Thursday, March 12, 2009

We are no longer under the Law, but under Christ who alone fulfilled the Law

Some are shocked to hear certain Christians say they are no longer under the Ten Commandments. They say instead that they are under the grace of Christ. What are they talking about?

This is important because what they are talking about is central to the Gospel we preach—that we are saved by the righteousness of Christ alone and not by our own righteousness in following the Commandments.

The situation is complicated a bit more when some professed Christians claim that while they know they are not saved by keeping the Commandments, they still believe they should be considered their “Rule of Life”--watch out.

The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament (an excerpt)

By J. Hampton Keathley, III, Th.M

(For complete paper go to

It needs to be emphasized that the end of the Mosaic law, including the Ten Commandments, does not cancel or detract one iota from the eternal moral law of God. The moral principles of the ten laws did not begin with Sinai but are as eternal and immutable as the character of God. To understand this should dispel the fears of those who think the abolition of the Mosaic law leaves only a state of lawlessness.

The moral principles embodied in the law of Moses Paul calls “the righteousness of the law” (Rom 8:4), and shows that such principles are the goal of the Spirit-directed life in the same context in which he teaches the believer is not under the Mosaic law (Rom 6—8).

This should be no more difficult to understand than the fact that a citizen of the United States is not under the laws of Canada, even though the moral principles underlying the laws of the two countries are the same. When a citizen of the United States becomes a citizen of Canada he does not remain under ten of the best laws of the United States. Nor does the fact that some of the laws of the United States are quite similar to some of the laws of Canada confuse or compromise his new exclusive responsibility to Canada. So the believing Jew of the first century moved entirely from the Mosaic economy of law into the new economy of grace instituted by Jesus Christ (John 1:17).14

The Lawful Use of the Mosaic Law
The Law is still good from the standpoint of its main function and purpose as seen above in The Purpose and Function of the Law (1 Tim. 1:8-10; James 2:1-10; Gal. 5:1-3; 6:1). This is how James uses the Law, to reveal sin (James 2:9), to get believers out of self-righteous legalism, and move them into a walk by faith in a living Savior.

The Relationship of New Testament Believers to the Mosaic Law
1. He is never saved by keeping the Law (Gal. 2:21).
2. He is not under the Law as a rule of life, i.e., sacrifice, Sabbath keeping, tithing (Rev. 6:14; Acts 15:5, 24).
3. Thus, he does not walk by the Law but by the Spirit, which is the new law for the New Testament saint (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:5). This is law of liberty through faith in the power of God.
4. He is dead to the Law (Rom. 7:1-6; Gal. 2:19) by virtue of his union with Jesus Christ who fulfilled the Law.
5. He is to fulfill the righteousness of the Law, i.e., the spirit of the law as seen in Christ’s words in Matthew 10:37-40 love for God, and love for one’s neighbor (James 2:9). But this can only be fulfilled through a knowledge of Bible truth and the filling of the Holy Spirit, which furnishes the power or ability needed to live the Christian life according to the eternal moral law of God. So we are under God’s new law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2-4).

Christ, the Fulfillment of the Mosaic Law
Christ fulfilled the Ten Commandments by living a perfect and sinless life. Thus, when man trusts in Christ, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to that individual so we have justification. We have Christ’s righteousness so the Law can’t condemn us (Rom. 8:1; 7:1-6; Rom. 5:1; 4:4-8).

Christ fulfilled the ceremonial ordinances, the shadows and types of His person and work, by dying on the cross for us and in our place. This showed that God was also perfect justice and sin must be judged, but God provided His Son, the precious Lamb of God. The penalty which the Law exercised was paid. Again there is no condemnation because the believer is “in Christ” (Col. 2:14; Rom. 3:24-25).

Christ also fulfilled the Social Law, but now He replaces it with a new way of life fitting to our new salvation. He gives provision for the inner man—the indwelling Holy Spirit—who enables us to experience true sanctification so that we may experience also the righteousness of the Law (Rom. 8:2-4).

