sometimes we need to take God’s word for exactly what it is. God’s will is for us to love Him first and people second. If our lives reflect this, we are on the right track.
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Matthew 22:36-40 NKJV)