It’s pretty clear that people don’t like to be told what to do. My mother reminded me of the first time, at two years old, she asked me to do something, and I turned to her and said, “No!” I think that was traumatic for her. As early as two years old, “No,” and “I want to do it myself” become an exercise in human freedom.
Jesus said if you sin, you are a slave to sin. If that’s true, can we ever be free?
Paul said, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). We are able to become righteous (do the right things), not because we work hard and force ourselves to follow the law, but because we follow the example of Christ. People who set their eyes on Christ and how he lived rather than focusing on the Law are more inclined to do the right things for the right reasons.
The Law is a good thing. It’s like a plumb line. Except a plumb line can’t make a board or a wall straight. It can only tell you whether or not the wall is vertical. It’s a measuring tool to help the builder. The same is true of the Ten Commandments. They are a plumb line that I can use on myself to tell whether or not I’m doing what I ought to be doing. The children of Israel had the Law for thousands of years. It never made them better. The Law of Moses still hasn’t changed them to this day.
Christ is the end of the Law as the means to try to bring us to doing the right things. So, how does he do that? How does the Son set you free from sin if the Law is not able to do it? Paul told the church in Rome, “We are made righteous (we come to do the right things) by God’s grace, which is a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
The Greek word for “redemption” does not refer to you and me being bought back from Satan. Greek concordances say it refers to redemption from slavery to the Law of Moses. The old covenant has been replaced by a new covenant in Jesus Christ. The Son has redeemed you and set you free from bondage to laws. He has replaced the Law and become the plumb line by which we can discern if we are in God’s will.
Have you ever wondered what brought Martin Luther the freedom that allowed him in the Reformation to stand up to a thousand years of church tradition? The Son had set him free. He was freed to think for himself and not to be controlled by a thousand years of rules and church traditions. I think his trust in Christ set him free from many of the things he was taught as a child about what a Christian is supposed to think and do. He was freed to think for himself, as an adult having the ability to reason and ask questions like – does this rule make sense?
In Christ, you are free to do the same. You are free to question anything the church does or says when you are following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. You are free to question anything Moses did or said when you follow Christ. You are free to question anything Martin Luther did or said when your trust is placed in Jesus Christ and you are living according to his teachings. He has redeemed you from the old covenant of the Law so that you can follow him instead.
The harder question is: how does the Son sets you free from slavery to sin? Sin is anything that brings harm to another person. How does the Son free you from bringing harm to another person?
The simplest answer I have is that the New Testament tells us Christ Jesus was the image of God in the flesh. I found a Luther quote that agrees with my way of thinking: “You should point to the whole man Jesus and say, ‘That is God.’”
God is love. So Jesus is the human example we are to follow. To follow Jesus is to follow the path of love. That’s why Martin Luther said every law (see my quotes page) whether it’s a law made by the government, made by the church, or written in the Scriptures, it needs to pass through the filter of love: does this law bring harm to my neighbor or does it benefit my neighbor? If it brings good, then keep it. If it brings harm, you don’t have to follow it. We don’t have to put anyone to death if they work on the Sabbath anymore. It’s a biblical law that doesn’t serve Love. That means it doesn’t serve God. You don’t have to follow it.
Christ has set us free to follow the law of love. If we do this, a reformation will begin. With love as your goal and the filter of all laws, you will always do what is right for your neighbor and you will do no harm.