Have You Been Missing the Point of God's Laws?

“The law” gets a bad rap. Our guess is that if we came out with a subscription box titled “God’s Laws,” it probably wouldn’t be our bestseller. But we believe that the law of the Bible can be a source of radical encouragement and in this post, we’ll show you why.

We’re a generation of anti-authoritarian free-thinkers, determined to live unbridled from any oppressive ideology that might dare provide some directions on how to live life. But in our pursuit of the world’s version of so-called “freedom,” we’ve become enslaved to our own vices.

 So before we dismiss God’s laws as an archaic list of fun-smotherers, let’s take a look at these five, oft-overlooked truths:

1. Jesus and the apostles were not against the law.

There’s this wild idea floating around that Jesus came to obliterate the law- that the Old Testament God was a little uptight, so the New Testament God loosened up a bit and sent Jesus to eradicate this oppressive set of rules.

Much of this idea stems from Jesus’ disapproval of the Pharisees, who appeared to be all about the law. Here are just a of the few things Jesus had to say about them:

●     Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long... - Matthew 23:1-5

●      But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. - Matthew 23:13-15

●     But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. - Luke 11:42

It’s safe to say that the Pharisees were up to no good. But how did they get to this point? Their backstory is important.

All throughout the Old Testament, God punished the Israelite people again and again and again, for what? For breaking the law.

They were sold into slavery, forced to wander the desert for decades, and barred from the promised land, all because they continued to disobey with no remorse.

Here’s a snapshot of God’s wrath in response to the Israelites’ sin:

Your wealth and your treasures

    I will give as plunder, without charge,

because of all your sins

    throughout your country.

 I will enslave you to your enemies

    in a land you do not know,

for my anger will kindle a fire

    that will burn against you.

-       Jeremiah 15:13-14

This is just one of many similar passages. So the Jews said no more. They resorted to idolizing and exaggerating God’s original commands.  The pendulum swung too far. The Pharisees traded God’s glory for their own, and they fell prey to rigidity and religion.

By idolizing the law, they broke it yet again. In Exodus 20:3, God commands this:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The Pharisees made the law their god. They puffed themselves up with fasting and prayer and religious rituals, believing that these things alone could make them holy. And in doing so, they deviated from the most important law of all: to love God above all else.

Then Jesus came along and rebuked them for thwarting the law’s original purpose. He was never against the law; He was against the alteration and idolization of it.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Matthew 22:34-40:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love God, love others. These commands are at the heart of Jesus’ teachings, but He wasn’t the one to introduce them. God gave these commands in the Old Testament, long before Jesus came to earth:

●      You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. - Deuteronomy 6:5

●     You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. - Leviticus 19:18

Jesus’ teachings are echoes of the Old Testament rulebook. He came not to negate the law, but to reinforce its original purpose. Men twisted it, and He straightened it out.

And His disciples continued to straighten it out after He left. Paul’s teachings in Galatians 3 are often misconstrued as being anti-law. But let’s take a closer look at what Paul said:

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.”  Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”  The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”  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 pole.”- Galatians 3:10-13

Paul’s point here was not that the law itself is a curse.  It was that those who try to achieve salvation by keeping the law are cursed, because that would require moral perfection.

Later on in Galatians 6:2, Paul says this:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

And in Romans 13:8, he adds this:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.   

In both these verses, Paul corroborates Jesus’ message, not of abandoning the law, but of bringing the focus back to its essence: loving God and others. 

2. God’s laws serve as an instruction manual, guiding us toward optimum satisfaction.

God designed everything with a purpose, a plan, and a proper context. Friendships, marriage, sex, speech, the human heart- He made them all to function a certain way.

Then, because He loved us so much, He blessed us with a detailed instruction manual: the law. To not follow it would be to feed pennies into a vending machine that only takes quarters. But when we follow His instructions, we get the best result.

