The “Law” in Christ

by Robert F. Turner

When Martin Luther sought to counter the Roman Catholics' over-emphasis on “works” for salvation, he adopted such an emphasis on “grace” that his followers practically lost sight of the necessity for obedience. And the pendulum continues to swing! Judging by public prayers and careless statements made in articles and sermons some seem to think Christ died so that a new “set” of laws could come into effect, by which we are saved. And others react so violently to this that they practically deny “law” under Christ.

In Romans 7:7ff. Paul says that having the law of God was not enough — that it did, in fact, “work death” in him. The fault was not in the law, which he says was “holy, just, and good;” but the trouble lay in Paul. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man,” Paul says — affirming that his spirit was wholly desirous of life; “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:22-25). He says the answer to this — a joyous answer indeed — is Christ, who makes forgiveness possible through His sacrifice on the cross (Romans 3:23ff).

The answer was not a new set of laws, although that difference certainly does exist; but the blood of Christ, by which forgiveness is possible. The inadequacy of “law” — any law — is affirmed in Romans 3:20 where Paul says, “therefore by the deeds of law (no article here in Greek) there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by law (no article) is the knowledge of sin.”

The next verse reads, “But now the righteousness of God without law (no article) is manifested, being witnessed by the law (the article here shows us Paul refers to the law as given through Moses, rt) and the prophets” (Romans 3:21). The law of Moses and the prophets foretold justification in Christ, through forgiveness. (Romans 3:23-25; 4:6-8) The obvious contrast is between a system of works and the system of faith.

Does this mean there is no “law” — no necessity for obedience — in the Christian system? On the contrary, Christ “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him,” (Hebrews 5:9). We are married to another “law” (Romans 7:4) and God will punish those who “obey ‘not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:8). In fact, Christ expects more of us than did the legalistic Jews. He expects us to cleanse the heart, to get to the core of matters, rather than being satisfied with external obedience. (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, etc.).

We are not exempt from obedience — our King has many commands that must be heeded to the best of our ability; and an effort to minimize or judge against (rule out) any one of His commandments, is a denial of God, the source of divine law (James 2:10ff).

But there is some inherent, basic weakness in the concept of salvation in Christ that can not afford to place proper emphasis upon Christ. Neither faith nor baptism is a Saviour. They “save” only in their divinely given role of bringing us to the Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

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