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Archive for Mosaic Law

Love not Law

Paul told the Galatian Christians to resist the false teaching that had come to them. The Galatians had been growing in their love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for Paul also. Then they were bushwhacked by those who caused them to take their eyes off Christ and put them on the impossible task of trying to meet their own unrealistic, fleshly expectations by attempting to keep God’s Law (Gal. 5:7-12). The problem is never God’s Law.  The Law is holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:14). The problem is our flesh (Rom. 7:18-21). God’s Law never mixes well with man’s flesh. God’s law always does what God designed for it to do – it condemns sinful flesh.

 

God had called them to Himself by His grace. So why were they leaving that pure relationship with Him and going back into a system of religious rules and self-righteous standards? He used leaven to illustrate what he meant. Notice the effect that a small amount of leaven has on an entire body. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9). “Legalism” is attempting to live the Christian life based on a myriad of self-imposed rules and laws. Legalism, the grace stealer, does not suddenly overpower a church. A small amount of self-righteousness is first introduced, then a small dash of religious performance, then a touch of traditionalism. “I don’t know why we do it that way, but that’s the way we have always done it.” The first thing you know, the whole ministry is adrift in a sea of legalism.  

 

Believers take their eyes off their personal relationship with Christ and begin to become performance motivated. They tend to compete with each other to see who can perform the best or most religious acts. This performance-motivated religion begins to grow into a religious system that strangles the true spiritual life and power from the fellowship. It ultimately poisons the whole body and people become bitter, critical and judgmental of each other and lose their love, their joy, their peace, and their power.

 

Paul paused at this point and became dead serious and extremely personal. His words here are so very important, so crucial to the argument for grace. The accuracy of the gospel is at stake, and it was no time for Paul to attempt to win a popularity contest. Paul said he could merely stop preaching grace, and the criticism being leveled at him would end. He allowed the Spirit of God to speak strongly through him to the ears of those religious legalists who were blinding this young church. He was saying in effect, “I wish that those who are confusing you with their legalistic practices, those who are blinding you and convincing you to revert back to law, those who are subverting your souls, those who are causing your spiritual progress to stop, who are stifling your love, joy, peace and power, those who love the ceremony and love involving others in ceremonies and traditions, those who would rejoice in getting you to circumcise yourselves, I wish that they would literally castrate themselves” (Gal. 5:10-12). Maybe this physical act would satisfy their hunger to subjugate this young church.

 

This is indeed strong language! How could we apply Paul’s strong rebuke today? If we enjoy performing wonderful ceremonies, doing good deeds so we can say in our hearts to others, “Look what I am doing;” if we are secretly challenged by getting other people to submit to our religious traditionalism; if our claim to fame spiritually is that we do not smoke, drink, gamble, dance, use profanity, or wear long hair, gossip, dance, never use bad words, and go to Sunday school, read the Bible every day, and never miss church, the list goes on. This crowd secretly or openly begins to judge other people based on their own set of preexisting standards. If we are here, then we fall into the same deceptive trap as these Judaizers. “For you brethren have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another. I say then, walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:13-17).

 

Paul reminded the Galatian Christians, and us, one more time that Christian liberty does not mean freedom to live as we please. Instead, he emphasized once more the word “love.” Rather than using our liberty as freedom to exercise our flesh, we are to love and serve one another. The love produced in us by the Spirit of God will motivate us to live a godly lifestyle and to serve fellow believers in Christ. Living by means of the Spirit is the power source that generates our Christian life, producing love and controlling our liberty. Paul did not tell these believers not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and, as a result, they would walk in the Spirit. That would be like putting the battery power in a small appliance backwards. The electrical power cannot flow. There may be many believers trying desperately to live the Christian life today by attempting to control the flesh by keeping a set of laws or rules, but they are failing miserably. Stop! Get back into the Word of God and begin to know the Person who lives within you and loves you with an infinite love. Walk with Him, love Him, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Blessings!

Amazing Grace!

What happened to the curse of the law?  “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having blotted out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, and contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross” (Col. 2:13-14). The curse imposed by God’s Holy Law was erased at Calvary!

