"Good riddance to good works!" is the mentality of some Christians who believe that obedience to Yahweh God's holy commandments is no longer required once you put faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation. Is this belief Biblical? When we accept Jesus as our Savior, does it mean we can indulge in a paradise of sin?

No, "in comes faith, out goes God's laws" is not a Biblical doctrine. To live a life based on this erroneous belief is not only foolish but dangerous as well, because "if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:26, 27, WEB)

So why do some people believe that Christians are no longer under God's laws? People believe so based on faulty interpretations of certain passages in the Holy Scriptures. Let us examine some of them now to understand their true, intended meaning.

1) God's commandments nailed to the cross?

The number one passage that's commonly misinterpreted is Colossians 2:13-14, which says:

"You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances which was against us; and he has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross."

Many people wrongly believe that "handwriting in ordinances" refers to God's commandments. So they believe that God's commandments are what work against us and were nailed to the cross, away from our sight, no longer to be obeyed.

"Handwriting" is translated from the Greek word "ceirografon," which refers to any handwritten note. It can also specifically refer to a record of debt. "Ordinances" is translated from the Greek word "dogma," which means both "decree," as in a formal order issued by a ruler, and "ordinance," as in ordinances in regards to right living.

While "handwriting in ordinances" alone can be understood as God's written commandments, this is not the correct understanding in its context. In the Colossians context, "handwriting in ordinances" refers to a record of sins or trespasses one has ever committed and the decree concerning them. The focus of the Colossians 2:13-14 is on the forgiveness of one's sins. Jesus has "forgiven us all our trespasses." How? By wiping out the record of trespasses which was against us, and nailing it to the cross. This canceled the decree concerning those sins. What's God's decree concerning sins? Death. Yes, the penalty for all sins is eternal death: condemnation. But Jesus nailed our records of sin and their decree onto the cross. This colorfully illustrates the forgiveness of our sins.

At the crucifixion of criminals, the Romans customarily nailed a plate onto the wooden stake to which the criminal was impaled. The plate stated the crime for which the criminal was executed.

In Jesus' crucifixion, Christ symbolically nailed our own record of sins (our plate) onto his own wooden stake. This symbolized that Jesus himself bore our iniquities and died in our place, as if he were the one who committed the sins we committed. This is in line with what the prophet Isaiah said:
"Surely he has borne our sickness,
and carried our suffering;
yet we considered him plagued,
struck by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities.
The punishment that brought our peace was on him;
and by his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray.
Everyone has turned to his own way;
and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself;
and he will bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:4-6, 11)

Onto his wooden stake, Jesus nailed all of our sins, taking them upon himself. This canceled the decree of condemnation that we would have faced if Jesus had not died in our place. It was the decree that worked against us, not God's righteous commandments.

The English Standard Version best translates Colossians 2:13-14 as: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." The New Living Translation translates Colossians 2:14 as: "He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross."

2) God's commandments "dead" to Christians?

Another commonly misconstrued passage is Romans 7:1-6, which says:

"Or don't you know, brothers (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man for as long as he lives? For the woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives, but if the husband dies, she is discharged from the law of the husband. So then if, while the husband lives, she is joined to another man, she would be called an adulteress. But if the husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brothers, you also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you would be joined to another, to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were through the law, worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter."

Here, the apostle Paul uses the marriage as an analogy to illustrate the fact that the Law no longer has a condemning hold on Christians. Just as a woman whose husband died has freedom to re-marry another man without being charged as an adulteress, so a Christian who "died" through Jesus Christ can now join to another "husband" (Jesus) and can no longer be condemned by the Law.

Many erroneously believe that this passage says that Christians no longer have to obey God's commandments. To correctly understand this passage, we need to know two things: a) what the Law stands for here, and b) what Christians died to.

The "Law" refers to the Mosaic Law given to God to Israel. The Law was comprised of three components: a) commandments to obey, b) prescribed punishments for disobedience, and c) a sacrificial system where people could receive forgiveness for certain sins (now, it's a bit more complex than this, but it gives you a good general idea). While people could receive atonement through the sacrificial system, people who broke any of the commandments were usually condemned by the second component of the Law (it's prescribed punishment, mainly condemnation), because the sacrificial system only covered a limited amount of sins. Essentially, all people under the Law were condemned, because no one could perfectly obey God's commandments due to the sinful nature in each person (Romans 3:19-20, 23).

