The Law of God reveals the nature of God; it’s His definition of both sin and holiness (1Pe 1:14-16), instructing us in the Way so we can walk in the light with a clean heart. The purpose and goal of the Law is to help us become more Christ-like. (1Ti 1:5)
Since the Law is spiritual (Ro 7:14), holy, just and good (Ro 7:12), and the nature of Christ in every believer delights in the law of God (Ro 7:22), the enemy’s doing his best to keep us in the dark about the role of God’s law in our lives.
One trick he uses is to substitute an arbitrary definition for the law as we read Scripture, spiritualizing it into some vague “law of love” (just be nice), so we never actually consider the details of God’s commands as we study.
But it’s dishonest to arbitrarily change definitions depending on context to make verses mean whatever we like; it’s corrupting the Word and handling it deceitfully. (2Co 4:2) We should rightly divide the Word, using consistent definitions whenever it makes sense.
To get a proper definition, we may easily look at all New Testament references to the law and understand the correct meaning from the various contexts. If there are texts in which the meaning is clear, where any other sense is inappropriate, then we may safely use this as our definition, so long we aren’t contradicting other scripture.
Consider, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” (Ro 2:17-18) This implies the law is the Torah, the body of laws in the Old Testament preserved for us by the Jews. They’ve been studying this law for millennia; they’ve never known any other divine law. No other meaning is reasonable here.
How about, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Ro 3:19) This implies God’s law is clearly stated and available to us. Torah is the only detailed body of law which claims to be inspired of God; there is no other.
Finally consider, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Ro 3:31) Paul has just spent two chapters explaining the relationship of Torah to the believer, yet it is Torah itself that Paul was accused of making void. (Ac 21:20-21) He answers the accusation in no uncertain terms: through the principle of justification by faith we establish Torah, we don’t make any part of it obsolete.
90% of New Testament verses about the law are like this, clear references to Torah. The remaining 10% refer to principles identified distinctly by an added adjective phrase, such as, for example, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, and the law of sin and death (Ro 8:2), describing spiritual forces at work in us to either respect or break Torah, and the law of Christ (Ga 6:2), referring to Christ’s new commandment that we love one another as He loved us. (Jn 13:34)
Throughout the New Testament, whenever something other than Torah is clearly intended, we always find an adjective phrase following the law identifying a specific principle (or law); in no verse does the law appear by itself where it is inappropriate to read it as Torah. This is therefore the most reasonable way to consistently interpret this phrase in scripture.
If we’re not zealous of the law like Christ and the Twelve, serving the law like the Apostle Paul (Ro 7:25), it’s easy to deceive ourselves about what God expects of us in this life of faith. But as we look carefully at the words of Christ Himself, He is unmistakably clear:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:17-19)
It’s hard to imagine how He might be any more direct about the importance of all of us obeying Torah.