 

By bearing in His body the curse of the law, Jesus Christ fulfilled completely what He said He had come to do. “Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Because of His sinless life, He met the righteous demands of the law because He kept it perfectly. By His death on the cross, He filled-full the just demands of the Law in that He bore its curse, satisfying forever the divine justice of the judgment of death demanded by God. He did not leave one ounce of God’s divine judgment against our sin unsatisfied. This is the very basis for the teaching of the grace of God. There is absolutely nothing we can add or remove. To think we can add to it is satanic to the core.

 

I was attempting to repair a ceiling fan at my mother-in-law’s home. It is an old home, and the wiring is antiquated. I really thought the power had been turned off, so I reached down and connected two hot wires. I saw the most beautiful blue flash and heard a distinct ringing in my ears. All the power in the house went off. Needless to say, there was a violent electrical reaction. There was, likewise, a violent spiritual reaction on Calvary’s tree when the Son of God bore the curse of the law for me. God spiritually touched His law to my sin which had been placed on Christ. God’s holy law immediately judged me in the death of His Son.  When this happened, the curse of the law, like the lights in my mother-in-law’s home, went out. The curse of the law was completely done away with because it had done all that it could do. “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4).

 

The law serves as tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). At that point, the law has done what the law was designed by God to do – to convict of sin and point to Christ. What then? After faith comes, there is no longer the need for a tutor.  The necessity for the schoolmaster had passed (Gal. 3:25). The law was never designed to make anyone a son. So how do we become sons? “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26). We could never become sons of God by keeping a list of statutes or religious instructions, rules or regulations, orders or ordinances, codes or commands. Laws cannot give life.

 

By faith in Jesus Christ we become sons of God, not slaves. There are a number of differences between a son and a slave. A son has a father, but a slave has a master. A son has the same nature as the father, but a slave does not have the nature of his master. The son is connected by blood to the father, but the slave is not related to the master. A son obeys out of love, but the slave obeys out of fear. “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so, we were children of the world in bondage under the elements of the world” (Gal. 4:1-3).

 

But there was a point in time when we became who we always were – children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. God always knew His children – even when we were lost and undone. The Christian life becomes a father/child relationship. As a Christian, we have the wonderful privilege of referring to God as our Father. We can come to Him crying, “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). We do not live our Christian life by rules but by relationship. When faith in Jesus Christ comes, we are no more children under the watch-care of a slave, but we become a part of God’s family through adoption as His children with all the rights and privileges which that relationship brings. The child who is a son, unlike the slave, owns the whole estate. Those of us who have believed in Christ are no longer under the dominion of the law. We are saved and disciplined by grace. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, Was blind but now I see. Blessings!  

The Cross and Death

Paul spoke plainly!  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The law demands, “Keep the law or die.” We cannot keep it. We are sinners, and sinners cannot keep the law. The law demands from us a righteousness that we do not have and can never have, no matter how hard we work at it. We will always miss the mark and fail. God’s law will always be faithful to do its thing. It makes known that we are cursed – dead in trespasses and sins. So where is the escape? How can this curse be removed?

It has been removed.  Read carefully these words written over 2000 years ago. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13). Jesus Christ bore the curse of the law for us by hanging on a tree. It was not mere chance that He died on a cross. The place of His death had everything to do with the final judgment of death imposed by God’s holy law.

The law, because it is connected with man’s sin in Adam, is God’s executioner pronouncing that everyone is guilty and condemned. The law’s role as an assassin is illustrated graphically in the Old Testament. “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, you shall hang him on a tree. But the body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God)” (Deut. 21:22-23). If a Jew broke a law which was to result in death, he was to be stoned to death and his body hung from a tree. This lawbreaker suspended on the tree graphically illustrated to everyone that God’s Holy Law had been broken and His judgment of death had been completed. The death of Christ is unmistakably tied to the curse imposed by the Mosaic Law – Jesus Christ bore the curse imposed by the law by hanging on a tree! Amazing! Where Christ died was crucial, but how He died was just as important. 

