As we begin to understand God’s design for humanity, we also begin to see that He never intended life on this earth to be so complicated. Think back with me to the paradise of Eden.
How many restrictions did the Lord place upon the human race? One. Only one. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That lone restriction was necessary for various reasons. But that there was only one protective boundary imposed upon humanity speaks volumes about our Creator’s intent.
The Mosaic Law
Adam and Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit changed everything. For the sake of the greater good, a myriad of laws soon became necessary to restrict selfish and unjust behavior. Early civilizations were able to grow and prosper because they enacted such laws. The Lord then instituted the Mosaic law (aka, the old covenant), which contained over 600 moral, ceremonial, and civil requirements.
Even with its many benefits, the Mosaic law did not truly reflect the Lord’s desires. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one” (Hebrews 8:7, HCSB). Paul also wrote to the Galatian church:
But the Scripture has imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. Galatians 3:22-24 (HCSB)
The primary purpose of the Mosaic law, with its 600+ rules and regulations, was not to make us right with God. Instead, it shows that no human can attain to heaven’s standards of perfection.
The Quest to Meet Standards
In principle, there was nothing wrong with the law. The real problem is embedded in human nature. Efforts to live up to law-based standards for righteousness only arouse and empower humanity’s sinful nature (Romans 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Ironically, the result of trying to please God by living up to moral and religious standards has the opposite of its intended effect. How can this be?
Meeting standards provides a platform for the deadly vice of pride to take root, causing human flesh to boast in its own abilities. If we are to truly draw near to God and abide in His presence, a different means of acceptance is needed. Jesus accomplished that means on the cross.
The Simplicity of the Gospel
This very brief summary of the purpose of the old covenant brings us to a powerful new covenant reality: the simplicity of the gospel.
Christ has liberated us to be free . . . For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love. Galatians 5:1-6 (HCSB)
This challenging passage communicates a vital truth. The key to vibrant living is not found in obeying moral and religious requirements. Nor is jettisoning all moral and religious rules the answer. The key to honoring God—and to living in victory over sin—lies in learning to live out the simple essence of Christianity: faith working through love.
Trusting and Loving
What does God expect of us? To trust and to love. Through faith in Christ’s finished work of righteousness, we are freed from the constant compulsion to measure up to heaven’s perfect standards. That faith, then, will produce in our hearts the spiritual fruit of love.
From the very beginning, the Lord’s goal has been to produce a people who are motivated from their very core by love. Now, through the simplicity of the gospel, love has become the law to govern our lives. I would also add that praying for wisdom is essential because we do not always know how faith and love should look in a given situation.
Through Jesus, we are able to return to the simplicity of paradise. God’s requirements for us are not burdensome because His Holy Spirit will even give us grace to trust and love in accordance with heaven’s design.
Are you feeling burdened and overwhelmed by a myriad of standards that you feel expected to meet? Return to the simplicity of the gospel by embracing faith, love, and wisdom as your three primary pursuits. Everything else will follow in its time.
*Bob Santos has authored several books, and this post is drawn from an upcoming work titled The Search for Rest.