NOT UNDER THE LAW BUT UNDER GRACE
Copyright © 1992 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The idea we are not under law but under grace is being interpreted to mean that righteous behavior, while it is desirable or shows we love Jesus, is not an essential aspect of our salvation. We are saved by grace (forgiveness and mercy) alone, it is maintained, and not by righteous behavior.
What is the relationship of the Law of Moses to the redemption that is in Christ? The answer to this question is important to the dedicated Christian. Whenever a question arises concerning a commandment of the Old Testament, our standard response as believers often is, we are not under the Law of Moses but under grace. One wonders if we really understand what we are saying.
We cannot mean the Torah, the Law, has been abolished, for the new covenant is the writing of the spiritual intent of the Torah on our mind and heart. This hardly is an abolishing of the Torah in the sense of doing away with the moral laws of God!
Paul’s argument against the Law of Moses has been understood by Gentiles to be an argument against righteous and holy behavior. It is as though we are saved apart from righteous and holy behavior, when in fact righteous and holy behavior are salvation and proof of the Kingdom of God in our life. It is an enormous and deadly misunderstanding!
Table of Contents
The animal sacrificesElements of the Law That Are Covenants With the Elect and Have Been Expanded Elements of the Law Required of Every Person A Comment
The ordinances of the priesthood and of the Tabernacle of the Congregation
The feast days
Dietary regulations, washing of dishes and pots
Property and money ownership and management, tithing, usury and interest,
the redemption of land
Marriage and divorce
Special dress, mixtures, appearance
Laws regarding leprosy
Laws governing slavery
Cities of refuge, murder
Various ordinances regarding sorcery, thievery, paying of wages, pledges, surety, personal injury
NOT UNDER THE LAW BUT UNDER GRACE
For sin shall not have dominion [control] over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
For Christ is the end [completion, purpose] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)
What is the relationship of the Law of Moses to the redemption that is in Christ? The answer to this question is important to the dedicated Christian.
Whenever a question arises concerning a commandment of the Old Testament, our rejoinder as believers often is, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” One wonders if we really understand what we are saying.
What do we mean when we say we are not under the Law but under grace?
What do we mean when we state that Christ is the end of the Law of Moses?
We cannot mean that the Torah, the Law, has been abolished, for the new covenant is the writing of the spiritual intent of the Torah on our mind and heart. This hardly is an abolishing of the Torah in the sense of doing away with the moral laws of God!
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law [Torah] in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
The idea that we are not under the Law but under grace is understood to mean that righteous behavior, while it is desirable or shows that we love Jesus, is not a determining factor of our salvation. We are saved by grace alone, it is maintained, and not by righteous behavior. If this is true, then the context of Romans 6:14 should support this concept.
Let us look at the context of Romans 6:14:
Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:2)
knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (Romans 6:6)
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.
And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:12,13)
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life.
For the wages of sin [done by a Christian] is death, but the gift of God [for acting righteously] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22,23)
The context of Romans 6:14 could hardly be interpreted to mean that righteous behavior, while it is desirable or shows that we love Jesus, is not a determining factor of our salvation. According to the above passages, godly behavior is an integral part of the Divine redemption. There is widespread deception on this point.
What about the second passage—Christ is the end of the Law (Romans 10:4)? Does this mean that the Law of Moses has been abolished?
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Hebrews 8:10)
We see that the Torah, rather than being done away, is moved from stone and parchment to the mind and heart of the worshiper. It is not the statutes of the Law of Moses that are moved to the mind and heart of the worshiper but the eternal law of God, of which the Law of Moses is an abridged, negative form.
It is not enough to claim we are not under the Law but under grace unless we are ready to explain precisely what we mean.
It is not enough to state that Christ is the end of the Law, in the sense of abolishing the Law, unless we are able to show how our position fits Hebrews 8:10. The Greek term translated “end,” in Romans 10: 4, sometimes means termination, and on other occasions gives the idea of end result, as in the following:
receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:9)
Then we would have, “Christ is the end result, or fulfillment, of the Law of Moses. All was fulfilled in Him, not necessarily abolished in the sense that God has changed His mind concerning man’s moral obligations.
The Elements of the Law
One reason for the lack of clarity in our insistence that we are not under the Law but under grace is that the Law has many different components. Some of the components, such as the animal sacrifices and the priesthood, have been done away. Other statutes, particularly those concerning moral behavior, are not to be transgressed at any time.
The Ten Commandments are the best known part of the Law of Moses. They are a summary of the Law and often seem to be what Paul means primarily when he refers to the Law.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8,9)
While the following is not intended to be a comprehensive listing of the elements of the Torah, it may give us an idea of the diverse aspects of which the Law is composed.
- The animal sacrifices.
- The ordinances of the priesthood and of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
- The feast days.
- Dietary regulations, washing of dishes and pots.
- Property and money ownership and management, tithing, usury and interest, the redemption of land.
- Marriage and divorce.
- Special dress, mixtures, appearance.
- Laws regarding leprosy.
- Laws governing slavery.
- Cities of refuge, murder.
- Various ordinances regarding sorcery, thievery, paying of wages, pledges, surety, personal injury.
- The Sabbath day.
- Moral purity.
- Righteous behavior.
- Worship and holiness.
All of these plus injunctions we may have not mentioned constitute the Law, the Torah.
To blithely state we are not under the Law but under grace, or that Christ is the end of the Law, may not be a satisfying response.
