Are we bound by law?


I hear a lot of christians, even Catholics say that we are not bound by law, yet Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law. And then I read this in 1 John 3:4 says “Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”

I’m finding this hard to understand. And no one I ask is giving me a satisfying answer. I’d appreciate it if some one would explain it to me.

Thank you.


God’s moral Law as expressed in the Ten Commandments is the expression of the holiness of God’s own self. As such it is therefore applicable at all times in places and to all men. There is no one who may flout the commands of the moral dictates and expect the pleasure of God to be upon them, however this is the very reason we have the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to secure us. That we by cooperation with the Holy Spirit may know that our sins are forgiven and so do not have to live in terror of the moral Law as in Old Testament times. So in this sense we are free from the Law.

However Old Testament Law was not merely the moral dictates. It also encompassed a wide range of what we eat, drink, and wear. It covered how we should plant our fields, with whom we should associate and how to manage money, servants and household. These things are the societal laws that were applicable to body politic of Israel as constructed by the Covenant of Moses. These do not apply to us.

On top of that there was a whole slew of religious laws concerning the Temple/Tabernacle and the maintenance thereof, the right types of sacrifices for which sin, the care for the priesthood, and the general religious life and welfare of those in the religion of Israel. We are also not subject to these laws.


Contained in all the Law is the Wisdom of God set forth in written form, and so it worth studying. It worth understanding the Law because in it we can see exactly how Christ fulfilled it. We can see also how the Law, which was imperfect, looked forward to Christ who is the Perfect One. And so even though some parts of it may not apply to us, because we don’t live in Ancient Israel, the Law is still worth studying and knowing because it is reflective of the life God desires His People to live.

God Bless


Romans 7 is helpful here:

In the same way, my brothers, you also were put to death to the law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to the one who was raised from the dead in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, our sinful passions, awakened by the law, worked in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, dead to what held us captive, so that we may serve in the newness of the spirit and not under the obsolete letter. 7What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

I think that what people mean in talking about not being “bound” by the law is that we are no longer bound to the curse of the law which is death (see Dt 29:20 and Rm 4:15). For those under the New Covenant, if one doesn’t obey the law perfectly, they have forgiveness through the merits of Jesus Christ. This is good, since we are all sinners. If we were “bound” by the law, we would still be subject to it’s penalties, but in Christ Jesus we have forgiveness for the sins we commit. Colossians 2:14 also says "having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. " Those decrees against us are laid out in the law. As verse 7 above details, the law tells us what is sin and what isn’t. We still need to be obedient to the law, but not because we are under a curse, but because we are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8 also has this:

1 Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do, this God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.



Saved by the Law? No.


The LAW!

What do the Gospel writers mean when they write “the law”

Well…What did the Gospel writers understand the “law” to mean for them?

The LAW of Moses, a superset of the Law of GOD (the 10 Commandments).
Dietary laws, feasts and festivals, sin and punishment, relations with other jews, etc.

Jesus DID NOT abolish the Law of GOD (the 10 Commandments) over and over HE reminded us that those will never pass. St. Paul tells us that even the pagans have this Law written in their hearts.

Romans 2:14
For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature those things which are of the law, such persons, not having the law, are a law unto themselves.

The old Law, was a guide to righteousness and yet no one could attain righteousness, the yoke of sin made it almost impossible and the gates of Heaven were shut.

Hebrews 7:19
For the law led no one to perfection, yet truly it introduced a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Also Jesus established HIS Church here on Earth to help us and guide us to eternal glory. He gave His Royal Steward here on Earth authority over His Church “What you bind on Earth is bound in Heaven, what you loose on Earth is loosed in Heaven”

Let us follow Her gladly, for when we do this we are as St. Paul says “a part of the body” the body of Jesus in His Church. Let us understand why She teaches what She teaches because our Eternal life is dependent unto this. If we do not understand let us ask and learn to come to understanding so that we fulfil

Peter 3:15

But sanctify Christ the Lord in your hearts, being always ready to give an explanation to all who ask you the reason for that hope which is in you.


Ok, you and I know which law has been perfected by the New covenant and which law we are not bound by because we know Jesus gave us Church leaders who not only lead us but tell us how to understand the Old Testement law. But to other Christian who don’t believe in the Church’s authority how can you explain to them what laws to follow and what laws not to follow? Like some believe they shouldn’t be eating pork and shelfish while not observing the Lord’s day! (Thats just an example)


Did the Jews in the OT think that they could be saved by the law or just waiting for the Messiah to save them?


