“The perfect law of liberty” vs. religious legalism


Rom.3:28 – A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law
Eph.2:8,9 – By grace (undeserved mercy) are ye saved through faith; it is the gift of God: Not of works
Tit.3:5a – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us

A. Salvation is not partly by grace & partly by good works:

Rom.11:6 – If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace

B. Salvation was always by grace, even in the Old Testament:

Gen.6:8 – But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord
Gen.15:6 – (Abraham) believed in the Lord; & He counted it to him for righteousness (See also Rom.4:3,5-8,21,22)
Hab.2:4 – The just shall live by his faith
Heb.11:13 – [Old Testament saints] all died in faith…having seen (the promises) afar off…& were persuaded of them

C. Scrupulously keeping the Mosaic law never saved anyone:

Jn.1:17 – Law given by Moses, but grace & truth came by Jesus
Rom.3:20 – By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified
Rom.9:31 – Israel, which followed after the law…hath not attained unto the law of righteousness
Gal.2:16 – A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ (See also Gal.3:11)
Heb.7:19 – The law made nothing perfect, but…a better hope did


A. It was a legal code that God gave Moses upon Mt. Sinai:

Exo.24:12 – The Lord said unto Moses, Come up to Me into the mount…& I will give thee a law…[to] teach them
(See also Exo.31:18; 32:15,16,19; 34:1,28.)

B. It was a strict code of justice & retribution:

Exo.21:23-25 – Thou shalt give life for life…eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand…burning for burning
Heb.10:28 – He that despised (broke) Moses’ law died without mercy

C. The ten commandments were not merely “helpful moral guidelines”, but strict laws carrying the death penalty:

Exo.20:2,3 – (1) Thou shalt have no other gods before Me [Death penalty: Exo.22:20; Deut.13:1-18.]
Exo.20:4,5 – (2) Thou shalt not make any graven image (Death penalty same as (1). See also Lev.26:1,30; Deut.4:23-26.]
Exo.20:7 – (3) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain [Death penalty: Lev.24:10-16]
Exo.20:8-10 – (4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy [Death penalty: Exo.31:14,15; 35:2.]
Exo.20:12 – (5) Honour thy father & thy mother [Death penalty: Exo.21:15,17; Lev.20:9; Deut.21:18-21.]
Exo.20:13 – (6) Thou shalt not kill (murder) [Death penalty: Exo. 21:12; Lev.24:17,21; Num.35:16-31.]
Exo.20:14 – (7) Thou shalt not commit adultery [Death penalty: Lev. 20:10; Deut.22:22.]
Exo.20:15 – (8) Thou shalt not steal [Punishment: Exo.22:7; Pro. 6:30; death penalty: Exo.21:16.]
Exo.20:16 – (9) Thou shalt not bear false witness [Punishment &/or death penalty: Deut.19:16-21]
Exo.20:17 – (10) Thou shalt not covet anything (of) thy neighbours’
Gal.4:21 – Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

D. The ten commandments were only the beginning; Moses’ law contained hundreds of other commandments:

Deut.27:26 – Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them (See also Gal.3:10)
(See also Deut.4:13,14a)

E. It was impossible to avoid guilt or to keep the whole law:

Jam.2:10 – Whosoever shall keep the whole law, & yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all


Gal.3:19 – Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions till the Seed (Jesus) came
Gal.3:23 – Before faith came, we were kept under the law
Heb.9:10 – Carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation

A. It was merely a copy, a shadow, of the real thing:

Col.2:16,17 – Sabbath days…are a shadow of things to come; but the body [the reality that casts the shadow] is Christ
Heb.8:5 – The example & shadow of Heavenly things
Heb.9:8b,9 – First tabernacle…a figure for the time then present
Heb.10:1 – The law (had) a shadow of good things to come, & not the very image of the things
1Jn.2:8 – A new commandment…because the darkness is past, & the true light now shineth

B. The law was impossible to keep:

Jn.7:19 – Did not Moses give you the law, & yet none of you keepeth the law? (See also Acts 7:53)
Acts 15:10 – A yoke upon the neck…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear
Rom.7:14-19 – The law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. How to perform that which is good I find not

C. This showed man he was a sinner in need of grace:

Rom.3:20b – By the law is the knowledge of sin
Rom.7:7 – I had not known sin, but by the law
Rom.3:19 – That…all the world may become guilty before God
Gal.3:24 – The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ
(See also Rom.4:15)

D. The old law was unprofitable & eventually to be replaced:

Rom.8:3 – What the law could not do, in that it was weak
Heb.7:18 – There is verily a disannulling of the [Mosaic law]…for the weakness & unprofitableness thereof


A. Because men constantly broke the law, forgiveness was needed, & a blood sacrifice was required:

Lev.4:1-4 – If a soul shall sin…against the commandments of Lord…bring a (bull)…kill the (bull) before the Lord
Lev.17:11 – It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul
Heb.9:22 – Without shedding of blood is no remission
(See also Lev.6:2,3,6,7; 16:3,5-11,15-22.)