1. Christ is the end of the Law and believers are not under the Mosaic Law. New Testament believers are not under Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).
2. Since the Lord Jesus Christ fulfills the Law by His person and work, believers are under a new law; the obligation to walk by the Spirit of Life through faith (Rom. 8:2-4). If we are led by the Spirit, then we are not under the Law (Gal. 5:18).
3. Against such, i.e., the fruit of the Spirit, there is no law because the believer is then operating under the highest law, the standards are met as we walk by the Holy Spirit and grow in the Word (Gal. 5:22).

Warning Against Entanglements with the Law as Believers Today
After salvation by grace there has always been the grave danger of reverting to Law or legalism by taboos and tactics of coercion, or some form of human manipulation (Gal. 3:1-3). To go back to the Law as a way of life puts one under the control of the flesh, it nullifies true spirituality by faith in the Holy Spirit, and defeats the believer. It results in human good and domination by the sin nature or the flesh (Gal. 5:1-5; Col. 2:14f). The fact that the Christian is not under the Mosaic Law does not mean, of course, that there is lawlessness or no proper sense of morality or ethics in the Christian life. Quite the contrary is true. But in dealing with the subject of morality or ethics, it must be understood that the clear teaching of the New Testament is that the moral life the Christian is responsible for is that (1) no one can be saved by virtue of his own works (Tit. 3:5; Eph. 2:8-9), and (2) that the morality of the Christian life is to be the result of the Christ exchanged life by faith and submission to the ministry and power of a Spirit-controlled life.

The Threefold Duties of the New Testament Believer
In the New Testament, then, completely adequate teaching is provided as to the principles of conduct the Christian will follow if he truly presents his body “a living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1) and walks “in the Spirit” (Eph 5:9). In Titus 2:11-14 is to be found a convenient outline around which to group these principles. First in this passage it is majestically stated that God’s grace brings us salvation. But His grace then teaches us to live soberly, righteously and godly. These are three important lines of responsibility: the believer is to live soberly with regard to himself (Rom 12:3); righteously with regard to his fellow men; and godly with regard to the Lord. The same truth can be more or less expressed in a somewhat different way: We should seek to live in accordance with the precepts of grace because (1) this will please God (Heb 13:16) and will demonstrate our love for Christ (John 14:15); (2) it will help others (Matt 5:16; Titus 3:8,14); (3) it will bring true joy and blessing to our own hearts (John 15:10-11). 15
The following compilation, though not exhaustive, contains some of the most important of these precepts.

Duties toward God

1. Trust Him (Mark 11:22; John 14:1, ASV; Heb 11:6).
2. Love Him and seek to know Him better (1 John 5:2; Phil 3:10, 15; Jas 4:8).
3. Be thankful to Him; worship and praise Him (John 4:23; Col 3:15; Heb 13:15.)
4. Serve Him (Rom 12:6-8, 11; 1 Cor 15:58).
5. Pray to Him (Luke 18:1; Rom 12:12; Eph 6:18; Phil 4:6; Col 4:2; 1 Tim 2:2).
6. Live in accordance with His will (Rom 12:1; Heb 13:21; Jas 4:7).
7. Walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25; Eph 5:18).
8. Hold fast to sound doctrine and contend for the faith (2 Tim 1:13; Heb 13:9; Jude 3).
9. Witness for Christ (John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 1 Pet 3:15).
10. Do everything as unto Him (1 Cor 10:31; Eph 6:7-8; Col 3:17,23-24).
11. Be diligent in devotion and study of His Word (John 5:39; Col 3:16; 2 Tim 2:15; Jas 4:8; 1 Pet 2:2).


1. Do not have idols (1 Cor 10:7, 14; Eph 5:3; Phil 3:19; Col 3:5; 1 Tim 6:17; Heb 13:15; 1 John 5:21).
2. Do not receive false teachers (2 John 10).
3. Do not mock or speak against God (Gal 6:7; Col 3:8).

