As believers in Christ, we face many challenges in our walk with Him. One of these challenges is the tendency to drift away from the living person of Christ into the old things of religion, which is a matter of doing things for God but doing them apart from Him. In particular we tend to be unconsciously influenced by elements of Judaism, which is based on things given by God to His people in the Old Testament, including mainly the temple, the law, the priests, and the earthly promises. However, as New Testament believers, we should be clear about the essential differences between Judaism and the church so that we may recognize and reject these religious elements in ourselves and turn back to the living person of Christ.
The temple was covered in a previous post. This post will address the law.
In the Old Testament, God gave His people the law, written on tablets of stone, to expose their sins and sinfulness (Exo. 20:1-17; 24:12; Rom. 5:20). In Judaism, this law along with its ordinances became a rigid and objective standard to be followed outwardly. In the New Testament, the scribes and Pharisees not only tried to live according to the law in such a way but also burdened others to do the same, all the while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law—justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:4, 23). As a result, the Lord Jesus condemned them for their hypocrisy (vv. 13-33).
In the church, the law is neither outward nor objective; rather, the Holy Spirit is the indwelling law of life inscribed on our hearts (Rom. 8:2; Heb. 8:10). For example, how should we cut our hair as New Testament believers? Since the New Testament does not tell us, how can we know how short or long to cut it? We know it by walking according to the consciousness of the law of life, which God has imparted into our mind and inscribed on our heart (Heb. 8:10). Our standard of daily living is inward. Whereas the Old Testament law was outward and cannot give life, the indwelling law of life gives us life, causing the righteous requirement of God’s law to be fulfilled in us (Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:2-4, 11; 1 Cor. 15:45b).
Hebrews 7:18-19 says, “There is, on the one hand, the setting aside of the preceding commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law perfected nothing), and, on the other hand, the bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” As New Testament believers, we should not be law-keepers but loving seekers of our Lord (cf. John 5:39). Instead of applying an outward law to ourselves or others, as the scribes and Pharisees did, we should draw near to God and spend time in His presence (Heb. 7:19). As a result of doing this, we will express Him in our daily living and be able to be built up with other believers as the church. In this way, God’s purpose can be fulfilled among us.
In the following posts of this series, we will consider the priests and the earthly promises.
Witness Lee, Crucial Truths in the Holy Scriptures, Volume 4, Chapter 40: “The Law and Grace” (Print).
Watchman Nee, Two Principles of Living (Print).
(Most references in the Further Reading can also be viewed on www.ministrybooks.org.)