Christ, the End of the Law for the Christian

Arend Remmers

Tonight, I would like to say a few words as to the meaning, the importance and the place of the law according to God's word.

Romans 10:4 shows us that in our present dispensation the law has no place whatsoever[1]. When the Lord Jesus was crucified the law came to an end. The Lord Jesus was the only Man who never committed any sin in His life (1 Pet.2:22), and in that way had tested the law to the utmost. Although He was the Giver of the law, He was born and lived under the law (Gal.4:4). At the same time, He was the only One who never committed a single transgression of the law, and that Person was, in the application of the law, crucified. What a contradiction: The law (in its application by the Jew) judged the only perfect and holy One making Him a curse (Deut.21:23, Gal.3:13). This must be the end of the law.

If the law judged the only holy and perfect One, how could it achieve anything, how could it bring anything to perfection? The law had brought nothing to perfection (Heb.10:1).

To Whom Then was the Law Given?

"Now we know that the law is good if any one uses it lawfully, knowing this, that law has not its application to a righteous person, but to the lawless and insubordinate, to the impious and sinful, to the unholy and profane, to smiters of fathers and smiters of mothers; to murderers, fornicators, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers; and if any other thing is opposed to sound teaching."   (1 Tim.1:8-10)

But then the question arises, 'Why then did God give the law?' One reason was that it contained God's minimum standard for man. The law emanated from God and therefore must be in accordance with God and His will, but the first thing that I would lay stress on is that the law was not given to believers. This is a very important thing. The law was given to the people of Israel at Sinai and the majority of the people of Israel were probably not believers. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were believers in the faithfulness of God, but their descendants were just natural men, and God had not chosen them as believers but as an elect nation on earth. The law was not given to believers but rather to unbelievers to restrict their sins. This explains the validity of the law. It was never intended by God as a guideline for the believer but it was for those who were unregenerate and unrighteous.

Why Then was the Law Given?

"But law came in, in order that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded grace has over-abounded."  

(Rom.5:20)

The law came in in order that the offence might abound. Sin has always been in this world since the fall of man, but it never comes out so clearly in display in fallen man as when there is a commandment, "thou shalt not", for immediately there is a transgression of this commandment.

This is what Paul says here. Men were sinners since Adam and Eve, but one reason for which the law was given was to make this come to light more clearly. The law that God was according to His character and nature, light and love, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". It is perfect as everything that comes from God is perfect, but because unregenerate man cannot respond to the will of God, the result was only to show that man is a sinner.

"Why then the law? It was added for the sake of transgressions, until the seed came to whom the promise was made, ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator."  

(Gal.3:19)

The law was given by God for the sake of the transgressors to make their fallen state come out more clearly. If they had the desire to please God they had to come to the conclusion they could never answer to these commandments because of their sinful nature. The law was given to reveal sin in man. When the Lord died the law was shown to be absolutely futile in bringing man to God. Instead, it revealed only that man was far away from God. It is absolutely necessary to always keep these two things in mind to understand the Galatian Epistle, the aim of the law in God's mind was to reveal sin in man and that, in the death of Christ, the law was put aside.

The Galatian Epistle shows it is absolutely wrong and contrary to the will of God to vivify this law which has come to an end, and to introduce it into the life of the Christian who lives in the One who has died to that law and who has been raised from the dead. It is a contradiction to the will of God and a mixing up two fundamentally different ideas. The law could never bring anybody to God, nor is it meant to be the guide for believers.

How Then Could Men Under the Law Be Saved?

"For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering."   (Ps.51:16)

How is it possible that people like Moses, Aaron, Joshua and David, who were under the law to be believers in God?

Take David for example. He realised by experience that he could not fulfil the law. Every time he sinned he was, according to the law, compelled to bring an offering, but then he was an upright man, and he said, 'But when I bring this offering what is the result?' He says in Psalm 51:16,

"For thou desirest not sacrifice;
else would I give it:
thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering",

he realised in himself that the literal fulfilment of the law could not make him acceptable in the eyes of God. What an experience that must have been for a man who wished to please God, who had received the law and realised while thinking with heart and conscience exercised, 'This cannot be the way. It cannot be that by physically bringing an offering and perhaps my heart far away in spirit that I can have peace with God'. In this way David and all the rest of the believers under the law were led by the impossibility of fulfilling the law to that contrition when they said, 'But what can I do?' and then they came in their experience to the point in Psalm 51 where it says,

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (v.17).

That was in a way their conversion. We do not read of conversion in this sense in the Old Testament, neither do we read there of new birth because it was not revealed, although it was the only possible way to be accepted by God. The way which was revealed was the law, to show man how absolutely unfit he is for the presence of God, and let him by experience arrive at this point that the law cannot save him. What can save him is only faith in the grace and forgiveness of God.

What Then is Now The Guideline For Our lives?

"For Christ is the end of law for righteousness to every one that believes"   (Rom.10:4)

Clearly, it is not the law, it is not a number of rules, rather it is the Person of the Lord, the One who has died for us, who has made an end of the law, the One who has been raised for us and with Whom we have been raised, the heavenly man, He who created the new man for us and in us, even He is the pattern of our lives.

It is not any commandments, but the perfection of love and light in the life of our Lord Jesus. Thus we will never be able to say like the rich young ruler of Luke 18,

"All these things have I kept from my youth".

We will always be disciples of Him whose life only was the perfect pattern, and we will always fall short of this. But by His Spirit He has given us the energy and the power to fulfil what we see in Him as our perfect example. If we want to know what our pathway has to be like, it is the life of our beloved Lord. That is the rule of life for the Christian. This shows the contradiction to the will of God in reintroducing the law, such as was the case in the churches of Galatia where the living Christ should have been seen. That is why it was such a disappointment for the apostle Paul to see Christians who had initially run well in the Spirit, ending up in the flesh.

The idea of our performing works, of doing something to obtain righteousness, is inherent in our flesh. We like to be able to present something we have done and that is what the law tends to create in man. God did not give it for that end but man availed himself of the law and said, 'Look, I have done all this'. We can detect the same attitude in our own hearts but we have to judge it and say, 'We want rather to follow the Lord Jesus'.

May He give us this strength and may He grant us that in our studies in this precious but also very serious Galatian Epistle our hearts are directed more and more to Him. There are many passages in this epistle presenting the Person of the Lord to us as in no other epistle of the New Testament. He is being "painted before our eyes" (Gal.3:1). What a precious thought.

[1] For the believer: 1.Timothy 1:8.9.