For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
Christians often say that we are not under the law, but which law are they speaking about? Obviously, we are under the federal and state speeding laws, because if we break the law and get caught we will get a ticket. We are under the laws of the IRS, and we pay our taxes every year in order not to be fined. The more important part of the above verse is the fact that sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace. How does being under grace instead of the law prevent sin from having dominion over us? The Bible also says that Christ is the end of the law to the believer.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. Romans 14:4
The Bible also teaches that the old covenant was made obsolete when God instituted or brought in a new covenant.
When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear. Hebrews 8:13 NLT
To understand better what the Bible is teaching us when saying that we are not under the law, we need to understand the covenants of the Bible in a more comprehensive way. It is confusing at first glance, because the Bible is split up into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. These are names for the two sections of the Bible, but the Old Testament and the old covenant are two entirely different things. Usually, when Scriptures in the New Testament are referring to the Old Covenant, they are referring to the Mosaic Covenant or the law that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
The Bible speaks of several different covenants that God entered into with mankind. The first one is the Noahic Covenant that God gave to Noah. This was given just after the flood, and the promises that God gave to Noah are still in operation today. Every time we see a rainbow in the sky, we can rest assured that God will never destroy this earth again with a flood.
Later, God entered into a covenant with Abram in which the LORD promised him many wonderful things. This covenant is still in effect today as God is still blessing the countries that bless Israel and cursing those that curse Israel. The Promised Land still belongs to the Jews, no matter what man says, because God already promised it to them.
Also, we find in our Bibles that God entered into a covenant with David in which God promised David that his sons would rule the kingdom and that David’s seed, the Messiah, would rule forever. This is another covenant in which God promised something that is still in effect today.
When one reads the books of Romans, Hebrews, or Galatians, we see a lot of verses concerning the law or the covenant. It is important to know that when the Bible says that we are “not under the law,” it is referring to the Mosaic Law or the Mosaic Covenant. This covenant was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, some 430 years after Abraham. It was a national covenant that God entered into with the Jews.
The covenant that God gave to Moses contained 613 different laws that the Jews were to keep or obey. This covenant was conditional as God said, “I will bless them if they obey and keep the laws, and I will curse them if they disobey.” Within the 613 laws, we find some civil laws, some ceremonial laws, and some moral laws. This covenant was a temporary covenant, and it was only intended to be in effect until Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came and fulfilled the law. He did this with His perfect life and sacrificial death. At the cross when Jesus cried, “It is finished,” He made the old covenant obsolete, and He instituted or brought in the new covenant.
But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. Hebrews 8:6-7 NLT
God did not make a mistake and change His mind between the Mosaic Covenant and the new covenant. Lots of ignorant people seem to think that God took a good manners course somewhere between the Old Testament and the New Testament and became a much sweeter God. Or, they may think that Jesus, the Son of God, was a much kinder God full of grace than was the LORD of the old covenant who was full of wrath and indignation. This, of course, is foolish babel, as we know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He is a God that doesn’t change, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in complete agreement and have the exact same nature. To understand what happened between the old and the new, we need to understand that the LORD is a revealer, and the entire Bible is a story of God revealing His Name or His Nature to mankind. From Genesis all the way through Revelation, we see more and more of His nature revealed to mankind, as God stepped up His revelation as time progressed onward.
The law that God gave to Moses was holy, just, fair, and good. This was God’s fence that He gave to Israel. It was a fence of protection, a fence of government, a fence of security. It allowed Israel to become a country, and it helped govern them when they inhabited the Promised Land. However, the main purpose of the Law of Moses was to point the children of Israel toward their promised Messiah. They were not saved or justified by keeping the law. Instead, they were saved by faith as they looked forward or toward the cross. The law would show them where they were missing it morally, and it would provide a solution to their problems, as they looked, by faith, through the pictures, types, and shadows toward their promised Messiah Who was still to come, Jesus Christ.
Many of the laws in the Mosaic Covenant were civil laws. Obviously, we are not under those laws here in the USA today, but we are under the laws of the federal, state and local governments. We don’t keep these laws to try to save ourselves, but to stay out of trouble. We may not agree with many of these laws, but they do keep an order to the society in which we live today.