It is clear we no longer are required to offer a bull as a fellowship offering. Instead, we are to offer our body as a living sacrifice to the Father.
What about adultery and incest? Is a Christian free to commit adultery and incest? If not, why not? Under what law is the Christian required to refrain from adultery and incest?
One may say, a true Christian will not practice adultery or incest. The fact is, in our day numerous Christian people practice adultery and many molest their own children.
We know how God commanded us to treat adultery and incest under the Law. How does God command us to deal with adultery and incest under the new covenant?
Perhaps if we examine some of the facets of the Law we can speak with more understanding when we state we are not under the Law but under grace, or that Christ is the end of the Law.
Elements of the Law That Have Been Replaced by the New Covenant
The animal sacrifices. The opening chapters of the Book of Leviticus describe the fellowship, peace, sin, trespass, and other offerings. Now that the one perfect sacrifice has been made, it would be almost blasphemous to continue with the offering of animals and birds.
who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (Hebrews 7:27)
He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Hebrews 9:26)
When we say we are not under the Law but under grace, and Christ is the fulfillment of the Law, we may speak with confidence regarding the sacrifice of animals and birds. The blood offered on the cross by the Lord Jesus Christ has made an eternal atonement for the sins of the whole world.
And He Himself is the propitiation [appeasement] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (I John 2:2)
The ordinances of the priesthood and of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. A great part of the Book of Exodus is devoted to the Aaronic priesthood and the ordinances concerning the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
Now that our High Priest, Christ, has come we no longer are bound by the rules of the Aaronic priesthood. He—Christ—is the fulfillment of all tabernacles and temples. He is the aim, the purpose, the end, the fulfillment of the Altar, the Lampstand, the Showbread, the Ark of the Covenant. All is filled up and revealed in Him; and also in His Church, which is His Body.
Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. (Hebrews 8:1,2)
The feast days. There is no greater type in the Scriptures than the feasts of the Lord listed in Leviticus, Chapter 23 and commanded in other passages also. The Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Tabernacles, and the other celebrations reveal the Lord Jesus, the growth of the believer to maturity, the development of the Church, and the building and installation of the Kingdom of God.
Many Christians in our day, both Jewish and Gentile, celebrate the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles. We see no harm in celebrating the Old Testament convocations provided it is realized that all of these are completely fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. It is somewhat anticlimactic to observe Passover after the Lord Jesus has instituted the Communion [fellowship] service—the body and blood of the Son of God.
There always is a temptation to go back to that which humans can practice, because the redemption we are awaiting is still invisible and invisible things are difficult to work with.
Be it clearly understood, however, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the complete fulfillment of all the feast days of the Torah. Observance no longer is required. The feasts of the Lord were shadows of the infinitely greater Christ toward which they pointed.
But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?
You observe days and months and seasons and years.
I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. (Galatians 4:9-11)
Dietary regulations, washing of dishes and pots. The Lord explained in detail what the Jews could and could not eat. Also, there were rules for the cleansing of dishes and pots.
It appears that the vision given to Peter changes the injunctions concerning clean and unclean foods.
and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.
In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.
And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” (Acts 10:11-15)
“All manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air”! There probably was a swine or two in the sheet. This is enough to shock an Orthodox Jew.
We Christians, in spite of the good that may derive from governing one’s diet, are no longer under the dietary and culinary ordinances of the Law of Moses. These all are done away in Christ.
For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables.
Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. (Romans 14:2,3)
Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. (Romans 14:20)
“All things indeed are pure.” Remarkable words from a former Pharisee of the Pharisees. Paul would agree that saints no longer are under the stipulations concerning clean and unclean food and the washing of dishes and pots. These have been done away in Christ.
Property and money ownership and management, tithing, usury and interest, the redemption of land. Although tithing dates back to Abraham it definitely is part of the Law of Moses.
“And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. (Deuteronomy 14:23)
Although tithing is not expressly enjoined in the Epistles, the giving of a tenth of our money or produce to the work of the Kingdom may be a minimum offering. However, as in the case of keeping all days holy and not just the Sabbath day, we are not to be thinking in terms of fractions of our possessions. Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Whatever surplus of money we have is to be used to assist the poorer disciples, as the Lord directs.
We are to work so we may be able to give to the needy Christians.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
It is necessary also that we support the Lord’s work, as the Lord guides us to do so.
The Sabbath of the land may be beneficial in terms of agriculture but the commandment is not repeated in the writings of the Apostles.
The laws governing lending, usury, and interest reveal that God frowned on the taking of interest. Christian capitalists may make a great distinction between usury (excessive interest) and interest, but we do not think the Scripture does.
‘Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.
‘You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. (Leviticus 25:36,37)
“For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11)
He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalms 15:5)
“You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your fooed at a profit.”
It appears to us, from the use of the term “usury” in the Scripture, that usury is just another name for interest. It was the Lord’s will, under the Law of Moses, that the rich be generous with the poor, and give and lend money without charging interest.
Since the laws governing property and money ownership and management, tithing, usury and interest, and the regulations governing the redemption of land, are not repeated in the New Testament writings we probably can assume they are not binding on the believer in Christ. These have been fulfilled in Christ.
However, the concept of generosity is repeated in the New Testament.
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (II Corinthians 9:6,7)
Lending money on interest is an important aspect of capitalism. Our personal opinion is that the practice does more harm than good. It appears that because money is used to make more money by lending on interest, the poor become poorer and the rich become richer.
