Advent 2017: Joy to the World

Day 9: The Law of God We Cannot Keep

Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 8:1-4


“These commandments are impossible to keep!” says the honest Christian.

“But they are divine imperatives!” he contends with himself.

And so goes the honest Christian’s internal conflict with regard to God’s law. To make matters even more difficult, when we pursue a life under God’s law—”the impossible imperatives”—it becomes oh-so-clear that our ability to sin remains. This, my friends, is the perplexing internal dialogue that Christians like me have deep in their hearts.

As Christians, we affirm that God’s commands are good. However, a quick read of the Ten Commandments reveals that we are all inadequate to fulfill the demands of the law by our own moral effort. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that we are guilty of these sins in our hearts, where sin begins (Matthew 5:21-30). God’s law, by itself, carries a righteous burden that crushes all of humanity under the weight of His holiness.

Even the self-righteous know in their hearts that the Ten Commandments do not have the power to transform them or liberate them from the power of sin. We cannot earn our righteousness.This is a truth the rebellious who deny Jesus will one day find out, when it’s too late. We will all stand before God and give an account (Romans 14:10-12). There is no way to avoid it.

In many ways, all of us—both the self-righteous and the rebellious—are running from God. But the good news of the gospel is that we do not have to run from God in light of these impossible imperatives. We are implored to run to God, who sent His own Son to condemn sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled for us in Christ Jesus (Matthew 5:17). This is the real reason Christians celebrate Christmas.

When we understand the law through the lens of the gospel, everything changes. The law is like a teacher who shows us God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and our need for salvation. By faith we receive the gift of Jesus’ law-keeping, which was perfectly achieved on our behalf, and in Him we become righteous.

Therefore, we turn our backs on our own warped efforts to uphold or ignore the law by trusting in the One who satisfied all the law demands on our behalf. “What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did” (Romans 8:3). The law of God, which we cannot keep, has been satisfied by the love of God, which we do not deserve. That is the beauty of the gospel.

Written by Matt Capps