Most of the laws that God gave to Moses were what Bible scholars call ceremonial laws, all of which were to point Israel toward their Messiah Who was promised to them, but yet to come. The tabernacle that God gave to Israel in the wilderness was simply a picture, a type, or a shadow of the more perfect Tabernacle that was to come, Jesus Christ. Each of the seven pieces of furniture in the Mosaic Tabernacle was a picture of Jesus. All of the sacrifices were shadows of the perfect Sacrifice, the Lamb of God. The High Priest was a type of Jesus Christ, the Priest, after the order of Melchizedek. The tabernacle and the High Priest served as a temporal mediator between man and God, but now we have the perfect Mediator, Jesus Christ. The seven feast days of Israel were all pictures of Jesus. Jesus was our Passover. Jesus was the unleavened Bread. Jesus was our First Fruits, etc… Every ceremonial law was fulfilled by the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. When Jesus cried, “It is finished” at the cross, the veil of the Temple was rent to and fro, and the old covenant, or the Mosaic Covenant, was completed, fulfilled, and made obsolete. The glory of God left the Ark of the Covenant, and now in the new covenant it rests or abides in the believers' hearts.
But what about the moral law that God gave to Moses? What happened to the moral law at the cross? This is a point of contention, confusion, and debate amongst Christians today. Some say that the moral law never changes, and even though we are saved by faith, we should still strive to keep the moral law that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. This is immature thinking.
Let’s begin by looking at the Ten Commandments. The first three Commandments deal with man's relationship with God, and the last six deal with man’s relationship with mankind. The fourth is the Law of Sabbath Day. When Jesus came to this earth, He worked on the sabbath day as He picked corn, and in several instances He healed people on the sabbath. This made the Pharisees very angry with Him. They couldn’t understand what they thought was a blatant disregard or disrespect for the Sabbath day.
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. Matthew 12:1, 2
They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day... John 9:13-16
The Pharisees didn’t understand that Jesus was the Sabbath. The principle of the Sabbath was instituted in the creation story, and the Law of Moses gave in great detail how man was to rest one day a week. Now, in the New Testament, the Sabbath was a person who was walking, teaching, and healing. He was even speaking to them, but their blind eyes could not see Him. God, since the beginning, was always revealing His nature of rest. The only way a human will ever understand rest is to stop trying to redeem himself, put his trust in God, and enter into the Sabbath Rest that only Jesus can give.
For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Hebrews 4:10
Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Paul made it clear to the Colossians that the Sabbath was simply a shadow of the true Rest that we find in Jesus Christ. We, as new covenant believers, should not respect or honor a certain day of the week.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Colossians 2:16-17
Jesus is our Sabbath Day; Jesus is our Rest. We should not observe a natural day of rest, trying to be holy, for that is an offense to the cross. There are Christian denominations today that make a big deal out of observing their day of rest on Saturday instead of Sunday. These people may have good intentions and may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong, as they have missed the whole point. Jesus is the Sabbath Day. Many years ago I had a friend tell me, “I have decided not to commerce on Sundays.” This man thought he was really being holy with his new decision, but in reality he was trying to add to what Jesus did for him at the cross. The Bible says that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
So, if one of the Ten Commandments was clearly fulfilled by Jesus Christ, what about the rest of the moral law? Are we supposed to keep the other nine commandments? We have our key to this question in the passage below:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Matthew 5:17, 18
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Romans 3:31
Jesus did not come to destroy the Law of Moses; He came to fulfill the law. Jesus came to establish the law, and He did this by living a perfect, sinless, spotless life for His entire 33 ½ years that He walked this earth. This is phenomenal to think about. It is the most amazing thing that has ever happened in the history of humanity. The reality of Jesus living that long and never having one sinful thought, nor speaking a single scornful word, nor doing anything that was not the will of His Heavenly Father is amazing. He was perfect, and He was tempted and tried in all points like we are tempted and tried. Jesus fulfilled the moral law by being the only person in the history of mankind who has ever kept the law 100% obediently. When we say that we are saved by faith, this is our faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for us. We could say that we are saved by works, but that would be by the works of Jesus Christ. Grace is free to us, but it cost God everything.
We need to understand that by Jesus’ perfect, sinless, spotless life, He fulfilled the law as He kept the law 100% correctly and obediently. Jesus fulfilled the law for us; He did what no man could ever do by keeping and fulfilling the law. So now when we believe God and He imputes unto us righteousness, He is giving us His righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God is not just making us good, but He is actually putting the righteousness of Jesus Christ into us. This could never have happened if Jesus would have sinned one time.