We are not certain whether or not lending on interest is always a wicked practice. It is not condemned in the New Testament. Peter tells us of a righteous new world that is coming. If the present author has any control over the economy, there will be no lending of money on interest in the ages to come.
As in all other matters, the individual believer must seek the will of Christ concerning his ownership and management of money and property. But we think the letter of the Old Testament ordinances no longer are binding on him whether he is Jewish or Gentile.
Marriage and divorce. Jesus commented on this aspect of the Law of Moses.
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
“But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31,32)
It is interesting that the Lord would separate Himself from the authorship of this commandment: “It has been said… but I say to you.”
“It has been said”! It was the Lord Jesus Himself, the Lord of Israel, who said it. If it was Jesus who said it in the first place, then Jesus has all authority over all laws and principles.
When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him, the Lord wrote on the ground with His finger. It was the Lord Jesus who wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger on slabs of granite.
This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. (John 8:6)
But then He wrote again.
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:8)
The new covenant also is the writing of the finger of God—this time on the heart of man. The Lord wrote once on Sinai. The Lord has written again.
It seems likely that the specific statutes governing marriage and divorce were done away in Christ.
Special dress, mixtures, appearance. The Jews were forbidden to wear garments made of two different materials, such as linen and woolen. Also, they were to sew a fringe of blue on their garments.
“Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. (Numbers 15:38)
The manner in which they cut their hair and beard was prescribed.
‘You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. (Leviticus 19:27)
We may say with confidence that these ordinances were not carried over into the new covenant.
Laws regarding leprosy. There were strict rules governing the person who contracted leprosy.
“When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. (Leviticus 13:2)
The rules governing the leper are not mentioned in the writings of the Apostles of the new covenant. We do know that our Lord Jesus healed many lepers and that He always touched them.
Laws governing slavery. Under the Law of Moses slaves were considered to be the property of the person who purchased them or who gained them as booty in war. While the ownership of a slave was considered valid there were limits placed on the degree of harshness the owner could apply.
“And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. (Exodus 21:20)
A distinction was made between a Hebrew servant and a Gentile servant.
“If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. (Deuteronomy 15:12)
“And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; (Deuteronomy 15:13)
“you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the LORD your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him. (Deuteronomy 15:14)
How did the Apostle Paul view slavery?
Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.
Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it.
For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. (I Corinthians 7:20-23)
Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed.
And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things. (I Timothy 6:1,2)
The preceding passage is not the same as the Old Testament passages that discuss slavery. We conclude that the laws of slavery are not to be carried into the new covenant.
Cities of refuge, murder. Whoever killed someone intentionally was to be put to death.
‘Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. (Numbers 35:31)
Because of the possibility of accidental death, God provided a number of cities of refuge where the man that caused the death could be protected against the avenger of blood—a relative seeking vengeance for the murder.
“Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee. And to these you shall add forty-two cities. (Numbers 35:6)
The cities of refuge were an important aspect of the Law of Moses. It does not seem likely they are to be part of the new covenant. The Lord Jesus Christ is our City of refuge.
Various ordinances regarding sorcery, thievery, paying of wages, pledges, surety, personal injury. There were numerous injunctions covering these several areas. Perhaps the best known is the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.”
“But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life,
“eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
“burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:23-25)
Jesus commented on this ordinance:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
“If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.
“And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (Matthew 5:38-41)
Again, the Lord Jesus seemed to distance Himself from the Law that originally came from Him. It is evident that we have here a change in the Law. Therefore, we can state that the personal injury section of the Torah was fulfilled in Christ and does not carry over into the new covenant.
The preceding elements of the Law of Moses have been replaced by the new covenant. They have been fulfilled in Christ who kept them all perfectly and then died on behalf of others, the guiltless on behalf of the guilty. Because He kept His own law He is able to redeem the guilty by dying in their place.
Therefore we are not under these statutes any longer. In Christ they have been fulfilled and terminated, having accomplished their purpose, which was to govern and guard Israel and finally bring Israel to the Deliverer, the Seed promised to Abraham.
The remaining aspects of the Law cannot be dismissed as readily. Their relationship to the new covenant requires more explanation:
- The Sabbath day.
- Moral purity.
- Righteous behavior.
- Worship and holiness.
Elements of the Law That Are Covenants With the Elect and Have Been Expanded
Circumcision. Circumcision dates back to the covenant made with Abraham. It is a symbol of the special relationship God has with His elect, His Israel, His Church.
“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; (Genesis 17:10)
From the beginning, God made it known that the circumcision He desires is the circumcision of the heart. This concept is found in the Torah.
and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt— (Leviticus 26:41)
“Their uncircumcised hearts.”
“And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)
Even in the Torah, true circumcision was to love God with all of one’s heart.
Circumcision was used in general application to mean righteous and holy, acceptable to the Lord and suitable for use by His people.
‘When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. (Leviticus 19:23)
For the first three years the fruit of the trees was regarded as “uncircumcised,” that is, not suitable for the use of God’s people.
Circumcision is a basic aspect of Judaism. The Jewish Christians could not conceive of God working with uncircumcised people. This presented a problem in the early churches.
And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him,
saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” (Acts 11:2,3)
Paul wrote a letter to the churches of Galatia in which he discussed circumcision, referring also to the entire Law of Moses.
