The Old Testament law has a strange place in Christian tradition. On one hand, we know we’re dead to it and alive in the Spirit. But on the other hand, we know that as Christians we can’t just do whatever the “hell” we want—that’d be a blasphemous nonsense.
So what then? Is being dead to the law metaphor and not reality? Do we really only need to hold to the original ten commandments or something? What do we do?
I suggest the answer is found in Jesus, who said that the law would never be done away with this side of the resurrection. But he also says in the same teaching that he is the FULFILLMENT of the law and the prophets. In other words, for the Christian, King Jesus IS the law.
Laws by themselves are flawed, because they don’t know the person they are addressing and their situation. Therefore, to open a law book and do exactly what it says is bad judgment. A law book is meant to be more of a guide: “Here’s what a judge decided last time they came across this situation.” A good judge knows how to take that information to inform them on their own verdict for their own situation. If they just copy and paste what they read there, they are no longer an actual judge with their own mind for justice, but a lifeless book with skin on.
But King Jesus not only knows the law—King Jesus is the perfect law incarnate. His judgments in every situation are righteous and holy, so we follow his declarations.
So yes, we are free from the law, but only so that we might become obedient to the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Jesus. In this sense we are freed from a broken law to be made new in the real one. So as Paul and the early church led non-Jewish people to salvation, they did not lead them to the Jewish law—that was their cultural tradition. What they needed to lead outsiders to was to King Jesus. And as these outsiders made him King of their own culture, Jesus’ real laws would be made manifest in their own traditions.
We must follow Jesus as law; for he himself declares judgment on lawlessness, even in the church.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Matthew 5:17-20 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Below are the various AI-created pictures I typed into existence via Mid Journey to mock up artwork for today’s post.