GOSPEL FREEDOM

FREEDOM FROM THE LAW

The Bible tells us that in the Gospel a ‘righteousness’ [that is ‘justification’ – legal acquittal] apart from law is made known:

‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known …’ [Romans 3:21]

‘We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law’ [Romans 3:28]

‘It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise …[Romans 4:13]

‘We … know that a man is not justified by observing the law…’ [Galatians 2:16].

This ‘apart from law’ disturbs us. It clashes with our basic mindset. It offends our sense of justice. It contrasts with all we have had drummed into us. It contradicts all the religion we have inherited. And it also cuts away at our human pride by which we convince ourselves that we can, if we try hard enough, keep God’s Law and secure our own acceptance with him.

But we humans, including the Jews to whom it was originally given, have misread the purpose of the law; we have assumed that it was given us as a check list to confirm our goodness and so to justify us, so to secure our acquittal. Its purpose, however, was to expose our sin; not to justify, but to condemn:

‘no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin’ [Romans 3:20];

‘by observing the law no one will be justified’ [Galatians 2:16];

‘All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law”’ [Galatians 3:10].

‘no one is justified by the works of the law’ [Galatians 3:11]

The Law of God exposes our sin and condemns us. It basically says ‘Gotcha!’ and there is no where we can run, no way we can get out from under this exposure and this condemnation. We simply do not have what it takes to keep the law.

Into this impossible situation comes the Gospel, the good news that those who believe in Jesus Christ have been set free from this tyrannical jurisdiction of the law:

‘you are not under law, but under grace’ [Romans 6:14]

‘we have been released from the law’ [Romans 7:6]

‘Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law’ [Galatians 3:13]

‘we are no longer under the supervision of the law’ [Galatians 3:25]

‘God sent his Son … to redeem those under the law’ [Galatians 4:4,5]

God, in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, secured our release from the legal authority of the Law under which we were held and condemned. Thus Paul states that in terms of securing acquittal [‘righteousness’] ‘Christ is the end of the law’ [Romans 10:4].

In respect to righteousness [justification, acquittal] the Law says:

Keep me and live.
You can’t keep me: therefore you are condemned: therefore you die.

That is the curse of the law. That is the tyranny of the Law. That is why God sent Jesus.

Jesus, in his living, fully kept the Law.
Jesus, in his dying, fully bore the condemnation imposed on sinners by the Law.

He, our representative and substitute, by fully keeping the Law and by fully bearing the Law’s penalty, set us free from the Law as a means of gaining a declaration of acquittal from God.

For those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Law, although it continues to teach us how to live for God, and although it continues to expose our sin, no longer has any authority to accuse or condemn us in the presence of God, and no longer has the authority to ban us from God’s presence.

Thus Paul, after pondering the law’s exposure of his continuing sinfulness [Romans 7:13-24], makes his exultant statement that he has been rescued from this by Jesus Christ [7:25] and that there is now no condemnation [8:1], because God in Christ has done what the law could never do for us [8:3], and so he has set him ‘free from the law of sin and death’ [8:2].

In this context Paul commands us: ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ [Galatians 5:1]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2012