How many of you would attend a Bible study on the law of Moses? How many of you are interested in studying the 613 commandments of the Torah? I believe that very few of you would attend. Christians are not interested in the law because we believe salvation is through Jesus Christ alone. That is very true, but we have a misunderstanding of the law.
We overlook the fact that “By nature we are law-oriented creatures because of the Law written on the heart. But the corruption of our nature means that we often will invent laws which we can keep in order to prove our righteousness.” By nature, we know homicide is sin, and by nature, we know stealing is a sin. Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). That said, Jesus revered the word of God, and he fulfilled the demands of the law.
God gave the gift of the law to Israel not to make their life difficult, but because God loves them and wants them to live a holy life. Observing the law becomes a big issue in Israel. Pharisees added rules to the law calling it the oral law. They believed that Moses received the Oral Law and Written Law on Mount Sinai. As a result, keeping the law becomes a heavy burden on the Jews. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for breaking the law of God for the sake of their tradition. He says in Matthew 15: 8-9
“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”
According to the evangelist Luke, a teacher of the law wants to engage in scholarly conversation with Jesus regarding the law and eternal life. Jesus asks him to share his understanding of the law. The teacher of the law combines two commandments from the book of Deuteronomy and Leviticus to summarize his knowledge of the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5
Jesus affirms his answer. He also responses to the second question, “who is my neighbor” (v. 25) by giving the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus does not reject the law of Moses; to the contrary, he affirms it and gives it a more profound meaning. His explanation of Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself,” is very thoughtful and contrary to the stereotype the Jews had of the Samaritans. Through this parable, Jesus blows up this stereotype.
A neighbor is an individual whom we see not as a stereotype, but as a human being uniquely created according to God’s image.
The teacher of the law summarized the 613 commandments into one command: love God and love your neighbor. The purpose of the law is to help us to be in right relationship with God and our neighbor. Jesus requires from the teacher of the law to follow this command, and he shall live (v. 28). Notice that Jesus does not tell the teacher of the law that believing in him is the way to inherit eternal life. For Jesus, believing in him leads to salvation and observing the command to love becomes the fruit of our faith in Jesus.
Jesus introduces us to both law and gospel. The law reveals our sin and drives us to repent. It also functions as guidance to show us how to live a sanctified life.
To say that the Law guides us to a sanctified life doesn’t imply that it has the power to provide the sanctified life. If the Law remains alone, then it has no power to cause us to do what it demands. Only the Gospel provides the power to do with the Law expects us to do.
Furthermore, “The Gospel doesn’t eliminate the Law. Jesus isn’t a free pass to sin more in order to get more forgiveness. The Law remains because we still sin.”
It is not difficult or impossible to keep the law. Moses, in Deuteronomy 30, assures the Israelites that the commandments are not too hard to follow (v. 11). The law is not in heaven or beyond the sea, but the word of God is in your mouth and heart (v. 13-14). “The language of heart can suggest a yearning to do what God has asked. When it is in their heart to keep God’s law, what may have seemed impossible becomes not only possible but desired.”
When you love Jesus of all your heart and mind, the Holy Spirit will give you the desire to follow him and to keep his commandments. The law requires us to love God and our neighbor, and the gospel helps us to do so. We need both law and gospel to have a sincere relationship with God and our neighbor.