TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

I.  Jesus Christ and the Law’s Diminished Role

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Chapter 14  Part I

Jesus Christ and the Law’s Diminished Role

See also:

The law was given to Israel through Moses – hence the term the “Mosaic Law”. It was what God’s covenant with Israel was based upon. (The contents of this law – including its provisions for dealing with sin – are discussed in the sections cross-referenced above.)

In order to be righteous before God, the Israelites had to continually follow this law, keeping all of its commands – something which they proved incapable of doing. But through Jesus Christ’s life and death, God has provided a new way of righteousness, for all people – leading to salvation. As a result of this, the role of the law has been profoundly changed.

Note that the term “the law” is used in a number of ways in the NT, but most commonly to refer to the Mosaic Law. The references to “the law” in verses in this section have been interpreted here as referring to the Mosaic Law.

Righteousness Not by Law, but Faith in Jesus Christ

The Mosaic Law cannot bring perfection . . .

Heb 7:19a  The law of Moses could not make anything perfect.  NCV™

. . . The law only exacerbates the problem of sin

Rom 7:7-8  [Paul:] What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.  ESV

The law actually stimulates sin, arousing sinful passions (cf. v. 5) and all kinds of desires (v. 8). In fact if it were not for the law, sin would be “a dead thing” (v. 8, GNT) – immaterial.

1Cor 15:56  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  NET

God’s law gives sin its power. For it is the law that makes sin transgression against God, i.e. violation of standards he has set. As such it gives sin the power to bring about condemnation (of sinners) and so bring death.

People are not justified by obeying the law – but by faith in Jesus Christ . . .

Gal 2:15-16  [Paul, to Peter and other Jews:] We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.  ESV

God’s way now for us to be made righteous before him is through having faith in Jesus Christ. This primarily involves believing Jesus Christ to be (with what he has accomplished) the means of righteousness – and accordingly trusting in him for one’s own righteousness.

In conjunction with this, faith in Jesus Christ encompasses believing what the Bible says about: who he is; his death and resurrection; and the outcomes of his mission. Faith or belief in Jesus Christ is discussed in Belief in Jesus Christ (I): General; and Belief in Jesus Christ (III): Outcomes.

. . . Righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ – not by the law

Rom 3:21-22a  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  ESV

By faith Abraham was declared righteous – and so will all who emulate him

Rom 4:19-24  He [Abraham] did not weaken in faith when he thought about his own body (which was already as good as dead now that he was about a hundred years old) or about Sarah’s inability to have children, 20nor did he doubt God’s promise out of a lack of faith. Instead, he became strong in faith and gave glory to God, 21being absolutely convinced that God would do what he had promised. 22This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words “it was credited to him” were written not only for him 24but also for us. Our faith will be regarded in the same way, if we believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  ISV

One’s righteous standing is no reason to boast, as it is not due to what one does – but to faith

Rom 3:27-28  Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.  NET

 Questions for Section A

Salvation by Grace, through Jesus Christ

Bear in mind that in this section, “works” refers to things one does to attempt to work for or earn righteousness and salvation. This includes good deeds but mainly has in view actions specifically aimed at fulfilling the law’s demands. Note that the following subsections all speak of aspects of God’s salvation, as per the theme of this section.

God chooses people by his grace, through Jesus Christ – not because of works

Eph 1:3-6  [Paul, to believers:] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved [Christ].  ESV

Rom 11:5-6  So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.  NET

God leads people to respond to him by his grace

Acts 18:27b  On his arrival he [Apollos] greatly helped those who through grace had believed.  ISV

People are justified and made righteous by God’s grace, through Jesus Christ – not by law

Rom 3:24  But they [people] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  NET

Gal 2:21  [Paul:] I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!  NET

Righteousness comes by God’s grace – by what Jesus Christ’s death accomplished – not through abiding by the law.

People are saved by God’s grace, through Jesus Christ . . .

Eph 2:4-5  [Paul, to believers:] But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, 5that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved.  GNT

. . . People are saved by God’s grace rather than by works and the law

Eph 2:8-9  For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9it is not from works, so that no one can boast.  NET

Acts 15:10-11  [Peter, to those advocating submission to the law:] So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke [the law] that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are.  NET

Eternal life is a gift from God, through Jesus Christ

Rom 6:23  For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  NET

 Questions for Section B

Release from the Law through Jesus Christ

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This section looks at how Jesus Christ has fully realized the key objectives of the Mosaic Law, and how as a result God’s people have been released from the law.

