The purpose of God’s law—as we saw last week in Galatians 3:23-25—is two-fold. The first use is the external use which controls us by keeping us fenced in, “under guard.” This preserves a society of sinful men. The internal, second use of the law, is to be a mirror that forces us to see our endemic sin and depravity, so we will repent and come to Jesus. Any encouragement to try to keep God’s law to be a better, more righteous person is noticeably and conspicuously absent.
The question then naturally arises, “What do I do with all the commands in the New Testament, both from Jesus’ mouth and from the pens of the authors of the epistles, aimed directly at us? They surely do look like they tell us specific things for us to do?”
These commands from Jesus and His apostles are also “the law of God,” just as are the Ten Commandments of Moses. They are New Testament directives that are the specifics about how God wants us to live now that Jesus has come to earth, not how the Israelites under the Old Covenant should live.
However, I am a failure in all my attempts to keep God’s law, be it Old Testament or New. I may tell myself I am keeping them, and it may look like I do after a cursory glance or two from the peanut gallery, but ask my wife!
For example, Jesus is speaking to my heart attitude as He tells me to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:27, 28). Was Jesus serious? Who can say he does that—in his heart?
Someone actually said to me some time ago, “Well, nobody does that,” as if that excuses my sin, and that’s the point. We are all, no exceptions or grading on the curve, fully guilty. The following verses are reality today in 2022: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
When the reality of the ideas in these verses hits me, Hallelujah! I am right on schedule. I can know that God has got me and the law of God is doing its work. I will naturally and spontaneously embrace the reality of the hopelessness of my situation (“In my heart it’s even worse than you can imagine”), and repent!
Simultaneously, my Father opens my eyes to see that He loves me with an unquenchable, agape love that can’t be dampened by my behavior in any way. His love-gauge is always on 100%. That means that, even in the midst of all my wickedness and rebellion, He forgives me fully, completely, and permanently!
That is the gospel of the grace of God. This is the answer to our question about the New Testament’s obvious direct commands for me to “do.” All these impossible demands become wonderful PROMISES of what the Holy Spirit will do in my life, naturally, unconsciously, and spontaneously, as I walk by faith.
Do I believe this? It is exactly what Philippians 2:13 and Romans 8:4 (verses I have quoted again and again), tell me is happening. If I really and truly believe it, I am living “according to the Spirit” (to use the language of Romans 8:4); if I don’t, then I am living “according to the flesh.”
Here is the simple track that I will follow daily as the power of God is released in my life by His Holy Spirit who lives in me:. 1.) I see my sin; 2.) I own it, embrace it and repent; 3.) I believe I am fully and forever forgiven by a God who loves and thinks I’m precious!
This is “walking by faith” in the gospel of the grace of God, and it makes me a dangerous and undefeatable warrior, as I relax and do nothing but what I want to do. Armed with this mindset, I can’t wait to attack the Gates of Hell!
Getting to this point—living this way and not by obedience to the law—is not the end result; it is not the final goal we are after here on the earth, but it is the foundation that must be laid before we can experience it. Next week we will look at how we can actually reach that final end result.