This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2)
The relationship between the Law of Moses and the grace of God in Christ is seldom, it appears, presented clearly. The Christian position often is stated as, we are not under the Law but under grace; or, Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
These comments are scriptural but they do not solve the problem of the Christian and sin. The result is that today there are literally millions of Christian who have little understanding of how God regards their behavior. There is utter confusion on this point and the believers remain spiritual babies as a result.
Spiritual growth is growth in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and to receive the good and resist the evil. One cannot distinguish between good and evil, or receive the good and resist the evil, unless it is understood how God regards our behavior under the new covenant.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)
Paul’s answer to the relation between Moses and Christ, and what the Christian’s attitude toward sin should be, is found in the Book of Galatians.
“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
Paul is not stating that no one in time past ever pleased God under the Law, for the Scripture states that righteousness was expected at that time under those regulations.
“Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. (Deuteronomy 1:16)
‘Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.’ (Deuteronomy 6:25)
Paul himself walked blamelessly under the Law.
concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:6)
However, those whom God declared to be righteous, such as Noah, Job, Abraham, and Daniel, were not distinguished by adherence to the ordinances of the Law of Moses but by their whole behavior as a person. They behaved righteously, loved mercy, and walked humbly with God. The heroes of faith of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews give us some idea of what God regards as faith and righteousness.
What Paul is declaring is that now that God has presented us with a superior covenant, validated by the blood of God’s own son, we are not to seek righteousness by observing any of the elements of the Law of Moses—not even circumcision!
The following is Paul’s reasoning concerning the Christian and sin. It must be thought through carefully for it does not lend itself to a superficial examination.
“But if, while we seek to be justified [regarded as righteous] by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! (Galatians 2:17)
If we are seeking to be justified [regarded as righteous] by Christ…! Here is the problem. Paul was approaching the Gospel as one who desired above all else to be righteous. However, the Gospel is presented to the Gentiles, not as a means of gaining righteousness but as a ticket to Heaven. The idea is that if we will receive Jesus as our Savior our sins will be forgiven and we will be admitted to Heaven when we die.
We Gentiles do not understand the Gospel because we are not oriented properly to righteousness. Righteousness is an end in itself, not a means of getting to Heaven. The devout Jew seeks righteousness because God requires righteousness. It is our opinion that the Gospel belongs to the Jews and that they are the only ones who are in a position to truly understand it. In fact, the individual most likely to understand the redemption that is in Christ is the Orthodox Jew, as we see it. And this is what Paul was!
What do Gentiles understand of the coming of a kingdom of righteousness? What does it mean to Gentiles that Christ will sit on the Throne of David?
We have received a Jewish Gospel and have totally confused it with spending eternity in Heaven, mansions, and golden slippers. The new covenant was presented in the Book of Jeremiah, but most of what is taught today is unrelated to what Jeremiah stated, to the rest of the Hebrew Prophets, and to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— (Hebrews 8:8)
Hopefully the Jews will claim their own bread and teach the Gentile believers of righteousness and the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that is coming to the earth in the near future.
If we are seeking righteousness through Christ, and continue to sin, does this mean Christ endorses sin? Paul responds to his own question (Galatians 2:17), “Absolutely not!”
“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. (Galatians 2:18)
First of all, what is sin? Sin under the new covenant is much the same as under the old, having to do with righteousness and holiness of conduct. Paul gives us some examples of sin:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Let us paraphrase Paul: “If I have come to Jesus for righteousness and I continue to practice adultery, fornication, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, murder, drunkenness, does this mean Christ endorses sin?”
Do you see what we mean when we state it is not an adequate response to dismiss the relationship between Moses and Christ by saying we are not under the Law but under grace? We leave the problem of sin unanswered. We do not know how to define sin, under the new covenant and we do not understand how God regards it.
Paul has been grievously misunderstood. This misunderstanding has wrecked the churches of our day.
Paul’s argument against the Law of Moses has been interpreted by Gentiles as an argument against righteous and holy behavior. It is as though we are saved apart from righteous and holy behavior, when in fact righteous and holy behavior are salvation and proof of the Kingdom of God in our life.
It is an enormous, a deadly misunderstanding!
“For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. (Galatians 2:19)
What does this mean, “I through the law died to the law”? It means that the judgments of the Law brought Paul down to the death of the cross. The Law slew Paul. Because Paul is dead the Law no longer governs him. He now is free to be married to Jesus and to live unto God.
The expression “dead to the law” has been interpreted to mean we no longer are bound by the Law of Moses. This is only partially true. The point is, we have died because of the Law. Therefore it is not appropriate for us to sin, that is, to continue to act as though we were still alive.
We have not died to the Law of Moses so we can be free but so we can “live unto God.” This is where the breakdown of understanding is. No Christian is free from the Law of Moses in the sense the expression is used currently. Rather, he is dead to the Law of Moses, having died with Christ on the cross of Calvary. Now the believer has been raised with Christ; not merely raised, but raised with Christ. We have died to Moses, not that we may be free but that we may be married to Christ.
The answer to the question of the relation of Moses to Christ, and the understanding of the manner in which God views sin (which is defined in Galatians as the “works of the flesh”), is found in the following passage:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
We believers are not free from the laws of righteousness; rather, we are crucified with Christ.
It is not I who am living but Christ who is living in me. This is the same as having the Torah written in our mind and heart, for Christ is the Word, the Torah of God.
One doctrinal position is that by accepting Christ the Law of Moses has no more authority over us. Our sins are forgiven, and when we sin God does not see our sin but only the righteousness of Christ. When we die we will go to the spirit Paradise to live forever.