Because Jesus lived a perfect life, He could go to Calvary and nail the law to the cross, for it would not condemn us anymore, and He would take the curse of the law that we deserved upon Himself on our behalf.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Colossians 2:14
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: Galatians 3:13
Jesus would also nail our sinful flesh to the cross, as He actually became our sin, so that we could be freed from the power of sin and be made the righteousness of God in Christ.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5:21
Therefore, at the cross, Jesus nullified the law and the power of sin. Most Christians constantly struggle against the law as they try their best to keep the law, and if they are honest with themselves, they constantly fail. Now the law has been fulfilled; the power of sin has been broken, and God has made a way for us to receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Wow, that is grace! This is what the Bible means when it says, "For you are not under the law, but under grace."
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
Even in the light of this great truth, the devil tries to twist and turn this to make Christians think that this somehow gives them a license to sin. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Romans 6:15
In fact, Jesus gave these words to His disciples.
If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
We are not under the law, but under grace, and yet, Jesus is telling us to keep His Commandments. The Law of Moses was engraved upon tablets of stone, but the new covenant engraves the Law of Christ in our minds and in our hearts. The Law of Moses told people what to do and what not to do, but the new covenant actually gives us the desire and power to keep the Law of Christ.
But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:10 NLT
In the new covenant, Jesus made possible what was impossible under the old covenant, because now the law written in stone, that condemned us in the flesh, is now written on our hearts. Now Jesus Christ Himself comes to reside in our hearts and the Law-Giver becomes the Law-Liver in our lives. As we follow the Holy Spirit, by yielding ourselves to Him, we find that He will keep His law for us and through us. As we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law of Moses that was written in stone, we are under grace, and God's Son, Jesus Christ, lives in our hearts, doing what we could never do without Him.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Galatians 5:18
The Law of Christ is not complicated. Actually, it can be summed up in one command, and that is to love God and people.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Galatians 5:14
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36-40
Love is the fulfilling of the law. Furthermore, if you have no love in your heart for God or for others, you really need to take a good hard look at yourself and examine your heart to see if you have a new covenant relationship with God. You should be able to tell if you are still struggling and striving with your flesh against the Mosaic Law, always defeated, always missing the mark and feeling guilty or condemned, or if you are walking in the victorious love and power of Jesus Christ. In the new covenant, we don’t need to bring any of the Mosaic Laws over into our new covenant theology. We don’t define our relationship with Jesus outside of His Words or the Apostles' explanation of His Words that we find in the books of the New Testament.
Some people say they put their faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for them, but then they try to hedge their bet a bit by also trying to keep certain laws that are from the Mosaic Law. They are probably unconscious of what they are really doing, but in essence they are not quite sure that what Jesus did for them is enough, so they are buying a little insurance by also doing their best to live right and holy. The cross was a great offense to the Pharisees, and this old covenant living is an offense to the cross. It is saying to Jesus, "You were not enough for me. I need to do some of this myself”, or “I feel the need to try to save myself." The Bible says that people that live this way are fallen from grace.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. Galatians 5:4
The only way a human being can be justified in the sight of God is by the faith of Jesus Christ.
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:21
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20
The Mosaic Law was there simply to show us our imperfections and prove to us that we cannot possibly be holy on our own. The moral law drove us to Christ because it helped us see that we need a Savior. The ceremonial law helped us recognize that Jesus Christ is our one true Savior and the Messiah Who fulfilled the law for us.
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. Galatians 3:24-25
Subsequently, next time we are feeling a little bit self-righteous because of our good clean living or from the fact that we often go to church, pray, study our Bibles, pay our tithes, or care for the poor, we need to remind ourselves that we are justified by His blood, and we are made righteous by His perfect life. Jesus fulfilled the law. He imputes His righteousness to us when we come to Him by faith. Accordingly, accept God’s terms and conditions of His new covenant believe and receive God’s promises, and stop wrestling with our flesh against the law. Learn to reckon ourselves dead to sin with the law at the cross, and walk in newness of life, or walk in the Spirit. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit, and the Christ in you will keep His laws, the Law of Christ. There is no other covenant, for the new covenant is the covenant of the Bride of Christ. All the promises you need to complete your spiritual journey are contained in the new covenant. Accept, believe, receive all that Jesus did for you, and live a life full of joy, as you continually experience the goodness and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.