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Defining a Christian's relationship to the Law of Moses.
Today I’m going to kick off with a tricky question:
Are Christians free from the Law of Moses or under the Law of Moses?
Well, the answer isn’t either/ or but both/ and. Saints are both free from the Ten Commandments and under the Ten Commandments.
Isn’t that a contradiction?
Let’s find out.
FREE FROM THE LAW
First of all, believers in Christ are free from the Law with respect to their justification. Thanks to the perfect obedience of the blessed Son of God, those who belong to Jesus have fulfilled the Law.
Christ’s perfect righteousness has been imputed unto them so they are free from the curse and the condemnation of the Law.
When saints, therefore, stand before God on Judgment Day, they will be pronounced righteous thanks to the impeccable saving work of Emmanuel. That way, Christ gets all the glory for every redeemed soul that enters the kingdom of heaven.
So Christians are free from the Law. They can no longer be tyrannized by its weighty authority.
UNDER THE LAW
Nevertheless, there is a sense in which Christians continue to stand under the Law of Moses, namely, regarding sanctification.
Whilst it is true that Jesus fulfilled the Ten Commandments for believers, they are called to walk in obedience to them as their guide or, as the Protestant tradition terms it, “a rule of life”.
The Puritan Thomas Watson writes, “Though a Christian is not under the condemning power of the Law, yet he is under its commanding power. To love God, to reverence and obey Him, is a Law which always binds and will bind in heaven”.1
The apostle Paul himself asked, “Do we then make void the Law through faith?” And what was his inspired answer, “God forbid, yea, we establish the Law!” (Romans 3:31). A New Testament Christian establishes and upholds the Law.
Nowhere in the New Covenant do we find the Ten Commandments revoked. After all, didn’t the prophet Jeremiah promise that in the coming days of the New Pact that the Lord would write His holy Law within the hearts and the inward parts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33)?
As Louis Berkhof put it last century, “The law is a rule of life for believers, reminding them of their duties and leading them in the way of life and salvation. [...] Believers are still under the law as a rule of life and gratitude”.2
So, then, Christians are free from the Law because they no longer seek their justification before God on the basis of their keeping the Ten Commandments. But they are also under the Law as their obedience to it is one of the chief means of Christian sanctification.
Consequently, we are free from the Law of Moses and under the Law of Moses.
That’s my answer to a tricky question.
1 WATSON, Thomas, The Ten Commandments (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 2009), p. 44.
2 BERKHOF, Louis, Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1974), p. 615.