Law or Gospel?

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will
disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do
the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and
teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:18-19 NLT
In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says that not the smallest letter nor the tiniest dot will
disappear from the Torah (law) until everything it was intended to do is
accomplished. We might think that the Cross would be that accomplishment, but
from the way Jesus follows up his comment, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Rather, he seems to be saying the purpose of the Torah will be fulfilled when its
instructions have become internalized.
But in the book of Galatians the Apostle Paul seems to take a different view. There
he seems to be saying in no uncertain terms that the only purpose of the Law
(torah) was to restrain our baser passions until the Spirit could be poured out upon
us. When that happened as a result of the Cross we would be free of all the
requirements of the Law (torah). (See Galatians 3:23-39.)
But is Paul really saying that? Is he saying it no longer matters how we live now
that we have the Spirit. He is not! He in fact is saying the same thing Jesus said.
Before the Cross made the Spirit available, we only did what God wanted on the
basis of “must.” But now in the Kingdom of the Spirit, we do what God wants for
love. What is not clear is the distinction Paul is assuming between the externals of
the law (days, times, 4:10), and the character renovation (fruit, 5:22–6:10) that the
law (torah) is aiming for.
So the issue is not law (torah) versus gospel (no law [torah]), but rather between an
external system of godliness, focused on external actions (such as circumcision,
observance of holy days, etc.) and enforced by coercion, and an internal system
focused on attitudes towards others, and motivated by love for the Savior. In truth,
the purpose of the gospel is to make possible the fulfillment of God’s instructions
for life (the Torah).

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