The other position is that the Law has condemned us to death because of our sin. Therefore we have identified ourselves through water baptism with the crucified Christ. By faith we have risen together with Him to the right hand of God. Christ is now our life and when we appears we will appear with Him in glory, ready to restore Paradise to the earth.
The one position considers that our sins are covered no matter how we behave; we ought to try to do good because we love Jesus, but our eligibility for eternal life in Heaven is not based on our behavior but on the grace and mercy of God. We are not under the Law but under an amnesty. Christ is the end of the Law, the abolishing of the Law, and freely assigns righteousness to those who have faith in Him.
The other position views salvation as the means of deliverance from sin and of bringing forth a new righteous creation. When we sin we are to confess our sin, repent, and avail ourselves of the grace of God to enable us to overcome the sin. Because we are not under the Law but under grace we are legally free to enter complete union with the Lord Jesus without having to worry about feast days and the washing of pots and pans. Our union with Christ brings forth the fruit of righteousness each day. The new creation is being revealed in our personality. We are growing continually in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, being able to select the good and resist the evil. Christ is the aim and purpose of the Law and the Law has brought us to Him.
The two positions are not the same. One is the true Gospel of salvation. The other is another gospel. Make no mistake—they are not the same! One of them is accurate and the other is a grievous error.
“I do not live any longer,” Paul maintains. “The life I am now living in my body I am living by faith in the Son of God. Every aspect of my thinking, speech, and actions, every moment of every day, reveals that my old nature has been crucified and Christ is living in me.
“I am overcoming sin each day because the life of Christ does not sin. The part of my personality that is yet unredeemed is kept from condemnation by the blood of Jesus. I am living by total faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.
“To keep on walking in the sins of the flesh would mean I was building again the body of sin that Christ seeks to destroy, and in that case I indeed would be a lawbreaker. Were I to continue to live in the flesh I would be barred from the Kingdom of God, I would not inherit it. There is no practice of sin in the Kingdom of God.
“If it is true that I am not practicing righteous behavior by observing the ordinances of the Law of Moses but by living in the life of Christ, of what use is circumcision to me?”
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)
The concept of circumcision is carried from the Law of Moses to the new covenant. However, it is not circumcision of the flesh that is important under the new covenant but circumcision of the heart.
but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:29)
What is a circumcised heart? A circumcised heart is one in which the fleshly adamic nature has been cut back and a covenant made with God that we shall love and serve Him throughout eternity.
We belong to God and are a stranger and pilgrim on the earth. Each day we leave behind the wickedness of the present age and press closer to the Presence of God in Christ. Our heart leans toward God at all times to love and serve Him.
The Sabbath day. As in the case of circumcision, the Sabbath day is brought forward under the new covenant and enlarged in scope. As is also true of circumcision, the Divine intent in the Sabbath day was set forth in the Old Testament.
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13,14)
The fourth commandment announces the Sabbath day, one of the most important of all the observances of Judaism. The scholars of Judaism have described in detail how the Sabbath is to be observed under the Law.
The fulfillment of the Sabbath, as carried forward in the new covenant, is broad in scope.
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:10)
The concept of the Sabbath under the new covenant is based on the fact that during six days God finished His works, from the creation of the heavens and the earth all the way to the new heaven and the new earth. All was finished from the creation of the world. God now is resting while the six creative days are working to make man in God’s image, to bring man into union with God, to make man fruitful, and to give to man dominion over all the works of God’s hands.
Each person born on the earth has a choice. He can create his own heaven and earth or he can pray and trust and obey God every day. He can set aside his own way, his own words, his own plans and hopes, and enter the rest of God. Instead of finding His joy in the Lord one day of the seven he can do God’s will every moment of every day of the week. Jesus then becomes his life. He sets his love on things above because he is dead and his life is hidden with Christ in God.
This is the true Sabbath rest of God’s elect, the royal priesthood. God is in all their thoughts. There is no division between the sacred and the secular. Every pot is holy. Every day is holy. Every aspect of work is holy.
The Lord Jesus always lives in the rest of God.
“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)
Paul declared that he was dead and Christ was his life. This is the rest of God. This is how the Sabbath commandment is carried forward under the new covenant.
Worship and holiness. The Jews worshiped God in the service of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and later in the Temple. They offered their sacrifices, gave of their substance, prayed, and obeyed the Lord’s commands. The rest of the time was their own.
Worship under the new covenant is vastly more demanding.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
No Jew under the Law of Moses ever at any time was required to offer up his own body each day as a living sacrifice. But to do so is only our reasonable service of worship under the new covenant.
The Lord said, “Take up your cross and follow me. Take up your instrument of execution and faithfully follow me into self-denial, thirst, imprisonment, torture, death.”
God’s elect, God’s true Israel, who include all who are in Christ, belong to God in a special way. God Himself is their inheritance. Therefore, their service of worship demands the adoration and continual worship of their entire personality.
Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. (Numbers 18:20)
The meek shall inherit the earth. The member of the Body of Christ inherits God—all that He is.
Under the Law of Moses, each man was to bring his offering to the Tabernacle or the Temple and there the priest would enable him to worship in the specified manner. But each saint of the new covenant is required to offer to God the spiritual sacrifices coming from the consecration and joy of his or her personality.
you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:5)
It is true that the animal sacrifices have been done away in Christ. But this must not leave the impression that the believer of the new covenant is free to go about his business as he sees fit, to pursue his own desires. Rather, his worship is to be the offering of his entire personality—a much more intense, much more demanding service of worship.
