From a Christian perspective, following the law is not referring to the law of Man, such as our legal system, which is an entirely different topic; but rather, whether we should follow the Law of God, the rules laid out for us in the Bible.
The “Law” includes the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20, Levitical laws of the Levitical priesthood of Aaron in the book of Leviticus, and other rules throughout the Bible, including those commanded by Jesus such as the Great Commission of Matthew 28:16-20, and others. Some may argue that there is a distinction between the Old Testament Laws and the New Testament Laws, but I will show you that there is really no difference, with some exceptions (such as the Levitical laws which are superseded by Christ).
There are popular phrases repeated throughout Christianity today such as “salvation is not by works”, “salvation is a free gift”, and “faith alone”. An additional colloquialism is “there’s nothing you can do to be saved.” In some ways, these statements are accurate. In other ways, however, they are completely unbiblical.
Many will not enter
Do you have to do anything to be saved? The Bible is clear on this. Certain people will never enter the kingdom of Heaven – idolaters, fornicators, and the like. A common argument is that because you are “covered by the blood of Jesus” then even though you do these things, then you are still getting to heaven. Is this what the Bible teaches? No. Jesus teaches that those who do not bear any fruit, that is, who do not do anything to benefit the kingdom of God, will be cut off (John 15:2). Paul also talks about how “if you deliberately go on sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth, then no sacrifice for sin is left” (Hebrews 10:26).
Does this mean that if you ever sinned after you were saved, then you are no longer saved? I do not believe it means that. I do not believe you have to never make any mistakes from the day that you were saved in order to receive salvation, but you are required put forth the maximum effort to be as perfectly aligned with God’s will as you can.
Is the Law required?
Do you have to follow the Law then? If you lie, will you get to heaven? What about a little white lie? What about if you murder? There are a range of sins covered under the Law.
“Do you have to follow the law” is not the only question. When someone says this, often they mean, “is following the Law required for salvation?” In which case, the answer is yes and no. The Law itself is not required, but obedience after being saved is required.
Jesus died for our sins because we were under the Law, and being under the Law, having sinned only once we were eternally condemned to Hell, that place of eternal fire where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, and where “the worm never dies” (Mark 9:48) – the soul remains in hell for eternity.
Hell is where every person on Earth, past, present, and future, would have gone with 100% certainty, had Jesus not died on the cross. Fortunately, God provided a way for us. This way was through the saving grace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to Earth, lived a perfect life, died for our sins, and resurrected on the third day, defeating death and sin and conquering the evil one.
Because Jesus died for our sins as the perfect sacrifice, dying in our place, it provided a way for us to bypass our otherwise inevitable fate of Hell, to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross at Calvary.
However, this salvation was not for everyone without merit or requirement. If it were, then all would be instantly saved and the most vile God-hating people would be automatically saved and enter heaven and eternity. This was not God’s plan, because God will destroy those who hate Him.
Do you truly love God?
Rather, God provided a way for those who love Him, not those who hate Him. Do you love God? What is love? Remember that in the Greek there are four main forms of love. Today’s definition of “love” is not the word used in the original Greek. Love is not a feeling, it is an action.
The four forms of love are agape, which is a love paired with an action (such as giving to the poor, not out of obligation); philia, which is the love we think of today when we think of “love”, that is, this feeling of love we have toward someone; eros, which is romantic love such as between a man and his wife; and storge love, which is the love for a parent to their child, or between siblings.
Agape love is the love that God has for us, because God sent His only Son to Earth to live and die for our sins. God did an action – sending His Son. He didn’t merely have a feeling toward us, but rather He did an action – a great work – and made a great sacrifice in allowing His Son to endure such great persecution, and death.
Agape love is the same love that God requires of us. So, do you love God? If you say yes, then consider the word of Jesus: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This same phrase was repeated many times through the New Testament:
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” (2 John 1:6)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3)
What does “grevious” mean? The definition of “grevious” is “causing or characterized by severe pain, suffering, or sorrow”. The Bible is saying that it will not inflict severe pain and suffering to follow His commandments. That doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult, or even very challenging. It will merely not inflict severe suffering to follow His commandments.
So, what does it mean to love God? To keep His commandments. What does it mean to love Christ? To keep His commandments. Again, do you love God? Are you keeping His commandments? You must keep His commandments in order to love Him.
