“But now we have been delivered from the Law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6)
The Church is to reflect the life and nature of God. The quality found in any church is based on that fact alone. The more institutionalized the Church becomes the less it reflects the life and nature of God.
Individual hearts contribute to the corporate quality of life within a church. Attempts to add quality to the Church by substituting outward forms robs the Church of the true power of God. When Jesus cursed the fig tree, He was cursing forms of religion that rob the heart of the power of God. (Mk 11: 20-21)
The Law put emphasis on outward forms and restraints. Grace puts the emphasis on an inward transformation and the inward life. Law works from the outside in. Grace works from the inside out. The Law was written on tablets of stone. Grace has God’s moral law written on the heart. The Law was given to spiritually dead people, but grace has been given to spirits who’ve been made alive. The more Law is present in the Church, the more institutionalized it becomes.
The institutionalization of Christianity happens when spiritually alive people are made to operate in something that was only designed for spiritually dead people. We do believers a great injustice by telling them what they can and cannot do, subtly teaching them that they cannot operate by the new nature. The power is in the new nature. The Law could never give us this power.
The purpose of the Law was to restrain people’s flesh and sinful nature. In the Church and under grace this becomes unnecessary. You don’t need a law to restrain the new nature that has the love of God in it (Rom. 5:5). Love will restrain you if you listen to it. What is necessary is to teach and train people to yield to that new nature.
In the Old Covenant Israel’s obedience to the Law was strictly for their own benefit. They obeyed so they would be blessed and not cursed. All Israel knew was to hate their enemies, and physical death was the penalty for certain sins. They could in no way know God’s love for sinners.
Do you think Jesus did what the Father told Him to do so He wouldn’t be cursed? Did Jesus seek and save the lost because He wanted to be blessed and earn wages from the Father? Did Jesus forgive His enemies at the cross so He could miss hell and make heaven? No! One thousand times, no! Jesus did what He did because it was His nature. The number one need in the body of Christ today is the renewing of the mind so that it can come into agreement with the new nature in every believer. Jesus fulfilled the Law by simply walking according to His nature.
How is the law present in the Church today? Under the Law the presence of God was manifest in a temple made with human hands, a geographical location. Under grace our bodies are now the temples of God where His presence abides. By placing an emphasis on the church as a building it reinforces this aspect of the Law in people’s thinking.
Under the Law the prophets, priests, and kings were the only ministers anointed by God for service, and the rest of Israel were dependent on them to hear from God and lead them. Under grace all believers are kings and priests and can hear from God and are anointed to minister in some capacity. An extreme focus on only the pastor or fivefold ministry excludes or minimizes the rest of the body of Christ from participation in the service of God. Once again, this is another aspect of the Law and institutionalization of Christianity.
Under the Law there were 10 commandments. Under grace, yielding to the new nature (love) fulfills all the law and commandments.
The Church must come out from under the Law and from religion by feeding and nurturing the new nature. This will keep the Church from being institutionalized and being bound by forms that rob the heart of the power of God.