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Christians Are Not Under the Law – but what does that mean?

While I affirm the Biblical assertion that Christians are ‘not under the Law’ (Romans 6:14), I contend that the traditional interpretation of this phrase is problematic. This conventional view suggests that upon conversion, Christians are no longer bound by the commandments of God’s Law, implying a discontinuation of the Law’s legal and moral requirements for believers. However, this interpretation raises several issues:

Redefinition of Sin: If Christians are not required to obey the Law, this implies a fundamental redefinition of what constitutes sin. Under this interpretation, actions that were considered sinful under the Law (such as breaking the Sabbath or dietary restrictions) would no longer be sinful for a Christian post-conversion. This raises the question: does conversion alter the moral fabric of actions, transforming what was once sinful into something that is no longer sinful? The answer is simple: no. Our faith is an establishment of God’s Law, not an abandonment of it (Romans 3:31).

Moral Consistency: This view could lead to a moral inconsistency where the same action (e.g., working on the Sabbath) is sinful for a non-Christian but not for a Christian. It creates a dichotomy in moral standards between those who are Christians and those who are not, which is incongruent with the idea of a universal moral law (James 2:10-11).

Pre-Conversion Sins: According to the traditional view, Christians were “under the Law” before their conversion (Galatians 3:23-25). This suggests that they were guilty of sinning against the Law before becoming Christians. However, if post-conversion the Law is no longer applicable, does this mean that the sins they were guilty of pre-conversion are now acceptable behaviors? This raises questions about the nature of repentance and the transformation that occurs at conversion (Acts 26:20).

Implications for Christian Witness and Teaching: If Christians are not bound by the Law, how does this affect their moral and ethical teachings and witness? It could lead to a scenario where Christians are preaching and teaching values that they themselves are not required to adhere to, which is hypocritical (Matthew 5:17-19).

Theological Implications: This interpretation also has significant theological implications. If the Law is no longer applicable to Christians, what does this say about the continuity of God’s moral expectations throughout the Biblical narrative? It could imply a discontinuity in God’s moral requirements from the Old Testament to the New Testament, which could be problematic for understanding the consistency of God’s character and expectations (Hebrews 8:10).

In conclusion, the traditional interpretation of Christians being ‘not under the Law’ warrants a thorough reexamination. While the Biblical text clearly states this principle (Romans 6:14), its implications, as traditionally understood, raise critical questions about the nature of sin, moral consistency, and the role of the Law in Christian life. This interpretation suggests a redefinition of sin post-conversion and creates a dualistic moral standard that appears inconsistent with the Biblical portrayal of a universally applicable moral law (James 2:10-11). Furthermore, it implies a problematic notion that behaviors once considered sinful pre-conversion might now be acceptable, challenging the traditional understanding of repentance and spiritual transformation (Acts 26:20).

The implications of this interpretation extend to the core of Christian witness and teaching, potentially leading to a disparity between the values Christians preach and those they are expected to uphold, which could be perceived as hypocritical (Matthew 5:17-19). Additionally, it raises theological concerns about the continuity of God’s moral expectations across the Biblical narrative, from the Old to the New Testament (Hebrews 8:10).

Ultimately, this discussion invites a deeper exploration into how Christians relate to the Law, urging a balanced view that respects the transformative power of Christ’s work while acknowledging the enduring moral and ethical principles encapsulated in God’s Law. Such an approach would strive to uphold the integrity of Biblical teachings, ensuring that the Christian message remains consistent, relevant, and true to its foundational principles.

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