Many of us either had a parent or knew one who ‘laid down the law’ with their children, and the only reason they gave for obedience was “Because I said so!” Thankfully, God is a lot clearer and more loving than that. This week we’re considering how all of the Law in the Old Testament depends on or literally “hangs” on love. (Matthew 22:40). So, how does God’s Law relate to wholeness in Christ? Real love has basic boundaries and content. Like a clothesline on which many still hang their pants and dresses to dry, God’s love is the strength from which all His commands and promises hang.
This week’s video defines the Law, explains its three loving purposes, and provides some of the many supporting Scriptures so you can see God’s love for yourself. In the remaining space of this article, we’ll look at the three types of law in the Bible and how each relates to wholeness in Christ.
The type of law most familiar to us is probably the moral law, the core of which we have in the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) Simply put, these are God’s commands that are binding on all people for all time because they reflect the basics of love for Him and for each other. If you’re interested, I can email my separate series to you on the Ten Commandments and how they relate to marriage in Christian Marriage 100-206. God’s moral law is not merely a set of rules for outward behavior as the Pharisees and others later distorted them. (see Matthew chapter 23 in light of Jesus’ call to focus on the weightier heart-matters in verse 23) In Matthew 5:21-48, Jesus clarified that even the negative statements in the Ten Commandments teach positive ways of love regarding heart-level issues. Yes, the moral law is to guide our behavior – but from the inside-out.
The next most familiar type might be the ceremonial law: the commands that God gave the priests on how to handle sacrifices, skin diseases and mildews among His people, and other physical symbols of spiritual uncleanness. Most of these can be seen in Leviticus, the priests’ handbook for worship. We can summarize all of these commands in one statement: God’s people must be holy, as He is holy. (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7 & 26, etc.) So, in Matthew 5:48, Jesus clearly tells His followers to be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect. And if that sounds like a heavy burden, it is. In fact, it’s impossible for us – but not for Jesus. (Mark 10:17-27) But He came to fulfill the Law by keeping all of it perfectly (Matthew 5:17) and to give His Spirit to His people for a new heart with a greater desire and greater ability to obey. (Ezekiel 36:27-27, Luke 11:5-13, Romans 8:1-11, 2 Corinthians 5:17, etc.)
The third type was the civil law for Israel as a political nation to reveal His holiness to other nations: e.g., boundaries (Numbers 34), inheritance (Numbers 26:53-56), debt (Leviticus 23:34-43), restitution (Leviticus 6:1-7), etc. Those fit Israel as a nation over two millennia ago in circumstances (geographically and spiritually) that no longer apply. (Deuteronomy 24:10-11, Matthew 19:3-9, Romans 9:6, etc.)
Watch this week’s video on the Law and wholeness, and discuss the following with fellow believers.
* How does God’s face-to-face relationship with Moses prove His love in His Law?
* Galatians 3:19-26 says the Law was not for perfection but protection. How so?
* James is often said to emphasize the Law over faith. Discuss James 2:8-26.
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.