In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis bases part of his case for the existence of God by arguing that a natural or moral Law is accepted by humans regardless of culture or religious belief.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
Lewis, C.S (Clive Staples). Mere Christianity. New York, NY: Collier, 1984. 45. Print.
Ministering to the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul makes this same argument. Though we think of the Law as coming through Moses, it existed long before Mount Sinai in the form of the human conscience. Paul speaks of the Natural Law in his letter to the Church in Rome.
“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” (Romans 2:14-15 NLT).
Our Struggle with the Law
The Natural Law existed since the time of Adam and survives to this day. It is woven into our worldview so that we live under its influence without noticing its presence. Without Christ, it continuously shapes what we see in the mirror. The Natural Law works within our consciences and affirms that all people, including us, ”have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NASB).
God formalized the Natural Law into the Law of Moses for the benefit of the Jews. Nonetheless, whether it is the Natural Law or the Law of Moses, the outcome is crushing, just the same.
“I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:21-24 NASB).
The Law of the Spirit of Life
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NASB).
The Law is good, but the benefit of the Law of Moses isn’t that it helps us live righteously. On the contrary, the scripture explains that the purpose of the Law is to demonstrate our helplessness before God and convince us of our total need for Jesus. Specifically, Paul writes to the Galatians,
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:23-27 NASB).
By clearly seeing that righteousness is unattainable by our personal efforts we can finally accept that we need rescuing from our nature.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Ephesians 2:8 NASB).
The End of Guilt
It’s certainly possible for a Christian to sin. The Apostle John wrote,
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” (I John 2:1 NASB).
When the Holy Spirit convicts a Christian of sin, the solution is confession, repentance, forgiveness, and liberty.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NASB).
For a Christian, “guilt” is the emotional prison that remains after forgiveness if we try to maintain both righteousness by the Law and freedom in Christ. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren,” leverages guilt to make us feel miserable, unworthy and insufficient to receive God’s grace, (Revelation 12:10).
But Jesus Christ is the end of guilt for a Christian. He is the end of guilt if we will only give up any notion of righteousness by our own merit.
“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:33-34 NLT).