Relationship with the God of the Bible should be based on what is seen of the character of God in the Old and New Testament, with a special focus on Jesus (who is presented as God incarnate). How did Jesus present law, and how should that affect relationship with God?
Three-Fold Law System
The Old Testament Levitical system of law of three-fold. God had given them as many as 613 laws, many being Ceremonial (referring to form and structure of worship), Civil (relating to social styles and, hygiene etc.) and Moral (referring to internal matters of the heart). With the advent of the New Testament Covenant through the model given by Jesus, the first two were all but contractually done away with (although they are still reasonable principles to follow). This, I would suspect, is due to the social advancement and general progress that made these external laws naturally ingrained into culture, so they would have been redundant underneath scientifically-identified reasons. Aside from the shedding of the practical application of these laws, what *did* remain was the internal, moral laws. These Jesus reinforced with that all-inclusive statement: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. On these hang the whole law and the prophets” Matthew 22:37-40 (paraphrased). Jesus made all the 613 original Levitical laws into two… “Love God and love people”. Unavoidably simple. But they satisfied the Jewish laws perfectly.
Later on, in Romans, Paul the apostle discusses the law as exposes actions and decisions as being sin, and opening the
door to death. This is the same book we get the famous passage Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, and 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life”. Paul was stating that the law makes us accountable to what is wrong, and it can be interpreted here that the law coming into comprehension now makes us guilty of the actions that went against the law before we knew it.
This seems unjust to me. How is someone accountable for things that he has done that he was not aware were wrong? We would quickly add that we knew from conception a basic concept of right and wrong. I always quote Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God has placed eternity in our hearts”. It seems more realistic that we get a “grace period” until we become *aware* that something is wrong, which aligns with what James says in James 4:17, “To him who knows what is right and does not do it, to him it is sin”. I am going to reach out on a huge limb here and ask a question is speculation: “Is it possible Paul did not believe he had a “grace period” upon transitioning into an understanding of the law according to Jesus? If the New Covenant was relationally-focused, (while this was the case all along, Jesus took up much in the way of civil ordinance), should Paul have been able to move into a new life with Christ without having to consider his past actions as present sin? Am I wrong in my thinking that this is what he thought? There seems to be plenty of weight placed on this part of Scripture, and yet the relational character of God (and the relationship we see clearly modeled between Jesus and the Father) suggests that He doesn’t hold against us what we weren’t presently aware of.
So this new covenant is about a relationship with the Father God, and while laws fall into place when we agree to covenant together, it’s not a contract that we have to commit to mercilessly. It a bond held together by a tremendous love. Love first shown from Him, and then reciprocated back to Him from us, thus constituting a two-way relationship. It is the relational character of God that compels me to continue to joyously commune with God, and also His adopted sons and daughters.