Some Thoughts On The Christian And The Law

Christianity And The Law

(Christ And The Law)

    What sort of attitude did Jesus have toward the law of God?  This is the question we must ask of ourselves as we study the law of God and its relevance to mankind today.  If Jesus disregarded God’s law, we can do the same.  If Jesus abolished God’s law, we can consider it to be irrelevant.  On the other hand, if Jesus respected, fulfilled, and established God’s law, we must honor and obey God’s law.   Let us see what the Biblical record will show us.

Christ Established The Law

    As Christ preached His Sermon on The Mount, He stated to the people, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.   For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  Did Jesus mean that, when He fulfilled the law, it would be forever useless and irrelevant, or did Jesus mean to say that His fulfilling of the law caused its authority to stand firmly?  First of all, we must found our understanding of this issue upon Jesus’ first phrase in this passage.  The reason we must found our understanding of this issue upon this first phrase of Jesus is because, in this passage, Jesus is plainly stating what people should not think about His attitude and actions toward the law of God.  We must not think that Jesus came to destroy, demolish, or dissolve the law of God.  He explicitly stated to us that we should not think that.  Jesus did not come for this purpose.  Anything else that is said about the validity of the law of God must be based upon this plain statement by Jesus.  This being so, we can at least see that Jesus intends for the law to stand as it did for many years before His earthly ministry.

    Jesus’ words concerning the law were very simple and very plain.  After He told us that He had no intentions of destroying the law, He stated that He had come for the purpose of fulfilling the law.  To fulfill the law meant more than simple obedience to all of God’s commands.  To fulfill means to consummate, render perfect, ratify, or carry through to completion.  This definition informs us that Jesus had a very high view of God’s law.  In fact, since in the Old Testament the moral law of God was considered to be absolute, we can safely affirm that Jesus held the same view.  If the reader will notice, however, there is one thing that Jesus stated that cannot be said by any other man.  Jesus stated that He would fulfill the law.  No other man could ever make that statement, no matter how good he might be.  Why?  Because no human has the authority to make or establish laws for all mankind for all ages.  The only one who could carry the law to its intended end, perfect and ratify it would be the one who was the lawgiver – God.   Jesus was stating that there was more work for the law to accomplish, and He would be the one to cause that work to be finished.  Christ affirmed that the law would not go away, but would be upheld and perfected by Him.

    Next Jesus affirmed the absolute authority of the law of God.  That is, the law of God will continue to be authoritative with no reduction or change to that authority until it has served its purpose.  “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18)  When we read of “jots and tittles” we are being given a description of the most minute parts of the alphabetical and grammatical structure of the Hebrew language.  It would be roughly equivalent to saying that an “i” and a “.” would not pass away from the word of God.  In other words, even in the smallest of particulars, the law of God would not be dissolved.  Not one thing that would affect the meaning , understanding, and authority of God’s law would be allowed to pass away until the law was fulfilled.  It seems that Jesus believed that the law of God was fully inspired and would be preserved by God, not only in the meaning, but in the writings/manuscripts as well.  That is not to say that we have the original manuscripts with us today, but it is to say that God has preserved His word as He promised.  In fact, Jesus told us that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17)

    Jesus believed that the law was of absolute moral authority.  He stated, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19)  While Jesus taught that not one of God’s moral commandments would cease to be authoritative (see also John 10:35b), He knew that there would always be those who deemed themselves of sufficient wisdom, etc. to determine that certain commands were no longer in force.  He plainly told us that those who would seek to lessen the authority of the law of God in the lives of men would be considered of very little importance in the kingdom of Heaven.  On the contrary, those who would uphold the absolute authority of God’s law for themselves and others would be counted great in the kingdom of Heaven.  Why is this so?  Simply because God honors those who honor Him, and those who despise Him will be lightly esteemed (See 1Sam 2:30).  One may ask how the honor of God is relevant to the law.  It is relevant because God is the absolute authority who authorized the law.  To obey the word of God is to obey God Himself.

Jesus Taught The Law As Being Spiritual in Nature

    While Jesus upheld the authority of the law, He also reminded men that the law is spiritual in nature.  Notice His statement concerning the Pharisees and the law: “ I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  To understand this statement, we must know the nature of Pharisaical righteousness.  The Pharisee’s righteousness was external only.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.   Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.   Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.   Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt 23:23-28)  The whole focus of Pharisaic living was to appear righteous.  So long as they had the outward form of the law upheld in their lives, they felt themselves to be very righteous.  Jesus stated, in opposition to this fallacious notion, that one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Righteousness is much more than external forms.  In fact, while rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus told them that the weighter things of the law were things of the heart; things such as judgment, mercy, and faith.  He also told the Pharisees that they should first have the inside – their hearts – cleaned before they could truly clean up and have external righteousness.  Why is this so?  Because the law is spiritual and ministers primarily to the heart of man.

    One day a man who was very learned in the law of God asked Jesus which was the great commandment in the law.  We know that the questioning person was testing Christ and hoping to cause Him trouble.  Perhaps the scribe thought that Jesus would prefer one specific command above another and the scribe could accuse Him of either being too harsh on one issue, or being to soft on another issue.  Whatever the case may have been, Jesus upset the proverbial apple cart by saying: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  In other words, the issue with the law was not an issue of external commands, and some being of greater importance.  The heart of the law is spiritual in that the law calls for us to love God with all that is within us and with all that we are.  We are then to spread that love for God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Love is not a material thing.  Love is spiritual, and the law leads us to love.  To obey the law is to love God and to love our neighbor.  That is indeed spiritual.

Jesus Fulfilled The Law

    While Jesus established the law by upholding its authority, He also fulfilled the law by meeting its every righteous demand.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)  It takes little observation to notice, however, that the law, though morally perfect, was not complete.  Something was lacking.  The law could not be God’s final word to man because the law could not save.  The law ministered condemnation to men by causing them to realize their sinful condition.  Jesus, the Word of God, however, ministered salvation to men by fulfilling the law even by suffering the judgment of the law in His own body as a substitute for us.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)  Jesus brought grace and truth to a world full of sinners who were condemned by the law.  It is any wonder, then, that He told the Jews, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)  The law that the Jews felt gave them life was actually testifying to them that Jesus was going to come to bring salvation, thus fulfilling the law.

Since the law could not be God’s final word to man, we must view Jesus and His Word as God’s final word to man. Why? Because the law was absolute morally. Jesus fulfills the law by saving us. What more can God say to us? We have the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (See Jude 1:3). What need have we for additional revelation? None, after all, when we consider that Jesus declared the Father to us (see John 1:18), we have the fullness of revelation. This means that Jesus’ fulfilling the law, and giving us the truth He promised (John 15:26;16:12-15) finalizes God’s Word to mankind. For this we have much to be thankful, because we know where God’s Word is found, and are stable and secure due to the knowledge that we do not have to search for God’s Words, nor keep having to learn more and more due to an influx of additional words from God.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)

Sharing Grace

Sharing Grace

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1–8)

 

The text here presents us with a picture of ourselves. We were by no means good people. We were foolish. We were rebels. We believed the devil’s lies. We were slaves to the passions of the heart and of the flesh. We lived in envy and treated people in evil ways. We were hateful and hated others. That is by no means a good picture of us. It is not into our goodness that God’s grace appeared, but into our wickedness. We did not deserve our salvation, but He saved us, washed us from our sins, poured out the Holy Spirit upon/within us, gave us new life, and has counted us righteous in His sight. God freely saves us despite ourselves.

With this in mind, we are told that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-15), and to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are taught that we are saved so that we might give glory to God (Hebrews 2:10) and for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Among the most important of good works that can be done is that of showing grace to others. Our text tells us that we should be obedient and submissive to those who are in authority to us. Grace will teach us that we should pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5-6), and that we are to obey those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). Often this is an act of grace, because we are not submitting and obeying because we agree with those in authority, but despite the fact that we do not agree. Considering that Paul wrote of submission and obedience to rulers when Nero, the enemy of all that is holy, was Caesar, we know that such must come from the grace of God.

Grace is also to be manifest in our treatment of our fellow men. We are told that we are to do good to all men, especially those who are our fellow brothers in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Not only so, but we are to not be brawlers, or contentious and strife filled people. Strife only occurs where pride is (Proverbs 13:10), and we know that pride and grace do not co-exist well at all (James 4:5-6). We are to humble ourselves to have good relationships with others rather than habitually striving with them. Furthermore, we are told to be gentle, or reasonable. That reasonableness is mentioned by Paul as moderation (Philippians 4:5). Our text also speaks of meekness, or gentleness. God’s people are not to be harsh, but loving and kind. Too many people act as if they have the right to show anger and wrath to those with whom they disagree. Such people know so very little about the grace of God. Had they known the grace of God, they would realize that God has not treated them as their sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-17), but has graciously forgives sinners who deserve His wrath. Grace teaches us to love even those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

When Jesus would teach us about how to treat others, He reminds us of how much He cares for even the smallest of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:1-14), and sternly warns us that we dare not be an occasion of stumbling for anyone. He warns us that we would be better off dead than to be a stumbling block. He continues from there and calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers when division arises (Matthew 18:15-18). Following up on that, Jesus gives a parable regarding forgiveness that demonstrates that those who truly know the forgiving mercy and grace of God will show the same to others (Matthew 18:21-35). We are commanded to forgive, or show grace, as we have been forgiven and shown grace (Ephesians 4:32). If we do not do so, we are warned about how judgment will be for us: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) The one who refuses to show mercy and grace gives evidence of not having known or experienced mercy and grace, and will receive neither in the day of judgment. Where grace is present in the soul, it will manifest itself in the way we treat other people.

This cannot be emphasized enough, because we are called to an unworldly godliness. We are called to show Christ in our behavior. Far too often we show bitterness, anger, wrath, and impatience, even to those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ! I will be quick to admit that I have failed in many ways in this respect. Sadly these things have not been taught among us as they should have been. That will be no excuse for us, however, when we stand before God. God’s grace is transforming grace. He will not leave us as we were before we trusted Him. God, in His grace, has shown us love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and much kindness, despite our sinfulness. If we are not careful, we will treat others as if they must earn our goodwill, and will tend toward a harshness with those who disagree with us or wrong us. This is not the way of grace. Grace will cause us to treat others with the same kindness as God treats us. God’s grace will not leave us hateful and hating one another, therefore let us yield to the authority and transforming power of His grace in order to show kindness and love to all with whom we come in contact.

God’s Grace To Abraham

God’s Grace To Abraham

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1–5)

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16)

 

We tend to think of our Biblical heroes as being bigger than life, and often above sin; but Scripture presents us men and women who needed and received God’s grace. Abraham is no exception. Note that our text tells us that Abraham was justified by faith so that his righteousness would be by grace. Abraham was not a righteous man who earned God’s favor: Abraham was a sinner who trusted God’s grace.

Let’s first consider Abraham’s sins, not for the sake of condemning him, but to demonstrate that he could have earned nothing from God.

 

Abraham’s Sins

Joshua 24:2 idol worshiper

 

 

Genesis 12:1-5 (11:31-32)only partially obedient, thus disobedient

 

 

Genesis 12:10-20 lied, saying Sarah was his sister

 

 

Genesis 16:1-4 bigamist

 

 

Genesis 20:1-18 lied saying Sarah was his sister

 

Abraham Received Grace

Our text tells us that those who work would have God in their debt (Romans 4:4), but God will never need anything from anyone, or be indebted to anyone (See Romans 11:34-36). Abraham believed that God would justify the ungodly, of whom he was one (Romans 4:4-5). Why is this so? Verse sixteen tells us that it would be of grace.

Grace gives God the glory. If we were to work, we could boast (Ephesians 2:8-9;Romans 4:1-3), but grace makes no room for works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6) Grace and faith also leave no room for boasting (Romans 3:27). Why? Grace is to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:3-6) Far too many people spend their time boasting of who they are, what they have done, all of their accomplishments, etc. This is actually a sign of apostasy rather than an indicator of spirituality (2 Timothy 3:1-5). God has told us that He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), and commands us to rejoice because we know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24). God is jealous for His glory and forgives our sins for His name’s sake (Isaiah43:25 ;1 John 2:12). Grace is about taking honor out of our hands and God getting all of the glory and praise, which is His due.

Abraham had nothing in himself that was worthy of his boasting (Romans 4:1-3), and neither do we. We hear Paul saying, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God’s Word explicitly tells us that we cannot brag about the gifts of grace as if we had accomplished them ourselves. Abraham received grace when he believed God and was justified. It is the same with us (Titus 3:1-7). Pride causes so many troubles (Proverbs 13:10;Galatians 5:22-26) that we could avoid if we simply realized that we are the undeserving recipients of grace who are commanded to show grace one to another (Galatians 6:1-10;Ephesians 4:31-5:2). Brothers, instead of boasting, we are called to humble ourselves (James 4:1-10). Only when we recognize our sinfulness and God’s grace will we humble ourselves before Him.

Because of God’s grace to believing Abraham, he was called the friend of God (James 2:14-26). We, too, are called to live our lives to the glory of God by trusting His grace (Romans 5:20-6:1;Ephesians 2:8-10). Let us remember that Paul lived his life rejoicing in and trusting in the grace of God (Galatians 2:20-21). He was humbled by grace, and attributed all of his blessings and achievements to God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). What a blessing it will be to us all if we will accept God’s grace, rejoice in that grace, and live our life boasting only in God’s grace. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:14–15)

 

 

 

 

Noah Found Grace

Noah Found Grace

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:1–8)

 

“Noah found grace,” we read; but what is grace? Grace is the favor or pleasure of God that is shown to those who are undeserving. This should be our basic definition of grace as we study the Scriptures. We shall find, as we study the grace of God that this definition will be affirmed many times over in the Scriptures.

 

We often think of Noah as a great person, and in many senses he was; but Noah was also a recipient of grace. Scripture describes man in Noah’s day as being corrupt, violent, and meditating always upon evil. The whole of humanity was sinful, and Noah was included in that wicked number.

 

It was in the midst of all of this sin, wickedness, apostasy, and violence that God spoke declaring that He was going to judge mankind for their sins.

 

Only after God spoke of sin and judgment do we find that Noah found grace. Henry Morris said, “Grace is found, not earned.” This is true. Noah, because of sin, had earned wrath and judgment just as the rest of mankind. Yet Noah found grace.

 

Scripture tells us that Noah was justified by faith. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) Noah was not righteous because of his good life. Noah was declared righteous because he believed God. Faith and grace go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated (See Romans 4:1-16;Titus 3:1-7). Some time in his life, Noah heard that God was gracious and forgiving and trusted Him. Having found God’s grace, he was saved.

 

Wonderful parallels exist between our text and Ephesians 2:1-8. In both we find sin, judgment, and saving grace. It is most certain that there is no difference between Noah and us, as we are all sinners under condemnation, and need the grace of God to save us. Thankfully, just as Noah was promised and given a new earth to live on (Genesis 8 &9), we are promised the same (Ephesians 2:4-7;Revelation 21).

 

As we consider this, we should also think about that long period of time that Noah and his family were in the ark: what a difficulty that must have been in many ways! Can you imagine being cooped up with your in-laws and thousands of stinking animals (Did I just repeat myself?) for months on end? How did Noah and his family survive without either killing one another or losing their sanity? Again, it was all God’s grace. Grace conquers sin and gives life and righteousness (Romans 5:20-21). As it was then, so it is now: all is of grace.

 

This is only the beginning of a series of articles on the grace of God, but it is important that we learn from the very beginning that grace is free. Let us look at Noah, the sin in his day, ourselves, the sin in our day, and consider the fact that Noah was not delivered because he was good: he was delivered because God is good. In like manner, we must realize that we cannot and will not earn anything from God: all is of grace. Sure, we shall find that grace produces change within us that will produce obedience to God; but we shall never find that we merit anything from Him. Let us rejoice in this grace by trusting God more each day.