That Subtle Law

The law is subtle. It’s the carrot dangling in front of the donkey.

The law itself is not the problem. We are.

It’s the TRYING to keep the law that plunges us into the cycle described in Romans 7. It’s a painful experience that we try to convey to others (and even preach to ourselves) much like we would tell someone not to touch a hot iron. But for some reason it just doesn’t sink in. They/we always touch the iron.

The more we interact with the law, the more we begin to realize that something is not working out. We stub our spiritual toe on “that which the law could not do (Romans 8:3).” There is something that the law can not do! There is an impossibility related to the law. All who try to measure up to the demands of the law in themselves ultimately run up against this wall.

The key doesn’t lie in trying. In a sense, the law is like a passive requirement on us. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to put it. It’s what God wants (at least the resulting living, not circumcision, the diet, or the Sabbath) but it’s not aimed at us. This is why Romans 8:4 is so revolutionary. One preposition makes all the difference.

“In” not “by.”

That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.

-Romans 8:4

To say “in” and not “by” means that another Person is doing it in us. This happens when we let Christ live through us, by walking according to the spirit.

Kenneth Wuest has an awesome note on Galatians 2:20 that highlights this:

The new life is a Person within a person, living out His life in that person.

Christ is the reality of the law as the testimony/expression of God and as the word of God. Revelation19:13– “…His name is the Word of God.” The ten commandments are literally called the ten words in Exodus 34:28. In other words God is saying, “Here are ten expressions of Me, in Christ.” When we let Him live in us, the life described by the Mosaic law appears. It is not harsh and cold but loving, sympathetic, and humane. It turns out that it is the good news.

But to TRY to keep the law is trying to express Christ with our flesh. This just does not work. Even when it does, it does not please God “because out of the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before Him (Romans 3:20).” AKA Ishmael. But mostly we fail and end up plagiarizing Romans 7:8 into our own autobiography- “But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, worked out in me coveting of every kind; for without the law sin is dead.”

Another Kenneth Wuest note on the Greek word for opportunity here:

Opportunity- aphorme (Gk); a starting place, a base of operations, resources as means of war or capital in business. The law furnishes sin with the material or ground of assault, the fulcrum for the energy of the evil principle.

In other words, opportunity expresses the relation of the law to sin.

God never intended to give the law to man. He did so to expose man’s sinfulness, guard man during the Old Testament, and then conduct man to Christ (Galatians 3:21-24). YET God in a sense never retracted the law. Christ fulfilled it, we have died to it, and we have been discharged from the law (Romans 7:6).

What I tried to make clear in my last post was that what the law describes is STILL the kind of expression God desires in our living. BUT the way it is evoked is through our enjoyment of Christ and growth in life, so that it is no more I, but Christ.

8 thoughts on “That Subtle Law

  1. When my repeated attempts to keep the law consistently fail, I’m reminded of Gal 2:19 “For I through law have died to law, that I might live to God.” Not only can we not live by the law, but there is something so much more profitable to live to: God.


    • Great insight! Maybe that is what the goal of the law looks like practically- to turn us to Christ. Why would we be conducted to Christ if all the efforts of our flesh were successful? Living to God is not only a higher standard but brings with it a higher supply. What before was an impossibility now becomes near effortless. Living to God is actually living Christ, which Paul connects with the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in Philippians ch 1.


  2. Amen, brother! Christ constitutes our very being so that He might fulfill the law in us! When we eat Christ we enjoy His divine life!


  3. “What does our Lord mean when He says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:20)?….Over many centuries, men had sought to attain to the first standard (the Law) and had failed, how could the Lord dare to raise the standard higher still? He could do so only because He believed in His own life. He is not afraid of making the most exacting demands upon Himself,….[His] life made available to His children.”

    -W. Nee
    Sit, Walk, Stand


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