Harmony of the Law and the Gospel
To be under the law means to be under the old covenant. Under the terms of this covenant, the people promise God to meet all the claims that the law has upon their lives (Ex. 19:8).
They accept the responsibility to present to God a life that will measure with the broadest demands of the law. There is no salvation under such a covenant, for there is none among the fallen race who can, in himself, meet the claims of God's law. In Romans 7:1-8 Paul likens being under the law to being married to a husband who stirs up all manner of evil.
Imagine a woman married to a husband who only criticizes her best efforts to please. Let her try ever so hard to serve him, the husband still finds fault. Naturally, love cannot exist in such a union. Only evil can come of it. So it is when a man assumes the responsibility to please the law with his obedience. The law will always find fault. It will always condemn. And under the exasperating experience of trying to satisfy its demands, the heart of man will fret against God and loathe a service that seems so intolerably exacting.
Of course, as Paul hastens to point out, we do not condemn the law because it finds fault with sinful man. We rather extol it as "holy, and just, and good," for the very reason that it refuses to come down to the level of fallen man.
There are some who say, "Oh, I know that in my own strength I cannot tender an obedience that will satisfy the demands of God's law. But by God's help through His Holy Spirit, I can do it." They do not stop to consider that even the Pharisee could pray, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men." Everyone who places himself under the law will say that he intends to satisfy its demands with God's help.
But we want to make the point crystal clear that God does not help any man fulfill the conditions of His covenant. We believe in imparted righteousness, but not for the purpose of helping a believer satisfy the demands of God's law! There are many people who think that imparted righteousness is a means of fulfilling the terms of the old covenant. Never!
The new covenant is established on better promises (NKJ Hebrews 8:6) “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Whereas the old covenant was between God and the people, the new covenant was between God and Christ (Zech. 6:13). In the new arrangement, Christ stands in the place of the people. As their Substitute, He promises to meet every demand of the law on man's behalf.
Whereas under the old covenant man failed to meet the demands of the law, under the new covenant, man —(the Man) —made good every promise to satisfy the broadest claims of the law.
In the first place, Christ, as man's Substitute, rendered an obedience that equaled the law in every respect. Jesus revealed a character that was infinitely perfect (Colossians 1:19; 2:9).
No one but the infinite Son of the infinite God could render an obedience equal to the Law1. But the law also demanded that man die for his transgression. Christ was executed in man's place. By infinite humiliation and inexpressible suffering, He met this demand of the law. When the Son of God died on the cross, He fully exhausted the demands of the law. He fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15).
He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the law (Matt. 5:17-18).
He could truly say, "All that the Lord hath said, I have done." He met every condition of the covenant. It was ratified and sealed by His blood.
Since Christ, on behalf of the whole human race, has fulfilled every condition of the covenant, the believer is never called upon to satisfy the demands of God's law. Those who insist on doing it, however, will certainly do what they choose. By suffering the same sort of death as Jesus Christ, the law will exhaust its demands upon their shelterless heads. We repeat: Christ did not come to give us power to stay under the law and meet its demands. Never! The apostle Paul emphatically declares:
Only a life of infinite value could satisfy the law on behalf of humanity. Only a sacrifice of infinite worth could exhaust the debt. The life of Jesus may be copied, but it cannot be duplicated. Thus it is clear that Jesus did not come to give us strength to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. He fulfilled the conditions Himself. And since He did it as the Substitute of the human race, it was the same as if every man had lived and died as Jesus did (2 Cor. 5:14). Christ Himself is "a covenant of the people" (Isa. 42:6) – that is to say; he who accepts Christ is counted as having met every covenant condition.
The End of the Law for Righteousness
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." Rom 10:4. This means that the one who accepts Christ by faith has met and fulfilled every requirement and demand of the law. Therefore the repentant believer is not under law, but under grace — meaning that he is no longer required to satisfy the demands of the law. The entire debt has been paid by Jesus Christ. Christ is the termination of the broadest demands of the law. When the sinner runs into Jesus as his covenant refuge, the law is fully satisfied.
Against every "Do" of the law, the repentant believer in Jesus can write the "Done" of the gospel. Law says, "Be ye therefore perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Gospel says, "Ye have been brought to perfection in Him" (Col. 2:10). Thus Christ is the end (the fulfillment) of that law which says, "Be perfect." Nothing is lacking.
The New Service of Love
We have seen that being under the law is the same as being married to the law as the first husband (referring to Paul's analogy in Romans 7). And the apostle declares:
Deliverance from law does not mean paying no regard to its just and holy principles. It means the end of the old relationship to it. As believers in Jesus, we are no longer condemned debtors, no longer slaves ground down by the impossible task of trying to satisfy the law's demands. The freedom which Paul speaks of is the freedom of sons who "serve in newness of spirit." "So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God." Rom. 7:25; see also Gal. 4:1-6.
This service is free. It does not come from slaves, but from sons. It is not offered to meet the law's infinite demands, but to express thanks for adoption. In Christ, and in Him alone, is there an obedience with which the law is well pleased. An obedience that measures with the highest claims of the law is found only as God's people abide in Christ by faith.
1 When man aspired to be like God, yet be independent of Him, it seems that he placed himself where he was obligated to render a righteousness that would equal the law, or God Himself. Justice now demanded that he could not be saved unless this finite creature did the "infinite impossibility." Then we see that God takes man's place, and does it for him. Thus fallen man is given a life of greater value than sinless Adam or even sinless angels, for he is counted as having produced a life of equal value to the law.