Posted by: phillipmway | March 17, 2013

The Symbols and Standards of God’s Law

The Old Covenant has passed away. Does that mean that we can disregard everything from Genesis to Malachi? No! Why? What is the law? Galatians 3 tells us that the law is our tutor, our guardian. It brings us to grace, to Christ. Without the law we don’t understand that we have broken the law. We don’t understand sin. But here is something we need to understand – the law is not just a list of dos and don’ts. The law is based on who God is. It is a revelation of His character. That is where He starts in the Ten Commandments, isn’t it? He Says, “I am God and you will have no others before Me.” Then He elaborates on how He is to be worshipped, and how we are to relate to Him, to our family, and to our neighbors. And Jesus tells us that all that is summed up in two commandments – love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Well if the Old Covenant is gone, does that mean we don’t have to keep those Ten Commandments? Are they no longer in force? Have they passed away? If the law is based on Who God is, does God ever change? No. And here is what we have to understand about the law – the law has symbols and standards. The Old Covenant was full of symbols and standards.

What did the symbols point to? What did these shadows find as their substance? Christ. They show us how He is the spotless Lamb of God, how He lived a perfect life of obedience, how He is going to redeem His people. These symbols were carried out in the Old Covenant in day to day life through things like the cleanliness and dietary laws. Eat this; don’t eat this. This is clean; this is unclean.

These symbols pointed to our need to be cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ. In the New Covenant we see that Christ fulfills these symbols. But what about the standards?

The Old Covenant is full of laws that give us standards for living that are based on the character of God. They are the same standards that are behind the laws that Jesus gave us. Jesus gave us commands. He even said, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” Do this; don’t do this. He gave us laws to obey. What are the standards behind the law? What is the reason that the laws are there? For example, why did God say, “Don’t bear false witness?” Because Jesus said, “I am the truth.” The Word of God is true. God is so truthful that it is impossible for Him to lie. To lie then is to act contrary to Who God is.

Is that law reinforced in the New Testament? Certainly. We are told not to lie to one another. Jesus said it, Paul wrote it, it is in several of the epistles. “Let your yes be yes and your no, no.” “Speak the truth to one another.” So the reason behind the law is what we need to look for. We don’t need to ask if a law is repeated in the New Testament. We need to ask of any law, “What does this law tell us about Who God is?” To act contrary to that law is to violate the character of God. The law reveals to us Who God is and what He expects of us.

When we say we are under grace and not under the law and when we affirm that the Old Covenant is gone, we understand that in the New Covenant the conditions have been met and fulfilled and we have been given grace. Grace shows us that the law is about more than outward behavior. The law is useful to point us to Christ, to reveal the character of God, and to teach us how to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him. The law teaches us how to love Jesus. (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3)

– excerpt from the sermon “The Kingdom of God Present with Power” – Luke 9:27-36


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