It often is true that the teachers of the new covenant imply we are free from the Law of Moses so we can prance about in glee. The ogre, the “old Jewish Jehovah,” has died and now we can be happy in our freedom. The truth is, the new covenant is infinitely more demanding on the worshiper. He who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than any of the Prophets.
Jesus did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfill the Law in Himself so He would be free to bring His disciples into a total worship of body, soul, and spirit.
“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.
“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.
“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.’
“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. (Matthew 5:17-22)
The Law has not passed away and shall not pass away. Rather, the Law is fulfilled as Christ, the Lawgiver and Lawkeeper, having died to make an atonement for our sins, transfers the intent of the Law into our mind and heart by Himself coming into our mind and heart.
The innocent Lord Jesus suffered the penalty of the transgression of His own Law. Now He Himself is being formed in us so we will keep the intent of the Law by Nature. He gave the Law. He kept the Law. He was the sacrifice required by the Law. He Himself is all that the Law is and requires. Now He is being created in us so we shall by our new nature keep all the intent of the Law.
This is the meaning of the saying, “Christ is the end [fulfillment] of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.”
When we say “sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace” we mean the Law no longer is able to kill us. The grace of God, which includes the forming of the Law (Christ) in us, enables us to be so changed in personality that the righteousness of our behavior will exceed that of the most devout Pharisee.
The Pharisee was not permitted to kill. But we are not permitted even to harbor malice against another person or to speak insultingly to him. Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisee.
Worship under the new covenant is much more comprehensive than worship under the old covenant. The same is true of the requirement that the saint be holy.
Holiness was a very important feature of the old covenant.
‘For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:45)
The laws of holiness covered various aspects of personal appearance and behavior, especially eating and drinking. The feast days were holy observances. The Tabernacle of the Congregation was divided into the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. All the furnishings of the Tabernacle, its ordinances, and the garments and activities of the priesthood, were holy to the Lord.
The concept of holiness included physical and spiritual cleanliness, and the idea of belonging to God in a manner not shared by the remainder of mankind.
Holiness under the new covenant is much more demanding.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)
“Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.”
The holiness of the new covenant does not include eating and drinking, although eating and drinking to excess are considered to be works of the flesh and therefore must be resisted.
We are to cleanse ourselves. The holy warfare of the Israelites was against the people who were occupying their promised inheritance. The holy warfare of the Christians is against the unclean spirits who occupy their inheritance. Again, the new covenant is much more demanding.
All the works of the flesh, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, covetousness, hatred, strife, gossiping, sorcery, are unclean. The believer is to cleanse himself by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul consistently employed the term “saint” to refer to the believer in Christ. “Saint” means holy one. We are to be holy—free from unclean spirits and devoted to our God at all times. No unholy person will see the Lord or walk with the Lord, whether or not he or she is a believer in Jesus.
For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)
Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.” (II Corinthians 6:17,18)
Elements of the Law Required of Every Person
When we make a distinction between elements of the Law that are covenants with the elect, and elements of the Law that are required of every person, we may be introducing a concept that is new to the reader.
The traditional assumption is that every saved person is a member of the Church, the Bride, the Body of Christ. While this may or may not be true throughout the Church Era, it is apparent from the Scriptures that when the Lord returns there will be two classes of saved people—the members of the Church and the members of the nations of the saved.
If this were not the case, many passages of the Scriptures would be unintelligible. Also, the elect would have no inheritance, no nations of people to serve as a royal priesthood.
The two classes of saved people can be seen in the writings of Isaiah, especially (but not only) in Chapter 60.
Therefore your [the Church’s] gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession. (Isaiah 60:11)
“Your gates” is referring to the gates of Israel, God’s people, the Church, the Body of Christ, the Bride of the Lamb.
“The wealth of the Gentiles” is speaking of the wealth of the nations of the saved that will be brought as an offering to the Israel of God.
Again, in the New Testament.
And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (Revelation 21:24)
“The nations of those who are saved” refers to the peoples of the earth who have pleased God by their behavior.
“Bring their glory and honour into it” is exactly parallel to Isaiah 60:11 (above). “It” refers to the new Jerusalem, the holy city, the Bride of the Lamb, the Church of Christ.
The Kingdom of God is soon to come to the earth. The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the elect. If there were no nations of saved people on the earth the Kingdom of God would have no population to govern and bless.
Therefore we make a distinction in the manner in which the elements of the Law are expanded concerning the elect of the new covenant, and the manner in which the elements of the Law are required of every person who hopes for salvation through Christ.
Moral purity. In the Law of Moses there are prohibitions governing adultery, fornication, incest, and homosexual behavior.
The same is true under the new covenant, so it certainly would be misleading to suggest that we no longer are under the Divine prohibitions governing lustful conduct but under grace, or that Christ has put an end to the ordinances regulating moral behavior.
having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. (II Peter 2:14)
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (I Corinthians 6:18)
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife!
And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (I Corinthians 5:1,2)
Concerning homosexual behavior:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (Romans 1:26,27)
And notice further:
But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. (I Corinthians 5:11)
But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (I Corinthians 5:13)
If any member of our assembly is overtaken in a fault we are to restore him or her, considering ourselves that we also be not tempted.
If, however, an individual persists in sin, refusing correction, being proud, arrogant, justifying himself, then we are to put him or her out of the assembly.
