The Law was Given Through Moses – Grace and Truth Come Through Jesus Christ
by Greg Albrecht
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:17
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
—2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Here’s a news flash! Religion is confrontational and hostile to anyone that dares to differ with it. Religion is, at best, irrelevant to our relationship with God. Christ-less religion actually leads people away from God!
Grace-less religion advances its agenda, which is all about the relationship it offers (or inflicts upon) its followers. The relationship religion offers usually includes a relationship with a building, with real estate, with icons, with treasures (real or imagined) and with rituals and performances and traditions which are themselves reputed to be of heavenly value. In many cases religion promises spiritual rewards based on an individual’s relationship with a multi-national religious corporation. Your relationship with that legal, religious entity, says religion, is based on law—a law which is, when all is said and done, its laws, its rules, its regulations.
But when we carefully look at the gospel of Jesus Christ, we see a dramatically different picture emerging. We see Jesus proclaiming a personal relationship with God, given to us by the boundless riches of his grace. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers us close, personal relationship with God, not mediated by human power structures and authoritarian dogma, but mediated solely by Jesus, God in the flesh. Your relationship with God, says your Bible, is based on his amazing grace.
I believe that authentic Christianity is all about freedom in Christ—often at the expense of, and in spite of, corporate/ denominational membership. The Law Was Given Though Moses—Grace and Truth Came Through Jesus Christ will further explore and discover how God makes himself known in our lives. We will do this by studying John 1:17 in conjunction with 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2.
In these two passages, Moses and Jesus (or Christ, or the Lord) are contrasted. Moses is mentioned three times, Jesus Christ our Lord is mentioned seven times.
In these two passages we read the words veiled and unveiled in reference to our relationship with God three times. Truth is mentioned twice, with other key words and terms being law, grace, mercy, old covenant and freedom.
Consider first of all the single verse in the first chapter of the Gospel of John: Here are two distinct ways of relating to God, both of which were given to humans by God.
The first one, the old covenant, was given to a select group of people, the Jews, and no one else. The first way of relating to God was given on the basis of the rule of law. This first covenant, this first agreement, was given to the Jews by Moses, an imperfect human leader.
But when God gave the new covenant, when he gave us grace and truth as a way of relating to himself, he gave it to all humanity. There are no new covenant stipulations as to race, creed, color or gender. All have equal access to God in the new covenant.
And when God gave the new covenant of grace and truth, contrasted to the old of the law, he did not delegate its delivery to a human messenger. He didn’t write the new covenant on two tablets of stone. God brought the new covenant to us with his own hands, in the person of Jesus, God in the flesh.
The contrast offered in John 1:17 could not be more striking. Jesus is the new Moses, the transcendent Moses, the One who leads his people through a different kind of exodus. We must remember that the original audience to whom John wrote was composed primarily of Jews in whose minds Moses loomed as a super-hero.
John told this audience (and all of us, of course) that Jesus, not Moses, is the true liberator. The freedom Jesus offers is not liberation from the physical nation of Egypt, not from physical bondage, but from religious entities that enslave us. He came to set spiritual captives free!
Then we come to 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2. This passage clearly articulates that the old covenant was temporary and that it is now, as Hebrews 8:13 tells us, obsolete. In our passage in 2 Corinthians Moses, the lawgiver, came down from Sinai after being in the presence of God.
Paul likens the face of Moses, at the time he came down from the mountain, as a face that was shining so brightly that the people had to hide from him, because of the law God gave Moses. The radiance and the glory of the law Moses brought down the mountain and the brightness reflected in his face was short-lived. God didn’t intend for the law of Sinai to be eternal. Human religious innovations and traditions have taken the old covenant and attempted to enforce it beyond the Cross of Christ.
Paul says that Moses had to veil his face. Why? So that the people would not notice that the glory that originally radiated from Moses (due to the fact that Moses had just been in the presence of God) was fast fading away.
Moses had to hide because the glory was fading, and Paul, perhaps stretching the metaphor but certainly not stretching the truth, says that to this day when people read Moses, when their focus and concentration is on the law, their spiritual vision is impaired—they have a veil over their faces!
Paul says the law hardens people, it covers their hearts. Making the law one’s priority, Paul says, obscures the true nature of the relationship God offers to us.
But Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 3:16, whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
There is no freedom in the law. Paul is, of course, not saying the specific law to which he has reference was wrong, for it was given by God. As he says in the book of Romans the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12).
But just because something is holy, righteous and good doesn’t mean that it should be the focus of our worship. The fact that God has deemed something to be holy, righteous and good doesn’t mean that the entity to which he has imparted holiness has any power to forgive sin, to redeem us and spiritually transform us into having an intimate relationship with God.
The law served Jesus—the law is not on the throne—Jesus is. Paul is saying that the old covenant of relating to God on the basis of the law is gone, that God never intended for it to last, and that anyone who attempts to relate to God on the basis of human ability to measure up to any code of laws is, in effect, riding a dead horse.
