by Layton Friesen
Christians have a complicated relationship with the law of Moses.
As far as we can tell, Jesus and Paul kept Moses’ law faithfully all their lives. For them this was part of how they lived their Christian lives. But in passages like 1 Cor. 15:56 and Rom. 7:5 the law is described as arousing sinfulness, goading it in almost demonic fashion.
How is it possible to reconcile this fact of law arousing sin in the flesh with the loving delight we see for the law in Psalm 19:7-10 where it’s sweeter than honey, refreshing the soul?
We cannot grasp the demonic effect of the law if we see it as merely human rules and regulations. The law is an apocalypse, the actual entrance of God himself into the world. The law of God is not something external to God. It is God coming to his people, being vulnerable then, showing them his inner life and will, and sharing with them the thoughts and intentions he has for creation. God’s law is God.
But here’s the thing: As God comes near, unredeemed humans are given a better way to hurt God. Now their rebellion against him moves from being a vague ignorance to something calculated and pointed, a knife driven knowingly into the very heart of God.
Here’s an analogy. Who in your life is most capable of hurting you? A stranger or your mother and father? The people to whom we have opened ourselves, revealed the inner thoughts of our heart, with whom we are in covenant, these people have a deadly ability to wound us in a way that no stranger can.
Likewise, without the transforming renovation of the heart that comes from baptism by the Spirit of Christ, God revealing himself in the law only goads sin into action. It gives the sinful heart a deadly entry into the affections and love and will of God, a temptation the rebel human heart will never resist.
This culminates on the cross when the God of Israel comes so near that we literally plunge a spear into his heart.
Something entirely different arises after Pentecost. When our hearts are set aflame by the Spirit of Christ our appetites are changed to long for the presence of God in his revealed will for our lives. Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, become something refreshing to us. We cherish this law, meditate upon it, and bend our lives to be united to the God who is it. Through this law God enters our life and we enter his.
There are no neutral bystanders or observers when God draws near. The more openly God shows himself in his will, the more humans are goaded into two opposite reactions: worship and revolt. We either desperately fight like a cornered cat or we crave his law (God!) as a sweet tooth craves a spoon of honey.
To be filled with the Spirit of Christ and to walk by this Spirit is to fulfill the law of Moses. It’s to become someone who finds a deep resonance between our own being and the being of God. God’s presence in our being makes us long for union with the will of God.
I beg you to receive the Holy Spirit of Christ. As your appetite turns, God’s law becomes “more to be desired . . . than gold. . . sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps. 19:10).