God knows that the vending machine only takes quarters; He made it that way. So we’re better off taking His advice. No matter how badly we think we want to put pennies in it, we’ll never receive true satisfaction that way.

Scripture promises that God’s laws are for our benefit:

●     And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? - Deuteronomy 10:12-13

●     If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. - Deuteronomy 28:1

●     For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. - Deuteronomy 30:16

●     Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. - Joshua 1:8

●     “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. - 1 Corinthians 10:23

●     Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. - 2 Timothy 2:5

3. David delighted in the law, and so should we.

David, the author of Psalms, had an interesting reaction to the law. Take a look at Psalm 119:97-115:

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.

Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.

I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.

I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word.

I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.

I have suffered much; preserve my life, LORD, according to your word.

Accept, LORD, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.

Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.

The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts.

Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.

I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!

David delighted in God’s laws because He recognized the benefits of keeping them. It’s easy to feel like God wants to hold us back or deprive us, but nothing could be further from the truth.

His commandments are a gift, designed to lead us to greater abundance; they point us toward His ultimate vision for human flourishing. And for this reason, we should cherish them.

We should be thankful that the Creator of all things was gracious enough to give us His instruction manual. Think about it. The Maker of human beings has given us the inside scoop on how to treat other human beings. The Maker of speech has laid out for us how to use our words wisely. And the Maker of our own hearts has taught us how to guard them and purify them. We should be thrilled.

Like David, the apostle John delights in the law. He expresses this in 1 John 5:3:

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. . .

When they feel burdensome, something’s wrong. We need to focus on what we’re gaining by following His law- not on what we’re giving up.

You’re not giving up premarital sex. You’re gaining purity, respect, the kind of partner who’s willing to wait for you, and something to look forward to in marriage.

You’re not giving up your resources to give to those in need. You’re gaining a richer spiritual life, a deeper satisfaction, and a liberating detachment from material possessions.

When we know what we’re gaining, we can’t help but delight in the law as David did.

This concept can make or break the ministry of the modern Christian to the outside world. Christians already get a bad rap for being legalistic, no-fun rule-followers.

No one’s going to want to be a part of what we’re doing when we’re moping around, feeling like we’re missing out on life. But if we’re delighted to be following Jesus and excited about doing life on His terms, those onlookers will wonder where our joy comes from and maybe even want a taste of it.

4. Just because we delight in the law doesn’t mean we’re going to keep it perfectly.

Ever heard the story of David and Bathsheba? It’s proof that even David, who delighted in the law, epically failed to keep it.

In short, David sleeps with Bathsheba and has her husband killed, thus committing both adultery and murder- two clear defiances of the law. We see his repentance in Psalm 51:1-2:

Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

and cleanse me from my sin.

David’s delight in the law didn’t keep him from disobedience. But it did make him repentant and quick to realign with God, post-sin. That leads us to our final truth:

5. The law reminds us of our need for grace.

Romans 3:20 says this:

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.

Yes, we should delight in His commands. Yes, striving for obedience can lead to greater abundance. But as Paul stresses in Galatians 3, we can never earn our salvation by keeping the law.  The law is a much-needed reminder of our never-ending need for grace. We’ll never be able to justify ourselves. We need Jesus for that.

The law, when under the umbrella of Jesus’ grace, can lead to a life of abundance and joy. But out from under that umbrella, it leads only to death.

So here’s some actionable advice: next time the enemy tries to convince you that one of God’s laws is holding you back, ask God to show you what He wants to give you through this law. Delight in His guidance. And if you do fail, let it serve as a reminder of your dependence on His unfailing grace.

Did you learn anything new about the God’s laws from this post?  We would love to know! Feel free to leave a comment below.


Erica is a professional writer and editor, helping ministry leaders and entrepreneurs share their stories. 

She is passionate about pointing women to God's Word and empowering them to take fierce ownership of their discipleship to Jesus.

ericabakerwrites.com


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