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Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and we receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.  Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.  And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  1 John 3:21-24

When God gave his people the Law in the desert, there were two purposes:

First, it was to sanctify the people, so that they would be blessed and set apart from the rest of the people of the world; second, it was to make them holy, so that they would be able to have communion with the Almighty.  The laws that Moses gave set the people apart in many ways.  There were strictures on what foods to eat, how to relate to one another, how to judge one another in various criminal acts, etc.  These laws established a social order which, if followed, resulted in a peaceful society sanctified and blessed by God.  It also required that the people live apart from their neighbors, whose customs would necessarily be at odds with the life established by the Law.

In the passage from 1 John cited above, the Apostle John, in one sentence, pronounces the new law as given by Jesus, the Christ.  The new commands, are, very simply: to believe in Jesus and to love one another.

This is reminiscent of Jesus’ own pronouncement in reply to the Pharisees, when asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law, in Matthew 22:3-39: Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

As Christians, we often make the mistake of stating that we are no longer subject to the Law.  Somehow, it has leaked into our informal catechism that we have been freed from God’s commands and the Law.  Jesus Himself states, clearly, that I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  How are we to understand this?

Jesus faithfully followed the commands of Moses in many ways: He honored the Sabbath, He participated in the Passover Feast, and in many other ways.  So how did He fulfill the Law?  By his death and resurrection and by these new commands he gave us the same access to the throne of grace as did the Old Law, and the same sanctification that sets us apart from those around us.

However, the Law no longer condemn us, it now drives us to repentance.  In other words, as we fail in our ability to keep the Law, grace continually provides the means of our reconciliation.  Jesus says that we will be known by the way we love each other (John 13:35).

Our passage ends with a promise: that by following His commands, we will receive the Spirit.  This is how we will know that we have been given access to the Almighty.

Richard Leiter


– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”