Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)
His delight is in the law of the Lord. What delight is there in in the Law? After reading the New Testament, the Apostle Paul in particular, we know the Law does not make us righteous but in fact more guilty. The Gospel is superior to the Law; the Gospel is good news and the Law is bad news right?
Paul has a lot to say in his letters about the Law. Throughout the Book of Romans, the paragraphs have subject headers like “Judgement and the Law,” “Released from the Law,” “Sin and Law” and so on. As a Pharisee, Paul had studied the Law well and enforced it. As a Christian sharing the Gospel, he realized that the Law and the Prophets had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. His opinion of the Law remained very high. Paul says the Law is like a tutor, or school master. It teaches us about the attributes of God. Living under the Law though would mean we are still subject to God’s judgement. Living under grace is far superior to meeting the requirements of the Law. Keeping the Law is a burden we cannot bear.
Paul also has a thing or two to say about love. I was struck during my last read of Romans at how Paul relates love and the Law together. Note this passage from Romans 13:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. -Rom 13:8-10
Wow. Love is the fulfilling of the Law; very similar to Jesus’s answer about the greatest commandment in Mark 12. In that case, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no way to violate any one of the 10 commandments if this love is our guiding principle. Which is exactly what Paul explains here. In John 15, Jesus said things like “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” and even “I give you this commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” I’m still amazed at the way Paul expresses love as the fulfillment of the Law.
This lesson is from Mark 7:1-22. Jesus is being questioned about why his disciples eat without washing their hands. Jesus’ response says a lot about first century Jews’ attitudes toward the Old Testament Law, and how they lived out their convictions in real life.
Jesus’ immediate reply to their criticism is to quote from Isaiah “this people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Jesus tells them that they ignore God’s commandment to keep the commandment of men. Continue reading →