If you do not love God, then you hate God. You are demonstrating hate when you refuse to keep God’s commandments. John 3:20 says, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
What will happen to those who hate God?
and their time of punishment would be forever.” (Psalm 81:15)
“but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them;
He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.” (Deuteronomy 7:10)
“But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:36)
“The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” (Psalm 11:5)
Those who do righteousness are righteous
Are you wicked? This is easy to answer. Do you do things that are wicked? Do you sin? Do vile words spew from your mouth when you get angry? Do you get revenge (for vengeance is the Lord’s only – Romans 12:19) when someone wrongs you? Do you turn a cold eye to the poor? Do you turn your eye in lust after married women? Do you manipulate and deceive? Do you yell at people when you don’t get your way? Do you ever commit anything that God would not be proud of? If so, those things are wicked, and the Bible says:
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1 John 3:7)
Those who do righteousness are righteous, but those who do wickedness are wicked. The Bible never, not once, says that after you are saved, wicked things are now no longer considered wicked. Wickedness and sin is detestable to God.
Fortunately, if we make a mistake and allow our flesh to win in a battle against sin, Jesus is there to forgive us – but only if we also forgive others, because Jesus said,
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The Bible also says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:26).
I believe this means that if you defiantly go against God, intentionally refusing to obey God, then this is a sin that will not be covered under the saving grace of Christ. But if we are to commit a sin for which we did not want to do, but failed to conquer the flesh, then this sin, if we repent and turn from this sin, and if we have no unforgiveness against anyone, then we can be forgiven of this sin.
Does the Old Testament Law still apply?
What about the Law? Are we to follow the Law?
Some Old Testament Laws do not apply. The ones that do not apply are those that applied to the Levitical priesthood with regards to the remission of sins – that is, animal sacrifices and the like. This was done away with when Jesus died on the cross as the perfect Lamb of God, slain for the world. After this, there was no more need for a symbolic gesture of an animal sacrifice. God requires obedience, not sacrifice.
“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
Mercy? The word in the original Hebrew is “he·sed”, which is usually translated as “lovingkindness” when used throughout the Bible. God desires loving kindness, and not sacrifice, and what is the love of God? To obey His commandments.
What is the Law?
Part of the Law is the 10 commandments. Here they are in short form:
1 You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 You shall not make idols.
3 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
4 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5 Honor your father and your mother.
6 You shall not murder.
7 You shall not commit adultery.
8 You shall not steal.
9 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 You shall not covet that which is your neighbor’s.
Do you have idols? You do not bow and worship statues of stone, but you get vicious if someone dings your car or damages your possession. If you act sinfully with regards to a possession, then you are holding that item higher than God, because Jesus commanded us to “love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). If you disobey this command because you place any possession higher than God, then this is having another god before God.
Do you curse taking the Lord’s name in vain? That is one of the 10. Do you dishonor the Sabbath? Dishonor your father or mother? Do you look at a married woman lustfully? Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Do you steal or deceive for dishonest gain? Do you tell lies against people that you believe are bad (including leaving a false review online or exaggerating in a review)? Do you covet something that belongs to someone else, seeking to have it?
All these commandments stand. Moreover, there are more, even in the New Testament, such warnings against drunkards, homosexuals, and others whom will not enter the kingdom of God.
“Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
“Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10).
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).
These passages are in the New Testament, after Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Paul wrote these to the churches – Christians, saved Christians – in Galatia, Anatolia (in modern Turkey) and Corinth, Greece.
People who commit such behaviors, whether or not they accepted Christ, will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The wicked will not enter heaven, and those who willfully sin against God and refuse to obey, will not enter heaven. Additionally, those who are unforgiving, and refuse to forgive any one person, will not be forgiven their own sins.
It is clear that the Law still remains. But isn’t this considered “earning salvation”? No. You cannot earn salvation. You were condemned to death, condemned to hell and eternal torment, and there was no amount of good you could do to compensate for the sin and separation from God. Only salvation through Christ Jesus can save you.
Future sins are not covered
However, this applies to past sins – before you came to knowledge of the truth that Christ died for your sins. 2 Peter 1:9 says, For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. It is clear that the remission of sins through Christ’s sacrifice applies to past sins.