Things changed for the better when Jesus offered himself up as a willing sacrifice to die in our place. When a person becomes a Christian by putting faith in him, their "old selves" died with Christ, meaning that they have become a new creation whose past sins were completely forgiven, and any future sins will be forgiven through confession and repentance (Romans 6:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, the Mosaic Law with its prescribed condemnation no longer has a hold on the Christian. The Christian is "dead" to the condemnation of the Law, not to the commandments of God. This is the correct understanding in light of the entire Romans 6-7 context and the Scriptures overall.

To say that the "Law" in this passage is referring to God's commandments would make this passage contradict the rest of the Bible. We'll later see just a few passages that show God's commandments are still binding to Christians.

3) God's commandments no longer lead Christians?
One other passage people use to support the idea that God's righteous commandments are no longer relevant to Christians is Galatians 3:23-25, which says:
"But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Here, the "Law" also refers to the Mosaic Law, which is a system comprised of three components: commandments, condemnation, and sacrificial system. Like the Law, "faith" in Galatians 3:23-25 also refers to a system or economy. Some dub them the "old dispensation" (the Law) and the "new dispensation" (faith).
To put it simply, the new dispensation is an upgrade of the old dispensation. The new dispensation also has three components as the old: God's commandments, justification through faith, and a sacrificial system. Essentially, God's moral commandments remain unchanged. What altered are the last two components: condemnation for failing to perfectly obey God's commandments has been replaced with justification through faith in Jesus Christ, where anyone who trusts in Christ for their salvation will be forgiven of their violations of God's commandments; and the object of sacrifice in the sacrificial system has changed from animal sacrifices to the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whose blood can make atonement for the worst sins so long as the sinner sincerely repents. This means that condemnation of the Law still applies to those who refuse to put faith in Jesus for justification and those who willfully rebel against God's commandments.
Two of the purposes of the old dispensation were:
a) To show God's people that they needed Christ: Since the Law required perfect obedience and since no one could perfectly obey God's commandments for justification, the Law showed people that they needed a Savior to rescue them from condemnation.

b) To lead people to Christ: The sacrificial system of the Law made atonement for certain sins through the blood of animals. Every time a person committed a sin and needed forgiveness, an animal had to die in their place to pay the penalty for their sin, which is death. However, animal blood could atone for only unintentional sins and intentional less serious sins. This demonstrated that a) only blood could atone for sins, and b) they needed a better sacrifice to atone for any and all sins, even the worst sins, such as murder and adultery.
This was why the apostle Paul metaphorically compared the Law to a "paidagogos," which is translated into such words as "tutor," "guardian," and "schoolmaster." A "paidagogos" was usually a slave in a well-to-do Roman family who supervised and cared for school-aged boys and brought them to school. Like a paidagogos, the Law led God's people to Christ, their actual Teacher. When Christ came, God's people were transferred to the care of Christ in the new dispensation from their "guardian," the Law. As the Teacher, what does Jesus teach? God's commandments! Indeed, Jesus teaches the same old commandments, elaborating on the principles behind the precepts to give the commandments fuller meaning and make them applicable to anyone of any society. Thus, God's commandments have never been abolished, only affirmed and re-established.

God's Commandments, Alive and Active

Now that we've looked at some of the commonly misconstrued passages, let us read some verses that clearly tell us that God's commandments are not dead and gone for Christians.

