Protestants in general agree that one of the uses of the law is to lead broken and condemned people to Jesus Christ. Likewise, Protestants in general believe that when Jesus saves us He delivers us back to the supervision of the law, equipped and enabled to keep it as the rule of our lives.
You must have heard people say, or you might have said it yourself: “In my own strength I cannot keep the law, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, or with the help of Jesus I can!” But is this what Paul is teaching us in his New Testament epistles?
Paul taught that the age of the law finished with Jesus. He understood that the law, Ten Commandments including, had only a temporary use. The superior glory of Christ, who is the law incarnate, made the glory of the law fade away, for good. 2. Cor. 3:11.
Interestingly, Paul never used the yardstick of the law to tell us what the lives of Jesus’ followers should look like. Instead, he repeatedly called believers to “live according to the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), and to order their lives “in view of God’s mercy” (Romans 12:1).
It is by beholding Jesus Christ and not by keeping the law that we are being continually transformed. Paul explained it powerfully: “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s (Jesus’) glory, are being transformed into his likeness, with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2. Cor. 3:18.
If Jesus Christ is the Law Incarnate, the very character of God in flesh, everything and much more than what the letter of the law ever managed to be or convey, why would a born again follower of Jesus still need to be policed by the law?
Rather than keeping on fighting to have the Ten Commandments displayed in our courts, schools, public places and our homes, we should get excited about how to have Christ and his character clearly portrayed in and around us. For it follows naturally that Jesus, who is our Lord and Savior, is also our true and only moral reference point and compass, whose witness we cannot counterfeit, manipulate, nor bargain with.
Some would argue that this line of reasoning leads to disobedience, licentiousness and antinomianism. But, do you really believe that a dead letter of the law can do a better job pruning, correcting and maturing our characters than the Living Word, Lord Jesus speaking Himself into our lives through the administration and presence of the Holy Spirit?
Following Jesus is not about keeping anything, but about a continuing journey of trusting and looking up to Jesus. Although this is a never completed journey this end of the eternity, for a believer this is always a necessary process of refinement and growing into the image of Christ.
On the other hand if we continue to use the law rather than Jesus as our compass, even with the comforting thoughts that we are doing it with God’s help, we will always be occupied with and annoyed by the petty issues of our performance, never certain, always restless and wondering if we have ever done enough to please our God.
So, when the law brings us defeated to Christ, it is a one-way ticket. Once embraced by Jesus, He never takes us back to the law to be supervised by it again. He keeps us in His embrace forever and for whatever further treatment and refinement we need.