One Righteous Christmas Present!
Jesus is the end of the Law for those who believe. What better gift could anyone receive than that!
Remember a television commercial that goes like this? A woman steps out of her house on a snow-covered morning, a quizzical look on her face. She notices an extremely expensive luxury car with a giant red bow on top parked in her driveway, and she turns to hug her smiling husband standing in the doorway.
It must be December. Luxury carmakers seem to think giving unreasonably expensive gifts at Christmas is a realistic undertaking for middle-class families. For most people, though, it’s an unaffordable extravagance.
Yet, this marketing ploy actually has some redemptive value. As we celebrate Christmas, it can remind us of the incomparably extravagant gift God has given us: the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are, of course, many reasons why the gift of Jesus is magnificent. But during the Christmas season, one in particular stands out: freedom. We don’t have to struggle to keep the Mosaic Law. By coming to Earth and dying in our place, “the just for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3:18), Jesus set us free. And through faith in His death and resurrection, we can receive His righteousness and the free gift of eternal life because Jesus made an “end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4).
The End of the Law
The Bible teaches that we can never earn our salvation by following rules, doing good deeds, or somehow balancing the cosmic scales of justice.
In fact, God’s Word clearly says good deeds can never save us; only faith can: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
Centuries earlier, the prophet Isaiah said virtually the same thing: “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). Only God Himself can save us: “There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior” (45:21).
Both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament teach that salvation has never been about keeping laws or earning our way to God. It’s always been about faith (cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3).
Though Old Testament saints did not understand as much as we do today about how God would save humanity through Israel’s Messiah, they knew God’s grace as Savior was involved. In fact, the Hebrew Scriptures refer to God as “Savior” 12 times. Salvation never came through the Law.
Because Jesus atoned for our sins, the New Testament emphatically teaches that neither Gentiles nor Jews are required to keep the Mosaic Law today. The New Covenant “made the first obsolete” (Heb. 8:13). God Himself made the Law of Moses obsolete by sending Jesus to establish the basis of the New Covenant, which He will make with Israel in the Millennium (Messiah’s 1,000-year reign on Earth)—the spiritual blessings of which the church enjoys today (Jer. 31:31–34).
The Mosaic Covenant constituted letters on stone, which killed, as opposed to the Spirit that gives life (2 Cor. 3:2–11). The apostle Paul called the Law a “ministry of death” and said it is “passing away” (v. 7). In fact, there has been an “annulling” of the Law because it couldn’t make anyone perfect (Heb. 7:18).
The Law was always intended to be temporary until Jesus came (Gal. 3:19). That is not to say it was bad or evil. Jesus taught and fulfilled the Law (Mt. 5:17–20); and Paul called it “holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12). However, it is no longer in force or an obligation for believers in Jesus today.
Why the Law?
Considering that salvation never came by the Law, one might wonder why God gave it in the first place. What purpose did it serve?
First, it was given to reveal God’s holiness and the standard of righteousness He requires in order to have a relationship with Him (Lev. 19:2; Rom. 3:19–20). He revealed His perfections in the Law and how impossible it is for us to be worthy of fellowship with Him.
Second, it reveals our true, sinful condition and need for divine grace (Rom. 3:19–20; 5:20; 7:7). Sadly, some people convince themselves they’re acceptable to God the way they are. The objective standard of the Law clearly teaches otherwise.
Paul even pointed out that when people become aware of their failure to measure up, the Law actually causes them to sin more (4:15; 5:20; 7:7–13).
Third, the Law provided a rule of conduct and method of worship and forgiveness for the nation of Israel (Ex. 19:5; Lev. 1—7).
Lastly, the Law was always meant to lead people to faith (Gal. 3:23–25).
Freedom From the Law
Consider the magnitude of the gift of freedom we have in Jesus. He provides a righteousness that is not dependent on our performance.
We’re not shackled to the Law of Moses, trying to live up to its hundreds of difficult instructions. Imagine what good news this freedom would have been to the woman Jesus healed who had “a flow of blood” for 12 years and spent her entire livelihood on doctors who couldn’t help her (Lk. 8:43). Following the Law meant she could never be pure, never hold her husband or children, never enter into worship.
Jesus kept the Law perfectly for us; then He became our final sacrifice for sin, arose from the dead, and set us free. Truly, “the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). And what lavish grace it is. No longer are we condemned by our failure to keep the Law. Instead, we’re offered the righteousness of God and a relationship with Jesus and the Father.
Christians and the Law
No wonder Paul marveled at the Galatians’ willingness to become “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” by going back to the Law (Gal. 5:1). Who would want to do such a thing? Believers are to “stand fast . . . in the liberty by which Christ has made us free” (v. 1).
Of course, our freedom raises a few questions. If we’re not obligated to keep the Law and our salvation is not based on our performance, do we have a blank check to sin?
The answer is a resounding no! Christians cannot simply live however we want. Though we’re not under the Law of Moses, we are under the Law of Christ, or the Law of the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 1:25; 2:8). This new law is not for salvation but, rather, for a Spirit-enabled life in obedience to all Jesus and the New Testament teach us (Mt. 28:20).
Many aspects of the Law of Christ parallel the Mosaic Law, but we are not obliged to obey them because of Moses but because we are forever in Christ. So, we follow Him in the power and grace He provides. Many theologians state the difference between the Law of Christ and the Law of Moses this way: “What God has not restated [in the New Testament] has been altogether abrogated.”
Does this mean, for example, that Christians are not allowed to keep the Sabbath because it is not restated in the Law of Christ? No, it simply means we’re not obligated to keep it—and this also applies to Christians who come from a Jewish background.
There are dangers of legalism, conflating works with faith, or dividing fellowship that comes with trying to observe the Law today. However, as long as we avoid these dangers, we have freedom in Christ. We also have the freedom to grow in our faith and relationship to God using instructions from the Mosaic Law (as in Proverbs, for example), as long as we realize we cannot increase our righteousness by doing so. All our righteousness comes from faith in Jesus.
This Christmas, may you know the freedom and joy of the gift of Jesus and His righteousness. The most luxuriously expensive gift in all of history is waiting for you. All you have to do is open the door of your heart to Him and be enveloped by the love and grace of God.