This fact reveals to us that moral impurity is not permitted under either covenant. This is true both for the member of God’s elect and also for the citizens of the nations of the saved. Righteousness and holiness are required of all saved people, but especially for the Lord’s royal priesthood. They are the firstfruits of mankind unto the Lord.
nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:10)
It is evident that God would not accept impure behavior under the old covenant and that He will not accept it under the new.
But, some will say, a true Christian will not fornicate; or we are not to worry about sin because God does not see our sin but only the righteousness of Christ; or Christ will sovereignly change us now or at His appearing.
None of these are scriptural beliefs.
Christians are not perfect. They commit every sin imaginable. But when they know they are sinning, they are to confess their sins, repent of them, and seek the grace of God for perfect victory. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.
There is no passage of Scripture of which we are aware that teaches that a Christian cannot be deceived or sin, or that God does not see our sin, or that Christ will change our moral nature at His appearing, or that He will sovereignly change us apart from our diligently keeping His commandments.
Rather, the Scripture exhorts us to awake to righteousness and to cease our sinning. If we do not, God will judge us. If we still do not repent we will be cut out of the Vine, out of Christ.
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. (I Corinthians 15:34)
Antinomianism, the destructive doctrine that there is no law governing Christians, has been with us from the first century. Today antinomianism is presented as “Jesus did it all.” The idea is that we are to “abide in Christ” and not exert ourselves because to do so is to adopt a pharisaic attitude.
The truth is, there are numerous injunctions in the New Testament writings, commencing with the four Gospel accounts, that we are to obey. We build our house on the rock when we do what Jesus commanded us.
None of these injunctions are the new covenant. Rather, they serve to keep us acceptable to God while the new covenant, which is Christ Himself, is formed in us.
If we say we will wait until Christ does the work in us we will fall into the gap of lawlessness. We will be destroyed by sin—sin we could have avoided if we had meditated in the Word, prayed, gathered together with fervent disciples, and exercised self-control in not yielding to the impulses of our flesh and soul.
The Day Star, Christ, does not rise in our heart unless we faithfully obey His commandments to the best of our ability, praying without ceasing that God will help us. It is true that when Christ does fill us we shall keep the eternal moral law of God by means of our new, born-again nature. But in the meantime we must perform all the duties given us by Christ and His Apostles. Otherwise we will never arrive at the new covenant—the new, inner, righteous creation.
The Father and the Son come to dwell only in those who diligently, faithfully, consistently keep the ordinances written in the New Testament.
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:23)
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”
“He will keep My word.”
The fact that the Law hangs over us until the new man is formed in us is explained by James.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:8-12)
The royal law is that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are to keep looking toward this state of perfection and meanwhile do what we can to avoid sinning. The Law, our guardian, our guide, keeps on looking over our shoulder to see if we are coming to Christ.
Notice the following:
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)
The Greek term translated “tutor” refers to a slave who served as the guardian and guide of a boy from an upper class family. The slave supervised the life and morals of his charge and never left him until he came to maturity.
So it is with the Law of Moses. The Law, particularly the Ten Commandments, guards and guides us with the greatest care until we come to maturity in Christ and are able to keep the eternal moral law of God by our new nature.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)
Notice that when Paul and James reminded us of the Law that oversees us they spoke of the moral injunctions of the Ten Commandments, not of the feast days or dietary laws—not even of the Sabbath day. This is because the moral commandments are part of the eternal moral law of God and never change. As we have said, the Sabbath and circumcision are covenants and have to do with the relationship of the elect to God. The moral injunctions, however, are the necessary guidelines for all of God’s creatures that they may dwell with one another in love and harmony.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)
“You shall not covet,” “you shall not commit adultery,” “you shall not kill,” “you shall not bear false witness,” are all aspects of the eternal moral law of God. Perhaps they are different in kind from the ceremonial observances and the covenantal statutes.
We are judged by the law of liberty. The law of liberty is that we remain without condemnation while we are cooperating with the Holy Spirit of God, obeying the law of the Spirit of life, growing in the righteousness that is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Under the Law of Moses there was no such liberty. The worshiper was condemned the moment he transgressed. Under the new covenant we remain without condemnation even though there is much we do that comes short of the Glory of God. We are without condemnation provided we are following the Spirit of God as He leads us in putting to death the deeds of our wicked flesh.
Are believers actually to exert themselves in righteousness while waiting for the maturing of the nature of Christ in their personalities?
Pastor James answers:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:22-27)
Are there action-words here? Doers of the word, not hearers only:
- Looks into the perfect law of liberty (walking according to the Holy Spirit is the law of liberty) and continues therein.
- Bridles his tongue.
- Visits the fatherless and widows.
- Keeps himself unspotted from the world.
Why does Satan stress the “Jesus did it all” doctrine? It is because Satan knows that God will not work with sinning people, only with people who are confessing and repenting of their sins and vigorously and diligently obeying the commands of the Lord and His Apostles. Satan seeks to remove our anointing and our shield of protection by enticing us to sin, deceiving us by whispering that we do not have to resist sin because “Jesus did it all.”
The eternal law of God regarding holy, pure moral conduct is binding under the old covenant and also under the new—and upon all people alive on the earth. Even though we are under grace we cannot engage in immorality without being judged. Christ did not do away with the laws governing lustful behavior, because all expressions of lust and perversion are the work of unclean spirits and therefore come under eternal judgment.
