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How To Read The Bible – Part 13 – The Law

When we think about The Law, we tend to think of it in terms of rules that limit or define our behaviour. However, reading The Law in this way leads to some significant problems for Christians and the Church. Two significant problems are legalism and judgmentalism.

How can we read and understand The Law in a more meaningful way today so that it becomes liberating for the Christian and a blessing to the world around us?

Watch Episode 13 by clicking HERE. Come back after the video to continue reading.

The Law exists as part of the grand story of the Bible and when we treat it simply as a behaviour manual or as a set of rules, we are actually taking it out of context. Taken in context we get a very different sense of what The Law was designed to do for Israel when it was given and what it still does for us as Christians today.

In the video, the presenters identify two primary purposes of The Law within the story of the Bible. First, that The Law provides instructions on how to live in right relationship with God and Second, that The Law serves as an invitation to trust in God’s wisdom and live under His authority.

There are three main types or categories within The Law which help us to understand their purpose for Israel. The first category is the Moral Law which taught Israel about God’s holiness and highlighted their own unholiness. The Moral Law defined right and wrong for Israel according to God’s wisdom and character.

The second category is the Ceremonial Law which helped Israel to deal with their unholiness so that they would have the opportunity to live in right relationship with God. It also served to set Israel apart from the surrounding nations as a people specifically chosen and called out by God.

The third category is the Civil Law and it served to provide the Israelites with contextually appropriate guidelines on how to live in relationship with each other and with their neighbours.

So, how should we understand and apply The Law today as Christians? Have you ever wondered why so many Christians stand firm on the Moral Law while seemingly abandoning the Ceremonial and the Civil Laws? Let’s dig in for a minute together.

Firstly, Christians dispense with the requirements of the Ceremonial Law because of Jesus. Since Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law in dealing with our sin, He has completely restored the relationship between us and God. The evidence of this is the Holy Spirit present in the believer.

Secondly, Christians dispense with the Civil Law because much of it fails to speak directly to our modern context. However, the principles underneath the Civil Law are timeless and Jesus affirms them often in His teaching. Jesus summarizes them in the Great Commandment when he tells His followers to “love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

Finally, Christians affirm the Moral Law because it reveals God’s holiness to us just as it did to Israel. Through the Moral Law God defined right and wrong according to His wisdom and character. Like Israel, we are invited to trust in that wisdom and the character of God as we live in obedience to the Moral Law.

The important distinction for Christians as we read and understand The Law is that because of Jesus, we no longer live under its condemnation. Rather, we live in submission to The Law because of our love for the lawgiver.

Jesus affirms this in the Great Commandment as well when he tells His followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

When you read The Law, it can be helpful to think about the three categories as you try to make sense of it. It’s also helpful to remember, as you examine how to apply it in your own life, that our posture toward The Law has changed because of Jesus.

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