Dead to the Law

Our New Husband Fulfilled the Law for Us

Before entering into Christ’s death by God’s gracious gift of faith, we were bound by law and condemned by it. But when we believed that Jesus Christ died for our sins, our relationship to the law ended. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the full condemnation of the law in our stead. The law spent itself out on Him. The law can no longer condemn us because it already condemned our Head, Jesus Christ. He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law, living a righteous life and dying for our transgressions of the law.

This is why Jesus said, in Matthew 5:17 and 18, “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.” Jesus did not come to destroy or tear down the law. He came to fulfill it. For example, if I have a debt and pay it off, I have fulfilled my obligation to my creditor. I didn’t destroy the obligation before paying it off. I fulfilled it. Jesus fulfilled the law in two ways. First, He lived under the law perfectly. He obeyed every bit of the law. Secondly, He paid our penal obligations under the law by dying in our stead. Because of our transgression of the law, because we have all sinned, our obligation under the law was to die and spend eternity in hell. Jesus fulfilled that obligation for us by what He went through on the cross. And when Jesus died on the cross, we died with Him. We died to the law.

We could not rightfully be married to Christ until our marriage to the law ended through our death in Christ. With the resurrection of Christ, we rise as new creatures, the Bride of Christ. As Gilbert Beebe wrote, the church “could not be legally wedded to Christ in the New Covenant relation, until every jot and tittle of the law was fulfilled. The marriage nuptials of the Lamb could not be legalized until the covenant she was under to Moses was lawfully annulled…. As a woman who has a living husband cannot be married to another man without involving the guilt of adultery, so neither can we be married to Christ until we first become fully dead to the law, and the law dead to us. Such a union would be unlawful and adulterous.”

The church must not try to commit adultery by digging up her old husband. Moses was the embodiment of the law. He struck the rock in the wilderness, just as the law struck Christ. Moses had to die before the children could cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Moses’ death symbolized the death of the law. The children of Israel crossing over the Jordan without Moses were a type of the church entering God’s rest by faith and without the law. The church has left the dead law behind and entered into God’s rest led by Jesus (Joshua, who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, was a type of Jesus, and, in fact, the names Joshua and Jesus are the same). Let us not go figuratively searching on the wrong side of the Jordan for the body of Moses. We are not to dig up the law, but leave it buried.

To quote Gilbert Beebe again, “Who that has been slain by the law, and raised from the dead by the resurrection life of Christ, would wish to leave his sacred embrace, to go in search of the dead body of Moses [in other words, law keeping and dead works]? Our dead husband never blessed, but always cursed us. Our living husband always blesses and never curses. The former [meaning the law] required everything, but furnished nothing; but the latter [meaning the grace we have in Jesus] furnishes everything freely, and demands nothing in payment. Then let us with cheerful hearts love, honor and obey him in all things, and never seek another lover.”

The Error of Covenant Theology

But there are many who would bring us back under the law. Some months ago, I heard a minister in a local church preach that we should look to the Pharisees as a good example because of their zeal for keeping the Sabbath. Such attitudes are the result of the fact that much theology was formulated and codified in the 16th and 17th centuries before the Protestant church had completely shed itself of the thinking that had dominated the Roman church-state for centuries. As a result, many churches, in spite of their saying that they follow the Bible alone, are really holding onto unbiblical church traditions as much or even more than they are adhering to the Bible.

Specifically, the artificial system of theology known as Covenant Theology, in saying that the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are merely administrations of the one Covenant of Grace, keeps its adherents bound to the laws of the Old Covenant. In effect, Covenant Theology is guilty of attempting to commit spiritual adultery and even necrophilia by digging up our old husband (the law) and trying to be married to him and to Christ at the same time! By the way, when I say this I do not want to be misunderstood as criticizing the Five Points of Calvinism, which I hold to be true. Neither am I judging anyone’s Christianity. What I am criticizing is the non-biblical idea of Covenant or Reformed Theology that there is but one Covenant of Grace that stretches from right after the Fall of Adam in the Garden until now and which includes the Old Covenant given at Sinai. Our theology should be New Covenant oriented, or New Covenant Theology. Lord willing, I will have much more to say in the future about this topic.

Two Distinct Covenants

Now let us look at Galatians 4. This is the second illustration I mentioned at the beginning. Here, Paul almost appears to be directly addressing the leaders of some of today’s churches. Let’s read verses 21-24: “Tell me, you who wish to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by the servant girl, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the servant girl was born according to the flesh, and he of the free woman through the promise, which things are symbolic. For these are two covenants: one in fact from Mount Sinai, bearing children into slavery, which is Hagar” (English Majority Text Version used from here to end unless otherwise noted).

Paul uses this allegory to drive home the point that the Old Covenant was a covenant of bondage to the law. Ishmael, the son of Hagar the bondmaid, was “born according to the flesh.” That is, he was the product of Sarah’s faithless idea to produce the heir God had promised. Instead of waiting on God in faith, she told Abraham to have sexual relations with Hagar. In other words, it was an idea based on human works rather than on genuine faith. Isaac, on the other hand, was the true son of Sarah, the freewoman. He was the product of God’s promise. He was born despite the fact that Sarah and Abraham were too old to produce a child. Paul goes on to explain that Hagar, the bondmaid, corresponds to Mount Sinai, the place where God gave the law to the Israelites, establishing the Old Covenant.

As Paul says, “for Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, and is in slavery with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, who does not give birth; break forth and shout, who does not have birth pangs; because the children of the desolate are many more than those of her who has a husband’” (verses 25-27). The Old Covenant is the covenant of bondage, the covenant that bound the Jews (called Jerusalem in these verses). It is the covenant of law keeping and faithless works. But Christians, as was Isaac, are the children of the free woman (Sarah) and of promise. We are the children of the Jerusalem that is above, the New Jerusalem. We are under the New Covenant, the covenant of faith and of resting in Christ for our salvation.

“But we, brothers,” Paul continues, “like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as then the one who was born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so it is also now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the servant girl and her son, for the son of the servant girl will certainly not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ So then, brothers, we are not children of the servant girl, but of the free woman” (verses 28-31). We Christians are not the children of the law, or Old Covenant, but we are the children of the Gospel believed through faith by grace. That is why we must never mix the Old Covenant and the New Covenant together as one supposed covenant of grace. To say that the Old Covenant was a covenant of grace is total confusion; it was a covenant of works and of bondage. Only the New Covenant is a covenant of grace and of freedom.

Copyright © 2005-2009 Peter Ditzel