Are Christians under the law?
Are Christians under the law? Seems like a ridiculous question to be asking, considering it was answered clearly by the Scriptures 2,000 years ago. However, as of late, this appears to be a new area of confusion within the body of Christ. There are many within Christianity, specifically within the Hebrew Roots movement, who are trying to push observing Torah as a requirement for justification. That is, to be made right with God. They claim to have Christ, but also claim one must observe Torah to be saved. “If your saved, you will obey the law of Moses,” they say. Those who make this claim have fallen from grace, and have foolishly placed themselves back under the law. Those are not my words mind you, but the words of the apostle Paul.
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3
“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Galatians 5:4-5
When encountering these people, I’m reminded of Acts chapter 15. Where some men from Judea came to the Church in Antioch claiming one must be circumcised and observe the law of Moses in order to be saved.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:5
However, Paul and Barnabas had a great disagreement with them and then went to Jerusalem to get a final word on the matter handed down from the apostles and elders. A letter was then sent back to the Church of Antioch with clarification on the matter. The decision handed down is made very clear in the scriptures.
“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
When they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.” Acts 15:24-31
We are all transgressors of the law and deserving of condemnation. Praise God, for His saving grace, we can be saved by belief in Jesus Christ. Not by our own works lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8-9) We can not add to the finished work of the cross by following the Torah, although there are many who have recently fallen into this trap.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16
This is the good news. Jesus Christ came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died a sinners death, in our place, and God rose Him from the grave three days later. You are made righteous not by your own righteousness, but by His righteousness, by grace and through faith in Him.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28
Yes, it can be said, that faith with out works is dead. (James 2:17) However, these works come as a result of a new heart, a circumcised heart. You are now in Christ, you have become a new creation. With that comes a new desire to live for God. To walk in obedience. To love and forgive as Christ has loved and forgiven us.
As for those who might read this, and say to themselves, “I have a license to sin.” Paul addresses this thinking in the book of Romans.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. Romans 6:14-18
This is the heart of the believer. To love his neighbor as himself, and love God above all things. Your actions, your good works, are a result of a new heart, a relationship with God, through belief in Jesus Christ. Your actions do not save you, only belief in Christ. Nor can observing the Torah save you. Which you are unable to do, and even now, are already guilty of transgressing. It’s not what you do, but what’s already been done. It’s not by your works, but by the blood of Christ. In Christ alone we have salvation. In Christ alone we are justified and made right before God.