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  • Chris Dubois

Holiness and the Place of God’s Law

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

When it comes to God’s law (or instruction/teaching), there is much debate and disagreement in the body of Christ over it. Some look to God’s law as negative and something the Christian is to be rid of and freed from. They simply see no place for God’s law for the New Covenant Christian. Others, look to God’s law as positive and something for Christians to live out and obey. So, what is it? Is the law of God something negative or positive? Does it still have a place in the Christian’s life in regards to holy living, or is it done away with completely? How we think about God’s law is very important so let’s take a look at what the Scriptures have to say on this very important subject and make sure our theology is correct.

I have seen one extreme in many churches which is lawlessness or antinomianism. What this means is simply that Christians are against law and live lawless lives. This is scary since the Bible describes the final antichrist figure as a “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This is also upsetting and painful to notice because to sin is to break God’s law (1 John 3:4). But many in their reaction to the horrific legalism observed or experienced in their lives, have chosen to go to the opposite end of the pendulum swing and live lawless lives. These are the people that proclaim God is all about relationship and not rules or laws. But of course, this is not true. God is all about both relationship and rules (or laws). In fact, we prove our love for Jesus by obeying His laws or rules (John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 7:19). We are told clearly in the New Covenant that as Christians, we are under “Christ’s law,” “the royal law,” and “the law of freedom” and that “God’s law” has been placed upon our hearts (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 8:10; James 1:25; James 2:8).

While it’s true that we as Christians are to still obey Christ’s or God’s law under the New Covenant out of a fear and love for God and a desire to please and glorify Him, it’s also true that the law could never save us. The law, in and of itself, is limited and it must be interpreted, understood, and applied rightly. The law must be used properly (1 Timothy 1:8). While the law of God is “holy, righteous, and good” (Romans 7:12) and we are called to uphold or establish the law and meet its requirements (Romans 3:31; 8:4), the law cannot save anyone (Romans 9:31-32). We are justified or approved and accepted by a holy God by grace through faith (Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, we are justified by God’s grace through our trusting in Jesus and receiving His righteousness that He earned and merited by His perfect and sinless law-keeping and performance. We find our salvation in God’s saving grace and looking in faith to Jesus alone to rescue and save us. No amount of law-keeping or performance on our end could ever save us because by breaking only one of God’s laws (which we all have done), causes us to become guilty of breaking all of God’s law (James 2:10). But thanks be to God the Father for sending His Son Jesus as the one and only human who has ever perfectly fulfilled God’s law and never once broke it. Praise God! We find our salvation and justification through faith in Jesus and by God’s grace alone and not in our law-keeping, striving, and performance to try to earn or merit our salvation.

When it comes to holiness and law-keeping, let us not fall in one of these extremes. On the one hand, let us not fall into legalism with trying to earn or merit our salvation through our own law-keeping and performance. Again, we could never earn or merit our salvation unless we could keep the law 100 percent perfectly without every sinning or breaking God’s law even once. Obviously, we have all sinned and therefore, have broken God’s law (Romans 3:23; 1 John 3:4). This is why for all those who look to the law and their own law-keeping to save them, they are “under the law” and therefore, under the curse and condemnation of the law because they can never become righteous or be saved by the works of the law due to their sin (Galatians 3:10-13). This condemnation of the law comes to all those who look to the law to save them because no one has perfectly kept the law which is what the law requires in order to be saved by it (Romans 8:1-2). Thank God then, that we are not “under the law but under grace” instead (Romans 6:14). We are free from the condemnation and curse of the law by looking to Jesus to save us through faith and by God’s grace! We are righteous judicially and salvifically by faith (Galatians 3:11).

On the other hand, we are not to fall into the trap of lawlessness either. While the law of God is limited in that it cannot save us or make us righteous judicially and salvifically, the law of God still has a place in the life of the believer. In fact, the Bible is clear that God’s law is to be one of faith that brings great freedom to a person who keeps it (Romans 3:27; James 1:25). In fact, just read Psalm 119 which is applicable as a song and prayer to Christians today and see for yourself how the Psalmist describes the beauty and greatness of God’s law.

Again, God’s law is beautiful and something we are to uphold and fulfill in sanctification (the process of becoming holy in practice) by God’s grace as long as we use it properly. It could never save us, but it is to be obeyed and followed for our sanctification so that we reflect the image of Jesus and mature as Christians. God’s law is to be followed for our own best interest so that we are kept from harm and destruction. And thank God that under the New Covenant, God’s or Christ’s law is not on tablets of stone any longer, but has been placed upon our hearts so that we can live it out by the power of the Holy Spirit that resides within every follower of Jesus (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 8:9).

May we find the proper balance in regards to God’s “holy, righteous, and good” law and continue to understand, interpret, and apply it rightly so that God is pleased and glorified and we are blessed. May we never look to it for our justification but may we never ignore it for our sanctification. The law of God has its rightful place in the believer’s life for the purpose of sanctification and holiness so that we become more like Jesus as we obey it. May we always love God’s law and see its beauty like the Psalmist in Psalm 119, but may we never look to it for our salvation but rather to Jesus alone.

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