Many say that when Jesus came, he abolished God's commandments. But Jesus himself disputed this false belief when he said: "Don't think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn't come to destroy, but to fulfill. For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished. Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

The "law and the prophets" refers to the two major divisions of the Tanakh (our Old Testament) which includes the writings on the Mosaic Law. Note that Jesus said he did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. He fulfilled the Law by becoming the ultimate sacrifice for humanity in the sacrificial system, thereby making atonement for those who would have been condemned under the Law. However, his sacrifice and atonement did not remove God's commandments or people's obligation to observe them, as Jesus said that anyone who "shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Jesus' words are more than enough to prove that God's commandments are binding to Christians. But since by God's Law that at least two witnesses are required to establish a case, then let's look at another passage that supports the fact that God's commandments are still binding:

"'Behold, the days come,' says the Lord,
'that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,
in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they didn't continue in my covenant,
and I disregarded them,' says the Lord.
'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel.
After those days,' says the Lord;
'I will put my laws into their mind,
I will also write them on their heart.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people." (Hebrews 8:8-10, quoted from Jeremiah 34:31-33)

The "old covenant" that Yahweh made refers to the Mosaic covenant He established with Israel ("Judah" refers to a kingdom of Israel). That covenant contained the commandments Israel had to observe. But after Israel repeatedly violated the covenant, Yahweh established a new covenant with them. The "new covenant" is more of a renewed covenant, because instead of having God's laws (commandments) written simply on stones, God will write His laws on people's hearts. This simply means that God will supernaturally help people observe His commandments by having His Holy Spirit guide them; on their own, they did a miserable job keeping His laws. And Christians have entered into this covenant Yahweh made with Israel. This consequently put Christians under God's commandments. So contrary to popular belief, the new covenant did not remove God's laws--it re-established them by having them written on people's hearts!

The Conclusion

If you have thought that obedience to God's commandments is no longer your obligation when you put faith in Christ, think again. Faith in Jesus is not the ticket to sin, only to reconciliation and justification, where you will not be condemned by God for not being able to perfectly obey His laws. Good works prove whether your faith is genuine, for "as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26) Performing works in accordance to God's laws is God's will, and only those who do the will of God will enter His Kingdom, as Jesus said:

"Every tree that doesn't grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'" (Matthew 7:19, 21-23)

Note your simple belief that Jesus is Lord will not get you into God's Kingdom. Only active faith can. Active faith is faith in Jesus that's proven genuine by your obedience to God's will in keeping His commandments.

Christians are God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus for good works." (Ephesians 2:10) Are you living up to your title as a new creation of God? If not, then follow the lead of the Holy Spirit to help you observe God's laws and avoid the temptations of all that is contrary to God's goodness.

Let us all pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,
How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
With my whole heart, I have sought you.
Don't let me wander from your commandments.
I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, Yahweh.
Teach me your statutes.
Open my eyes,
that I may see wondrous things out of your law.
Keep me from the way of deceit.
Grant me your law graciously!
Teach me, Yahweh, the way of your statutes.
I will keep them to the end.
All of your words are truth.
Every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law.
Yes, I will obey it with my whole heart.
Direct me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in them.
Turn my heart toward your statutes,
not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things.
Revive me in your ways.
Fulfill your promise to your servant,
that you may be feared.
So I will obey your law continually,
forever and ever.
(Psalm 119:9-12, 18, 29, 33, 160, 34-38, 44)

In Jesus' name, amen!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Shirley Cheng (b. 1983) is a blind and physically disabled award-winning author with twenty-seven book awards, proclaimer of Yahweh God's good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, Bible teacher, founder of www.Ultra-Ability.com Ministry, summa cum laude graduate with Doctor of Divinity, motivational speaker, poet; and author of nine books (including "Do You Love Jehovah?"), contributor to over twenty-five, and an editor of one. Shirley has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy. Owing to years of hospitalization, she received no education until age eleven. Back then, she knew only her ABCs and very simple English; other than that, her book knowledge was non-existent. However, after only about 180 days of special education in elementary school, she mastered grade level and entered a regular sixth grade class in middle school. Unfortunately, Shirley lost her eyesight at the age of seventeen. After a successful eye surgery, she hopes to earn multiple science doctorates from Harvard University. http://www.ShirleyCheng.com

Do you have questions about the Bible? Something you don't understand? Do you need a bit of guidance in developing a relationship with Yahweh? Then Shirley would like to help you! Please contact her via her site at http://www.ultra-ability.com and she would be more than glad to do her best to answer your questions! Never hesitate to ask questions, for no question about the Bible is ever too small or stupid.