Duties toward Other Human Beings

1. Love all, especially our brethren (John 15:17; Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 16:14; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 John 3:23; 4:7 {1 John 4:7}).
2. Be sympathetic and compassionate (Eph 4:32; Phil 2:4; Col 3:12).
3. Forgive and forbear (Rom 12:19; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).
4. Deal honestly and fairly (Rom 12:17b; 13:7 {Rom 13:7}; 13:13 {Rom 13:13}; 1 Thess 4:12; Jas 2:1).
5. Do good to all and help all (Rom 12:13; Gal 6:2, 10; 1 Thess 5:15; Titus 3:1; Heb 13:16; Jas 4:17; 3 John 11).
6. Tell the truth (Eph 4:25).
7. Be courteous and live peaceably with all (Rom 12:18; 1 Pet 2:17; 3:8 {1 Pet 3:8}).
8. Treat others as we would like for them to treat us (Luke 6:31; Rom 12:17a).
9. Provide a good example for others (1 Cor 8:9, 13; Phil 2:15).
10. Urge brethren to good works and seek to restore backsliders (Gal 6:1; Heb 10:24).


1. Do not lie or bear false witness (Eph 4:25; Col 3:9; Titus 2:3).
2. Do not steal (Eph 4:28; 1 Pet 4:15).
3. Do not murder (1 Pet 4:15).
4. Do not commit adultery or fornication (1 Cor 6:18; 1 Thess 4:13).
5. Do not judge others or speak evil of them (Rom 14:13; Titus 3:2; Jas 4:11; cf. John 7:24).
6. Do not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever (2 Cor 6:14).
7. Do not have fellowship with professing Christians who live in scandalous sin (1 Cor 5:11; 2 Thess 3:14).
8. Do not go to law with other believers (1 Cor 6:lff).
9. Do not glory in men (1 Cor 3:21).
10. Avoid troublemakers and useless disputes (Rom 16:17; 2 Tim 2:23; Titus 3:12).
11. Do not have unpaid debts (Rom 13:8).

Duties toward Self

1. Be holy (1 Pet 1:15; 2:11 {1 Pet 2:11}; 2 Pet 3:1).
2. Cleave to the good and do good to all (Rom 12:9; 1 Thess 5:15).
3. Study the Word of God and meditate on sacred things (1 Thess 4:11; 2 Tim 2:15).
4. Grow spiritually (2 Pet 3:18).
5. Think on good things (Phil 4:8).
6. Think soberly of yourself (Rom 12:3).
7. Be ambitious in the right way (1 Cor 12:31; 14:1 {1 Cor 14:1}; 2 Cor 5:4).
8. Be content with what God gives you (Heb 13:5).
9. Rejoice in the Lord (Rom 12:12; Phil 3:1; 4:4 {Phil 4:4}; 1 Thess 5:16).
10. Live in the light of the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor 9:24).
11. Judge yourself and confess sins to God (1 Cor 11:31; 2 Cor 13:5; 1 John 1:9).
12. Conserve time for good purposes (Eph 5:11; Col 4:5).
13. Cultivate your mind (1 Pet 1:13).
14. Do useful work (Eph 4:28; 2 Thess 3:12).
15. Keep your body clean and in good health (1 Cor 6:15; 6:19,20 {1 Cor 6}; 10:31 {1 Cor 10:31}; Rom 12:1).


1. Abhor evil (Rom 12:9; 1 Thess 5:22).
2. Avoid pride (Rom 12:3; Jas 4:10; 1 Pet 5:6).
3. Do not conform to or love the world (Rom 12:2; 1 John 2:15).
4. Do not fellowship with evil (Eph 5:11).
5. Do not sin through anger (Eph 4:26).
6. Do not worry (Phil 4:6; 1 Pet 5:7; 1 John 14:1,27).
7. Do not be lazy (Rom 12:1).
8. Do not use filthy speech (Eph 4:29; 5:4 {Eph 5:4}).
9. Do not become drunk (Eph 5:18).
10. Do not complain (1 Cor 10:10; Phil 2:14).

Miscellaneous Duties
Beyond all that has been said…, there are still other duties which the earnest believer would do well to consider: duties toward the lower creation; responsibilities with regard to human government; special duties devolving upon particular classes, such as the unmarried, husbands, wives, children, servants. ---J. Hampton Keathley, III