Jesus and the Law


1. As discussed in the sermon, Scripture presents the story of gospel as the story of a husband who dies to pay the penalty for his wife’s adultery and to set her free from the marriage oath which condemns her, who then rises from the dead and marries her again, this time imparting to her his own Spirit of love and faithfulness. (See Rom 7.1-4; for background see Isa 54.5; Jer 2.2; 3.14; 31.31-33.) Does this story change your understanding of what Christ has done for us, and if so, how? Does this understanding of the gospel affect your gratitude toward Christ? Does it affect how you might communicate the gospel to another, and if so, how? 2. The law was a confusing and controversial topic in Jesus’ day, and it is still so today. What are some different views of the law you have held or been exposed to as a Christian? 3. One of the main reasons Christians have tended to view the law as a way of works salvation is Paul’s statement in Gal 3.12 that the “law is not of faith.” In the previous verse, Paul issues his famous declaration that “the just shall live by faith.” (Gal 3.11.) On the face of Paul’s language, it is easy to conclude that Paul is contrasting salvation by faith under the gospel with salvation by works under the law — thus contrasting believing versus doing. As was pointed out in the sermon, Paul’s famous statement that “the just shall live by faith” is a quote from the Old Testament book of Habakkuk (Hab 2.4). When Jesus or the apostles quoted the OT, they weren’t proof texting, but were calling to mind the entire context. Read Habakkuk 1.1-4 which provides the context for Paul’s famous quote. According to Habakkuk, what was the problem with the law? Now read the following sections of Paul’s longest treatment of the law — Rom 7.10-14 and Rom 8.3-4. According to Paul, what was the problem with the law? If, as Paul says, the law is not only “holy and righteous and good,” but also “spiritual,” can it really be an anti-gospel road of works salvation? (Rom 7.12, 14.) According to Jer 31.33, what does the new covenant do with the law? 4. As discussed in the sermon, Scripture presents the law as a marriage oath between the preincarnate Christ and his people, an oath that was about love, loyalty, and faithfulness, an oath that was designed not for God’s people to try to earn their salvation, but for them to know how to love the God who had loved and saved them. (See verses listed in question 1.) Does this understanding put the law in a different light for you, and if so, how? Does this understanding help us avoid the trap of fearing that anything we do to please God is a form of works salvation? Does this understanding affect how you might use the law in your own life, both in your relationship with God and with others? If so, how? 5. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for replacing the law with their own standards, some of which added to the law and some of which took away from it (Mark 7.3-9). He also condemned them for focusing on the skinny branches of the law while ignoring the trunk (Mat 23.23). He said one of their main motivations was men’s praise (Mat 23.14; Luke 11.43; Luke 16.14). And two of the Gospels point out that it was because of envy that the Jewish leaders (including the Pharisees) had Jesus crucified (Mat 27.18; Mark 15.10). Keep in mind that the Pharisees were the evangelicals of the day. Are there any ways that we, the evangelicals of our day, might be guilty of some of the same sins the Pharisees were guilty of? 6. The sermon pointed out that, unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament says nothing about sins like pedophilia and beastiality. Do you think the NT authors were signaling that God had restricted his moral and societal concerns in the NT? Or do you think the NT authors were assuming God’s moral and societal concerns continued into the NT and therefore did not need to be exhaustively repeated? 7. Many Christians today believe God’s moral law applies only to the Church and not to the state or to society. These Christians typically point to “natural law,” which they say reflects the second table of the law prohibiting murder, adultery, theft, lying, and coveting, as the proper basis for societal morality and ethics. In our post-modern world, do you think “natural law” provides an adequate basis for societal law, morality, and ethics? Why or why not? If not, how do we as Christians advocate for God’s law in a way that is winsome and persuasive? Or to use Jesus’ words, how shall we be ”shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves”? (Mat 10.16.) As you consider this question, think about the recent events and media coverage concerning the Obama administration requirement for churches and Christian charities to pay for healthcare that includes contraceptive services, as well as the media treatment of candidate Rick Santorum’s personal support of the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against contraception.

Click the play button to listen to 'Jesus and the Law' by Alan Burrow.