Thursday, June 21, 2018

Life by the Spirit, Not Under the Law

I would like to encourage you today to consider what the apostle Paul taught us about living by the Spirit rather than under the Law. He taught this all throughout his epistles, but he emphasized it very much in his letter to the Galatians.

Despite having come to Christ, the Galatians were foolishly turning back to special days, months, seasons, and years, as well as circumcision, in order to be justified before God. However, these are merely shadows and types found in the law that point to the realities found in Christ. He wrote to them:

"Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?...But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!" (Gal 3:3; 4:9-10, NIV 1978)

As he wrote to the Colossians, "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Col 2:17, NIV). We no longer need to turn back to shadows when we have Christ. Reality is found in Christ!

Paul taught that we are justified by faith and not by observing the law. He told of one incident when he had said these words to the apostle Peter, who was being influenced by Judaizers: “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Gal 2:15-16, NIV).

He said, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses." (Ac 13:38-39, NIV). Or as the 1978 NIV puts it, "Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the Law of Moses." (Ac 13:39, NIV 78).

Paul clearly described his relationship to the law as having died to it. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:19-20, NIV). Notice he said it was through the law that he died to the law.

However, he also said it was through the body of Christ that we died to the law. "So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God...But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Rom 7:4,6. NIV)

Paul explained that righteousness cannot be gained through the law. "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Gal 2:21, NIV). "Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because 'the righteous will live by faith.'” (Gal 3:11, NIV). He said it this way to the Romans: "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin...For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (Rom 3:20,28, NIV).

Paul proved from Scripture that not only is it impossible for anyone to be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law, but anyone who relies on the works of the law is under a curse. He wrote: "For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" (Gal 3:10 NIV). So not only is it a bad idea to rely on the law for justification, but it will actually bring a curse on you.

Dear people, we are set free from the curse, since Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Paul said, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Gal 3:13, NIV 78).

Be careful that you are not trying to be justified by the law, or else you will alienate yourself from Christ and fall from His grace. "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal 5:4, NIV).

We need to understand that we are no longer under the law's supervision. As Paul said, "Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Gal 3:25, NIV 78). That means we don't need it's shadows and types, since we live by faith in Christ. We no longer need circumcision, which has no value in Christ. The only thing that counts now is faith expressing itself through love. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6, NIV). What counts is a new creation! "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation." (Gal 6:15, NIV).

The one command that sums up the entire law is "Love your neighbor as yourself." Paul said, "For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Gal 5:14, NIV). By obeying this command, you fulfill the entire law. "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2, NIV).

But love is not something the flesh can produce, because it is a fruit of the Spirit. You can only produce love if you are living by the Spirit. Conversely those who live by the Spirit won't gratify the desires of the sinful nature, but will bear the fruit of the Spirit, against which there is no law. "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal 5:16, NIV). As long as you are living by the Spirit, you won't be able to sin or violate the law of God. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23, NIV). There is no law against anything the Spirit of God produces in your life as you live to please Him.

That's why we must always sow to please the Spirit. "Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal 6:8, NIV). Without faith, it’s impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

In all of this, let's remember that we don't nullify the law by this faith, rather we uphold the law (Rom 3:31). "For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." (Rom 2:13, NIV).

Just because we are under grace and not under law, that does not mean we should continue to sin. "For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!" (Rom 6:14-15, NIV).

Obedience is Essential for Disciples
I have written in many of my articles about the Law and the Spirit, and the need for obedience, which I would encourage you to read at the links below, especially the first two in the left-hand column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
The New Covenant
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Faith Works!
The Obedience of Faith
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?
Law of Love in the New Testament
Righteousness by Faith and Not Law
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully     
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
The Spirit's Law of Life
The Spirit of the Law
What Then Must We Observe?
The Flesh vs. the Spirit

Putting it All Together
If you have come to know Christ as your Lord and Savior and you have been born again, then you have died to the law and are redeemed from its curse. You are no longer under its supervision. You have died to what once bound you. You have been released from the law so that you serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. You no longer need the shadows and types that were found in the rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices of the law, because you now have the realities of those things, which are found in Christ.

If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! No one who relies on the law is justified before God, and no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law. Those who seek to be justified by the law are under a curse. They have become estranged from Christ and fallen from grace.

We maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Indeed the righteous will live by faith. Just as we come to Christ by faith and are born of the Spirit, we must continue to live by faith and live by the Spirit. After coming to Christ by the Spirit, we cannot attain our goal by human effort, no matter how valiantly we may try. Yet we have an obligation to obey God's commandments and we fulfill the entire law by loving our neighbor as ourselves. We fulfill it by bearing one another's burdens.

This is why we need to read the Word of God, press into the Lord in prayer, really get to know Him intimately, and seek to please the Spirit. Then we will bear the fruit of the Spirit against which there is no law.

Attribution notice: Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like By the Spirit of God Alone, Led by the Spirit - Part I, Led by the Spirit - Part II, Baptized with the SpiritGifts and Fruit of the Spirit: What's the Difference?, and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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