The apostle Paul says that law was abolished. This means that there is no law to follow and no law to condemn us (when we break it), doesn't it? Now, the Old Testament (particularly Deuteronomy) is full of laws to obey. Some of it is about moral stuff, and some if it is about how to cleanse sinners. When Jesus spoke and preached, most of his preaching was about substantiating the law. For example, he preached that we should love God and love neighbors; all the other laws hang on these two. He also preached things like forgive your brother again, and when a brother sins against you, talk to him in private. These teachings were about how to correctly understand/apply the law, weren't they? When the law got abolished as Paul said, the Old Testament law and Jesus' substantiation of it both got abolished too, right? Furthermore, since we are free (because there is no law), we should not take the New Testament teaching (e.g., daily fellowship) as a new "law," should we? Now, Romans 2:12 says that we can sin apart from law. Romans 2:15 says that our consciences are a way to measure our sin. Also, Paul says that there is no law when we obey the Holy Spirit living in us. In summary, as I understand, there is no law to follow (both New Testament and Old Testament), and we simply follow God's Spirit. We sin when we do things against our consciences (not when we do follow the New Testament law/regulations). We use the entire Bible to cultivate God's spirit living in us and listen to it, and not to follow the law (whether it is New or Old Testament). Will you confirm my summary?
This is a complex discussion, and I appreciate your bringing it up. I have thought long and hard about these matters. To be honest, I cannot confirm your summary, because I do not agree with it. Not to say that it is all wrong; much of it makes sense and resonates with me.
To begin with, in the O.T., the Jews had to obey God's commands. Obedience and grace are not mutually exclusive; perhaps that is where some confusion comes in. See Deuteronomy 30, for example. Next, in the N.T. Christians also must obey in order to be saved. See what Jesus said in John 14, Matthew 7, and many other chapters. Perfect obedience is not required (God's grace covers our shortfall), but obedience is absolutely essential. The Protestant Reformation has got us thinking that obedience is somehow less important than faith. This is a false antithesis. The N.T. speaks of the law of Christ (e.g. Galatians 6:2).
Following conscience is not the same as following the Spirit. The Gentiles in Romans 2:14 may have been justified (and condemned) by their consciences, but Paul said unambiguously that they still perished apart from the law (Romans 2:12-13). I do agree that we cultivate a spirit of obedience and faith by putting the word of Christ into our hearts (Colossians 3:16, John 8:37). In a way, a second sense or intuition about spiritual things can be nurtured. You are right on target there. But conscience, as you and I know from experience, can be wrongly trained. We may feel fine about our actions and thoughts, but that does not exonerate us (1 Corinthians 4:4). Recalibration may be needed, right?
In short, Jesus did not eliminate the need to obey the Father. He fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17). It has been, at least for us Christians, transformed, but not abrogated (Romans 3:31). If we fail to obey God's commands, that is lawlessness. Let us close by taking a look at 1 John 5:1-5:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God."
This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2005. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.