Why you cannot follow Jesus and the Law

You cannot follow Jesus and follow the Law. You must choose the former and leave behind the latter. Now, I’m not talking about being lawless, but about where you draw your life from. If you want to live according the New Covenant of grace, you can give no quarter to the Law for the simple reason that you cannot both walk in the supernatural power of God’s grace and live by self-effort. This is Paul’s argument in Galatians 4, which is where we’ll go today in order to finish up where I left off with my post, “Leaving legalism for Christ.”

In this chapter, Paul uses an allegory in order to show us the total incompatibility of the Law and grace.

First, he establishes that Hagar and Ishmael and Sarah and Isaac represent the two covenants:

21–22 Tell me, do you want to go back to living strictly by the law? Haven’t you ever listened to what the law really says? Have you forgotten that Abraham had two sons; one by the slave girl, and the other by the freewoman?

23 Ishmael, the son of the slave girl, was a child of the natural realm. But Isaac, the son of the freewoman, was born supernaturally by the Spirit—a child of the promise of God! 24 These two women and their sons express an allegory and become symbols of two covenants.  (Gal.4:21-23 TPT*)

The difference here is that Ismael was born of natural means, by Abraham’s doing. Isaac was born supernaturally, by God’s doing. For Sarah was barren and beyond the age of having children (she was over 90 years old!).  Likewise, the former covenant was one of human effort or performance; the latter is one of God’s grace, empowered by the Spirit.

The next thing Paul wants us to see is that the first-century earthly Jerusalem in bondage  represents the Law; but the heavenly Jerusalem, which is free, represents the covenant of grace:

25 For “Hagar” represents the law given at Mt. Sinai in Arabia. The “Hagar” metaphor corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem of today who are currently in bondage.

26 In contrast, there is a heavenly Jerusalem above us, which is our true “mother.” She is the freewoman, birthing children into freedom! (Gal.4:25-26 TPT*)

As we saw in “How God fulfills His promise to Abraham,” the Law was only given to show us how guilty we are—to expose the fruit of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which only produces sin and death. But the New Covenant, represented by Sarah, supernaturally births children into freedom by the Spirit!

Next, Paul makes his main point: the two covenants are totally incompatible with each other. We must throw out the one in order to live according the other:

28 Dear friends, just like Isaac, we’re now the true children who inherit the kingdom promises. 29 And just as the son of the natural world at that time harassed the son born of the power of the Holy Spirit, so it is today. 30 And what does the Scripture tell us to do?

“Expel the slave mother with her son!
The son of the slave woman will not be a true heir—
for the true heir of the promises is the son of the freewoman.” (Gal.4:28-30 TPT*)

First, see that the New Covenant children are the only heirs of God and only they will inherit all His promises, not those who follow the Law (“slave mother”).

Second, allegorically speaking, we must throw out the slave mother! According to Paul, the reason is obvious. These two “mothers” cannot cohabitate. You cannot mingle grace with the Law, or walk by faith and also walk by human self-effort. Likewise, you cannot work on your failings (what the Law reveals) and walk in your New Creation identity (what Christ reveals). Doing the former takes you away from doing the latter.

Another way to say it: you cannot draw your life from the Spirit of God by following the Law because it was only meant to reveal your failings.

Do you see this yet?

You must say good-bye to the Law in order to embrace God’s transforming grace.

Beloved, this is the bottom line: we cannot be both children of the Law (“slave woman”) and children of grace (“freewoman”). We were birthed supernaturally by God for freedom, not bondage! So, let’s walk by faith in Him and leave the other behind.

31 It’s now so obvious! We’re not the children of the slave woman; we’re the supernatural sons of the freewoman—sons of grace! (Gal.4:31 TPT*)

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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6 Responses to Why you cannot follow Jesus and the Law

  1. Question: What parts of the Law of Moses are people wanting to keep today? Which ones? (Not challenging; just asking.)

    • Mel Wild says:

      Good question, Katheryn! I hope my answer will help clarify this. While most Christians don’t formally keep the Law (that would impossible unless you’re a Jew and the Temple is still standing). They informally follow rules in order to make themselves right with God. They will quote the Old Testament (OT) to justify why we still need to follow the “law.” (Thus, reading the OT indiscriminately, as if Jesus never happened). This is probably the most prevalent way this happens. In other words, if I believe my good behavior makes me righteous, I’m following the Law. If I think that doing bad things puts me on the outs with God, I’m still eating from the wrong Tree. It’s behavior-based holiness, rather than grace-based transformation.

      Another example would be when we base our standing with God on following the Ten Commandments rather than in Christ. Or, when Christians add to salvation, anything other than grace through faith.

      And this is where it gets confusing because, as Paul argued, leaving the Law behind doesn’t mean we’re giving license to sin. It’s saying we aren’t trying to fix ourselves anymore, or working on our failings. The question is, who is empowering us? We’re surrendering all of that to God because He’s not interested in propping up the old man either! God is only interested in revealing Christ in us. He’s not trying to fix us; He’s wants to transform us!
      I hope that helps!

  2. AfroLatino says:

    Hi Mel

    Thanks for this. I have a question please. Is it following the law if we have to promise God something in exchange of favour? In the old testament, Jephthah had to offer his daughter in exchange of winning the battle. I have heard some faith preaching on this, hence my question.

    Thank you

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi AfroLatino. On the law part of your question, I would say that making promises for favors is pretty legalistic and not something that a son or daughter would ever need to do.

      As far as the Jephthah question, first we have to keep in mind that not everything written about what people did in the Old Testament meant it was God’s will. Especially, in Jephthah’s case. Sacrificing your daughter for a victory is a total pagan notion, not something that would indicate God’s character or desire. Keep in mind, Jesus told us that the Father is exactly like Him. So we can ask, would Jesus ask you to do a human sacrifice for Him, especially your own daughter? No way! The people of Israel were punished for sacrificing their children to Molech. It’s about as pagan as throwing your virgins in the volcano so your deity won’t burn the village!

      The best way to know if people acted according to God’s will in the Old Testament, and not according to their own imaginations and cultural practices, is to compare it to what Jesus was like and how He described His Father. Whatever is not like that is not like God.

      I hope this answers your question. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Repentance | In My Father's House

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