Why this is important: Legalism is deadly. Jesus is very clear that God wants our hearts.
- Jesus put an end to the law.
- Jesus detests legalistic religious elites and the focus on rule following.
- Jesus makes it simple for us.
- Our job is to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
An exposition of Romans 10:4, which says: “the Messiah is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes,“ will help in understanding what is means that the disciples of Jesus are not under the law. The apostle Paul clarifies the effects of original sin in Romans 2:12, stating “All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.” All men stand condemned before God, whether they are Jews or not, or to put it another way, whether they have the Law of God or not. Paul also states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
If we are without the Messiah, we are justly condemned in God’s sight by the Law that was given to His servant Moses. However, we might argue that those who are not Jewish and therefore do not benefit from the knowledge of the Mosaic Law (including the moral and ceremonial laws), should not be condemned in the same way. This is dealt with by the Apostle in Romans 2:14-15, where he states that the Gentiles have the essence of God’s legal requirements already ingrained and so are just as much without excuse.
The Law is the issue that has to be dealt with in order to bring us into a right relationship with God. “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus the Messiah. So we, too, have put our faith in the Messiah Jesus that we may be justified by faith in the Messiah and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). This passage reveals that the Law cannot justify or make righteous any man in God’s sight, which is why God sent His Son to completely fulfil the requirements of the Law for all those who would ever believe in Him.
The Messiah Jesus redeemed us from the curse that has been brought through the law by becoming a curse for us. Jesus substituted Himself in our place and upon the cross took the punishment that is justly ours so that we are no longer under the curse of the Law.
- In doing so, He fulfilled and upheld the requirements of the Law.
- This does not mean that the disciples of Jesus are to be lawless, as some advocate today—a teaching called antinomianism.
- Rather, it means that we are free from the Mosaic Law and instead under the law of the Messiah, which is to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
The Messiah became the end of the Law by virtue of what He did on earth through His sinless life and His sacrifice on the cross. So, the Law no longer has any bearing over us because its demands have been fully met in the Master Jesus the Messiah. Faith in the Messiah who satisfied the righteous demands of the Law restores us into a pleasing relationship with God and keeps us there. No longer under the penalty of the Law, we now live under the law of grace in the love of God.
- Mark 7:1–8 — The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
- Isaiah 29:13 — 13 Then the Master said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
- Matthew 9:10–13 — 10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”