Many people are preconditioned to think negatively about the law. Some of the writings of Paul lead us to wonder about whether obeying the law is in conflict with receiving grace. If we are under grace after all, why bother with knowing and keeping the law? What purpose does the law serve anyway? Surely, keeping the law can lead to legalism, so shouldn’t we just focus our attention on grace and not worry about keeping the law?
This is the thinking of many, and it is a true concern that focusing our attention too much on the law and our behavior can lead to legalism. So how do we keep our balance and find salvation? The answer is in the lesson this week which helps us understand how Jesus is the end of the law, as stated in our Key Text.
Key Text: “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4 NRSV
The King James Version is not quite as clear: “…the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The NRSV sounds almost identical to the New International Version, so I’m inclined to believe it is an accurate rendering of the verse.
But here’s the Living Bible’s paraphrased verse: “They don’t understand that Christ gives to those who trust in him everything they are trying to get by keeping the laws. He ends all that.”
A superficial reading of the Living Bible might lead one to question the law, when it blatantly claims that He ends all that. But it’s actually beneficial in that it points us in the direction of trusting Jesus, not the law, to save us. Many of the Jews in Paul’s day trusted that keeping the law would save them, but Paul is redirecting them to the true source of their salvation.
Calling Christ the end of the law makes Him not only the source of our salvation, but the final goal of keeping the law. As a matter of fact, it is Christ from beginning to end who saves us, as we’ll discover most positively with this week’s study.
Keeping the law, for the converted believer, is a natural outgrowth of the grace that saves us. The law is valuable in that it leads us to Jesus, who is the end or final goal, of keeping the law.
Sunday: Where Sin Abounded
Romans 5:12-21 talks about the association between sin and death. Read this passage carefully, noting the major theme being the question of how one man, namely Jesus, could atone for the sins of so many. The answer is that sin entered this world through one man, Adam, so we can rest assured that Jesus alone can provide us with salvation from this sin and death.
One verse here has provided comfort to many a sinner: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence [trespass] might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” Romans 5:20 KJV In other words, no matter how bad the sin, God’s grace, for those who claim it, is powerful enough to cover it.
We have seen that Jesus’ perfect obedience helped make this possible. He Himself claimed to have kept His Father’s commandments (John 15:10), and Hebrews 4:15 also testifies:
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all point tempted as we are, yet without sin.”KJV
Discussion Question: I John 3:4 which states that “sin is the transgression of the law” in the King James Version is often thought of as referring to just the Ten Commandments, which surely is included here. But other versions of the Bible use the term “lawlessness” as the definition of sin. The Greek word anomia is the word in question. Strong’s Concordance does support the KJV, with other possible meanings, such as illegality, violation of law, wickedness, and unrighteousness.
Do you think that using the word “lawlessness” in place of “the transgression of the law” in any way detracts from the understanding that the Ten Commandments are indeed involved with the sin issue?
Monday: Law and Grace
Paul must have sensed that some in his congregations would make grace an excuse to go on fostering sin in their lives. He lets them know, in no uncertain terms, that this is not a right path to take.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Romans 6:12 KJV
“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Romans 6:15 KJV
Reading the entire passage of Romans 6:15-23 makes it clear to the reader that sin is not to have dominion in our lives any more after Christ comes into our hearts. Not that we won’t sin any more, but sin does not have the control it once had. We have a new Master to serve. And He has the power to save us from sin, which brings death.
Discussion Questions: If someone accepts Christ’s righteousness to cover him, why is it still necessary for him to keep the law?
If I am struggling with certain violations of God’s will for my life, does it mean I’m not converted?’
Why can’t I ever be good enough for heaven through keeping the law?
Tuesday: O Wretched Man!
If you have ever pondered over who the verses of Romans 7:13-25 are referring to, you are not alone. Believers have grappled with this question for centuries. In verse 22, he claims to delight in the law of God, so it sounds like it’s talking about a Christian. But why would this believer be so enslaved to sin with the grace to overcome at his fingertips?
Paul seems to be saying to us that although the law serves to intensify and accentuate our struggle with sin, there is power and victory in the gospel of grace. The law is a reminder that deliverance is needed through the Spirit of God and the grace He brings to our lives. We can’t do anything in and of ourselves. Without God, we all are that “wretched man”.
Discussion Question: If “saved by grace” were true, why do we still struggle with sinning after our conversion?
Wednesday: The Goal of the Law
Our Key Text pointed out that Christ was the end (or goal) of the law, and this has been interpreted by some as meaning that Christ made the law obsolete, or outdated, that He ended it. Taken out of context, this might be the case. But read Romans 9:30-10:4, several verses prior to our Key Text, and you will see Paul explaining how salvation is by faith and not by works of the law, or even the law itself.
Many fail to see that the law is just an indicator of righteousness, not a tool of righteousness. The law merely amplifies our need for righteousness, which draws us closer to Jesus, The End.
Discussion Questions: Anyone who takes the law of God seriously is in danger of legalism. True or false–support your claim.
How does one know if they are becoming legalistic?
Thursday: The Disciplinarian
Galatians 3:24, 25 refers to the law as a schoolmaster:
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” KJV
Other translations call this schoolmaster a taskmaster, tutor, or custodian. In Greek times it may be talking about a slave who was hired by the wealthy to be a disciplinarian for sons in the family. This tutor was given all authority to dictate the sons’ behavior. But when the sons reached adulthood, the tutor no longer had that authority.
This aptly portrays the role of the law in our lives. In the beginning of our search for God, it served to inform us of godly behavior. But as we matured in our spirituality, we saw that the law has no authority to enforce our obedience. It still informs us of godly behavior and we still comply with its requirements, but we are under God’s authority now. And our love for Him gives us power to obey the law.
As Galatians 3:21 points out, God is the giver of life; the law doesn’t give life:
“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” KJV
Discussion Questions: Does the law of God feel more like a bodyguard or a police officer to you? What factors may be contributing to your answer? [examples: a fear of legalism, our past experiences with authority figures, our information or misinformation about the role of the law? a sense of guilt over some of the law’s requirements? our desire for perfection and fear that we will never measure up?]
Could our feelings about the law affect our relationship with God? In what ways?
How does one develop a healthier attitude about the law? [try to see the Ten Commandments not as a list of prohibitions but as a sign of God’s love]
Even though Paul was against those who were trying to earn salvation by strictly keeping the law, he does verify that obedience to the law is a central part of being a Christian. The law convicts us of sin and then points us to Jesus. The End!
There are some well-meaning Christians today (not just in Paul’s time) who stress the need for “perfection” when it comes to keeping the law. They maintain that our only hope of getting to heaven it through our obedience to all of God’s requirements. They often ignore the reality of sinful human nature, which we will be battling till the Second Coming. Unfortunately, discouragement comes when we look to ourselves and how well we are doing as a barometer of our salvation. Compared to Jesus, none of us will ever “measure up”.
This week be careful to live a godly, faith-filled life, but also not to get caught up in a theology that puts our hope of salvation in anything other than Christ’s righteousness, the only sure covering for our self-righteous “filthy rags”. (Remember, all OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, not just our UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, are filthy. Isaiah 64:6)