Many sincere students of the Word approach the New Testament as if it is a codified, legal document that requires the use of certain rules which, allegedly, lead the "honest" student into the correct understanding of any and all Bible issues. This would be a good idea if the New Covenant was, in fact, a codified, legal document and not "the perfect law of liberty." This would be a good idea if God's called out people were under law. Rom. 6:14, 7:6, and Gal. 5:18 testify that we are not under law. Why then, would anyone wish to be bound up under law? We are under faith – a system of faith.
The New Covenant is not a legal system with codified laws; or worse yet, a legal system with camouflaged directions which require legal specialists with special tools to unlock and make known what God expects of us. The tools under consideration are 1) direct command, 2) approved example, and 3) necessary inference. These tools are the instruments of sincere brethren who wish to be in bondage to law and to bring everyone else under bondage with them and thus lay heavy burdens on them. This method of discovery is a basic part of the unwritten creed of many conservative, denominated churches which, as a condition of salvation, demand allegiance to and membership in their association.
The Old Covenant was, in fact, a legal system. No one denies this. Its commands were spelled out with absolute clarity. Where details were important, God spelled out with meticulous accuracy exactly how these details were to be performed. Now, my question and point is this: If the New Covenant is a legal system, why did God suddenly stop spelling out in meticulous detail exactly what is binding? It does not make sense that God would replace one clearly spelled-out legal system with another not-so-clearly-spelled-out legal system which is couched in veiled commands, numerous examples which may or may not be applicable, and inferences which may or may not be necessary, depending on who is making the application. This does not make sense in the face of the fact that God promised a "better" covenant which was to be a "more excellent way."
Let us look at some passages which should put to silence the erroneous idea that one can detour around grace and find justification in law-keeping. Any rule or instrument which emphasizes perfect law-keeping at the expense of grace is of the devil, and is designed to cause Christians to be cut off from Christ.
In Gal. 5:1-4, Paul by the Spirit, in no uncertain terms, says that if we attempt to be made right with God through law, we are cut off from Christ – we are fallen from grace. How then, are we to be made right with God? The answer follows in Gal. 5:6; "We will be made right with God through the Spirit. How? By faith!" This is the kind of faith that works through love and not through law-keeping. Paul, in Phil. 3:9, says, "1 want to be in Him, not having my righteousness [the kind that comes from the law], but having the righteousness which comes through believing in Christ [the kind of righteousness which comes from God based on faith]. This is too clear to be misunderstood.
If we must be proud in something, let it be in the great fact that Jesus, the Son of God, died for us and gathered (adopted) us into His divine family. This is the very essence of the New Covenant. If we emphasize our law-keeping more than the blood of Jesus, we are fallen from grace. It is that simple. And, it is a serious simplicity. This is not merely an intellectual exercise in Bible theory. We simply must rely on the grace of God for salvation, and not on our perfect law-keeping.
Gal. 5:18: "Life in the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. People who have these qualities are not under law." It is life in the Spirit that produces these qualities, and not rigid law-keeping.
Jesus said, "He that loves me keeps my commandments". It is our love for Jesus that causes us to do good works and to obey commandments. It is not to obligate God to save us that we do these things. It is our faith working in us. I do not oppose good works nor law-keeping. It is the basis of their motivation that I would hope to change.
Eph. 2:8f: "You have been saved by God's gracious love through faith. Salvation does not come from you; it is God's gift. It does not come from human effort".
We should, however, be staunchly legalistic in one respect. It is time for us to become legalistic about the command on which rests all of the law and all of the prophets. It is time for us to start loving our fellow man as ourselves. It is time for us to start accepting one another as Christ accepted us, to the glory of God. Romans 15:7.
The New Covenant was not designed to make us legal specialists. It was designed to make us new. It was designed to change our hearts. It was designed to make us peace-makers and lovers of one another. The legal specialists have simply missed the boat on this great Bible principle.
It is time for us to toss out tools invented by the legalists, and to turn to God's hermeneutics. Please consider, in this respect, this powerful passage, from the mind of God, which tells how we can know what He wants of us. In Romans 12:1-2 we read, "So, brothers, with God's tender feelings, I beg you to offer your bodies as a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God. This is true worship from you. Don't act like people of this world. Instead, be changed inside BY LETTlNG YOUR MIND BE MADE NEW AGAIN. THEN YOU CAN DETERMINE WHAT IS GOOD, PLEASING, AND PERFECT – WHAT GOD WANTS." The "YOU CAN DETERMINE" in the passage indicates "ability" predicated upon "LETTING YOUR MIND BE MADE NEW AGAIN". Do we believe God in this? Is this too simple for us? Do we require the wisdom of this world (Aristotelian hermeneutics) to know what pleases God? Legalists say that we do. God says otherwise. Whom shall we believe?
Please consider these thoughts. I believe them to be true to the Word. Amen.