From the July/August 2014 issue of Discern Magazine

Is a Relationship With God Possible Without His Law?

It is God’s desire to give us a fulfilled life of happiness. So how should we relate to Him? Can we dispense with His will today and expect eternity tomorrow?

With open arms a loving Creator welcomes all who would heed His call for a genuine relationship with Him. So what does it take for mortal humans to have a direct relationship with the immortal God? According to the Bible, obedience to His will—as expressed in His law—is essential. To worship God by any other approach is to worship “in vain” and without a two-way relationship. Jesus Christ is crystal clear on this point.

“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men’” (Mark 7:6-8, emphasis added throughout).

Do these words of Jesus Christ (quoting words God had inspired Isaiah to write hundreds of years before) mean anything to us? If not, could we also be hypocrites, vainly looking to men’s ideas for our salvation?

The Bible has many examples of people who have had the benefit of very real and gratifying relationships with God, and every one of them had something in common. These examples include such people as Abraham (in the book of Genesis), all the way up to the apostle John (who wrote the book of Revelation). And that elite list has not been completed. Thousands more have experienced that joy since the dawn of Christianity, and many thousands do in our day.

What do all these people have in common? They actually believe Jesus Christ when He says that He did not come to do away with God’s law. They are in a relationship with God through His law—which shows us the best way to love God and other people.

Fulfilled or abolished? That is the question

Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).

It would appear that most professing Christians who read the above scripture are of the mind that “fulfill” means “abolish.” However, Christ plainly said that He did not come to destroy it, but (what was directly opposite) to fulfill it.

Fulfilling an office, a task or a role is the opposite of abolishing it. When the president of the United States is inaugurated into his role, he comes to fulfill that role. It would be ridiculous to say he is abolishing it. Similarly, Christ came to preside over the law; enabling His followers to delight in a positive, obedient relationship with His Father.

An end to God’s law?

Let’s look at one other New Testament scripture that is misunderstood by many people, thus inhibiting their relationship with God. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

Does this verse have to mean that the law has ended? No. The Greek word translated “end” is also used of the Lord in James 5:11, and we know the Lord has not ended. The New King James translators make that passage clear by adding the words “intended by”: “You have … seen the end intended by the Lord.”

To uphold the apostle Paul’s original meaning, the word “end” might be better translated “end result,” “end product” or “outcome.” Romans 10:4 could also be translated, “For Christ is the aim of the law.” All this goes hand in hand with what we have already seen—that Christ actually said that He came to fulfill rather than destroy God’s law. To wrongfully assume that this verse means we can break God’s laws undermines our opportunity to have the kind of relationship with God that He desires.

Remember that we worship “in vain” if we worship in a way that rejects the commandments of God. How can we possibly have a relationship with Him if we set our hearts to believe His perfect, beneficial law is burdensome or unimportant?

What is sin?

The Bible gives the definition: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4-5). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

From these two New Testament verses, we can see that sin is contrary to God’s law and, unless a change is brought about, results in our demise for all time. Sin is lawlessness and consequently is an insurmountable barrier to a godly relationship.

Sin is the violation of God’s laws in mind or in deed. If we are not keeping His law, we are sinful or “lawless.” We just cannot expect a relationship with God in those circumstances.

David and God’s law

King David of Israel had a warm relationship with God. David had faults like everyone else, but in God’s own words he was “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). David said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Other psalms show that he bitterly repented of his sins and delighted in God’s laws, which showed him how God thinks.

Paul and God’s law

Is the notion of God’s law being “a delight” (Psalm 119:174) an Old Testament concept only, or did it continue into the New Testament? The apostle Paul wrote, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Romans 7:22). Read also our articles “Curse of the Law: What Did Paul Mean?” and “The Law of God”.

Not only did Paul delight in the law, he preached it to all who were seeking a relationship with God (Acts 28:23; Romans 3:31; 7:12). Many thousands today delight in that same kind of relationship with God.

The entire Bible preaches God’s law as a means to a heartfelt relationship with Him. To learn more about building that relationship, download our free booklets God’s 10 Commandments: Still Relevant Today and Change Your Life!

About the Author

Eddie Johnson

Eddie and Sandra Johnson serve the membership in the Tonbridge, England, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He is an ordained elder.

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