St. Paul says in Galatians 6:15 that “…what counts is the new creation” And Romans 6:11 says “…therefore count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. In Romans, Paul also describes how the Law and the sinful nature work hand in hand to bring death.
And, you need to know that actually if you are trying to justify yourself by Law – by trying to do good works to make yourself more acceptable to God; by trying to always obey the Law and striving hard not to ‘sin’ – then you are actually working hand in hand with the ‘sinful nature’. In short, the worst thing you could possibly do is to try to do good, if you really want to please God! And this is because you are effectively saying that you can manage it yourself; that you don’t need God’s Grace to do it for you. You are saying that actually, even in some small way, you can do this thing yourself, thank you very much, and you don’t need help from anyone!
And don’t confuse the help that you think the Spirit will give you – supposedly to achieve this monumental task – with Grace. Don’t confuse the two. Because Grace only comes into operation when you realise that actually there is nothing – nothing at all, big or small that you can do to help God work in you through His Grace. The only thing you need to do is to live life in the Spirit; God will take care of the rest. Don’t think that striving hard to do good works is the same thing as the Spirit of God working within you to resist temptation, obey the Law, or anything like that. It’s not the same thing at all; in fact it is a counterfeit of the real thing; a man-made set of ‘things to do’ and things to be seen doing, that will not justify you with God in the slightest. Why else do you think that the Law exists in order to bring you to the end of your own strength, if not to lead you to Grace so that you can shed the Law once and for all?
“Oh but you have to still obey the Law, you’ve got to do a token obedience, you’ve still got to obey the law a little bit”. That little bit would soon become everything, because it’s the yeast of the Pharisees . Be on your guard – because it’s insidious! Life in the Spirit is not anything like life under the Law, because in the Spirit you don’t even think about the Law, you just get on with living your life for Jesus. In fact you will then find that actually you obey the Law without even thinking about it, because of the Spirit living within you and living His life through you. This is life under the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace. Legalists in Christian circles have it back to front; they think that obeying the Law makes you righteous (even though they would probably deny it, they do live as if they believe it!) – whereas actually it’s the Life in the Spirit that produces the righteous obedience to the Law. The legalists want the outside appearance without the inner power; they want it all to remain in their own control. And that’s why it doesn’t work, as we’ve seen already!
And now here’s even more Good News about being rid of the Law and its power. In Romans 7:1ff, Paul shows that “…the Law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives”. Because we have died with Christ, the Law now no longer has any authority over us. You die to the old life, die to the sinful nature, and because they are hand-in-hand with the Law, that means that you die to the Law as well. The power of the Law is in the sinful nature, trying to be justified through works. I’m not talking about the ‘law of the land’, where the government has decreed that you mustn’t murder or steal. I’m talking about God’s Law; the Law from the Covenant of Moses on Sinai where God set a Law that was actually impossible to keep*. And so, Jesus Christ is the One Who has kept the Law for us, so that if we are identified with Him, it is counted as if we have indeed kept the impossible Law and we are now the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor 5:21). This is all incredible stuff; unbelievable and undeserved indeed except that the Grace of God – the totally unearned, unmerited favour of God towards us – supplies it.
And in this way lies your freedom. Freedom from having to try to work your way into a place where God can bless you. Freedom from human rules and opinions, where the only opinion that matters is God’s.
*Why would God set a Law that was impossible to keep? Actually what He was doing here wasn’t so much to set the bar too high, but actually to show people that they could never be good enough simply by obeying the Law. It’s not that He set the Law too high to keep, it was that the sort of Law that people would feel they had to keep would always be too high, and unattainable. The people wanted to change from the Abrahamic covenant of Grace – where God justifies the righteous by faith – to a Law-based covenant. And so, at Sinai, God gave the people what they wanted in the Ten Commandments and all the little sub-laws, rules and interpretations that followed along from those Commandments. As described in Paul’s letter to the Romans, this Law was impossible to keep in order to show us that this was the case, not to make us lawbreakers.