Just something going through my head this morning:
CHRISTIANS AND THE LAW
In this electronic age of communication, with the internet, hence the world at our fingertips, it gives one a view into the minds and lives, often more than we might prefer, of many others who, before this, we might now little to nothing about.
One thing that always amazes me, is the great lack of biblical understanding of so many who claim the name of Christ-and today, again in this age of information, there is no lack of information about Him, though there is also a lot of garbage to wade through, as well, which is why a good, Bible-believing church is still such a requirement.
But as I look at the many ideas out there, the one that never ceases to amaze, is how many believers so desperately cling to the laws of Sinai, ostensibly born-again believers in Jesus Christ, who believe that it is the duty of all believers to maintain the Mosaic laws and commandments given upon Sinai to the children of Israel, and what it tells me, is that there is little actual training and studying going on by these people, and their teachers of the entire word of God, or they would know that this just isn’t so.
Understand of course, this is not me, not my opinion-the Bible is the word of God, and our ONLY authority in all areas of life, worship and obedience, but one must KNOW the Bible, one must STUDY the Bible, to know HOW to follow it. So, in this vein, I wish to broach this subject on Christians and the Law.
To go over the law as a whole would be treading ground most of us already know well, but in brief, after Moses had led the children of Israel out of the land of Goshen in Egypt, the Lord having punished Egypt with ten plagues and passed judgement upon all the gods of Egypt, they found themselves at Mt. Sinai, and here the Lord gave them His laws, consisting of ten commandments, graven upon stones, and many other ordinances, concerning all aspects of life, to include the treatment of such illnesses as leprosy, punishments for sin, sacrifices, offerings, relationships between spouses, neighbors and the nations, care of the poor and the priests and Levites, and so on. All aspects of life were covered under the law.
In Exodus 24, we read of the official covenant being made between God and Israel, concerning the keeping of the law: “And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.” (Ex 24:3-8)
Now, here is where we begin to understand what, if any, relationship the believer has with the Law of Moses:
1-The Blood Covenant.
A blood covenant is an agreement made between two parties, rather like a contract, except instead of the parties involved signing on the dotted line, there is blood shed to seal the agreement. In the case of Israel, the blood of clean animals was used, rather than the participants cutting themselves, or drinking any blood. In such a covenant, the parties who will be involved are agreed upon by both parties, and often a blood covenant would remain in effect as long as one party was still alive, and would apply to the family of the both parties, as long as at least one participant lived. For instance, when David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul, made a covenant between them, after Jonathan died and David was king, David sought for any children of Jonathan, to show him kindness for the sake of the covenant they made, and when he found Mephibosheth, he brought him to his house and fed him from his own food from that time on. This is the strength of the covenant.
So, the covenant made at Sinai, the parties involved were YHWH God, as seen when the blood was sprinkled on the altar, and the children of Israel, as seen when they agreed to obey all the Lord told them, and they were sprinkled by the blood of the covenant. This means the parties that were responsible to keep the covenant, as long as one party remained, were Israel and their PHYSICAL descendants, and God, and of course, since God is eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, it would be in force forever. OR, until one part broke the covenant, and then the other would be free. So from the beginning, the only parties who were ever under the law were Israel and their descendants, and the Lord God. The only exceptions to this were servants of those of Israel, and those strangers (Gentiles) who sojourned within their walls-they were expected to keep the law as well, while they were in the borders of Israel. (Ex 20:10, which actually only applies to the Sabbath). So clearly, only those who were a part of the initial covenant are answerable to that covenant. Gentiles, believers or otherwise, are not, and never were.
2-The Covenant Broken
When the covenant was made in Ex 24, as we read above, both parties made certain promises as part of the covenant: Israel promised to be in obedience to all the Lord commanded them, and the Lord promised something as well: “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.” (Ex 23: 20-31)
Here is the Lord’s part of the covenant: IF the children of Israel keep their covenant in obedience, then the Lord will do all these things-they will be established in the land, all their enemies run out before them, they will have peace and safety and health and good flocks and crops. But here’s the rub-Israel has to obey the covenant as well, lest the covenant be broken and the Lord is not held to keep His part, and of course it isn’t all that long after they arrive in Canaan that they continually break the covenant and fall into gross disobedience: they refuse to fight against all the inhabitants of the land, as they are commanded, so the Lord allows some to remain as a snare to them. After they settle into the land, they quickly fall away and begin to serve the gods of those other people in Canaan, and to intermarry with them. So Israel quickly breaks the covenant, meaning the Lord is not held to fulfil all He has promised, and as a result the history of Israel is rarely a happy and comfortable one. The Lord allows them to be in bondage to their enemies time and again, though He rescues them when they cry out to Him, and he gives the judges to rescue them-but once that judge is dead, they fall away again. Lather, rinse, repeat. So the covenant has been broken and it only holds at all because the Lord, in His mercy, maintains it, though by choice, not compulsion.