In order to understand His death, we must recall how the first Adam died. Death does not mean a ceasing to exist; it means separation. Adam and Eve were separated from God the very moment that Adam sinned. This division was made clear by their stitching together fig leaf coverings to hide their guilt before God. This death was then passed on by his corrupt seed – father to son – down through history, infecting the entire race. Every human being born into this world from then until now is born physically alive but spiritually separated from God – with the exception of just One.

Jesus Christ was not subject to Adam’s contaminated race because He was supernaturally born of a virgin. He, therefore, bypassed Adam’s sin and came into the slave market of the spiritually dead as a freeborn human being – physically alive and spiritually alive, the only one of His kind. The Father and Son enjoyed a special personal intimacy with one another throughout eternity. They had never been separated. This is evident in the New Testament in that the Second Person of the Trinity always referred to the First Person as “My Father.” The times are too numerous to mention. This is what makes a single moment so memorable. Jesus was hanging from a Roman cross.  Look closely at Matthew 27:45-46: “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour [three o’clock] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’” He did not say, “My Father, My Father,” but He used the impersonal “My God, My God.”

This cannot be missed! This reveals a mark of separation similar to God’s saying to Adam in Genesis 3, “Adam, where are you?” Jesus Christ died spiritually! Here was the perfect Lamb of God bearing the sin of the imperfect children of Adam’s fallen race. At that moment, God the Father touched His Holy Son with our sin. He turned His back on His Son and allowed Him to die the death that we should have died. Christ at that moment on the cross received in His body our just judgment of death. He bore the curse of death that was meant for us. He became sin for us. Our Lord, having finished His work, then said – and please note – “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And He died! Wow! Blessings!

 

The Law Brings Conviction of Sin

Conviction – consciousness of sin against God – is the first major step toward repentance and faith in Christ. The spirit of God’s law is the major source of this conviction. The law is good at exposing bad. And the law does not discriminate. It treats everyone exactly the same: wealthy, poor, educated, uneducated, every nation, kindred, and tongue. No one escapes its spiritual work – no one. In fact, it is so connected to sin that people might come to the conclusion that the law is sin.
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except by the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. For I was alive apart from the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived [became alive] and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it [the commandment] killed me” (Rom. 7:7-11).
Man’s problem is not the law but sin within us. Paul said that he would not have known that he was a sinner except for the law. He was alive apart from the law at one time in his life. There was a time that he did not understand God’s righteous requirements upon him. But when God’s Spirit revealed to him God’s claim on his life, sin came alive and, as a result, he became aware of his spiritual death. The commandment that Paul had envisioned giving him life had actually deceived him and rendered him dead.
Paul’s thoughts might have flowed something like this as he pondered God’s Ten Commands: “You shall have no other gods before Me!” “I’m okay here.”
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” “I’m still doing okay.”
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” “I’m doing just fine.”
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” “I do that, Lord.”
“Honor your father and mother.” “I have always done that, Lord.”
“You shall not murder.” “Oh, perish the thought of me killing anyone!”
“You shall not commit adultery.” “Never, not me.”
“You shall not steal.” “I’ve never taken anything that did not belong to me.”
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” “I’ve not done that either.”
“You shall not covet.” Hold it!
Like lightning from heaven, Paul realized that deep within his heart were the hidden impulses of covetousness, secret longings for what belonged to others. His knowledge of the law struck the chord of sinful passions, and they began to vibrate. His sin within was stirred. His thoughts began to race with one thought leading to another. “Oh God, I am a covetous person, which means that I am a sinner and if a sinner, then I am dead.”
Does the reader not see how very gracious God has been in giving us this spiritual “spoon” to stir our sin nature, allowing us to feel the power of our sin, our rebellion against God, and to understand our need? The law was never given to provide life but in order that the Holy Spirit might remove the scales of spiritual blindness from our eyes so that we might understand our need. And our need is not partial, it is total.
Paul pled with the Christians at Galatia to understand that in order for the law to provide righteousness, it had to be all or nothing at all. The law, unless it is kept perfectly, can only curse. The law tells me clearly that I have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Far from giving life, the law is said to be a killer. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6-9). The law is called a minster of death.
“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? The law is also called a minster of condemnation. For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory” (2 Cor. 3:6-9).
What a revelation! The law a killer, a minister of death and condemnation. How is this possible? It is possible because God’s law is spiritually tied to our sin (Rom. 3:19-20; 5:12-14; 5:20; 7:7-14; Gal. 3:19). The spirit of God’s law will find and expose our sin, no matter how well it is concealed or rationalized away. Once our sin is uncovered, the knowledge that we are spiritually separated from God immediately invades our thinking. God’s law will always demand from us the very righteousness of God and condemn us for not being right. It will stir up the Adamic nature within us and give us the knowledge that we are sinners and under God’s condemnation.