B. But this never permanently freed man from sin:

Heb.10:1-4,11 – It is not possible that the blood of bulls & of goats should take away sins…can never take away sins

C. But Jesus made a perfect & permanent sacrifice:

Mat.26:28 – This is My blood…which is shed for remission of sins
Heb.9:7-14 – By His Own blood…obtained eternal redemption for us
Heb.9:25-28a – Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many
Heb.10:10-12 – We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all
1Pet.1:18,19 – Ye were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ
1Jn.1:7b – The blood of Jesus Christ…cleanseth us from all sin
(See also Jn.1:29; Rom.5:9.)


A. God promised a new law to replace the old Mosaic law:

Jer.31:31-33 – The days come that I will make a new covenant…I will…write (My law) in their hearts
Heb.8:7-10 – Finding fault with (that first covenant), He saith, I will make a new covenant

B. Names of the new law:

A new covenant(Jer.31:31); the law of faith(Rom.3:27); the law of the Spirit of life(Rom.8:2); the law of righteousness(Rom.9:31); the law of Christ(Gal.6:2); the new testament(Heb.9:15); the perfect law of liberty(Jam.1:25); the royal law(Jam.2:8); the holy commandment(2Pet.2:21).

C. Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled & ended the law:

Mat.5:17 – I am not come to destroy (the law), but to fulfil
Jn.19:30 – (Jesus) said, It is finished [When He died for our sins, the Mosaic law ended for believers]
Rom.10:4 – For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth
Col.2:14 – Blotting out [wiping the slate completely clean of] the ordinances (the law)…nailing it to His cross

D. The old Mosaic law is now discarded (for believers in Jesus):

Heb.8:13 – He hath made the first (covenant) old. That which decayeth & waxeth old is ready to vanish away
Heb.10:9 – He taketh away first (law), that He may establish second
Heb.8:6 – A better covenant…established upon better promises

E. True believers are no longer bound by the rigid Mosaic law:

Rom.6:14b – Ye are not under the law, but under grace
Gal.3:24,25 – The law was our schoolmaster. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster
1Tim.1:9 – The law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless…ungodly…profane…murderers

F. Jesus has liberated us from the Mosaic law:

Rom.7:4 – Ye…are become dead to the law by the body of Christ
Rom.7:6 – Now we are delivered from the law
Rom.8:1,2 – The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin & death
Gal.3:13 – Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law

G. Jesus’ Spirit & truth gives us freedom:

Jn.8:36 – If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed
2Cor.3:17 – Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty
Gal.5:1 – The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free
Gal.5:5 – Through the Spirit…hope of righteousness by faith
Gal.5:18 – If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law

H. Read Jesus’ liberating Words to be set free:

Jn.8:31,32 – Ye shall know the truth, & truth shall make you free
Rom.10:17 – Faith cometh by hearing…the Word of God
Jam.1:25 – Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, & continueth therein…shall be blessed in his deed


A. This fulfils the law, & fulfils your only obligation:

Mat.7:12 – All things…ye would that men should do to you, do…to them: for this is the law (See Lk.6:31)
Mat.22:36-40 – Thou shalt love God…thou shalt love thy neighbour. On these two commandments (depend) all the law
Rom.13:8 – He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law
Rom.13:10 – Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law
Gal.5:14 – All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself
Jam.2:8 – If ye fulfil the royal law… Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well
(See also Mk.12:29-31)

B. Deeds done in pure, unselfish love are lawful:

Gal.5:22,23 – Fruit of the Spirit is love…against such there is no law
1Cor.6:12 – All things are lawful unto me (See also 1Cor.10:23)
Tit.1:15a – Unto the pure, all things are pure
Lk.11:41b – Behold, all things are clean unto you

C. But you have to have faith for your actions:

Rom.14:14 – To him that esteemeth (thinks) any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean
Rom.14:22 – Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth
Rom.14:23 – He that doubteth is damned (judged)…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin
Tit.1:15b – Unto (the) defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure


A. In some ways, the law of Christ is stricter than Moses’ law:

Mat.5:38-42 – [Exo.21:24 - said:] An eye for an eye, & a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, resist not evil
Mat.5:43-45 – [The law] said, Love thy neighbour, & hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies
Lk.10:25-37 – Thou shalt love…thy neighbour as thyself. Who is my neighbour? [Even those you'd normally dislike]
Jam.4:17 – Him that knoweth to do good & doeth it not…it is sin

B. Only Jesus can give you the power to live His law:

Phi.2:13 – For it is God which worketh in you both to will & to do of His good pleasure
Phi.4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me
2Cor.5:14a – The love of Christ constraineth (compels) us
2Cor.12:9 – My (God’s) grace is sufficient for thee


A. Selfish, unloving liberties:

Rom.14:15 – If thy brother be grieved…now walkest thou not (in love). Destroy not him with thy [liberty]
Rom.14:20 – All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence
1Cor.6:12 – All things are lawful…but all things not expedient
1Cor.8:9,12 – Take heed lest…this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak (See 1Cor.8:all)
1Cor.10:23 – All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not

B. Walk in love, not in lust & sin:

Rom.6:1,2 – Shall we…sin, that grace may abound? God forbid
Gal.5:13 – Use not liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another
1Pet.2:16 – As free, & not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God
(See also Rom.3:8; 14:all; 15:1,2.)


A. The concision: Believers still bound by the law:

Acts 21:20 – Many thousands of Jews…which believe (in Jesus); & they are all zealous of the (Mosaic) law
Phi.3:2,3 – Beware of evil workers, beware of the concision
(See also Acts 15:1,24; Gal.6:12,13; Rom.2:28,29.)

B. Don’t be entangled again by the law:

Gal.3:1,3 – Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Gal.5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty…& be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage [to the law]
Col.2:20-22 – If ye be dead with Christ… why are ye subject to ordin- ances…the commandments & doctrines of men?

C. Legalism is self-righteousness & denies Jesus’ sacrifice:

Rom.10:3 – Going about to establish their righteousness, have not submitted unto the righteousness of God
Gal.2:21 – If righteousness come by the law, then Christ (died) in vain (for no reason) (See also Gal.5:4)

D. The law can’t save you or make you righteous:

Acts 13:39 – By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law
Rom.9:31,32 – Israel, which followed after the law…hath not attained to the law of righteousness
Phi.3:3-9 – Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ

E. Those who attempt to obey the law are under bondage:

Gal.3:10 – Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things
Gal.4:21-31 – [The allegory of the two covenants, one of freedom, the other of bondage]
Gal.5:2-4 – [Who tries to keep the law]…is a debtor to do whole law
Jam.2:10 – Whosoever shall keep the whole law, & yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all


A. Legalists completely miss the main issue:

Mat.15:2-6 – Why do Thy disciples transgress tradition of elders? Ye transgress commandment of God by your tradition
Mat.23:23 – Woe! For ye pay tithe of [tiny spices but] have omitted weightier (more important) matters…mercy & faith
Mat.23:24 – Ye…strain at a gnat, & swallow a camel
Mk.7:6-8 – Their heart is far from Me…ye hold the tradition of men, [such] as the washing of pots & cups
Jn.5:8-11 – [Jesus told a lame man, Take up thy bed & walk. The legalists ignored the miraculous healing & told him it was not lawful to carry his bed on the Sabbath]

B. Legalism is a crushing weight to those it is imposed upon:

Mat.23:4 – They bind heavy burdens & grievous to be borne, & lay them on men’s shoulders
2Cor.3:6b – The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life

C. The solution: Walk in God’s love & Spirit:

Mic.6:8 – What doth the Lord require of thee, but to…love mercy, & to walk humbly with thy God?
Jn.6:63a – It is the Spirit that quickeneth (makes alive); the flesh profiteth nothing
Rom.7:6 – We should serve in newness of spirit, & not in the oldness of the letter [of the law]
2Cor.3:6a – Not…the letter [of the law], but of the Spirit
Gal.6:2 – Bear one another’s burdens, & so fulfil law of Christ


A. God always wanted love & mercy more than legalism:

Hos.6:6 – I desired mercy, & not sacrifice; & the knowledge of God more than [sacrifices] (See also Mat.12:7)
Mic.6:6-8 – Shall I come before Him with…offerings? What doth the Lord require of thee, but to…love mercy
Mk.12:33 – To love Him with all the heart…& to love his neighbour… is more than all…offerings & sacrifices
(See also Deut.10:12; 1Sam.15:22; Psa.40:6; 51:16,17; 69:30,31; Isa.1:11-16; Jer.7:22,23.)

B. He allowed exceptions & the Mosaic law to be broken:

2Chr.30:1-3 – [King Hezekiah celebrated the passover in second month, in stead of first Exo.12] (Also Num.9:1-11)
2Chr.30:16-18a – Many in the congregation were not sanctified…yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written
2Chr.30:18b-20 – Hezekiah prayed, The Lord pardon every one…though he be not cleansed. The Lord hearkened to Hezekiah
Mat.12:5 – On the Sabbath days the priests…profane the Sabbath, & are blameless (See also Jn.7:22,23)
Mat.12:1-4 – David…did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat (See 1Sam.21:6)

C. Even the highly religious, those bound by the law, broke it:

Exo.31:14,15 – [The Mosaic law:] Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death
Mat.12:11 – [They pulled their sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath]
Lk.13:15 – [All of them led their ox or ass away to watering then]
Jn.7:22,23 – Ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man

D. Certainly then, we who are not bound by it, can break it:

Mat.12:10-13 – It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days [even if it means breaking the Mosaic law]
Lk.13:11-16 – Ought not this woman…be [freed] on the Sabbath day?
Jn.7:22-24 – [If ye break the Sabbath, why] are ye angry at Me, because I have made a man whole on the Sabbath day?
(See also Jn.9:14-16)

Key chapters: Rom.3,4,5,7,9,10,14; Gal.2-5; Heb.3-11.

32. The Law Of Christ, Copyright © 1998-2012, The Family International