Is the law still binding on the Christian? This is a question that many Christian’s ponder. And for good reason. In my studies I recently returned to a little book by John Stott titled Men Made New. This exposition of Romans 5-7 was first published in 1966 and is now out of print. I am not sure how I got a copy of it, but I am glad I did. In it Stott makes some helpful comments on this issue concerning the law of Moses.
He begins by stating that there are three possible attitudes to the law of God (attitudes that Tim Keller has popularized in the last few years). Attitudes represented first by the legalist, second by the libertine (or antinomian), and thirdly by the law-abiding believer. The first two represent the those who are not living in line with the gospel. The legalist is one who is in bondage to the law, one who imagines that their relationship to God depends on obedience. The libertine is one who rejects the law all together. But the law-abiding believer holds a proper balance, recognizing that while the law is not a means to salvation it should be delighted in as an expression of the will of God. Stott writes;
Is the law still binding on the Christian? The answer to that is “No!” and ‘Yes!’ ‘No’ in the sense that our acceptance before God does not depend on it. Christ in his death fully met the demands of the law, so we are delivered from it [as a means of salvation]. It no longer has any claims on us [to condemn us for sin]. It is no longer our lord. ‘Yes’ in the sense… we still serve… But the motive and means of our service have altered. Why do we serve? Not because the law is our master and we have to, but because Christ is our husband and we want to. Not because obedience to the law leads to salvation, but because salvation leads to obedience to the law. The law says, ‘Do this and you will live’. The gospel says, ‘You live, so do this.’ How do we serve? Not in oldness of letter, but in the newness of spirit. That is, not by obedience to an external code, but by surrender to an indwelling Spirit. (65-66)
This does not mean that the written law of God in the Holy Scriptures is not binding on us, but rather that we obey in a new motivation and in a new framework. Our motivation to obey is a response to God’s grace, and our framework is that we are accepted on the basis of Christ’s fulfilling the law, not ours. Now, undoubtedly this is a very simplistic answer and there are many nuances to this issue. But, in the spirit of simplicity and general attitude towards the law – I think we can learn much from this quote.