This is an idea that I have to keep reminding myself about: we must not assume that because Jesus took all the sins of the world on himself, that we are now forgiven absent repentance. The obvious corollary to this can quickly lead to Antinomianism, sometimes referred to as the “endless kegger; no hangover.”
Well, perhaps it really isn’t called the endless kegger, but that’s what I’d do if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit dragging me down and giving me that good old guilt trip. Antinomianism Lite, however, is what many Christians seem to regard as right and normal. St. Paul himself tells us that we have been liberated from the law. From Romans chapter 8:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Whoo hoo! Party time, and to hell with the consequences. Well, not so fast, boys and girls. Paul goes on to tell us in this same chapter (v.4) that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Well, OK, no contradiction here…but then the door slams shut in our sinful faces in verses 7 and 8:
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is(O) hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
To some, Paul might seem to be dealing in both a contradiction in terms and an impossibility. The first? You’re freed from the law, but if we are righteous we will fulfill it. The second, who among us is not “in the flesh?” Even the best of us has carnal thoughts.
And this is why the thinking man or woman knows that we are all, each of us, depraved sinners. No matter how hard we try, we are prisoners of the flesh. What Paul has told us is that we aren’t really free of the law, but that once we are in Christ Jesus we may hope for redemption. As for the law itself, this is eternal and has not gone away just because compliance is hard.
The answer, in much simpler terms than Paul used in his letters, from Jesus in Matthew 5:
17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Paul comes across as a lawyer, plea-bargaining and attempting to explain away the law to gentiles who just did want to be bothered with those pesky rules and regs. Jesus says, basically, you must obey the law in your heart, and if you do, your body, and soul, will follow.