Several years ago we were working our way as a church through the Ten Commandments each Lord’s Day. One of the things that struck me again in thinking about the Law as given by God to His chosen people, Israel, was how much that Law reveals the nature and character of God. Indeed, the very essence of the Law flows from the Law-giver Himself. This is an important truth to remember for at least two reasons.
First, it logically follows that if the Law is not an arbitrary set of commands, but flows from God’s nature, then only one who is fully like God can ever fully keep the Law. Law-keeping, just like the laws themselves, flows from deep wells up to the surface. To try to keep the Law is to try to be like God.
Apart from Christ, this is self-righteousness. Only the arrogant, the foolish, or the ignorant believe that fresh water can flow from stagnant pools. No one can perfectly fulfill the Law of God unless they perfectly reflect the heart of God. This is why we must be united with Christ and have His righteousness attributed by God to us. Christ fulfilled the Law because “He [was] the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” (Hebrews 1:3).
Second, it also follows that, if the Law is a reflection of God’s heart and character, then the more we are conformed to the image of Christ through our union with Him, then the more fully and deeply we will love and obey the Law. Hear again the writer of Hebrews: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Hebrews 13:8)
So, on the one hand, we have a keeping of the Law apart from faith in Christ that leads to self-righteousness and condemnation. On the other hand, we have a humbling and uniting of ourselves to Christ in faith, which leads to self-denial and the way of holiness which culminates in life everlasting.