The New Testament writers are adamant that we are not under law (Rom. 6:14). We cannot be justified by works of law (Rom. 3:20). The Law came through Moses, while grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). If a law could bring life it would have come through the Law of Moses—implication being that no law can bring life (Gal. 3:21).
We are free from the Law’s legal demands, its condemning evidence that accuses us as lawbreakers, and its enslavement to the weakness of the flesh. But does this mean that there is no longer any law? Does God no longer have rules? Are we free to do whatever the flesh dictates?
While we are not under law in the sense of being under a prescriptive legal code or a condemning legislative system, the New Testament sometimes speaks of law in a positive sense. To bear one another’s burdens is to fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:8-10). We are going to be judged by the “law of liberty” (James 2:12). Since sin is lawlessness, there must be a law that sinners violate (1 John 3:4).
So there is still a law. But we’re not “under law” in the sense of a legal code that condemns us for our transgressions. The law of Christ is not a new system of prescriptive legal texts replacing those of Moses. The law of Christ does not bind us to the slavish imitation of a pattern as with the building of the tabernacle under Moses. Christ is now our pattern. The New Testament has no detailed description of a worship assembly, nor any regimented list of steps to salvation. Our faith in Christ is not so much about rules as it is about the relationship. The legal code has been exchanged for a person. God’s law is written on our hearts as we are won to Christ.
God’s law is principally much the same now as it was in the past. Love for God and neighbor, embodied in the Ten Commandments, are valid for all time. Though granted, the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ as we’ve exchanged the yoke of Moses for the gentler yoke of Christ in whom we find rest.
What has changed about the law of God is that it’s now to be understood through a Christ-centered lens instead of a legal system. The Jewish cultural observances of Moses’ law have been fulfilled in Christ and are not binding upon Christians in regard to their specifics.
The law of God has always operated on principle as opposed to being comprehensively prescriptive. The law never covered every conceivable circumstance, but provided exemplary legislation to modify human behavior. Through the lens of Moses’ legislation, people could glimpse the heart of God and his desire for human kind. While we can still learn a lot about God by studying the Law of Moses, we now have a clearer and more complete picture of God’s heart as we look through the lens of Jesus’ life and teachings.