It does not apply to future sins. I say again, some false teachers are actually saying that your future sins are covered, this is a lie of Satan! Your future sins are not covered. You have an obligation to adhere to the Law of God. You were saved from your sins and your penalty of death and hell was rescinded when you accepted Christ as the One and Only Way, the True Path to salvation.
The blood of Jesus covered you, so that your scarlet rag was made white as snow. Why would you soil your rag again with intentional sin? If you intentionally go on sinning as before, after you have received knowledge of the truth, then there is no more sacrifice for sin.
Salvation is not a free gift. It was freely given to you when you were unsaved, but once you are saved, Jesus commands that we give up everything, because it is the most expensive gift. The precious blood of Jesus is not worthless that it demands nothing in compensation. Jesus commands that you give up everything for Him.
Salvation is a pardon
Salvation is a pardon. It is not an indefinite free-for-all in which you can do whatever you want for the rest of your lives. Suppose that a man stands before a judge having committed a crime. The man begs and pleads his case, and the judge looks at him with mercy and pronounces his judgment – he is pardoned, and will not suffer the consequences.
Then imagine that man goes out and once again continues to commit the same crimes. Does the pardon still apply? Of course not. He will be again arrested, and the judge will not hear his pleas for mercy, because he went and did the same thing again – after being pardoned the first time. This is what that verse means when it says, “if you deliberately go on sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth, then no sacrifice for sin is left” (Hebrews 10:26).
God is just. God is merciful. God gave us a Way, a pardon for our sins, and this Way is through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Does this mean you have a free ticket, a license to sin? Absolutely not. Your “get out of jail (or hell) free” card works once. It doesn’t mean you lose salvation if you sin once after being saved, but it does mean that if you intentionally ignore God’s rules for life then you are defying God after He gave you something so precious, the precious blood of Jesus. Those who continue sinning intentionally after receiving the grace of God, will not enter into eternity. They will not enter the kingdom of God.
Levitical laws do not apply
The Law still applies, but not the Levitical laws (the laws of the Levites – the priests). What still applies is the ten commandments of Exodus 20, all the commandments regarding morality throughout the Bible, and the great commandment, also known as the golden rule, by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40, to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”, and to “love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” – these still stand.
We do not have to eat certain things (“Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:11), or make ritual animal sacrifices (“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4), or to go to priests (for Jesus Christ is our eternal High Priest, and we can go directly to Him: Hebrews 4:14-16 says “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God … “), and we do not have to make atonement for our sins (such as “indulgences” of the Catholics), because Christ is that atonement (“we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” Romans 5:11).
There were laws for Israel that are done away with – the priestly laws requiring them to make animal sacrifices, eat certain items, and go to priests. These laws passed away because Jesus became our High Priest and we can go to Him directly.
What is the Law based on? The Law of God is based on the nature of God. What God hates, that which is sinful, God made laws to define morality and to condemn the wicked. As a result, we were all condemned to hell as the result of any sin after our birth into this world. The Law condemned us to hell. It is this element of the Law that was superseded by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross at Calvary.
Each according to their works
However, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has the right to choose who will receive this salvation. Those who are disobedient and refuse to obey the laws of God – intentionally – will be judged and found wanting. They will be condemned whether or not they said some words once accepting Christ. They will be judged by their works.
Why? Because by their evil works they proved they do not love God, but hated Him. Their sinfulness also proved that they did not truly have faith in God, because “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
God “will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.”(Romans 2:6)
Does it say here that “those who accepted Christ do not apply to these rules of judgment”? No. It says, “God shows no partiality”. If you “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury”. The Bible is clear! If you are wicked by doing acts of wickedness, sin, and evil works, then you will receive wrath and fury and will therefore be condemned to hell, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
But, if you continue in doing good (“well-doing”) by following the commands of God, you will receive eternal life. The blood of Jesus enables this, because without Christ, continuing in righteousness would be futile, because the Law had condemned you to death and hell for your first sin.
Fortunately, if, after receiving the saving grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son, we continue in holiness and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), then we will receive eternal life on the Day of Judgment when we stand before the great white throne of God (Revelation 20:11-15).
Your good cannot outweigh your sin. Only the precious blood of Christ can cover your sin. But, if you continue to do evil after receiving knowledge of the truth, then you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. He who has ears let him hear.