Blessed are they whose lawlessness is forgiven!”
David, in Psalm 32:1, and Paul, in Romans 3:4
Moses told Israel that the law God was their life (Deut. 32:47). Later, David said, “The law is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Both these great men understood that God’s law is the light of our lives; that is, God’s law helps us to understand life and to live it as it should be lived. In the New Testament, the Spirit of God has replaced the Old Testament law written on paper. It is the same law, given from the same God, but it is in a different place – within us, rather than in a book that we must read in order to know it. The holy law which God gave to Israel is now written in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are liberated from ignorance of God by “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus” which “has made us free from the law of sin and death.”
The apostle John, long after the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ, still defined sin as “transgression of the law” (1Jn. 3:4). That is because the law that God has written in our hearts by the Spirit is the same law that He gave to Moses and Israel. The law of God given to Israel was not destroyed by Christ; it was fulfilled and confirmed by him! “Don’t suppose that I’ve come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I didn’t come to destroy but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17).
When Jesus was here, he promised his disciples that he would make a way for them to walk in the “light of life”; that is, he would make a way for them to have God’s holy Spirit within them, guiding them through this life. In fact, that is the very thing that the Son of God came to earth to do. He said, “I am come that they might have life” (Jn. 10:10). He could just as well have said, “I am come that they might have the Spirit” because, as Paul said, “the Spirit is life” (Rom. 8:10).
Through the ancient prophets, God had promised that one day He would write His law on our hearts. That is, He would find a way to put His law within our hearts so that we would sense it when we were going in a wrong direction, or going in the right one, so that we would be able to recognize good thoughts from evil ones, or true words from false ones. And God did this so that He could rescue us from lawlessness, from not having God’s law governing our feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds. God loved us too much to leave us to ourselves to judge what is right and wrong. And He accomplished that great mercy when He sent His Son to die for our sins so that we could receive His Spirit and have His law within us, guiding us every day in every situation and letting us know every moment what is godly (i.e., lawful) behavior and what is lawlessness, or sin.
It is impossible for men without God’s Spirit to live according to God’s law because we are all born lawless, that is, we are born into this world without the Spirit of God within us. That is why Paul said, “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can it be.” No one without God’s Spirit can obey God’s law because the Spirit is the only thing that lets us know what God’s law is. We are born lawless and we will die lawless unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.
Paul quoted David in Romans 4:7, and said, “Blessed are they whose lawlessness is forgiven!” Amen to that! It is a precious opportunity that we are offered in Christ to be born anew, to have all our former lawless behavior forgiven, to be given a heart that discerns right from wrong, and to be brought under the perfect law of Christ.