The apostle Paul said we are under grace, not law. To live under the law is to insult Christ who died to free us from the curse of the law. So why did Paul write this?
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
Someone who is confused about the finished work of the cross will read this and say, “It’s grace plus law. If you aren’t keeping the commands, you’re not walking in grace.” This is a most dangerous interpretation! It will cause you to fix your eyes on your command-keeping performance when Paul said, “I consider that stuff dung” (Php 3:8).
To those who insist you must keep God’s commands, perhaps to earn his favor if not his salvation, I have one simple question: what about the command to be circumcised?
Under the Law of Moses circumcision was not nothing. It was a command of God, something that you had to do to your sons (Lev 12:3). You could not partake of Passover if you hadn’t been circumcised (Ex 12:48-49). Both Jesus and Paul were circumcised, yet Paul said, “Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Cor 7:19).
Under law, this is a nonsensical statement. It’s like saying it doesn’t matter if you drive drunk, as long as you don’t drive drunk. Do you see? If the first part is true (the command doesn’t matter), then second part cannot be (it does matter).
Keep in mind that this verse was written by an expert in the law. Paul knew the law inside and out. He knew that you cannot pick and choose the rules, that you must obey them all (Gal 3:10). So why does he confuse us with this contradictory statement?
If you believe you must keep the commands of God, this verse will sabotage your command-keeping efforts. It will defeat you. The only way this passage makes sense is if you filter it through the finished work of the cross, and understand that “Christ is the culmination of the law” (Rom 10:4).
Circumcision – a shadow
The law – a shadow
Christ – the reality
Circumcision is nothing
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ. (Col 2:11)
You have been crucified with Christ, and the person you used to be no longer lives. Any sinful nature you had has been removed by the Lord. This is why it’s a mistake to tell Christians they have two natures dueling inside them. One with the Lord you have his heart, his desires, his spiritual DNA.
The custom of snipping the tip is a shadow; the reality is found in Christ. It’s the same with the law:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. (Hebrews 10:1)
Laws, rules, traditions, customs–all these things are meant to point you to Christ:
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17)
If command-keeping is a shadow, why does Paul say “keeping God’s commands is what counts”? Because command-keeping will lead you to Jesus who is the culmination of the law.
Jesus is everything
There are some who say we must keep the commands to be saved, sanctified, or blessed, but Paul would have resisted such people strenuously. Everything comes to us by grace alone. A life under grace is a blessed life, but a life under law is cursed (Gal 3:10).
A critic of this message said, “We must recover a love for the law if we are to be in harmony with him.”
No, a love for the law that manifests in a desire for command-keeping will alienate you from Christ. It will cause you to fall from grace and be lukewarm. Living by the rules won’t save you, sanctify you, or bless you. It will, however, empower sin against you (1 Cor 15:56).
It’s imperative you get this. Grace and law don’t mix. Either you believe Jesus is the culmination of the law or you don’t. Either you’ll trust in his finished work or you’ll bet on your never-finished-work.
In Christ we have kept and continue to keep the commands of God. This has nothing to do with a love for the law but the life of Christ flowing through us as we rest in him, free and unbothered by those who would enslave us again.
Start your journey to freedom now! Become an email subscriber today.
Everything here is free thanks to our awesome readers: