Series on The Great Test
John J. Blanchard
September 3, 2011
Good morning, everyone! Today I want to do a sermon that I think is important to contemplate at this time because there are so many questions about God’s law. I have titled this sermon The Beauty of Keeping the Law.
The law of God for some reason is a very touchy subject. The subject of the law seems to illicit such strong emotions and strong opinions across the board. You will often hear that the law has been done away, the law has been nailed to the cross, or the law is simply guidelines to guide us along in life. Or people say they have been totally changed. Others say we must keep the law, and some go to the extremes of keeping every iota of the law. It is very confusing, but it does illicit very strong emotions and very strong opinions. They obviously cannot all be right. The Scriptures themselves are never wrong, so we have to get to the bottom of what it means to keep God’s law, what God’s law stands for, and what He wants us to do with it.
Since the law came from God, it is only His opinion that actually matters. We have to come in concert with His will and His opinions on the subject of the law. Today I want to take a very dispassionate look at the law and just look at it from the point of the Scriptures. I want to be very logical and see what God says about the law.
CHRIST SAID TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS
I want to start by quoting some Scriptures that are Jesus Christ’s very words regarding the law. Let’s look at some of the words of Jesus Christ by beginning in Matthew chapter 5, verse 17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
Jesus Christ said He did not come to destroy the law. He also included with that the prophets. He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets. He came to fulfill. The law will exist as long as heaven and earth will. We know earth has been here a long time. It certainly looks like it is going to be here for a lot longer, but how long does heaven exist? It has existed a long time, so when God says He does not want to see the law changed or pass away or done away for as long as heaven and earth exist, He is very serious about keeping that law forever.
God’s word regarding the law is very plain. He came to fulfill it and not to destroy it. He included prophecy along with it.
Let’s continue in Matthew 5, verse 19 where Christ goes on to say: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The scribes and Pharisees were noted for keeping every iota of the law very carefully. Christ said that was not enough. He said whoever breaks one of these commandments or teaches others to break the commandments, they will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven. That is a very serious statement Christ made there. It was after He said, I did not come to break the law or do away with the law. I want it to exist as long as heaven and earth and the prophets along with them. God makes some very serious statements, and He says your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
What was Christ talking about here when He said the law? He is clearly talking about the Ten Commandments. Let’s continue reading here in Matthew 5, verse 21: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’”
That is the Sixth Commandment, do not murder.
Dropping down to verse 27 we read: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
That is the Seventh Commandment, do not commit adultery.
Dropping down to verse 33 we read: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.”
Here again that is the Ninth Commandment, do not bear false witness.
Obviously these are three of the Ten Commandments, so when Christ was talking about keeping the law and not one jot or tittle passing away, He was talking about His Ten Commandments. Christ was expanding the Ten Commandments here to not just be the letter of the law, which is what the Pharisees and the Sadducees tried to keep, but the spirit or the intent of the law. This is why He said your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
CHRIST EXPANDED THE LAW
In other words, Christ magnified the law to include attitude, our heart, our mind, our intents, and what we are thinking. It is much more than just physical acts. Christ continued to elaborate, and we will go through this in Matthew 5. After each one of these explanations of which commandment He was talking about, He expanded them. Go down to verse 22-24 of Matthew 5: “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Christ expands that law that thou shalt not murder to thou shalt not think evil or vile thoughts of others. If you do have an offense that you have committed against a brother, make sure you get that forgiven by your brother. Go to them and resolve the difficulty and the difference before you offer a gift to God. He tremendously expanded the commandment of thou shalt not murder.
Dropping down, we reread verse 28: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Christ expands the law again, and He goes on to say if it is your eye that is causing a problem, you would be better off without it. That could be your mind’s eye, your thoughts. We cannot think lustful or adulterous thoughts. He says that is the same as committing adultery, so He expanded the law. The Sadducees and the Pharisees were good at keeping the letter of the law, but this expansive treatment of the law they were falling far short on.
Drop down to verse 33. Read Matthew 5:33-37.
Christ said just be straight and honest. Do not bear false witness. Do not be into intrigue. Do not promise things you cannot deliver because none of us is perfect, but do your best to make your word honest and true and straightforward.
Christ expanded the law, and He made it much more than just the physical keeping of the Ten Commandments. He said, I want this to exist as long as heaven and earth, and I did not come to do away with one little bit of this law. Why? Let’s continue in verse 43, because He explains why.
Read Matthew 5:43-48.
Keeping the law, and not just the physical letter of the law but the spiritual intent of the law, helps us to be like God the Father and Jesus Christ. It helps us become more perfect. That is a tremendous thing to understand because the law guides us toward perfection. He says, do you not see that I send sun and rain upon the just and the unjust? There are physical sunshine and physical rain, but there is also God’s truth as we understand it is embodied by light. The light of Jesus Christ is His truth. His thoughts are the rain that falls from heaven upon mankind. How else would you eventually teach the evil of the world and the sinners of the world to keep God’s law and to understand what righteousness is? How would you teach them how to love other people unless you are taking in the sun and the rain. It takes a while to understand the principles behind God’s thinking and behind His truth.
Christ says, if God the Father sends sun and rain upon the just and the unjust, shouldn’t we keep the law which is part of God’s rain, as we have learned? It is part of the truth of God that has been given to mankind to give us all that we need to understand how to get along, how to worship God, and how to make the world a better place. We need that kind of knowledge and so does the entire world. Eventually the world will be a good place and evil will not exist here, but we have to start somewhere.
If we want to go on to perfection and be full of love like God the Father and Jesus Christ, we have to understand the law and keep it, which is what Jesus Christ was saying. All of Christianity hangs on the law. To be Christian means you have to understand and try to keep the law. Let’s see that by looking at some more words from Jesus Christ.
Turn to Matthew chapter 22, just a few pages over. Read Matthew 22:34-40.
Jesus Christ said all the law and the prophets hang on these two great commandments. He summed up all the commandments as love toward God and love toward our fellow man.
Turn to the gospel of John chapter 14 where Jesus Christ is speaking here once again. Read John 14:15-18.
Jesus Christ said, if you love Me, keep My commandments, and I will send you the Holy Spirit to help you and guide you in the truth. He would dwell in us. We have to love God by keeping His commandments.
Turning over a page to John chapter 15, read John 15:9-13. Christ obviously did, and He said the greatest form of love is to be willing to lay down our life for our friends. He said, if you love Me like this, you are loving the way I love My Father and My Father loves Me. Putting the whole package together, the commandments teach us how to love God by showing us also how to love our fellow man made in the image and likeness of God. It is an entire package.
Seeing these words straight from Jesus Christ’s mouth and knowing that He is talking here about His Ten Commandments, you would think that this could be the end of the sermon. You would think that everyone would understand what it means to keep God’s law and how important it is because Christians profess to love Christ. What Christian does not profess to love Christ? You would think it would be obvious that we should all be keeping the law if we love Him. He said, keep My commandments.
Christians everywhere profess to love Christ, yet this confusion persists about whether God’s law is done away or whether it is nailed to the cross. It should be a closed discussion right now and just end the sermon. It is done. Christ said to keep the law, and if we love Him, keep His law. But the discussion is not finished. Questions persist, and they seem to be getting worse. I hear more and more people getting confused on the issue of the law and whether it is done away, whether we have to keep it, and how important it still is. There is a lot of strange thinking about the law.
People say, throw away the Old Testament. We do not need it! It is like a road map and now with Jesus Christ we have arrived at the destination! It goes all kinds of crazy places, yet Christ said, keep My law and the prophets. The prophets are the Old Testament. They wrote the Old Testament. He said, they will last as long as heaven and earth. It would be a frightful thing to get rid of something that God said we must keep, understand, and study. We must learn from it to grow in perfection like God the Father and Jesus Christ.
THE LAW OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
What is the law? We need to get that basic! In the Old Testament the word “law” is torah (#8451, Strong’s, 1995). The definition in the Hebrew of torah is a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue (meaning the Ten Commandments) or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). That is the very basic definition of the torah, the Ten Commandments, and the Pentateuch. Of course, Christ attached to it all the prophets, so the entire Old Testament is also part of, in a way, the law. It is what teaches us how to keep the law and how important it is.
Torah comes from the word “yarah” (#3384, Strong’s, 1995). Yarah means to flow as water. I think you will find this interesting when we connect it to what Jesus Christ said about the rain falling on the just and the unjust.
Yarah means to flow as water, by example rain; to point out as if aiming the finger; to teach. In other words, the law is like the finger of God, and the Ten Commandments were written on the two tablets of stone by the finger of God. He was pointing out how to love God, how to love each other, how to get along, and how to become perfect like He and Jesus Christ are.
With that finger of God writing those Commandments it is like a professor in a college or university or a teacher pointing out to the students how to learn something or how to understand a subject. In this case, the subject is how to get along and become perfect like God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is instruction on how to be full of love and compassion and kindness. It is an awesome thing. When we get rid of the law, are we not getting rid of the finger of God pointing out how to live and how to get along?
It is interesting that the law is compared to rain. It is the thoughts of God falling upon the earth in order to cause the earth to bear fruit.
The Decalogue is not only an expression of the Ten Commandments, it is the basis for the entire Bible. It is how to understand who and what God is and how to worship Him, how to get along as human beings.
Let’s now go to the New Testament again and just reread verses 43-45 in Matthew 5: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate our enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…”
Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.
Continuing in verse 45: “…for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Now we can understand what Christ was saying here. He sent the law. He sent the Ten Commandments to teach us from His thoughts which fall upon the earth like rain. If we get rid of them, it is like getting rid of the teacher and getting rid of the basis for Christianity. He said, if you love Me (which Christians say they do), then keep My law, keep My Ten Commandments.
GOD’S TEACHINGS BEAR FRUIT
We need to pay attention to the rain. We go back to the Scripture we often read in Isaiah chapter 55. Read Isaiah 55:8-11.
God’s thoughts that land upon the earth are so that the earth will bear fruit for Him. That is fruit in the form of good character. It is character like God the Father and Jesus Christ have. It starts with a basic understanding of the Ten Commandments, the law of God. It is very important to not get rid of those. It is like drying up the rain. It is like getting rid of the finger of God. It is like getting rid of the teacher. Let’s examine this subject a little more deeply and find out what has changed.
We need the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus Christ calls His Holy Spirit that would live within us His helper. It brings us rain in our life to teach us these things. Let’s go to John chapter 4. This is about the Samaritan woman at the well. Read John 4:7-14.
God’s water starts in the form of rain which is what fills the lakes, streams, and springs of the earth, and it becomes living water within us.
If you go over a couple pages to John chapter 7, the Holy Spirit is being discussed here and the truth of God in the form of water. John 7, verse 37: “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone, thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
The Holy Spirit is supposed to be dwelling in Christians. Within us it should be leading us to the water. Those are the thoughts of God that should flow in us and out of us like living water. The basic part of that water and where it all starts from essentially is how to love God and man. It is summed up in the Ten Commandments, the law of God. Yet many people say it is done away, it is gone! We do not have to keep that law. It is burdensome! It is hard! I question that.
I question whether it is hard to love God and love our fellow man. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do and what we want to do, and the more we do it shouldn’t it get easier and easier? Isn’t the law something to help us in life and show us what God’s character is like? Obviously that is what Christ was saying.
LAW IS LIKE GOOD FOOD
What do we mean by law in the New Testament? The word “law” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word nomos (#3551, Strong’s, 1995). Nomos is a very interesting word just as yarah and torah are in the Old Testament. It is very interesting. Nomos means to parcel out food, especially food for grazing animals, the law through the idea of prescriptive usage, specifically of Moses including the volume. In other words, the writings of Moses which, of course, include the Ten Commandments, are the basis of food. Not only do we have water, but we have food coming from the law, coming from the prophets.
Food and water are what we need for physical life, and spiritual food and water are what we need for spiritual life and health.
Go to John chapter 6 and read verses 27-34.
Christ had already said, My law is the water and the bread. It is what you need. It is what you need for food.
Continue reading John 6:44-48.
Jesus Christ is a source of water and the source of bread. That is food and water. The word of God is for food and water, and it is based on the law and the prophets. Christ said, I did not come to do away with them. I want them to last as long as heaven and earth last. We should not take it upon ourselves to lightly discard any part of the Bible. To discard something as important as the Ten Commandments robs us of the food and the water that we need to understand God. It robs us of the way to properly love God and love our fellow man.
The questions remains: what Christian is interested in Christ’s bread? What Christian is interested in living water? It should be every Christian. Why do we have these arguments and discussions about the law? Why are some of us saying it is done away? We want the bread of life. We want the water that leads to everlasting life. We want these things, so we have to learn to keep the law. We have to understand what God means by keeping the law.
The confusion arises from a misinterpretation of some of the epistles. It is Satan’s will to get us to change in such a way that we no longer please God, so that we cannot properly love God. That is what Satan wants to do. We realize he is our enemy. It is not human beings. It is Satan. He wants to do away with God’s law and anything that would teach us about God or give us the rain that would become what we need to bear fruit for God. He wants to do away with the food that would lead to eternal life. He wants us to pitch that out.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SOUND DOCTRINE
The principle I want to offer up to you today is never use a difficult or obscure Scripture to negate sound doctrine. We just read sound doctrine. It was straight out of the mouth of Jesus Christ. His words are: keep My law. If you love Me, keep My commandments. They are the bread of life and the water of life. Do these things to have eternal life. That is sound basic doctrine. Nothing should go contrary to that. We need to understand the epistles in a way that backs that up, because those are the words of Jesus Christ Himself.
THE END OF THE LAW
I want to look at two examples today. We could look at a number of them, but two should be sufficient to give you the idea of how to use this principle. Do not take an obscure Scripture to do away with sound doctrine. I want to do that by starting with Romans chapter 10, verse 4. Here we are told: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
With Christ we have the end of the law! The law is done away! That is taking one small snippet from an entire letter to the Romans here with a lot of deep thoughts trying to be conveyed to the people of God, so that we can understand what the law really means and what is important about the law. It is not to do away with it.
It is very simple to examine this and pull it apart and find out this did not mean the Ten Commandments were finished and done away. As a matter of fact, the word itself “end” here is telos like telescope (#5056, Strong’s, 1995), looking far off. It means to set out for a definite point or goal, the point aimed at as a limit. What is the limit? The limit is perfection of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
The law and Jesus Christ are to help us reach perfection. The ultimate goal of the law is to be helpful. It is not a burden. Let’s read this in the entire context of what we are being told here in Romans chapter 10, beginning in verse 1: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.”
Paul here is praying for his brethren, the Israelites.
Verse 2: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law [the goal of the law] for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
We were told by Jesus Christ Himself our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. It must exceed it. He expanded the law.
Verse 5 of Romans 10: “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law. ‘The man who does those things shall live by them.’ But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’…”
In other words, we are led by the Holy Spirit of God.
Continue reading Romans 10:9-18.
God’s law, His prophecies, and His prophets’ words go out to the whole world eventually to convert the whole world. The goal of the law is to teach us about the perfection of God. It is not done away with. As a matter of fact, that last verse we read is quoted from Psalm 19:4. I would like to read part of Psalm 19, and you will see what Paul was getting at here.
Let’s go to Psalm 19. Read verses 1-4.
He is speaking allegorically about what these things on earth represent, what the stars in heaven represent, and how God’s words literally are falling around the world in the form of rain and sunshine.
Verse 5: “Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of the heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple…”
The law of God falls in the form of rain and is pictured in the heavens and on the earth. It is what brings us to understand what it is like to be perfect, and it is what we are to strive for. It is the goal that we should have. We should want to be like our Father in heaven and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The law is perfect and converts the soul. Why would we want to get rid of something that is perfect? Why would we want to get rid of something that leads to conversion?
Continue reading Psalm 19:8-13.
Show me my sins and help me to beat my sin. Help me to be like You. This is what the psalmist is saying. We learn it from the perfect law of God.
In conclusion, Psalm 19, last part of verse 13: “Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”
We are talking about salvation. We are talking about conversion. We are talking about the sun and the rain from God the Father and Jesus Christ that give us the food and the water that lead to conversion and eternal life. That is how serious it is. We cannot get rid of something as basic as the law of God that is perfect and established as Christ said, forever! We have to understand what we need to do. We need to understand how we comply with these things and how we can have this feeling like the psalmist said, I want to feel clean. I want to know my transgressions. I want to know what it means to do something wrong, and then I want to repent and change. We need laws in order to understand that.
THE LAW AS A TUTOR
The second example I want to turn to is Galatians chapter 3. Beginning in verse 23 of Galatians 3: “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
We read that the law is to teach us. It is the finger of God pointing the way. It is a tutor. It is to teach us. Are we being told here to get rid of the teacher, get rid of the pointing toward perfection, and that we do not need it anymore because Jesus Christ has come? That is a conflict with what we learned was sound doctrine from the mouth of Jesus Christ. We have to understand what the context is here and what has been changed because there is something that has been changed. We have to get that right.
We need to look at more of Galatians to understand what the subject of that book is. Go back to Galatians chapter 2. We cannot pull out just a couple of Scriptures like that and say it is okay to do away with the Ten Commandments. We need to understand what this whole letter was about. Galatians 2, beginning in verse 1: “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”
Paul says I want to explain to the others what I have been teaching.
Verse 3: “Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”
Now we are starting to see specifically what Paul was addressing here.
Verse 4 of Galatians 2: “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
In other words, false brethren brought in some heresy that is getting addressed here.
Continue in verse 6: “But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.”
Paul says I know where I stand. I stand on the Scriptures. I am not concerned about the titles or the fame of these other people, whether they are Pharisees or Sadducees or what they think they are.
Verse 7: “But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles)…”
Paul says it is the same Holy Spirit working in Peter and myself. He said, I take the gospel to the uncircumcised and Peter takes it to the circumcised. We are seeing the issue taking shape here. The issue is over circumcision at this point in the letter.
Continue in Galatians 2, verse 9: “…and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.”
Paul says we need love and compassion, so circumcision or uncircumcision is not as important as loving people.
Verse 11: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”
Peter started to fear what those of the circumcision would think of him if he was eating with the common man, the uncircumcised of the world, the Gentiles.
Verse 13: “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
Paul said, I saw hypocrisy there. He said, I wanted to do something about it. He is explaining this in this letter.
Verse 14 of Galatians 2: “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?’”
THE ISSUE WAS NOT THE COMMANDMENTS
The issue was circumcision. The Pharisees wanted everyone to be circumcised. That is the aspect of the law they were interested in keeping here. This is what they were pushing. It was not the Ten Commandments. It is not talking about the Ten Commandments. This is talking about the rite of circumcision.
It is very interesting that people take the Scriptures we read in verse 23 and 24 and say get rid of the Ten Commandments! That was not the subject of this letter. The subject was circumcision at this point. You will see that it is even a little bit more than circumcision as we go on.
Drop down to verse 19 of Galatians 3: “What purpose then does the law serve [speaking of circumcision]? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not!”
Circumcision was not against the law, but neither was it part of the law as far as the Ten Commandments are concerned.
Verse 21: “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.”
If we could have kept circumcision or all the other sacrificial rites and become righteous, we would not have needed Christ’s death and shed blood.
Verse 22 of Galatians 3: “But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Circumcision was the precursor to circumcision of the heart, getting the law written on our hearts and in our minds. It was the magnification of the law. That is what Paul is saying here. It did not matter if a person wanted to be circumcised or did not want to be circumcised. That was not the issue. The issue was salvation and the fact that you did not need to be circumcised to be saved. But we do need the law of God to know how to go on to perfection, that law being the Ten Commandments.
We see that we need to find out what the entire context is in a book or letter before we take a serious step like throwing out the law of God. The question here was how we deal with sin. This was the ultimate question that Paul was saying. Circumcision is not how we deal with sin anymore. As a matter of fact, physical sacrifices are not how we deal with sin anymore. We have the blood of Christ.
Christ died for us, putting aside physical sacrifice but not putting aside the law. Christ said, I did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. I want the law to last as long as heaven and earth last.
CHRIST IS OUR HIGH PRIEST
I want to look at Hebrews for a minute because it answers this very clearly. It is a long book of explanation, much of it about the law, our Savior Jesus Christ, and the fact that He is our High Priest. I want to start in Hebrews chapter 2. We can only look at a few Scriptures, but it will become abundantly clear that the law was not done away. The sacrifices of the Old Testament law were done away because now we have Jesus Christ.
Hebrews chapter 2, beginning in verse 14: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil…”
Jesus Christ’s perfect life and death are ultimately going to destroy the devil and his system.
Verse 15: “…and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.”
Our whole life we are in fear of death, and we are in bondage to sin. All of us are struggling in one way or another with sin, with the evil part of our nature and the temptations that Satan throws before us, but we understand what sin is because of the law. That is how we understand how much we need the blood of Christ and that Jesus Christ’s blood can wipe away our sins. We need to go on to perfection like our Father and Lord Jesus Christ to become more like Them. We receive aid from the Holy Spirit, the food and the water from Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Continuing here in verse 17 of Hebrews 2: “Therefore, in all things he had to be made like His brethren [Jesus Christ was made like we are], that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”
Jesus Christ became physical. We cannot say He does not understand what it is to be human and that He does not understand what it is to be tempted. He does. He still lived a perfect life and died for the propitiation, that is the removal of sin. He knows we need that in order to survive. We also need to understand what sin is, and the law teaches us what sin is. Therefore, we need the law to continue to guide us and to point us in the right direction. We need Christ’s blood to wash us clean when we fall short. They work together hand in hand. It is very important to understand that.
CHRIST REPLACED THE SACRIFICIAL LAW
I want to read a few more Scriptures in Hebrews. Let’s go to Hebrews chapter 10, verse 1: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.”
Physical sacrifice for sin such as killing of goats, sheep, and birds cannot permanently remove sin. It teaches us because it was the image of something that people had to do, but it was not the very thing. Jesus Christ is the sacrifice.
Hebrews 10, verse 2: “For then would they not have ceased to be offered?”
Paul says, if that was the way to go, we would not have needed Christ’s death, but that was not a permanent solution. The sacrifices were only to teach us.
Continuing with the last part of verse 2: “For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.”’”
It is speaking of the volume of the prophets, in the Decalogue, in the Torah. It is written of Me that I am coming to be that perfect sacrifice to do away with sin. Jesus Christ is saying, once I have come and sacrificed Myself, you do not need these physical sacrifices anymore of bulls and goats.
Verse 8 of Hebrews 10: “Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law)…”
The sacrificial law is what is changing here and not the Ten Commandments.
Verse 9: “…then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second.”
He takes away the first covenant and how to get rid of sin and establishes a better covenant stating that we get rid of sin through Jesus Christ.
Verse 10: “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
We are talking about not needing physical sacrifice for sin because we now have the blood of Jesus Christ.
When we sin, it is transgression of the law. We have to understand what the laws are in order to know when we transgress them, so that we need to repent and ask for forgiveness through the blood of Christ.
It is obvious! It is almost a no-brainer! Without laws on the highways or the laws of the seas or the laws of the land, we would never know when we are breaking the law. How would it be that you could get stopped along the road by a policeman who would cite you for laws that did not exist or you did not know were there! What if there were no speed limit signs, for instance. What if there were no laws that you could possibly understand and you found yourself continually breaking them. That makes no sense at all. That is what it is like to get rid of the Ten Commandments. We would have no idea when we were doing something wrong. That is the way Satan wants it. Satan wants us to continually sin and not even understand that we are sinning.
Now Christ’s words really have impact. If you love Me, keep My commandments, He said. Keep My commandments and grow in perfection, like God the Father in heaven.
We have to understand that law in order to know when to seek forgiveness.
Turn to Hebrews chapter 7. After discussing Jesus Christ as the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek to quite an extent, we break in here in verse 11: “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek [Jesus Christ], and not be called according to the order of Aaron [the old priesthood]? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
We have a new High Priest, Jesus Christ. We do not have the Aaronic priesthood, starting with Aaron and working down through time with a physical high priest taking care of cleaning up the people from their sins through rituals. We do not need that anymore. But by that old system we understand what Jesus Christ did for us. We understand how significant His sacrifice was. It did not in any way shape or form do away with the Ten Commandments. We still need that law to understand when we sin.
It is fascinating to see that this is a discussion of a change in the priesthood and a change in the sacrifices that the priesthood worked on in the Old Testament. It is very interesting because this ends the argument. There is no point in worrying about doing away with the law. It has to be there. It is a necessary thing. It is what God teaches us with His very finger about the law of God and the prophets. Christ put them both together. He said, I want them to last as long as heaven and earth lasts. Let’s just put that out of our mind and stop arguing with ourselves and others over the law. Let’s get busy trying to do our best to learn from the law. When we see that we fall short because we understand the law, ask for forgiveness. Go to the blood of Jesus Christ and be forgiven.
It is a change in the priesthood and the sacrificial system that was done away and not the law itself. Hebrews chapter 12 makes this clear as well. Hebrews chapter 12, verse 1: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us [let’s get rid of sin], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Let’s run our race with endurance, he says.
Continue reading Hebrews 12:3-11.
Correction leads to righteousness. How do we understand what we are being corrected for and what we need to be corrected for if we get rid of the rules? The Ten Commandments are the rules. When we break the rules, God chastens us because He loves us. He shows us how to go forward and be straight. He shows us how to stay on the straight and narrow path. He shows us how to avoid sin in the first place. He shows us how to become more perfect like Him. Essentially He shows us how to love Him in the first four commandments and how to love our fellow man in the last six. If we pitch those away, we do not know what the rules are. We would not even understand why we are being chastened.
So often I hear people say, I do not know why so many things are going wrong in my life. I do not know why everything I touch seems to fail. Yet in their whole life they have not paid attention to the law of God. In many cases they profess to be Christians. Christ said, if you love Me, keep My commandments.
It is a horrible thing to be chastened and not even understand how to fix your problems. That is what happens when you get rid of the law and get rid of the rules. It is just like a parent, we are told here. A parent establishes rules. You must be in by such and such a time at night. You must get your homework done. You have to keep your room neat. Those are the rules. If you break the rules, you are chastened by your parents because they love you and they want to teach you how to be organized and how to be a good citizen. They want to teach you how to respect the law of the land. It is the same way only magnified with the law of God.
We need those rules to understand what is wrong when we break them and why we are being chastened. We need to understand how that leads to perfection. That is why Jesus Christ said keep My law, and become perfect like My Father in heaven. It is a beautiful system, and we need it.
It is very interesting that we found that the law is like rain, and it is also like food in the New Testament. In the New Testament it was called nomos. There is a word for the opposite of good food, and it makes sense. It is anomos (#459, Strong’s, 1995): opposed to good food, the opposite of good food, bad food. It is mentioned in Ephesians chapter 1.
Turn to Ephesians chapter 1. The concept is discussed of parceling out food (nomos) to grazing animals. We understand God calls us sheep. We are the sheep of His pasture, His flock. He wants us to eat good food in a good pasture. In Ephesians chapter 1 it is discussed here. Read verses 3-7.
We have this beautiful system where we can be forgiven. It is a system of receiving grace. It is a system that leads us to become holier and more like God the Father and Jesus Christ.
A RELIGIOUS ECONOMY
Read Ephesians 1:8-13.
A Christian should have received a bit of the Holy Spirit and therefore have the ability to receive an inheritance when Jesus Christ comes because of this system of grace and washing of the blood of Jesus Christ when we sin. We are told in verse 10 that it is in the dispensation of the fullness of the times. What does “dispensation of the fullness of the times” mean?
That word “dispensation” is very interesting because it is in the Greek oikonomia (#3622, Strong’s, 1995) which means an administration of a household or an estate, specifically a religious economy. That is where we get the word economy. It comes from the word oikonomos (#3623, Strong’s, 1995) which sounds a lot like economy. Oikonomos means a house distributor, a manager or overseer, a fiscal agent, or a preacher of the gospel.
We hear the word of God preached. We understand the word of God in the Bible. We understand it is based on the Ten Commandments and the prophets, so we are led to understanding what we need to do to please God and become more like Him. When we see we are falling short, we go to the blood of Jesus Christ and are cleaned up. This forms a spiritual economy that grows and grows. It is like the parable of the talents. We get our talents to grow and multiply.
It is interesting because oikonomia and okonomos are an expansion of the word oiko. Oiko in the Greek comes from nomos. Nomos and oiko go together to help us understand that we need the food of God to form an economy. We need the understanding of God which is that living water. It is the rain that has fallen in the form of the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments to produce good fruit in us. We need to imbibe in the word and hear the word preached and understand what it is we need to do to become more like God the Father and Jesus Christ. We need to understand that when we break the rules, we get chastened for it, so that we are led to become more perfect. When we see that we broke the rules, we ask for forgiveness. It is a beautiful system, and it is based on the law of God.
You will notice when Christ was talking about the law back in Matthew 5, He did not say the sacrifices. He spoke of the Ten Commandments because He knew the part of the law that would be done away with was the statutory part or the sacrifices. That is what He was coming to replace, and that is what Hebrews said very clearly. He did not do away with one jot or one tittle of the Ten Commandments, the law of God. It is the basic law that the whole Bible is founded upon. They are the rules of the road.
What Christ came to change was the way of dealing with sin, the breaking of the law.
We need to understand the sacrificial system as far as when we sin, death is required. Blood is required. We understand now Jesus Christ has paid for those penalties for us. That is a beautiful thing to understand because that helps us appreciate all that Jesus Christ did for us. It was His plan and God the Father’s to make this available to us, but They never did away with the law. We need that to comprehend the whole system and what it is all based upon.
THE MYSTERY OF LAWLESSNESS
Who wants the law done away with? Satan wants the law done away. He is against the law of God. He is the source of anomos (bad food). Let’s look for a moment at II Thessalonians. Let’s go to II Thessalonians chapter 2. He is talking here about the end of the age and the return of Jesus Christ, but it covers lawlessness.
II Thessalonians 2, verse 3: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition…”
This is none other than Satan.
Verse 4: “…who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
Satan has Christians throwing away the law of God. He is laughing. He says, I have Christians believing that they are doing the right thing by disobeying the law and throwing the law of God away. They are throwing away the source of the good food and water.
Continuing in II Thessalonians 2, verse 5: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…”
It was at work at that time!
Continuing in verse 7: “…only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one [which should read the wicked] will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”
In verse 9 it says: “The coming of the lawless one…”
I am reading from the New King James, and it should say “wicked.”
Verse 9: “…is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie…”
Many Christians have fallen for the lie that the law is done away with. We can prove it right here. Satan is sitting in the Church of God, the temple of God, showing himself that he is God because he has most of Christianity following what he says is the law. He has people breaking the Ten Commandments. He has people preaching to others in his name to break the Ten Commandments. Christ said in Matthew 5 that he who teaches others to break the Ten Commandments will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. That is if they make it there and repent.
It is a very serious thing to say the law is done away and then teach people that they can break the law. They teach that you do not keep the Sabbath. It is okay to put idols in the church. It is okay to have icons. They teach the whole nine yards. It expands itself in the opposite direction in the way that Christ magnified the law. They reduce the law into impotence so that it has no effect.
This “mystery of iniquity” means lawlessness. It is anomia (#458, Strong’s, 1995), opposite of the law. The word “wicked” that I showed you there is anomos (#459, Strong’s, 1995). It is the opposite of good food.
You can hear preaching that says the law is done away. It does not matter, keep whatever day you want for the Sabbath. Keep pagan holy days if you desire. But Christmas is not in the Bible, and God names the holy days. He said, you will keep My Sabbaths. This includes the high holy days which God has established. The bad food preaches to human beings that you do not have to do those things, but without them we cannot properly love God. We cannot properly love Jesus Christ. Christ said, if you love Me, keep My commandments. It is by those commandments that you will understand what the rules are. You will understand why you are being corrected. You will understand how it is that you need to become more perfect by keeping the law, learning to love God, and learning to love our fellow man.
That brings us to back to the very beginning of this subject which I just paraphrased. Let’s go back to Matthew 5, verse 17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
We need to keep the law of God. We need to observe the teachings of the prophets, for they have landed upon the earth in the form of the Bible as rain. It is to bear fruit in our lives and to give us living water. It is the bread of life. We need these things to survive spiritually.
Let’s no longer consider breaking the law to be a trivial thing, because it is by breaking the law and seeing it in our lives that we understand that we need to be forgiven. We repent and go to the blood of the Lamb.
Whatever you do, do not teach others to break the law. That is a terrible shortcoming and a terrible sin to teach others to break the law. The law is not done away, and it is what we need to understand and comprehend in order to please our Father in heaven and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lawlessness is what has gotten the Church into the state it is in today. Lawlessness is what has gotten the world in the mess that it is in, and Satan is behind lawlessness. He is behind anomos, the mystery of iniquity. He has substituted false holy days for the true, false Sabbath days for the true Sabbaths. He has helped introduce idols and icons into various Christian denominations around the world. It has led to more broken marriages because if the law is done away, it is not that serious. Marriages fail, and there is divorce and remarriage. It is a plague in the Christian churches today because the law is not respected enough. It is the justification for war, and many wars have religious reasons behind them. Even the war on terror and the war we see going on between different faiths today is based on a misinterpretation of the Bible. God says, do not murder and do not kill.
It is a sad situation we have gotten ourselves into by throwing out the law of God or not giving it the respect that we need to give it. We need to understand that the Ten Commandments and the law of God is what God uses as our basis for Christianity.
People do not like rules anymore, is what it actually comes down to. Rules cramp their lifestyles. They want to lead a lifestyle that goes contrary to the law of God, so it is very convenient to throw out the law of God. We do that at our own peril. If we teach others to do so, we are in deep trouble.
The beauty of obeying and keeping the law is that we become more and more like God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is by keeping the law of God that we demonstrate love for Jesus Christ and God the Father, and we demonstrate love for our fellow man. Keeping the law is truly a beautiful thing.