Under the Law - What does it mean?

What does it mean to be under the law? Some people say that if you keep the law of God that you are under the law. But this is not true, the Bible does not teach this. They insinuate that keeping the law is not good, that this means you are under the law. This is confusing.

Sometimes I joke with people who claim I am under the law if I obey the law. I say something like "Ok, give me to the key to your house."
"Why?", they say.
"Well, so I can steal your stuff and commit adultery with your wife so you don't believe I'm under the curse of the law."
Of course this makes them angry. But why should they be angry? Is it evil for me to love others and keep the law of God? Is it evil to do good?

Is it wrong to keep the law? Obviously not. Let's briefly look at the apostles teaching whether we should keep the law (And I do NOT MEAN keep the law in order to be saved):

1 Corinthians 14:34  Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

Obviously Paul's letter to Corinthians is upholding the law.

1 John 5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

If keeping the commandments (the law of God) was bad...well, that just doesn't make sense.

We can see the apostles promoting the law of God. There are tons of verses showing this. And now, I want to give you the answer up front, and explain more later because I don't know if I have enough time to fill out this page yet.

There was a problem with some Jews, who were teaching that you had to keep the law in order to be saved. This is recorded in Acts

Acts 15:1  And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

The problem was that they were teaching salvation by works. Salvation through the works of the law is impossible. It's never taught by the law or the prophets. It is dishonest. We can never keep the law perfectly all the time. It is a fantasy. It is against God. It causes people to trust in themselves instead of depend on Jesus Christ for salvation. In fact this idea is prophesied against by Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 17:5  Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

These Jews were teaching something contrary to the law and the prophets. The law shows our sin. So that means we all need Jesus Christ. We can only attain to righteousness of the law through faith in Jesus Christ. Then we are saved by faith by the grace of God. This is what scripture has taught from the beginning, and the apostles explain it clearly. It is explained by Moses in Genesis, regarding Abraham:

Genesis 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The problem today is that people take this scripture of "under the law" out of context, and try to make it look like it is bad to keep the law. Or bad for people to encourage others to keep the law. This is also a bad teaching, called licentiousness, another extreme, and perversion of the truth.

Briefly, the solution is this: have faith in Jesus Christ, love others as Jesus Christ loves us and in doing so we will keep the law of God. We will be trusting in Jesus for salvation, he paid the price of the curse, and we are saved by his righteousness.

Clarification - Elaboration on "Under the Law"

First, remember thaw words may have different meanings. The proper meaning of a word is found through the context. For example, if you say: "I flew to the store". I understand the word "flew" means you drove quickly. However if you say "I flew to Zimbabwe", then I understood you took a plane.

Sometimes we shorten a phrase or concept, because the whole concept was repeated earlier, and no need to spell it all out again. Just like I may say "Bob Willichinoake and I ate at a nice sandwich shop. Bob and I had a great time there. We enjoyed the meal." Here Bob's full name is cut down to "Bob" in the second sentence. We know which Bob, because it was explained in the sentence before. And in the third sentence, the word "we" refers to "Bob and I" which is shortened from "Bob Willichinoake and I" in the first sentence.

So context is important. And phrases we use today may be shortened for convenience, and they did the same in the scripture. But! taking phrases out of context is not honest. So where does the phrase "Under the law" come from, and what is the context?

"Under the law" is a shortening of the fuller phrase of "under the curse of the law". Here are a few verses that show this:

Galations 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Clearly Jesus took the curse of the law. So by faith in Jesus Christ, he bore the penalty of our sins and through faith we will not suffer the penalty of the curse of the law. This of course in no way teaches that we should not lie, steal etc or otherwise break the law of God.

Galations 3:10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Here, the phrase "are of the works of the law" refers to people who believed you had to keep the law to be saved. There is not a teaching of God, and was a teaching of some Jews who at the time were saying you could not be saved until you were circumcised. Salvation has always been through faith in God, and never by works of the law. And Paul is quoting scripture with "cursed is every one that continueth not ..."

Deuteronomy 27:26  Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Dan_9:11  Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

The prophet Daniel, said the curse was poured on them because they were not keeping the law. Yes, in fact they were in captivity (bondage) because they were breaking the law of God.

Neh_10:29  They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes;

The prophet Nehemiah refers to the curse of the law, being under the curse of the law. What is he referring to also? Well, it goes back to the exodus of the children of Israel, as they were entering Canaan, the promised land. I hope you see that all scripture needs to be read in context. And if we don't understand the law and the prophets, we won't understand the preaching of the apostles (especially the letters of the apostles to the Jews who knew the law and prophets). So let's look at the history that Nehemiah, Daniel, and the apostle Paul were writing about:

Deuteronomy 27:12  These shall stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, when ye are come over Jordan; Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin: And these shall stand upon mount Ebal to curse; Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. And the Levites shall speak, and say unto all the men of Israel with a loud voice, Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow. And all the people shall say, Amen.  Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife; because he uncovereth his father's skirt. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with any manner of beast. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that lieth with his mother in law. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that taketh reward to slay an innocent person. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.

In short, the law and prophets show us that we cannot be saved by our own works. If we trust in our own righteousness, then we will also suffer the curse of the law, because we have all sinned. So salvation comes through faith in God and by his grace. The law which is holy and just shows our need, and converts us to faith in God. So when we have faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then we understand that Jesus Christ was cursed (hung on the tree) and paid the price for our sins. So we who live by faith, and walk in the Spirit of God, are not under the curse of the law. We are redeemed to live in faith, walk in love. And walking in love causes us to fullfill the law of God. As the apostles taught:

Matthew 5:17  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
James 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
Romans 13:8  Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:10  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Galations 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
James 2:8  If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
Ten Commandments - Home

Keep 10 Commandments

Faith in God

First Commandment

Second Commandment

3rd Commandment - Vanity

4th Commandment - Sabbath

5th Commandment - Honor

Sixth Commandment

Seventh Commandment

Under the Law

Eighth Commandment

Ninth Commandment

Tenth Commandment

Laws

Ordinances

Inlawed

Sabbath and 2x2s

Sabbath Day

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