Our God gave His people the gift of the Law at Sinai because we had forgotten how to be in relationship with Him. Special souls throughout the ages up to that point—Noah, Abraham, etc.—had made their way through the spiritual wilderness, but the Heart of God desires more than a few people: He wants us all. The Law revealed nothing new from what is naturally written in our hearts and the created world, but He chose to teach us this law in our own language, in terms we could understand clearly. By following the Law one could learn how to love God and how to live in relationship with Him…to a point.
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” Jesus teaches us that the Law, ultimately, falls short of the depth of relationship God desires to have with us. Too easily a person can become so caught up in following the Law that the Law becomes, in a sense, God; one can worry more about offending the Law than the God to whom the Law points. Yet Jesus affirms the Law’s importance as the edges of the path guiding us in our earthly lives, and He comes to be our companion on the way, until the day comes when the Law is no longer needed because God, our ultimate goal, will be quite easy to find.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6); the Law will not pass away until all things have taken place because the Law is based upon the Truth that is Jesus. One cannot, therefore, claim to follow Jesus on the one hand and toss aside the Law on the other. “If you wish to enter life,” Jesus says to the rich young man (Matthew 19:17), “keep the commandments.” And later, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) In particular danger are not only those who disregard the commandments, but who teach others to break them, because they are acting in league with the Enemy, who lives and seeks to convince others to live absolutely contrary to the Law of God. Jesus tells us that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) Why? Because by throwing in their lot with the Adversary, they choose the same fate as he is destined to receive (Revelation 20:10).
The intense dichotomy is there because our salvation hinges on Jesus Christ and through Him being made into the Children of God (John 1:12-13), and those who obey God—who listen to Him—are His children. The Law is not meant to be a straightjacket to restrain us, or a set of rails from which we dare not depart; the Law, in other words, is not meant to restrict our freedom. The Law is like the rules of grammar that, once mastered, allow us incredible freedom of expression, or like the technique of a dance that, when well-practiced, allow for graceful movement on the dancefloor. The Law teaches us how to be who we were created to be as children of God; how merciful of our Father to teach us the rules of His household so we may live truly free! (Romans 8:18-21)