You have received some good information about the Law from other Catholics, based on Christian teaching. Please allow me to explain its meaning according to the Jewish perspective. For Jews, the expression “bound by the Law” has a harsh ring to it. This is because the Law is NOT regarded as a burden, a yoke, or a punishment. Rather, it is designed for their own good, and, as Moses proclaims in Deuteronomy, it is not so hard to follow after all. As Psalms 19 states “they (the words of the Law) are sweeter than honey.” Still, the MAIN reason why (some) Jews attempt to live by the Law is not so much because it gives their life meaning and holiness, although it certainly does this, but because G-d has commanded them to do so. The fact that the Law also serves to sanctify the Jewish people is a secondary, albeit very important, reason connected to the primary reason.

The Law is NOT a means of salvation, at least not in the Christian sense of striving for perfection and refraining from sin so as to attain heaven. Indeed, Judaism has never had the illusion that mankind can achieve perfection, even with G-d’s help, not even in a human way. From ancient times to the present, Jews have been constantly atoning for their sins, for missing the mark, for not obeying the Law and not living a life of moral rectitude. Jews believe G-d understands their imperfections; but they also believe He wants them to strive to do better the next time even if they have failed over and over again. And Judaism, like Catholicism, believes in Purgatory, a place or state in which sinful imperfections are cleansed. No, the Law per se does not lead to heavenly salvation, which is not a particular concern in Judaism, but it can lead to earthly redemption by providing a clear set of guidelines concerning how to live a meaningful and purposeful life here on Earth by means of acts of love for others and for oneself. As Hillel taught: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am for myself alone, who am I? And if not now, when?”

The tenets of Judaism do not bind non-Jews to the Law in its details, which are contained in the Torah (Pentateuch). The Law is actually a detailed explanation of each of the Ten Commandments (Statements or Words are better translations). However, it is interesting that Hillel the Elder, a generation before Jesus, summarized the whole Law even for Jews in terms of love of G-d and love of neighbor. Nonetheless, non-Jews ARE bound by the Seven Laws of Noah, the Noachide Laws.


I can pray for them.
Reason with them.
Be a witness to them.

All of the above, but in the end is up to each individual to make THE choice!

Luke 10:16
Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.”


Neither the Law nor the Messiah will save in the Christian sense. Jews do not believe there is anything to be saved from: that is, they do sin, but they atone for their sins by prayer and good deeds (blood sacrifice of animals was NEVER the principal means of atonement). Although they sin, err, miss the mark, Jews do not regard themselves as sinners who are bound for hell or undeserving of heaven. Heaven is not even a principal concern in Judaism. Please see my previous post for more on the Jewish perspective concerning the Law.


Many post-resurrection Jews in NT times thought all they needed was the Law…Paul pointed out the fallacy in Galatians (I think it was Galatians).


We are bound to love, fulfilling the greatest commandments, which in turn automatically fulfills the law (Gal 5:14 & Rom 13:10). This is what our justice and holiness consists of; this is the right way, the only authentic way, for the law to be fulfilled, and thus for the New Covenant to be fulfilled. This is a matter of grace, responded to by man with faith as the first step, which is the reestablishment between man and God of the relationship or communion which was shattered at the Fall. Jesus, apart from Whom we an do nothing, makes this reconciliation possible, so that God may begin to mold us, transforming us into His image, to 'place His law in our hearts and write it on our minds", fulfilling the New Covenant prophecy of Jer 31:33-34.

So mere external observance of the law, itself, does not make us just; rather changed hearts, hearts that love as God does, is what our true justice consists of. That’s the basic difference between the old and new covenants.



Well, “mere external observance of the law, itself, does not make us just” in the Old Covenant either. The observance should be sincere and should be performed with love, whether directed toward G-d or toward one’s fellow man. However, there is one caveat. That is, Judaism believes that even when one helps a fellow human being grudgingly or with some selfish motive, although this is considered the lowest form of charity, it is STILL better than not helping at all.


I didn’t know that Judaism believed in Purgatory as well!
Thank you for enlightening us to this.


I didn’t know that Judaism believed in Purgatory as well!
Thank you for enlightening us to this.

