Under the Law
In the Bible, ‘the law’ often refers to the covenant that God made with Israel, which Christians know as the Old Covenant. It required of them, amongst other things, to keep God’s moral law. It is especially in this regard that Paul called it a ministry of condemnation (see Gal. 3:10). For, though it was good, in that it highlighted God’s perfect moral law (see Rom. 7:12), it pointed out the error of those who were ‘under’ it, thereby condemning them.
The law was unable to save those who were ‘under’ it from the penalty of their past, present and future sins. Nor could it save them from their sinful nature or enable them to keep its requirements (see Rom. 8:3). It essentially pointed out human sin and sinfulness, and to their desperate need for another way. The Bible puts it like this: ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith’ (Gal. 3:24).
The same principle is also true for those not ‘under the law’ (i.e. those not part of the Old Covenant). This is because, ‘They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them’ (Rom. 2:15 NIV).
In contrast, Christians (Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ) are in a new covenant with God. And, though we also seek to fulfil God’s moral law (see 1 John 5:3), we don’t do this by being ‘under the law’ (i.e. under the Old Covenant), but by being in Christ. We no longer try in our own strength to satisfy the law’s requirements in order to please God or avoid His punishment. Instead, the good news is that Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice satisfies all that the moral law of God requires of us, justifying us (see 2 Cor. 5:21). Furthermore, His life in us enables us to keep His commandments (see Php. 2:13 & Rom. 6:4). This is especially true when we as a matter of lifestyle ask God to empower us by His Spirit and when we walk in step with His Spirit (see Eph. 5:18 & Gal. 5:25).
‘Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God’ (Rom. 7:4).