The Purpose for the Law

How does God’s law work? Hint! The law was never intended by God to make a bad person good or a good person better. The reason? “There are none who does good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12).  Why? “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  The only payment for sin is death (Rom. 6:23). “The soul who sins shall die” (Eze. 18:20a). Every sinner will stand before God to give an account for his or her own sin. No one can opt out and no one can shift the blame. “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze. 18:20b).

How can we know for sure that we are all sinners and guilty before God? What if I told you that God has provided a spoon to stir up sin in order that we may know its character? You would probably silently chuckle. “The law entered that sin might abound” (Rom. 5:20a). A period follows this statement because it is a truth that stands alone. The word “entered” is translated from a word that was often used in a script for a Greek play to indicate the entrance of an actor onto the stage to play a supporting role. The Law of Moses entered onto the stage of God’s plan of grace to play a part. The part played by the law was to cause sin within us to abound, to be stirred up, to be known.

There is the illustration of a small jar filled with water retrieved from a drainage ditch. One sets it on a shelf for a while, and the trash will then settle to the bottom. The water gives the appearance of being clear and pure. However, if a spoon were used to stir the water, the trash on the bottom would be stirred up and become visible, and the true character of the water would be evident. In like manner, the spoon of the Mosaic Law stirs up and reveals the real character of sin within man. The law is given that sin might be stirred up so that our silent, unknowable sin can become known.

If we are honest before God, we know that we have not kept His law. In fact, we have broken it many times. We are, therefore, rendered sinners before God and in need of His grace. The law gives sin its strength. “The strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56b). Without the law, the death nature within us has no strength. God uses the law to mysteriously set in motion the hidden impulses of sin that are born within. These sinful impulses were already there but were aroused by the law. The law, as the strength of sin, gives sin a little nudge.  “For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death” (Rom. 7:5).

Young Johnny had come into the kitchen with his mom many times. One day, however, she said to him, “Sweetheart, do you see that big jar up there on the top shelf?” “Yes, mommy,” he replied. “Well, dear, there is something in that jar that mother does not want you to see, so please do not ever look in it, okay?” “Sure, Mom,” was his reply. But now the hidden impulses of Adam’s sin that were always within began to vibrate like a tuning fork struck by a mallet. These vibrations nudged him to take just one peek into the jar. Because of sin within, his ability to disobey his mom was always there, but the command stirred the sin. Why? Because the strength of sin is the law!

The law provides the muscle that Adam’s death nature within us needs to express itself. God was gracious in providing this spiritual aspect of the law to expose our sinful condition, and to give us a thirst for His wonderful grace. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). The law of God is a single unit. It must be kept as such. But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “The just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith but the man who does them shall live by them” (Gal. 3:11-12).

God’s law is not like a religious cafeteria where we can pick and choose the rules that we want to keep or the ones that we want to break. The law is one document that demands perfect obedience. The Jew could never receive the righteousness demanded by the law by just having faith in the law, or even having faith in their own ability to keep the law. One could never keep part of the law all the time or all of it some of the time. It must be kept perfectly all the time. “Keep the law perfectly and live,” it shouted to them. But if just one law is broken, and only one time, then the lawbreaker would have broken the whole unit of the law and must suffer the penalty.  “For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). When just one law is broken or one small portion of the law, it tells me that I am dead and in need of life. It tells me that I am a sinner and in need of a Savior. The law then brings the guilty to Jesus Christ – that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). Blessings!