The Law And The Gospel

The Letter versus the Spirit

Most of us are familiar with the legal jargon, “Letter of the Law” and “Spirit of the Law”. When a judge finds the “Letter of the Law” inadequate he will use the “Spirit of the Law” in his judgment. Paul used these two elements of the legal system to explain God’s Law. Before we continue let me first establish the fact that sister White affirmed that the Law in Galatians refers to the whole Jewish system of law, meaning the moral law (Ten Commandments) and the statues (mosaic law). I will refer to this Law of the Old Covenant as the “Written Law”.

Old Covenant versus New

Most people do not fully understand the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It is only partially right to say that there was a change in the location of the law (that is from stone tablets to the heart) but many miss the fact that there is also a change in the contents of the law.

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. (Heb 7:12)

God intended that the Written Law (Letter of the Law) should serve as a School Master till Christ (the Spirit of the Law) comes. Christ is the Living Law from heaven, but while he was on earth he respected the letter of the law, and expounded on it to show us its inadequacy. Paul referred to Christ as the “Spirit of the Law of Life” because the Spirit gives life whereas the Letter brings death because it has no saving power.

Due to this change in the Law (both in location and contents) there was a need for God to replace the Old Covenant with a New Covenant in Christ’s blood. Now there was also something NEW added which was not found in the Old Covenant. It was the saving power of “Christ in you, the hope of Glory”. God’s faithful who died under the Old Covenant before the cross did not receive this promise. They will only be perfected when the sons of God (perfected through Christ in them) under the New Covenant are manifested.

From the above we can see how the Law and the Gospel (Christ in you the hope of glory) go hand in hand in the New Covenant.

Contents of The Law

Now let’s do a more careful examination of how the contents of the Law are different in both Covenants. We can all agree God’s Law is holy, just and good. However, God did have different objectives to achieve with his Law under the two different dispensations, that is to say during the time of Written Law (Old Covenant), and Living Law (New Covenant).

The Written Law served as a mirror to reflect men’s condition and acted as a School Master till Christ came. Indeed Paul further elaborated on this fact saying

“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (1Tim 1:9).

From this we can clearly see the objectives which God had in mind in giving this Written Law.

Christ said in Matt 5:17-18

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:17-18)

It was true Jesus did not come to destroy the law or the prophets BUT to FULFILL all of them. Once Christ fulfilled them, they had to cease in type. Most can accept that prophecies about the coming Messiah have been accomplished, thus fulfilling the PROPHETS but they have issues with Christ fulfilling the LAW (Written Law) which Paul said was nailed to the cross in Colossians.

The word “commandment” comes from the word “command” which is an order given by someone in a commanding position. When on earth, Christ obeyed every word that proceeded out of the mouth of his Father, which he called “commandments”.

“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father”. (John 10:18)

Therefore when Jesus said “If you love me keep my commandments, he was not referring to the Ten Commandments written on stones. Christ’s commandments means every word that proceeds from his mouth, even his will for your life. Christ demonstrated this in the parable of the rich young ruler.

“The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matt 19:20-21)

Jesus did not say “Well done” when the rich young ruler said he kept all the Ten Commandments throughout his youth. Instead Christ gave his command regarding his will for this rich young ruler’s life which he unfortunately rejected. The rich young ruler failed to realize he had just broken the Commandment of Christ (God). If we do not understand this difference in the Law in the two dispensations we will make the same mistake as he did.

In summary the Living Law is different in that it is more comprehensive than the Written Law since it is not confined to actions only, but to the mind and heart (Matt 5:28, 5:22). And yet it is also specific enough for each individual’s life journey. No amount of writing on stone and books can achieve this purpose of God. Only Christ can FULFILL the objective of this NEW LAW requirement of God. Now we can understand what Christ meant when he said he fulfilled the LAW! Therefore the entire system of Written Law is a type of Christ and all of it should rightly be nailed to the cross when fulfilled – not just the ceremonial laws.

With this new understanding, can we now lay aside all Written Law (moral and ceremonial law and statues – detailed instruction on how to live) and embrace the more superior, more comprehensive and more perfect Living Law (Christ)?

The Law is now no longer on stone or paper. The Law is Christ himself, and when we understand this, it makes perfect sense when King David under inspiration said that he loved the Law, and that the Law was within his heart.

Additional thoughts

On the other side of heaven there is NO LAW needed, for Love fulfills the Law.

“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, (1Tim 1:5) (NKJV)

By the time we are ready to leave this earth with Christ, we will be so used to being governed by Christ from inside, out of love that we hardly notice the Law. We will then be rightly fitted for heaven because God’s government in heaven operates by the principles of Love.

(Source: Restoration Ministry)