Christ-less religion is dead, because it is based on relating to God on the basis of law, rather than on the basis of grace. When and if the New Testament, the new covenant given to us in the blood of Christ, is preached, taught and understood in a legalistic way, giving priority to laws and performance, then our minds and hearts will be veiled and spiritual vision will be impaired. If legalism is our perspective, then we will eventually start worshipping the created instead of the Creator.
Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You have your own stories and your own experiences with a religious mindset that puts law on the throne. In many cases you endlessly heard about the Ten Commandments and how you had to obey them or else. You may have also heard, in a law-based religious mindset, that it is not just the Ten Commandments but there are other parts of the old covenant we are required to keep and observe, and if we don’t, God will not be happy with us.
In your past, you may have heard, from one version of religion or another, that God would not be happy with you if you did not conform to certain religious traditions and dogmas. You may have been threatened with what was called the law of God (but was in fact nothing but a human interpretation of God’s will) and that if you didn’t shape up, God would ship you out to hell. According to the specific species of legalistic religion you may have encountered, you would burn forever, because you made God unhappy.
Christ-less religion may have convinced you that God’s grace, and his love and mercy that is clearly proclaimed in the Bible, is merely for the “weak.” Religion may have convinced you, when you were its captive, that if you really wanted to be “strong in the Lord” then you would have to get in line with its religious demands.
I know all about this religious drill; I lived it, I bought into it, I followed it, I taught it and I enforced it. It is painful, for many reasons, to think of how I was controlled by religion, and how I in turn did my best to control others.
What I was involved in wasn’t about Jesus. My journey into the swamps of legalistic religion wasn’t about a relationship with God. The authoritarian religion that defined my reality for well over three decades was all about making sure its swamp-rat captives didn’t offend its laws and traditions.
Religion is a counterfeit, a phony, it’s an imposter. Christ-less religion pretends to tell you that it has the keys to the front door of God’s house, but the reality is that the front door to God’s house is not locked! You don’t need religious keys—you don’t need secret codes – you don’t need to wear special clothing—you don’t need to observe special days and special diets—you don’t need to try to impress God with how many candles you light or how many times you darken the doors of a building that pronounces itself to be a (and even more incredibly, “the one and only”) church.
The key to the door of God’s house is Jesus, and he stands at that door welcoming you. If you accept Jesus and believe in and on him, the door to God’s house is open.
You don’t need to do all that religious stuff, because God isn’t demanding it of you. He is not impressed with religious stuff—he is repelled by it because it takes the emphasis off of Jesus and away from the freedom in Christ God offers us by his grace. Religion attempts to redirect our attention and efforts to its own pitiful, eternally inconsequential ceremonies and rituals.
What do we see when we turn to Jesus, when the religious veil is lifted away from our faces? We see, as Paul says, with unveiled face, the glory of Christ. And where Christ is, there is freedom, says Paul.
When we turn from arbitrary religious ritual and dogma, when we turn from legalism and authoritarianism, and when we turn to Christ, we are changed. We see Jesus more clearly, we love him more dearly and we follow him more nearly.
In Christ, our relationship with God is transformed from religious requirements and fear to joy and grace. We are no longer slaves of religion—we are friends of God.
Because of Jesus, we no longer suffer under human religious taskmasters who are cracking religious whips. By God’s grace, we no longer seek to relate to God through a human institution. If we determine that a church or a ministry or a pastor or an author is Christ-centered and can be of help in directing us to the Lord, then we are free to make that decision.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1—Therefore, through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Freedom in Christ is a ministry!
Freedom in Christ is a message the world needs to hear. There are many voices out there, many of them beckoning to people and beguiling them into a lifetime of religious slavery. There are many religious people, sincere though they may be, who read the Bible with a veil over their hearts and whose hearts are therefore hardened. Christ-less religion selectively quotes and proof-texts the Bible to justify its own greed, selfishness and arrogance.
By God’s mercy we have freedom in Christ, but this freedom is not merely given to us so that we might breathe clean, clear spiritual air now that we have been redeemed from the bondage of a religious prison. We are not free merely for ourselves, so that we might luxuriate in the life that Jesus lives in us.
It is an incredible, unbelievable blessing to be free in Christ, but it’s not enough to give thanks for what has happened in our lives alone. Jesus is not the new Moses, setting us, as one of many captives, free, merely so that we might be free. There’s more to freedom in Christ than that.
Freedom in Christ is a cause, it’s a dynamic message, it’s a spiritual imperative and a divine revolution. We who know freedom in Christ, we who have come to a deeper and more profound relationship in and with God are charged with sharing that same message.
We all know friends, neighbors and family who still drag the chains of religion after them, who cannot see Jesus because they have a veil over their face.
How can we simply enjoy freedom in Christ while not being profoundly moved by the plight of others who toil in religious salt mines? We have the priceless privilege of being one of God’s tools, a tool he might see fit to use to help release spiritual slaves.
Stand up for the freedom you have been given. Let it sound from every hill and every mountain. Let every city, every town, every village, let every church, let every religious group, let every cult or sect, let everyone who finds themselves with a negative and erroneous impression of who the God of the Bible really is, let them all, in God’s way and with God’s grace, according to his will and his time, come to know and see Jesus.
By God’s grace, let the captives go free!