The Pharisee Rabbis of the New Testament era thought of their position in regard to the Law as being between the ox-goad and the cattle-prod. They said that the Law was like a yoke to restrain you from doing what you wanted to do, and the cattle prod was to prod you into doing what you didn’t want to do. Unfortunately, that is the way some people see it today.
Jesus said: “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees ye shall in no case enter the Kingdom of God,” Matthew 5:20.
Misery of Keeping the “Law”
You see, their concept of the Law was so miserable that they devised ways to legitimize their own interpretations of it. They began to teach that God had given Moses two Laws on Sinai, one was written and the other oral. Now it was the written Law that caused the problems for them, so they decreed that the so-called Oral Law took precedence over the written Law. This “Oral Law,” so they say, had been handed down to them through the Rabbis to them, and so they were the custodians of the “law.”
Jesus Refuted Their “Oral Law”
Note that the passage that follows Matthew 5:20 Jesus begins to teach about these things that they claimed had been passed down from “them of old time,” Matthew 5:21-48. He refutes their teachings by His own interpretation: “But I say unto you…,” verses 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44.
Matthew chapter 6 continues with His teachings against those of the Pharisees, the hypocrites, verses 2, 5, 16. These hypocritical “Laws” of the Pharisees were also called the “traditions” and/or “the traditions of the elders.”
He also confronts their hypocrisy in Matthew 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 28, 29; 24:51; Mark 7:5-13. Luke 11:39-52; 12:1.
The Law as seen by the Pharisees was truly bondage.
However, Jesus attested to and confirmed the written Law even in disputing with the devil saying: “It is written…,” Matthew 4:4, 7, 10.
I Timothy 1:8: “But we know that the Law is good, if a man use it lawfully.”
Romans 7:12: “The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”
So what is the problem? Carnality.
Verse 14: “For we know that the Law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
So what is the cure? The Law of the Spirit/Breath of Life in Christ Jesus.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. That the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1-4.
The Curse of the Law?
Does this give us a free pass to sin? Not at all. Jesus came to condemn sin in the flesh. We can be rid of sin in the flesh by crucifixion, mortifying the deeds of the body; read the rest of Romans chapter 8. There is victory over sin in the Holy Spirit of Christ. This does not do away with the Law, but fulfills it without the yoke and the ox goad. It is true freedom.