That’s something that most modern day Christians are unaware of, even though there is a reference in 2 Machabees that alludes to it:"[44] (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) [45] And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. [46] It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins."Of course, it’s a book found in the Deuterocanons, so people that don’t read any of those books will never see it. The Catholic belief of Purgatory comes directly from Jewish Tradition and the Old Testament.


Why no, you can drive 120 down the interstate if you want.


Pope Benedict wrote a few good pages that helps us understand the law stuff. It is in his book which is available many places.

One thing to heed is that when we read Paul in Romans when he talks about the law, the way we most often interpret what Paul is trying to say is incorrect. It appears one way, but deep down it is something else that Paul is trying to get across.

You should read what Benedict has to say about it because I am not good enough to expain it.


There are several things to consider when reading texts in the New Testament that refer to obedience to the Mosaic Law and Christians.

1. The Jewish Christians of the First Century did obey the Mosaic Law. As Acts 21.17-26 shows, the Jerusalem Church and Jewish Christians in general observed the Law, and even Paul did. In fact St. Paul’s public action in these verses was to prove that anything Paul taught about not being obligated to follow the Law was not applicable to Jewish Christians. Peter, for example, had never eaten anything but kosher food as Acts 10.9-14 shows even though Christ’s earthly ministry was completed and behind him. While most of the epistles are written to Gentiles (i.e., to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) some are not (James, for instance). Therefore one needs to be careful that they know the audience and time period of each letter before they jump to conclusions regarding what the exact meaning of the words in reference to the “law” mean.

2. Jews did not and still do not have a doctrine of original sin nor believe that obedience to the Mosaic Law grants “salvation.” It should be noted that St. Paul repeatedly argued with Christians who wanted to make Torah obedience a requisite for Christian living upon Gentiles. Some of these were apparently Gentiles themselves who were attracted to the customs and lifestyle of the Hebrews. But being that the Gospel does not require any ethnic group to discard their customs and adopt another before one can gain salvation in Christ, Paul taught that such a demand was unreasonable. It should be of interest that St. Paul uses the Mosaic Law, quoting from it repeatedly in his letter to the Romans to prove that the Law does not promise salvation in exchange for obedience to it. In other words, Paul’s teaching is that forcing the Law on Gentiles as a requisite for salvation actually causes the person to break the Law, making following the Law a moot point.

3. Sometimes the “law” spoken of in Scripture refers to being obedient to Christ and sometimes it is referring to the “law of sin and death.” And these expressions are not always clear as to which is being referred to. Mistakes regarding which law is being addressed are made by readers.–See Romans chapter 7.

By the time the Christian Bible was canonized in the fourth century the majority of Christians were now Gentiles. Many expressions in the New Testament did not apply to them as they had been addressed to Jewish Christians who still found freedom in being Torah obedient. (Matthew 5.17-19) Distrust and hatred for the Jews as a whole grew after the sixth century when the Catholic Jewish population and Church in Jerusalem dissolved. And a gravely mistaken misinterpretation of Judaism and obedience to Law grew out of the arguments of the Reformation as Luther used the Pharisees as an “evil characterization” of the Catholic clergy. This warped and cemented anti-Semitism into Christian theology for a while, both Protestant and Catholic, and led to the pogroms, persecutions, expelling of the Jewish from Spain in 1492, and eventually fueled the Third Reich in its “answer to the Jewish problem.”

The Catholic Church has since reversed many of these mistaken views and removed them from its theology. Today Catholics of Hebrew ethnicity may freely observe Jewish customs based on the Mosaic Law, but such observance is not viewed as obligatory or a requisite for salvation. Gentiles, the Church teaches, were never under the Law to begin with, so they are not “bound by law.”

Finally the expression “bound by law” originates with Romans 7.1-3 and refers not being “bound” to the Mosaic Law but “bound” to one’s spouse in marriage. It is used as an illustration of being bound to the laws of sin and death and any requirement of law, Mosaic or otherwise, that stands over a person while they are alive. Scholars view that it is a mistake to think Paul was speaking of the Mosaic Law exclusively in this case because he wrote: “We are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive.” The Romans were never charged to keep the Mosaic Law. Even in death Jews are buried under procedures which stem from the Mosaic Law (so they are bound even after death). And the Mosaic Law was viewed by the Israelites as the opposite of Egyptian captivity, so it is not likely that this is the law “which held us captive.”


You guys are over-thinking this.

So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

The law of love contains all of the Old Law.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The entirety of the Law of Moses is contained in one word - Love.


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