The commands of God can be a heavy reality. The Lord calls us to love Him above all things, to love others as ourselves, and to love even our enemies. We are commanded to be content in all circumstances without coveting, and not only to tell the truth but also to defend those who are maligned. As sinners who break all of these commands, we can find the law to be crushing. They show us the way to go, and then reveal that we are prone to go our own way (Rom. 7).
For the unbeliever, the law of God, if taken seriously, is a burden too great to bear. For the unbeliever, the law not only commands and convicts, it also confounds and condemns. The law stands true and bears witness against one’s sins, leaving one without excuse before the face of God. But for the believer, the law of God is not a burden: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
The Apostle John’s words might not resonate with you and your experience of God’s law as a Christian, but let’s consider how King David spoke of God’s commands. In Psalms 19 and 119, David says he delights in God’s law, finds it “sweet,” comforting, and even reviving to the soul. The commands of God amount to a joyful song (Ps. 119:54).
The law of God is a burden to everyone under its curse, but it is a blessing to the people of God. How can this be?
The law is not a burden to the Christian because Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf. His obedience has replaced our disobedience. He kept God’s commands for sinners who have ignored God’s will. His righteousness has been credited to the unrighteous so that in Him we can become the righteousness of God. The law is no burden for the Christian because in Jesus we now measure up to the standard God has given in His law.
And the law is not a burden to the Christian because Christ has not only given us His righteousness but also has taken our sinfulness on Himself and paid the price of our lawbreaking on the cross. Jesus received our condemnation that we might be justified. The law is not a burden because it no longer condemns us.
Yes, we continue to struggle to keep the law, but the law of God is not a burden. The sin that remains in us is the burden we bear. Paul’s frustration with his inability to keep the law is good (Rom. 7:7–25). He lays the blame on himself, on his flesh. The law isn’t the problem; he is. And yet, even in the midst of his struggle, he can praise God because the law no longer condemns him (8:1).
Trusting in Christ, we hate our sin but love God’s law. It is, as Jesus says, an easy burden and a light yoke (Matt. 11:29–30). The commands of God direct us both in seeing our need for a Savior and in the way God calls us to live. We can delight in God’s law as we seek to keep it, for the law is a lamp to guide us in godliness.