5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
Keeping the law of Moses cannot save anyone from sin; it identifies one as a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12; Rom. 3:23). Salvation from sin comes “by the hearing of faith,” that is, by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Sinners hear that salvation comes by faith through the gospel, not through the law of Moses and its works. One’s faith is counted for righteousness by hearing, believing, and obeying the truth of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-2, 5-6). Before the law of Moses existed, gospel salvation “by the hearing of faith” was preached in the promise to Abraham: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (3:8). This promised blessing is available in Christ. The gospel reveals the crucified Christ so we can receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:1, 13-14). The “blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit through faith” is the salvation from sins preached to Abraham, fulfilled by Christ’s death, and heard in the gospel (Gal. 3:14, 2, 22-25). Every sinner who believes the gospel and obeys the truth is saved from sins, is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (Gal. 3:26-29). We preach the gospel of Christ so sinners can believe and obey the truth and be saved in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
This passage identifies the “sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel” of God with the goodness of divine law. Law is “good” if we use it lawfully (v. 8). That statement probes our use of God’s law. If law can be used lawfully, then it can also be used unlawfully. God’s law identifies our sin against Him, and that is a good thing (Rom. 7:7, 12). But, law cannot save us from our sins (Rom. 3:19-20). So, the law teaches us we need deliverance from sin (Rom. 7:24). God provided Christ and His gospel to save us by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26). Today’s text teaches us God’s law restrains sin in our lives when we conform ourselves to it. That is how we use the law lawfully. Sadly, many twist God’s law to justify the very sins it identifies and condemns. Just look at the list of sins in verses 9-10. Religious people approve of many of them. That effort unlawfully uses God’s law. Law identifies us as sinners in need of salvation. It points us to the gospel for salvation so that Christians live by “the law of faith,” the glorious gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 3:27-28).
22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:22–25, NKJV)
Scripture reveals a fundamental distinction between “the law” (of Moses) and “the faith” (the gospel) that “would afterward be revealed” in Christ. Failure to respect the “change of the law” results in many distortions of the gospel (Heb. 7:12; Gal. 1:6-7). The Galatians faced one such perversion of the gospel when some tried to bind circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (LOM) upon Gentiles for their salvation (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-6; 6:12-13). The LOM identified sin and confined its adherents (Israel) under sin (Heb. 10:4) while guiding them toward the promised blessings that would come “by faith in Jesus Christ” (v. 22; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Now that Christ has come, His gospel provides the blessings of the promise; Redemption from sin. Now, no one is under the LOM; it served its purpose and has been removed (Col. 2:14). Therefore, we cannot revert to the Old Testament law to justify our religious beliefs and actions. To do so requires keeping “the whole law,” not just the part of it that suits our fancy (Gal. 5:3). Every attempt to use the LOM to justify oneself before God has the opposite effect; It separates that person from Christ (Gal. 5:4). Our “hope of righteousness” is “by faith” (the gospel), not by “the law” of Moses (Gal. 5:5-6).
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23–26, NKJV)
Let that soak in for a moment. Our sins make us guilty before God and under His wrath. Our just punishment is eternal death (Rom. 1:18; 3:19; 6:23). But, God has provided an offering for our sins that appeases His wrath against sin (1 Jno. 2:2; 4:10). That offering is His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s grace justifies sinners by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9). His blood appeases God’s wrath, redeeming us from sin’s bondage and death (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 10:1-10). The Law of Moses could not do this. God’s power to save sinners is in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16; 3:20-22). By the offering of His Son, God showed Himself to be just (innocent, holy) when He bore with previous sins (Rom. 3:26; Acts 17:30). Now, He commands all sinners everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31). Thus, God is vindicated. The death of Jesus shows God was just in forbearing with “sins that were previously committed.” And, His righteousness is seen in justifying those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). The faith (the gospel) produces personal faith that obeys the word of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; 6:17-18). Believing sinners obey Christ’s command to be baptized, which is into His death so their sins will be washed away by His blood (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:3; Acts 22:16).
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:3–5, NKJV)
The Word (Christ) did not cling to the “form of God” when He became flesh (Phil. 2:5-7). That is, He emptied Himself of the glorious appearance of deity He shared with the Father “before the world was” (Jno. 17:5; Jno. 1:1, 14). Without divesting Himself of His Godhood, He took the “form of a bondservant” and became human (Phil. 2:7). His humility reached its zenith when He obediently died on the cross (Phil. 2:8). On the mountain, when Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of His glory and heard the Father’s confirmation of His Sonship (Matt. 17:1-2; Lk. 9:32; 2 Pet. 1:16-17). Jesus is superior to the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Therefore, we must hear the Son in everything He teaches (Acts 3:22-23). That means we go to His New Testament to inform and activate our faith, not to the Old Testament law and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2). We listen to the Son by hearing and accepting His apostles’ teachings (Jno. 13:20; Matt. 28:19-20). Are you listening to the Son of God?
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32, NKJV)
As the USA celebrates Independence Day, the Savior’s statement in today’s passage rings especially true. Our history tells us that independence from tyranny’s oppression did not remove our responsibility to live under law as free men and women. It is a self-defeating premise and pursuit that declares liberty is freedom from the restraint of law. Free men and women understand and want the protection and constraints that law provides against evil (Rom 13:3-5). Those who seek good know that law serves good purposes (1 Tim. 1:8-11). Freedom from sin’s bondage, tyranny, and death is available through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Obeying the gospel from the heart ends our slavery to sin, not so we can declare ourselves free from every restraint, but so we may become “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17-18). The truth, the word of Jesus, marks the boundary of our liberty in Christ (2 Jno. 9; Gal. 1:6-10). We are “under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, ESV). The gospel of Christ declares our freedom from sin and defines our life of freedom in Christ to serve righteousness according to His word of truth.
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. (Galatians 5:1–2, NKJV)
Sinners are freed from sin by Jesus Christ (John 8:36). Christ frees us from sin when we believe and obey His gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from living by the very gospel pattern (“form of doctrine,” Rom. 6:17) that frees us from sin. Liberty in Christ is not carte blanche to decide what is truth for ourselves (truth is not self-defined). Liberty in Christ freed Jews and Gentiles from the “yoke of bondage” produced by trying to be “justified by law,” as illustrated by demanding the circumcision of the flesh for salvation (Gal. 5:3-4). The plan of salvation, what is moral, what is sound doctrine, true worship, and everything else that “accords with godliness” must harmonize with the revealed gospel of Christ (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). We are free from sin in Christ to live by the light of His truth and have fellowship with God (1 Jno. 1:5-7). The liberty to which the gospel calls us is not “an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Put plainly, liberty in Christ does not permit us to practice sin (see Gal. 5:16-26, where Paul explains this). Liberty in Christ compels us to live by “faith working through love” by “obeying the truth” of the gospel (Gal. 5:6-7; Jno. 8:31-32).
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” (Matthew 5:38–42, NKJV)
The rule of law provides justice while reining in unrestrained wrath against others. For example, the Law of Moses decreed judgment against wrongdoers in accord with the crime they committed, hence, “an eye for an eye…” (Exo. 21:22-25). But, the scribes and Pharisees had turned the Law into a tool of personal revenge (Matt. 5:20). Jesus resists such lawlessness, teaching citizens of the kingdom of heaven not to retaliate against the evil person. His apostle would explain, “Repay no man evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; at it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). To respond with personal wrath and revenge against evil is arrogant, for by doing so, we displace God as Judge and trust ourselves rather than Him to correct evil and punish the evildoer. Going the second mile gives us the chance to calm our souls and trust the Lord.