Please read parts 1-4 before continuing….
In the first post of this series, we said the purpose of the law is to reveal Christ—Him who is Wonderful—and not just moral or religious practice. The examples given in the preceding post illustrate both of these points. They show that the law finds its fulfillment in the us in Christ/Christ in us relationship (Rom. 10:4). This being the case, we also see the inadequacy of finding only moral and religious practice in the law. God’s desire in the law is to bring us into divine relationship. Outside of divine relationship, obeying the law falls as far short of God’s will as committing sin. In fact, keeping the law apart from union with God is, in one sense, worse than sinning without pretense. The law-abiding person can avoid facing their unchanged nature because they do all the right things. They can live a pious, moral life even as they refuse to live in Christ or let Him live in them. Jesus addresses this fact in His Sermon on the Mount. Many times in that sermon, He quotes the law, then says, “But I tell you” and provides a contrast. Consider this example from Matthew:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matt. 5:21, 22).
In otherwords, it is easy for us to justify hearts full of hatred as long as we don’t kill anyone. Similarly, Jesus says we have already committed adultery if we look on another person lustfully. Sexual immorality may be running rampant on the inside but the legalist reasons he is OK as long as he looks but doesn’t touch. At the end of the day, God isn’t interested in whether we kept or broke His commands. He is interested in whether we were in communion with Him and were transformed by that communion. “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Gal. 6:15).
Paul claimed that he was faultless according to legalistic righteousness (Php. 3:6). That’s quite a feat to have accomplished. But after Christ was revealed, he described himself as the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). He didn’t say this because he had broken the law. We might point to the attack he mounted against Christians as evidence of lawlessness, but persecuting Christians was actually quite lawful for Jews. Christians were seen as blasphemers, and the law commands that blasphemers be put to death (Num. 15:30; Matt. 25:65, 66; Acts 6:11). Nevertheless, in light of Christ, Paul saw his very essence was corrupted even though he kept the law down to the smallest detail (Matt. 5:18). The solution to this problem? Knowing Christ: “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Php. 3:8, 9).
To be continued…
Excerpted from my booklet, “Wonderful Things in Your Law“