Are Christians Under Law Today?
People do not like rules, except their own. This mindset is the reason for the ongoing debate over, “What is truth?” If truth is relative to each individual, then there are no rules. Thankfully, governments operate under rules, good or bad. God’s government operates under rules as well. In the days of Judges, “There was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” (21:25). This succinct summary of a dark age in Israel’s history stands in stark contrast to the next phase of history narrated in Samuel. In Samuel, for the first time ever, a physical king reigns over the kingdom of Israel. There were laws in the kingdom, and there were harsh penalties for breaking those laws (i.e. 2 Samuel 12). A kingdom without law is an anarchy. Judges describes anarchy. The Kingdom of God is not an anarchy; consequently, Christians have law they must obey.
That last statement is not something you hear every day. Most denominations proclaim that Christians are not under law today, just grace. In fact, that’s what Paul said in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” But, did Paul mean what most denominations today mean? The short answer is, “No.”
Unfortunately, most denominations are inbred with what is known as Calvinism. Calvinism is a doctrine that purports many things, among which is the very popular anthem, “You are saved by the grace of God without any works whatsoever.” The combination of Romans 6:14 and Ephesians 2:8-9 make for a formidable one-two Calvinistic punch. Most people innocently fall prey to this deception, because most people have never read their Bible, studied the book of Romans, and prefer to live with no moral code. Paul was absolutely spot on in Romans 6:15 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Just the same, James was spot on in James 2:14-26, and so was Paul in Romans 3:31.
What is the purpose of law then? Law in its most generic and simple sense is a regulation. The Law of Moses (Romans 2:17) was a corpus of over 600 regulations for the kingdom of Israel. The moral law (Romans 2:14-15) was a corpus of regulations for those who were outside the kingdom of Israel. Both of these systems of regulations were given for good reason. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 says that the Law of Moses was good, and it was given to regulate ungodly people. Galatians 3:23 says the Law of Moses guarded man from sin, and pointed him to Christ (v. 24). In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul is explaining that all men of every age, whether Gentiles who had the moral law, or Jews who had the Law of Moses, all of them are guilty of the law they lived under. These former systems of law accomplished what they were made to accomplish- make man realize that he has no hope of being saved apart Jesus Christ. The moral law and the Law of Moses were perfect, and each time someone broke the law, that person then realized they had no hope unless a perfect redeemer were to come and pay their ransom (synonym for “redeemer”).
Consider an allegory. There was a person named Man. Man got caught driving 100 mph in a 50 mph zone. Man got thrown in jail. The next day he appeared before his judge named Law. Law was a just judge. He was just, because he gave people exactly what they deserved, allowing for no grace whatsoever. Man was condemned to death for disobeying Law. Man was very penitent, crying that he would do anything to save his life. All the sudden, someone came to the front of the court room. It was Ransom. Ransom said He would die in the place of penitent Man. Law didn’t care who died as long as justice was met. Ransom died on behalf of Man, and Man went free. Man still had to obey Law, but he now realized that he could not be saved without Ransom.
Christians do have law they have to obey today. In contrast to the Law of Moses, the Christian law is called by many different names in the New Testament- the law of God (Rom. 7:25), the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2), the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), and the perfect law of liberty (James 2:25). This law is found beginning in Matthew 5-7, and extends throughout the rest of the New Testament scriptures. The law of Christ is perfect, making the Christian aware of what God calls good and reminding him when he breaks the law that there is no hope without Ransom (Jesus Christ). Ransom from sin is conditional for the alien sinner (Acts 2:38) and the Christian (2 Cor. 7:8-10). Christians are “not under law” (Rom. 6:14) in this sense: they are not depending on the law to save them. God’s grace is ultimately what saves, but without obedience to the law of Christ and a humble attitude (Luke 17:7-10), one cannot attain that grace. Do not be mistaken, the Kingdom of God is not an anarchy, and Christians must obey the law of Christ to be ransomed by Christ.