The Law or The Spirit of the Law? (ATP)
This week’s Faith Fix answered the following question: “In John 8:17 which law is Jesus referring too? Is He talking about a spiritual concept?”
In context, Jesus was answering the Pharisees, who we know were the “religious” people of the time. It’s interesting here, and in various places in scripture, that those who were supposed to know the Word of God, the Old Testament, most, were those who couldn’t see what the scripture was pointing to all along, Jesus! You’ll see this in the words of Jesus, that He often responds to people where they’re at, in a place they can understand. Jesus is referring to the law of Moses, which is what the Pharisees adhered to religiously and to their own hurt.
Let’s look at the scripture, John 8:17, “It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true.” In Deuteronomy 17:6, the Bible says, “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses…” This is again found in the Law in Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” Of course, we must understand that the laws of God of the Old Testament were really various protections for the people of God. Imagine if someone accused you of something you did or didn’t do and no one witnessed it other than the guy who’s had it out for you your whole life. Should one person be able to determine guilt without witnesses? Of course not; that’s dangerous ground!
Jesus answered the devil in the garden of Gethsemane in Luke 4:2-4, “being tempted for forty days by the devil. (And) in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ” In just the same manner, He was answering the Pharisees in a sense saying, “it is written” in your own law, the Old Testament, the Word of God that even you know to be true and stand on, that by two or three witnesses shall a matter be established. Listen, I am the Messiah your law points to! My Father is my witness, you know, YOUR God?!?
Now, we could go on and talk a great deal about the law, but let me touch on the second part of your question, “Is the law a spiritual concept?” You may have heard the phrase “the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.“ The law of God always pointed to a need for a Savior, proving that humanity in the flesh could never arrive at righteousness on their own, with a sin nature on the inside, after the fall of Adam in the garden. The law of the Old Testament showed morality and righteousness in the sight of God. Look at Romans 7:5-7, “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law…” The law showed mankind how to live to avoid sin. Of course, we should not go back now and do the opposite, supposing that sin will be acceptable.
Look also at Romans 8:2-3, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” Again, these scriptures teach us the easily understood principle that it would be foolish to think we should ignore the truths of the Old Testament about sin and how we ought to behave as His people.
When Christ came, as He was trying to get over to the Pharisees, He fulfilled the law, meaning He closed the gap between the sin nature of fallen humanity and the righteousness of God. The law was no longer the foundation or the cornerstone for morality, but Jesus was and His example, always in line with the truths of the Old Testament, was a greater understanding of the character of God and His truths.
As Christians who desire to know God fully and truly, we must embark on a search through the entirety of His Word. In this journey, we will see how it’s perfectly connected, perfectly ordered, and leads to the perfect picture of God’s plan for humanity and for His children.