Can’t Do the Law?

Another mask for rich biblical truth is the teaching that we “can’t do the law” as in “we are unable.” You’ve heard it said that if you follow the Law you have to follow it perfectly (citing Galatians 5:3 or James 2:10). Since that is impossible, goes the theory, then the Law must be replaced by the righteousness of Jesus. Again, the Scriptures tell a different story. God tells His people at Sinai that the Law He is proclaiming is not out of reach.

11“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB95)

Paul echoes this principle in Romans 10:1-11. In another place Paul agrees with Moses yet again, and tells us that with Christ all things are possible. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB95.) Jesus wouldn’t have told us we could be perfect (before the resurrection even) unless it was within our grasp.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, NASB95)

Our faith (trust and obedience) is counted as righteousness (Romans 4) but we must continue in faith, abiding in every Word from His mouth. It’s not the Law that can’t be done. God’s Word can easily be “done,” or He would not have given it to us. The Law is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:25-30). What cannot be done is to earn God’s salvation through following some rules (or Laws). We can’t trade our own righteousness (it is “filthy rags” according to Isaiah 64:6) for salvation. No one can earn enough merit before God to claim any sort of righteous standing sufficient for salvation. Let me say it again: you can’t earn salvation by following the Law. Faith saves; Law pursued as works doesn’t.

Obviously, though, there are Laws we cannot observe. Some of them involve a Temple or a priesthood, which we do not have on earth at the moment. Others involve the administering of penalties. This is mostly impossible now because His body is not a sovereign state recognized by all the other states. At the present time, our kingdom is like leaven working its way through a lump of dough (the earth, Matthew 13:33). We don’t yet have a separate state, with borders and a capital city.

One of the side effects of teaching “we can’t do the law” is that it makes God out to be a sadist. That’s the conclusion if God actually does give us a code we can’t follow. Or we make God out to be a liar, because we create two different teachings that contradict but are supposed to come from God. What we’ve really done with this teaching is to mix truth and error.

Just because there are some things in the Law we can’t do today, or some things we can’t do with the Law, that doesn’t mean what we can do should be left by the wayside. We can take His holidays as our own and forsake the pagan ones. We can go on His diet, which doesn’t include pork and shellfish. We can share His Word and exercise mercy, justice and compassion as much as we are able. In short, there are more things we can do than can’t.