3-The Broken Covenant Replaced
When Jesus came to earth as a man, and lived the law perfectly, and taught the Jews the true law, of the Spirit, not the letter, He was accused of trying to destroy the law. He responded, “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.” Some have looked at this and said, ‘See, the law will remain as long as heaven and earth remain.’ But is this what Jesus said? Read it again-“I am not come to destroy, but to FULFIL. Jesus’ job was to fulfil the law-to destroy it would mean to end the law before its time and in an improper manner; but to FULFIL it would mean to end it in the manner it was meant to be ended, the proper, planned end. In reality, the Jews had all but destroyed the law in their disobedience, hundreds of years earlier, and it only remained because the Lord kept it intact-however, because it was a broken law, it needed to be replaced with a new covenant-the only proper manner to replace this covenant was through a new covenant. And this was why Jesus had come-to fulfil the old covenant by replacing it with a new one, thus fulfilling the old. And what He said in the above statement was, even if it took til the end of all things for a new covenant to be made and to fulfil the old, the old would remain in force until the new took its place. The old HAD to be fulfilled, not destroyed, though both effectively would end it-one properly, one improperly. So Jesus DID come to end the law, but through fulfillment, not through destruction.
When Jesus hung upon the cross on Golgotha, as He died, He cried out, “It is finished!”, and gave up the ghost. When this happened, a telling event took place: the veil of the temple, which separated the holy place from the holiest place, the Holy of Holies, where dwelt the Ark of the Covenant, (though missing at that time) was rent in two, from top to bottom. The veil symbolized the separation between God and His creation because of sin-when Jesus died, He paid the ultimate price for the sin of the world, and this ended that separation. The law was in place because of the separation between God and man, because man could not attain to the righteousness of God, and had to keep the laws and sacrifices, but could never cross that veil, even through the law, save for the High Priest only, one time each year to make atonement for Israel. Once Jesus Christ paid the price for sin, the way was opened, and His blood became the blood of the new covenant. The old had passed, a covenant made with the blood of bulls and goats, and the new began, made by the perfect blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom 10:4).
4-We Can’t Keep the Law If We Tried
A funny thing about the law: there are certain requirements to keeping it-like, ALL the law must be kept, or else one is guilty of the WHOLE law, IF one wishes to try to keep it. (Gal 3:10). So, keeping only a part of the law is actually breaking the entire law. And an aspect of the law, a necessary part of the law, was the Temple, or before that, the tabernacle. Sacrifices and offerings were made, by command, at the temple, which was built where the Lord commanded it to be. Sacrifices and offerings were not acceptable anywhere else. (Deut 12:13, 14) Each first-born male was redeemed at the temple for money, and the firstborn of each clean animal was taken to the temple as an offering of the Lord, as were the firstfruits of one’s crops. This was law. Whenever a woman gave birth, she was to go to the temple or tabernacle and give an offering (Lev 12:6). The priesthood of Aaron and the Levites was a part of the law. Simply-without a temple, without the priests and Levites, the law cannot be kept. In 70AD, Titus and the army of Rome came to Jerusalem and razed it and destroyed the temple-since that time, the Law actually has not been able to be kept by anyone, neither Jew nor Christian, because the temple is integral to the keeping of the law! This is why, at Sinai, the Lord God made sure they had the Tabernacle, and it was always the center of the tribes when they camped, and at the head of the tribes as they travelled in the wilderness-so for almost 2,000 years no one can keep the laws of Sinai if they tried.
In vain, Christians today try to keep the law. They declare that we must maintain the dietary laws, keep the Sabbath, and various other aspects, thinking it is a right thing to do, but they are deluded because, even as it was written in Gal 3:10, so it is now-if we want to keep the law, we MUST keep the WHOLE law, every bit, or else we are guilty of the whole law, even if we offend in but one part-and without the temple, we are automatically guilty of the law. And there is a reason for that: because Christ as fulfilled the law and has made a new covenant that superseded the old, which had been broken many times by Israel. It was a yoke the Jews could not bear! THIS is the whole reason Jesus came! To release us from the law which only brought death, because no man, until Jesus, could keep it perfectly. The law was made as a covenant relationship between YHWH and Israel, His nation. It was not made with the Gentiles, believers or otherwise, and to try to keep it is futile in many ways.
Today, Christians seek to keep aspects of the law, yet they seem to forget aspects of it. Let’s look at the dietary laws: Clean: Cattle, goats, sheep, deer, antelope, elk, those which are cloven-hooved AND chew cud. No rabbit, no pork. Fish: only those with scales. No shark, ray, eel, squid, octopus, shellfish, crabs, shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, oysters, catfish. Birds: No eagles, ossifrage, osprey, vulture, kite, raven, owl, night hawk, cuckow, hawk, cormorant, swan, pelican, gier eagle, stork, heron, lapwing, and bat. (Would you know an ossifrage or a lapwing if it was served to you?) And fowl that creep, going on all four. Which are those? Creeping things: locust, beetle, grasshopper, weasel, mouse, tortoise, ferret, chameleon, lizard, snail and mole. Snakes? No problem! They’re clean! So be sure to keep all these.
And don’t forget, it is wrong to sow a field with diverse seeds, or to wear anything with mixed fabrics, (Lev 19:19). Men are not to cut the corners of their beards. Your garments must have a fringe with a ribband of blue, as a continual reminder of the law, (Num 15:38). Building a new house? Better build a battlement on the roof so no one falls off! (Deu 22:8). I could go on, but these are ALL parts of the LAW and to disdain to keep any of these is to break the law, and thus, to be guilty of the whole law.
Christians, study the Word-see the covenants, discern the truth and let Jesus Christ set you free from the bondage of the law-this is why Jesus came to earth! This is why He died on the cross and resurrected! There is no salvation in the law, only death, only bondage. Leave it behind and follow the commandments of the New Covenant, which are plenty.