God has made it plain that He wants our hearts and minds; and that it is upon our hearts and in our minds (Hebrews 8:10) that He intends to write His law using precept and promise; not on parchment or scrolls using pen and ink. Furthermore, reducing the teachings of the New Testament to “the letter of the law” circumvents the process whereby we open our hearts and minds to “being led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14, NASB); thereby allowing the “law of Christ” (I Corinthians 9:21, NASB) to be written in our hearts and minds.
In fact, and this is a haunting truth, turning the New Testament scriptures into a book of law by which people seek to be justified, if they can just somehow manage to get it all just right and practice it sufficiently, is a sure fire way to condemn oneself. Why? Because doing so takes our eyes off of Jesus and His perfect sacrifice and directs them towards oneself and our own performance. Either we are putting our faith entirely in Christ Jesus and trusting our salvation to His atoning sacrifice, or we are putting our faith in ourselves and attempting to work our way to heaven. The Lord gives us that choice, but we can’t have it both ways. This is why the Apostle Paul warns, “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4, NASB).
Contrary to the thinking of many, Jesus did not come to this earth to add more “law” on top of already existing law. He did not even come to change the law, or to supplant one legalistic system of justification with another. While Jesus did, indeed, proclaim “repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47, NASB), and we must pursue “the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, NASB), every authentic child of God understands that the new covenant in Christ Jesus is a system of salvation “by grace,” “through faith,” “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).
This does not mean that we are free to selfishly indulge the flesh, or to neglect the needs of people around us. With great freedom comes great responsibility. In the very next verse, after saying, “for by grace you have been saved through faith,” the Apostle Paul goes on to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB).
So, rather than taking a premature, artificial, and inevitably inconsistent and legalistic stand—and one that abuses the silence of the scriptures, I might add—by saying, “anything not specifically commanded in the New Testament is strictly forbidden,” or the seemingly opposite, but equally legalistic and inconsistent position that, “whatever is not specifically forbidden in the New Testament is permitted,” we would do well to go to God in prayer, and ask Him for that wisdom which He “gives to all generously and without reproach,” (James 1:5, NASB). Then, with sincerity and humility of heart, allowing ourselves to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, NASB) and “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14, NASB), we must follow Paul’s admonition to be “diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB); and in so doing, God will make His desire for our lives abundantly clear to us.
The new covenant children of God have reason to celebrate every day that our relationship with the heavenly Father is the result of His grace poured out through Jesus Christ on the cross for us; and that His grace is made accessible to us through our faith in Christ, and not through some legalistic system of justification. It’s not about religion. It’s all about Him.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:13-14, NASB)
In the freedom of His love,
~ Philip ~