In John Wesley’s sermon “The Law Established Through Faith, I”, he masterfully explains how a Christian is supposed to apply the law of God to his life. This is a crucially important thing, not only for maintaining the true faith that saves from Hell, but for growing in Christian holiness by the Spirit of God. Matthew 7 teaches that only those who do the will of God will make it to Heaven, and this will is expressed in the commandments of Christ. 1 John says over and over that Christians are not saved at all, nor in love, nor in saving faith, unless they consciously keep the commandments of Christ in their lives. This is a dreadfully convicting thing to think about. He explains that Christians must avoid the error of the Pharisees–which was the belief that they could earn their salvation by keeping God’s commandments, even the ceremonial laws of Moses, like circumcisions, and Sabbath days. Christians are also cautioned to avoid the error of the Antinomians–which is the belief (very commonly taught by heretics today) that a simple faith in Christ’s death on the cross for our sins, by which God forgives us, somehow frees us from the obligation to keep God’s commandments, even from the obligation to obey Christ’s commandments! This is taken from certain things that the apostle Paul wrote, such as, “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14), “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4), and “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:23-25).
But Wesley shows that Antinomians are all in error, and they don’t interpret correctly what Paul meant by the “law” in these verses. He shows plainly, and I agree with him, that Paul was speaking of the Old Testament concept of salvation, which was similar to the Hindu law of karma (except reincarnation). Under the Old Testament law of Moses, men were saved, and forgiven of their sins, by trying to keep God’s commandments to the best of their ability. If they did not keep God’s commandments, then God would punish them, and Hell would swallow them up. Samuel said, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Keeping God’s commandments was better than atoning for sin by animal sacrifices.
But in the New Testament, especially in Hebrews, it shows that animal sacrifices cannot take away the condemnation of a guilty conscience weighed down by sins. Hence salvation by the Old Testament law was a schoolmaster to point us to the guilt-free sacrifice of Christ on the cross–the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He who repents of his sins, and intends to live imperfectly by Christ’s commandments for the rest of his life, has continual need to apply by faith the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. If I try to obey Christ’s commandments every day, then it is inevitable I will sin by accident, because I am not perfect, as Romans 7 says. When I sin by accident, I immediately turn my eyes of faith to Christ crucified, and understand by faith that my sin has been atoned for, and when I repent through faith in this, God will forgive my sins, and His wrath will be turned away from me, as far as the East is from the West. Hence, a proper faith in Christ crucified, should not lead a Christian to think that he is “free from the law,” in the sense that God does not expect him to live by Christ’s commandments! Paul said, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2). The reason why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, was so that God could forgive us quicker, we can have peace of mind, and as Christ said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV). This is the New Testament concept of salvation, and if anyone thinks otherwise, then he should expect an intense wrath of God and Hell fire upon the time of his death! Never was Christ’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, ever intended to “change the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4).
Christians will never be perfect, but are urged by Paul to “aim for perfection” (2 Corinthians 13:11). What is the perfect standard? The moral law of God. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7). But there has been a change of the law since the New Testament was instituted (Hebrews 7:12). It should be obvious in the plain reading of the New Testament, that the ceremonial law of Moses has been done away with, and that Christians are only bound to keep the moral law, which has been perfectly defined by the commandments of Christ. Empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts through God’s love, Christians are supernaturally enabled by this grace to live by “the righteous requirements of the law” (Romans 8:4). All the Old Testament kosher foods, and ceremonies, are of no concern to the Christian–even keeping the Sabbath Day does not matter (Colossians 2:16). All that matters is living righteously by the commandments of Christ. This should utterly define a true Christian’s life.