So often the Law of God in the Old Testament is frowned upon in Christian circles. They associate legalistic rituals and piety with it, and understandably so! In Jesus time the religious leaders used the law of God to exult themselves amongst others, to boast in their own efforts. It wasn’t about glorifying God, it was about glorifying themselves. No wonder Jesus wasn’t too happy with them! Even today Christians legalistically hoard their ill conceived piety over other people based on what they do or don’t do. But how should we look at the Law of God as written out in Exodus (Ten Commandments) Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Sure many of the ceremonial and sacrificial laws don’t apply any more because we are made right with God through Jesus’ sacrifice alone, however does that mean we don’t need to pay attention to the God’s law in the Old Testament anymore? Is it made redundant by the New Testament?
Today many people, Christians included, can’t help but associate the law as suffocating and condemning. Hence it must be bad. ‘We are saved by grace alone, so the law doesn’t matter any more’. However to look at the law like this is to not know why it was given to us in the first place. David treasured the law of God (Psalms 1:2, 19:7, 40:8, 94:12, 119:1, 43-44). Romans 2:15 speaks of how God has written the law on the hearts of all people, with our conscience bearing witness to right and wrong. The truth is God’s law itself is good, but what it exposes in our hearts is not! The Law reflects the holy standards of righteousness that God demands to be in His presence, thus obliterating any self righteousness in us as we ALL fall unbelievably short! The just outcome for us all is therefore eternal condemnation – that’s a bitter pill to swallow as it hits our pride head on!
However the law’s job was never to save us but rather to make us accountable to God whereby every mouth will be shut (Rom 3:19-20). Without the law we would not know of sin, ie what it is to covet (Romans 7:7). Without the law we would not know what God cherishes and hates. The law is to help us realise that we cannot live up to God’s standards and that we are in a desperate need to be justified or made right before God by some other means. That is how the Holy Spirit uses the law to point people to salvation that only Jesus can provide.
Jesus is the only one righteous under the Law as He was without sin. The condemnation that was justly ours to bear was placed on Jesus’ head, the one person who was innocent under the law! Therefore through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we are clothed with His righteousness, with the penalty for our sinfulness being justly upheld by Jesus atoning death. More then that God gives us a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), a heart that desires to obey and follow God (Philippians 2:12-13). With the power and enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit we then have the ability turn from sin and live as God has called us to!
So the law is not the means to salvation, but it points us to it – Jesus Christ. Even though the law in itself condemns us because we are all sinful, it exponentially heightens our awareness of the soul-saving value of the Gospel for it helps us to deeply realise how much Jesus has saved us from! Our salvation is not something that we receive to obtain blessings and prosperity in life, but rather it is our most valued gift as it alone saves us from God’s eternal condemnation and grants us eternal life! It’s not something we will give up on at the first sign of trouble in life, but rather those who have sincerely accepted it will draw on it all the more fervently! We all have so much to be grateful to God for no matter how tough life might be!