An Inward Solution, Not an Outward Conformity
Preface: Having made a number of detailed and theologically sophisticated arguments, Paul now makes a more personal and emotional appeal to the Galatians. He begs them to listen to his counsel, reminding them of the positive relationship they once shared, and of the genuine love and concern he has for them as their spiritual parent.
What purpose does the law serve in the Christian life? It becomes the Christian’s standard of behavior by setting forth the principles that are to govern his or her life. But the law itself is powerless to bring about any outward conformity of behavior. Only Jesus can do that through an inward solution (See Heb. 8:10).
In Romans 7:7–9 Paul exclaims, “Does it follow [then] that the Law itself is sin? Of course not. What I mean is that I should not have known what sin was except for the Law. I should not for instance have known what it means to covet if the Law had not said You shall not covet.”
Now, Paul is not saying that he was perfect before knowing the law. He is saying, “I thought everything would come out all right, because I was keeping these outward things.” In this cultural setting he was comparing himself to the externalized form of the commandments common to the Jewish tradition. But as he came face to face with the last commandment, which required that he not covet, he realized he was a sinner.
It was at this point that Christ could speak to him. It is at this point that we realize our need of an internal solution. The law requires perfect conformity, externally and internally. Try as we may, we cannot keep this law perfectly in our own strength.
In Matthew 22:37–39 Jesus shows us the positive commands: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. . . . You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
This love is internal, not external. We can appear to take the lists of do’s and don’ts that religious organizations make and keep them. An internal change isn’t necessary for us to keep up that appearance. However, as we see Jesus’ summary of the law here in Matthew, we face the true requirement of this law of love—an internal requirement of loving my fellowman as I love myself.
God knows us. He knows that we are sinful. Our thought life is murky and filled with covetousness. The problem is that we are often blinded to the fact of our own sinfulness.
When the law convicts us of this realization, we are then ready to give up our own feeble efforts. At that point Jesus can take up our case and bring about an inward solution to the sin problem through a personal relationship with Him (See Rom. 13:8–10). He is not only the lawgiver on the throne but the law keeper in our hearts. And we must daily depend on His life to flow outward through ours.