“I will meditate upon Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” Ps. 119:15, 16
Understanding the difference between Old Testament saints who were serving God by faithfully obeying the law of God, and New Testament believers who are born again and living by the Spirit, is necessary for properly grasping the role of the principles and precepts for today. The fundamental difference is that Old Testament saints were not born again. No one was born again until Jesus was raised from the dead for our justification (see the first new birth experience, Jn 20:22). This means that Old Testament saints lived by simple will-power to obey; having their sins rolled back by yearly atonement sacrifices. This is why we see Israel turning away from God continually, suffering the consequences, then returning again. The purpose of the Law was not to make men righteous (Gal 3:11, 19) but to show that one cannot stand faultless before God without a perfect substitute (Heb 10:1-10), which provides the way for a new heart and new spirit within (Ezek 36:26, 27).
So now that we are born again and have the Spirit of God dwelling within us (Jn 3:5-8), what role does the law of God, the principles and precepts, play in the life of the believer? Do we now ignore the Old Testament because the demands of the law have been fulfilled (Rom 10:4)? Are we now free to live any way we please because of God’s freely-bestowed grace? Paul’s answer to the Roman Christians was, “God forbid!” We are no longer under the law –but now the law lives within – written on our hearts and empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God, causing us, moving us, to walk in the impulses of the Spirit to please God in every way (Rom 8:3, 4).
So when one reads the legal requirements Old Testament, what do they mean to me today? And how should I apply them?
1. Understand that Christ has fulfilled the legal requirements for our salvation by the sacrifice of Himself. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation.
2. Your sanctification is no longer a matter of sheer will power (making yourself do right), but is a partnership with the Holy Spirit who lives within you and is constantly making His divine energy (energes—operation, working) available to you to do what you could not do before, including resisting temptation. Notice this divine-human partnership expressed in Philippians 2:12, 13: “… work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility. For it is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose.” God (the Spirit) is working His will and power in us — therefore, we
apply that divine power to take personal responsibility to please Him. So, staying full of the Spirit is a key to our sanctification (Rom.8:13).
3. The principles and precepts are not, then, what we have to do, but what we can and will do when living a life full of God. Paul says it best – it’s no longer I, but Christ living in me (Gal.2:20).
4. See the principles and precepts as what life looks life when living it in the fullness of God’s Spirit. For example, the “Be-attitudes” are not a new list of do’s and don’ts super-imposed over the existing law, but a picture of what life in the Kingdom is like when we’re full of Him (Eph 3:19).
5. The principles and precepts of the Law serve as a huge gauge on my spiritual dashboard telling me when I am “running on empty” or need a refill of the Spirit. If my “want to’s” are not locked in to God, or I am not seeing people (and material things) the way God does, then I need let the river flow again (Jn 7:37-39).
What the law of God declares you MUST do, the Spirit of God makes you WANT TO do and keeps bringing you to a conversation with Jesus, asking Him for more of His Spirit. This is how His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If it seems you are struggling, spending a lot of energy to do the right things (but actually wanting to do the wrong ones), ask Him to fill you again with His Spirit – but don’t get back under the burden of the Law. You started this new life in the Spirit, let’s keep going and growing that same way; don’t be too quick to replace a dynamic relationship with the Person of Jesus for principles and precepts about Him.
“Fill me again with your Spirit Father. I want everything you have for me today – but mostly, I just want You.”
Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016