Perfect and Weak?

By Royce Frederick

      The Old Testament contains the law of Moses, God’s law for Israel. Psalm 19:7 calls that law “perfect,” but Romans 8:3 calls it “weak.” How could both be true?

      “PERFECT.” “The law of the LORD is perfect...” (Ps. 19:7). It fulfills all of its purposes — but not all of our needs. The same is true of the human body. It accomplishes everything God intended, but not everything we need. God designed the human body wonderfully, but only for this physical world. It will fail some day. It cannot serve as the house of our soul forever. It is temporary. After the world ends, all people who have served God will receive a permanent body which cannot be hurt or destroyed (2 Cor. 5:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:42-44, 50-57).

      Likewise, this earth is a marvelous handiwork of God. It accomplishes everything God intended, but not everything we need. Some day, God will destroy it by fire and replace it with a new earth which will never be destroyed (2 Peter 3:7, 10-13).

      The same is true of God’s covenant with Israel. It was an “everlasting covenant.” God would never end it — if Israel would continue obeying the law of Moses (Ex. 19:5). That law fulfilled its purposes: it governed Israel, teaches many lessons about God, and leads people to Christ (Gal. 2:19; 3:19-25; 1 Cor. 10:11). It accomplished everything God intended, but not everything man needs.

       “WEAK.” The law of Moses had one weakness — sinful man: “ was weak through the flesh...” (Rom. 8:3). The law required man to be righteous, but it could not make any sinner righteous. It could condemn sin, but it could not save sinful man (Rom. 7:13; Heb. 10:4).

      Jesus accomplishes what the law of Moses could not do. He paid the death penalty for our sins (1 Pet. 3:18; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 6:23; Heb. 9:15). “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh... (4) that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4; see Rom. 3:21-26).

      Consider an example. A priest in Israel could look at leprosy and declare that the person was “unclean” (Lev. 13). But he had no power to heal. Jesus healed lepers (Mk. 1; Lk. 17). In a similar way, the law of Moses could declare that a man was a sinner, but could not save him. Jesus can save us from sin and give us eternal life.

      When Jesus died, God removed the old covenant and replaced it with His new covenant (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:11-16; Heb. 9:15-17). “...He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (7) For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. (8) Because finding fault with them, [the people, the human side of the covenant] He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; (9) not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD’” (Heb. 8:6-9). Israel had “...transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant (Isa. 24:5).

      No person can enter heaven by perfectly obeying laws (Rom. 3:20). All people sin and need God’s grace (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Before He made the world, God knew our need and planned to give His Son (Eph. 3:3-6, 11; 1 Pet. 1:18-21). When a sinner is baptized into Christ, he receives the free gift of salvation (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 2:38). “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).