The law is spiritual

by | May 27, 2024 | May 2024 | 0 comments

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  John 1:17 (NKJV)
Genesis 46 records that a family of 70 people journeyed to Egypt to escape famine and find safety. Exodus 12 records that 430 years later they left Egypt under very different circumstances, now numbering well over 60,000 people. Both events fulfilled God’s promise to Jacob before he set out for Egypt: …“I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…” (Genesis 46:3-4)

Israel left Egypt under Moses’ guidance with their flocks, valuables taken from the Egyptians, their bread dough, the clothes they stood up in, and very little else. What they did lack was a set of coherent rules to govern how they lived and how they dealt with each other. They had lived under the rule of the Egyptians who had their own gods, with all the ceremonies that went with the worship of them. Looking ahead to the golden calf incident (Exodus 32), it is not surprising that God saw the necessity of making it clear who he was and what the people’s response to him should be; they had lost sight of their unique identity, founded on God’s promises to Abraham. The first four commandments listed in Exodus 20 were to steer the people back to acknowledging their God and Creator. The commandments Moses brought down from the mountain established the who, the when, the how, and the why that was at the very centre of their existence. What Moses was given, written by God’s finger on Mount Sinai, was a set of rules for a worshipping community moving forward together. 

The biblical record shows that Israel had problems remaining true to the covenant made with God at Sinai. By the time God was revealed in Jesus Christ, he came to a world where the law given at Sinai had been manipulated and corrupted to the point that any love had been lost. So Jesus’s summary of the law cut to the core of what God wanted for his people: ‘Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 2:37-39). Jesus stripped away the punishments, the atoning sacrifices, the many ceremonies – because he, himself, would replace them.

Christ was the God of the Old Testament (1 Corinthians 10:4) who had given the law to Moses as a temporary guide and a shadow of things to come. However, the people needed to know, not just what their God wanted from them, but also what he didn’t want. The Apostle Paul perceived this when he wrote to the Christians in Rome: ‘What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” ’ (Romans 7:7) 

Christ’s summary of the law has the same purpose. We have the same problems today because our human nature remains, but we have a new life within us, the life of Christ, and we can walk in the way of that new life, by the power of the Spirit and by grace of God (Galatians 5:16-18) ‘because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death’ (Romans 8:2).

Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, help us to love you with all of our hearts, and to love each other as you have loved us. In Jesus’s name, Amen.



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