It’s easy to get confused when trying to understand how the Mosaic Law relates to the New Covenant of grace. I am intrigued by Romans 4:14-15 (NASB):
For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
Our initial reaction upon reading this verse might be to think that it is impossible to sin now that we are free from the requirements of the Mosaic Law. We would do well to consider the context of this passage. Paul was writing to Jews about both Jews and Gentiles, and how they were to respectively gain their right standing before God. His point was that Jews could not be justified by their age-old reliance upon obedience to the Law. This does not mean, however, that the Christian faith is entirely void of all laws.
The kingdom of God is governed by one primary law—the royal law:
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. James 2:8 (NASB)
Jesus raised the bar even higher in John 13:34 (NASB):
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
This is where our second Greek word for love, philia, comes into play. And in case you were wondering, this is where the name Philadelphia finds its roots as the city of brotherly love—although I’m not exactly sure how accurate that description is in our day. I’ll be perfectly honest here—the problem isn’t limited to the city of Philadelphia; I think that very, very few professing Christians pay any serious attention to Christ’s command for us to love our brothers and sisters of the faith with the same measure of love modeled by Jesus.
Why do I feel this way? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that heaping judgment and contempt on other Christians is more of a common practice than a rare exception. What we don’t seem to understand is that Jesus is personally affected by our treatment of His covenant children. (see Matthew 25:31-46). Whenever I look down my nose with contempt at one of my Christian brothers, I might as well have Jesus Himself in my sights. What a scary thought!
What happens when we transgress God’s royal law of love? We heap condemnation upon ourselves—especially when we profess our devotion to the New Covenant in Christ.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NASB)
Does it really matter how we treat the body of Christ–our New Covenant brothers and sisters? Absolutely! Do you truly want to honor God with your life? Let love govern your behavior–all of it.
The topic is worthy of far more time and effort than a single blog post and so I will address it with more detail in my next book. For now, however, these are essential thoughts to ponder. The King of the Universe cares more about our love—or lack thereof—for one another far more than most of us will allow ourselves to believe.