In short, no one was ever saved by keeping the law (no one has kept it or could). Abraham was declared righteous while uncircumcised, centuries before the Law was given. When the Law and Old Covenant were given, they were given to Israel alone. The New Covenant is not salvation in this age, it is a future covenant (again) for Israel alone. (Ex 19:5-6; Eph 2:11-13; Heb 8; etc.)
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, 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— 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. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. -Heb 8:7-10
I wanted to pull out one aspect from how many people use the law in this age. When we speak of certain sins, people want to run to the Law. However, some things are inherently wrong.
There was no law given Cain for him to know murder was wrong. When we fall into the flesh as children, we know stealing, greed, lust, disobedience and a multitude of other actions or thoughts are wrong. We don't expect rewards for stealing (etc.), we expect discipline and disapproval.
The conscience is not perfect, and scripture does expose our sins, but the conscience, before it is seared, surely witnesses to our depravity.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them...
Bestiality is wrong. We don't need to go to the law to discover this. Now, the law does call certain things "abominations" or "perversions" or "profane." We need to take note, but the conscience witnesses to this.
Acting unjustly, slaughtering children, sexual perversions; we know inherently they are wrong. When the conscience becomes seared to these sins, men will fight desperately in two ways:
- Demand society sanction these vices
- Seek to silence anyone who disapproves
The seared conscience (1 Tim 4:2) must never be allowed to accuse again. If one enjoy's his sin (or doesn't want a selfish act labeled sin - to continue to live in darkness), just knowing someone disapproves might prick his conscience, so he demonizes and attacks and seeks to silence that voice.
To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.
The conditions of the Law warned Israel that these would pollute the land and eventually lead to her removal. But we must be careful with the Law and the Old Covenant. It is not a condition for today or for any other nation. It has faded away and will be replaced one day future for a redeemed Israel in the promised land.
The Lord Jesus Christ helped us understand the limitation of the Law on behavior. If we don't murder simply because the Law says "you shall not murder," we have not done well. The very desire to kill is sin.
Sometimes Law makes us want to sin. You may walk the same path through the park and never think about walking on the grass. Then one day the park puts up a "DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS" sign and part of you wants to!
The greatest motivator to do what is right and good and just is love.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments"
I love God and others, therefore I do nothing to harm them. That is why the Lord says the Law is summed up in two commands:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
This is why sin drives us from God. It stirs hate in us.
A day is coming wherein men will hate God so much, they would rather writhe in pain than repent of their deeds.
Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
“He who believes in [the Son] is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
This is not a matter of "sinlessness." The true believer may sin, but he hates his sin.