The most notable implication of this release is that God’s people have been freed from bondage to the law as the means of obtaining righteousness and being made holy. Additionally, other major aspects of the law are no longer applicable to God’s people. There is also a change of focus in their lives, with them living their lives primarily by faith and in step with the Holy Spirit (cf. Living Free of the Law and Sin – by the Spirit) – rather than being preoccupied with the requirements of the law. (See also Instead of being under the law, believers are under grace and Jesus Christ’s law, later in this section.)

Note that the law’s commands that are applicable to the believer’s new spiritual relationship with God or to their relationships with other people, are still very much relevant in that they give guidance in how to please God (cf. The Relevance of the Law).

Jesus Christ fully realized what the law had worked towards

Heb 10:1, 10-14  For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.10By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again – sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. 14For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.  NET

The Mosaic Law had primarily worked toward the removal of sin and making God’s people holy. But its work really only foreshadowed “the reality” (v. 1) that would be realized through Jesus Christ. For the law’s sacrifices for sin were not sufficient to comprehensively deal with sin and make people perfect (vv. 1, 11). But with the sacrifice of himself, Jesus Christ fulfilled what the law with its sin offerings in effect pointed towards, by consummately removing sins (v. 12) and making God’s people holy (vv. 10, 14).

So through Jesus Christ believers have been released from the law

Rom 10:4  For Christ is the end of the law, with the result that there is righteousness for everyone who believes.  NET

Gal 3:24-25  [Paul, to believers:] Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  NET

The law was only ever to be the authority over God’s people until Jesus Christ came, when faith would supersede it as the way for God’s people to be righteous.

With Jesus Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, there is no longer any need to sacrifice for sin

Heb 10:12, 17-18  Christ, however, offered one sacrifice for sins, an offering that is effective for ever, and then he sat down at the right-hand side of God. … 17And then he [God] says, “I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.” 18So when these have been forgiven, an offering to take away sins is no longer needed.  GNT

The regulations and rituals of the law are no longer applicable

Col 2:16-17  [Paul, to believers:] Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days  -17 these are only the shadow of the things to come, but the reality is Christ!  NET

The various aspects of the old covenant mentioned (v. 16) merely foreshadowed what was to come with Christ (v. 17). So there is now no longer any binding requirement to observe such regulations – in accordance with what God has done through Christ (v. 14).

Instead of being under the law, believers are under grace

Rom 6:14  [Paul, to believers:] For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.  NET

Believers are not under the law but “under grace”. By grace righteousness and salvation are not only gained, as discussed earlier, but are also maintained. For in his grace God enables believers to live godly lives and continues to provide for forgiveness when they do sin. Accordingly, believers are to rely on God’s grace both in striving to please God and for forgiveness.

 Questions for Section C

The Relevance of the Law

The spiritual and moral commands of the law are largely in view this section. These commands are those pertaining to the believer’s spiritual relationship with God and their relationships with other people.

The law is not nullified . . .

Rom 3:31  Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.  NET

In saying that by faith “we uphold the law”, Paul is probably meaning that the way of faith validates the law. As such, Paul is probably speaking of either: faith showing the law to play a key role in God’s plan of salvation, such as in regard to awareness of sin; or faith providing the way of fulfilling the law’s demands (cf. NCV, NLT) thus showing the law’s demands to be legitimate.

. . . The law is still good

1Tim 1:8  We know that the Law is good, if it is used in the right way.  CEV

Note that the subsequent verses (vv. 9-11) speak of the law’s use for governing and condemning the ungodly. The following subsections speak further of how to use the law properly.

The primary purpose of the law is to make people aware of sin

Rom 3:20  For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  NET

Rom 7:7  [Paul:] Shall we say, then, that the Law itself is sinful? Of course not! But it was the Law that made me know what sin is. If the Law had not said, “Do not desire what belongs to someone else,” I would not have known such a desire.  GNT

The spiritual and moral commands of the law are still to be obeyed

Matt 5:18-19  [Jesus:] I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass [away] from the law until everything takes place. 19So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  NET

Most likely Jesus had the moral commands of the law primarily in view, with a number of them being the subject of his subsequent teaching (cf. vv. 21-48).

The law’s principles – such as love, justice and mercy – are of central importance, above its rules

Matt 22:35-40  And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  NET

Matt 23:23  [Jesus:] Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others.  NET

The Pharisees had gone to extreme measures in their tithing, which was one aspect of the law, but had overlooked basic principles of the law.

 Questions for Section D

Pray for persecuted Christians