September 22, 2017

Liberty and Law

By Frank Jarnerson

Contrary to the thinking of many today, there can be no true liberty without law. Lawlessness would result in anarchy, not freedom.

In sports events, there must be laws (rules) in order for anyone to have the freedom to participate in the game. Though true sportsmanship will not try to take advantage of the rules, that does not mean that no rules are necessary. In civil government, there must be laws so that those who want to do right will know what is expected of them, and those who violate those rules will be punished. Without laws there would be no security. It is not possible to even conceive of living in a country without laws, yet there are some brethren who so dislike the word "law" that they have convinced themselves that we are free from God's rules.

James said, "But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (Jas. 1:25). It is called "the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2), "the law of faith" (Rom. 3:27), "the implanted word" (Jas. 1:21), or "the faith" (Gal. 3:23). The New Law is a "law of liberty," not because we are free from law, but because obedience to it truly liberates us from sins, in contrast to the temporary forgiveness under the Old Laws (Heb. 10:4). It gives us "freedom from law" in the sense that perfectly keeping law is not the means of justification. The law of Christ provides genuine forgiveness through the blood by which it was dedicated (Matt. 26:28). The rejection of the law would be a rejection of the blood of Christ.

What did Paul mean when he said, "for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14)? First notice that if this teaches that we have no law, it would negate the need for grace, for "where there is no law, there is no transgression" (Rom 4:15). Second, notice that the fourth chapter teaches we are free from "works" (in the sense of perfect works), but this does not mean that we do not have works to do. There is a difference between earning our salvation by meritorious works, and striving to obey Christ while depending upon his grace for our failures. Chapters five and six talk about freedom from sin, but that does not mean that we never commit sin. There is a difference between committing sin and living a life of sin. Likewise, being "free from law" does not mean that we have no law, but that our justification is not on the basis of law-keeping. The law through which we are justified provides for failure, but that does not justify failure to respect the law! When John said, "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17), he did not mean that there was no "grace and truth" under the Old Law, nor that there is no "law" under the grace and truth. The "truth" is the law, or rule of right and wrong.

We may not understand why God gave some of the rules, but love for Him will result in sincere effort to obey in all things, realizing that our justification is through His grace, and not through our perfection in law-keeping. Our efforts to obey should be from a heart of love, but those who do not strive to obey do not love him. God did not say "love is the only law a Christian has." He said, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn 5:2,3) The one who despises law despises the law-giver.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 10, p. 294
May 21, 1992