It is true, however, that the new covenant does not consist of resisting lust. The new covenant is the forming of Christ in us, and Christ cannot sin because He is the Nature and Substance of the almighty God.
In the meantime we must resist with all the determination and grace we possess, all forms of unlawful, immoral behavior. The believer in Christ who is not resisting immorality, seeking help from the elders, studying the written Word, gathering with fervent saints, confessing his sins and repenting of them, will destroy his body, soul, and spirit and is in danger of the fiery judgment of God.
Righteous behavior. Righteous behavior was very important under the old covenant and is very important under the new covenant. Righteous behavior is required under both covenants, except that under the new covenant, persistence in righteous behavior will lead finally to the indwelling of the Righteous One. When Christ comes to maturity in us we will act righteously by nature—by the new nature of Christ that has been formed in us.
We might say that the forming of Christ in us is the end of the commandments of the Apostles for everyone who obeys them, not meaning the termination of the commandments but the end result of keeping them.
Under the Law of Moses equitable, upright behavior was enforced:
‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:15)
‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. (Leviticus 19:35)
One of the most important statements of the Old Testament, although not part of the Torah but certainly of the spirit of the Torah, is as follows:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Under the new covenant, righteous behavior is required.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters five through seven) consists of laws of righteousness, laws of the Kingdom of God. We are taught by these laws how to serve God and how to live with other people. The laws of the Sermon on the Mount will be enforced throughout the earth during the Kingdom Age by the sons of God carrying the rod of iron.
All people, the elect and the members of the nations of the saved, must obey the laws given in the Sermon on the Mount. Since these laws are impossible apart from the indwelling Nature of Christ, all the citizens of the nations of the saved, although they are not members of the royal priesthood, must have a portion of Christ in them. Every individual who is saved into the eternal reign of Christ will have Christ in him because Christ in us is the Kingdom, the rule of God.
During the Kingdom Age, Satan and all other workers of iniquity will have been removed from the earth and it will be far easier to live righteously at that time than is true now.
Perhaps the expression hundredfold, sixtyfold, and thirtyfold (Matthew 13:8), refers respectively to the firstfruits of the Church (Revelation, Chapter 14), the balance of the Church, and then the members of the nations of the saved. The same design appears in the Tabernacle of the Congregation where we have the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place, and the Courtyard. Surrounding the Courtyard was the linen fence. Since the sparkling white linen of the fence symbolizes the Divine righteousness, it may be true that the three areas within the fence portray the firstfruits, the balance of the Church, and the nations of the saved, while all outside is unrighteous and therefore prohibited from entering the Presence of God.
Righteousness and honesty in business were stressed in the old covenant.
“You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 25:15)
And are emphasized in the new:
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:17)
Stealing was prohibited under the old covenant.
“You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
And is prohibited under the new.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
One of the major misunderstandings of Christian theology is the relationship of imputed (ascribed) righteousness to actual righteousness of behavior. Today’s scholarship emphasizes imputed righteousness to the virtual exclusion of righteous behavior. A review of the above passages may emphasize that there is more written in the New Testament concerning morality and righteous behavior than there is about ascribed righteousness.
First, we must understand that all righteousness is imputed. The term “righteous” means approved of God. Righteousness is not measured by an arbitrary standard but by God’s opinion. If God imputes righteousness to the lie told by Rahab, or to the slaughter of the Philistines by Israel, then these are righteous actions. This we can understand readily if we have a heart for God.
The basis of Paul’s argument concerning imputed (ascribed) righteousness (which the Holy Spirit quickly balanced in the Book of James) is that God imputed righteousness to Abraham when Abraham believed the promise of God concerning his seed.
If we would understand Paul’s discussion in the opening chapters of the Book of Romans, the principal source of the doctrine of imputed righteousness, we must keep in mind that Paul is disputing with Jewish teachers who were attempting to force the Law of Moses on Gentile Christians.
Paul’s reasoning has to do with the fact that God attributed righteousness to Abraham apart from an observance of the Law of Moses, which was not in existence at that time.
Paul never contrasted the Divine grace in Christ with morally pure, righteous behavior. Paul contrasted the Divine grace in Christ with the works of the Law of Moses.
To contrast the Divine grace with moral, righteous behavior is to introduce chaos. The very purpose of the Divine grace is to change people from immoral, unrighteous behavior into the image of God.
The Gentile teachers completely misunderstand the Jew, Paul. Paul was showing that God will impute righteousness to us if we embrace Christ without adding the ordinances of the Law of Moses. Gentile teachers have perverted Paul’s teaching to mean we are saved by believing in Jesus apart from living an upright, morally pure life.
Of all the misunderstandings in the history of the world, the misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Apostle Paul concerning Divine grace may be the greatest and the most damaging.
God imputed righteousness to Abraham apart from the Law of Moses when Abraham believed God concerning the gift of a son.
God also required righteousness, holiness, and obedience of faithful Abraham.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)
God imputed righteousness to Noah and Job, apart from the Law of Moses. They were upright men who loved God, feared God, and obeyed God.
This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)
“Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” (Job 42:8)
God imputed righteousness to Israelites who walked before God with a repentant heart.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalms 32:2)
It is important that there be no deceit in our nature. Notice the following:
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalms 32:5)
There are numerous verses in the Book of Psalms that refer to righteous people who were serving God under the Law of Moses.
For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright. (Psalms 11:7)
As for the father and mother of John the Baptist:
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. (Luke 1:6)
God has given us the perfect sacrifice, His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we no longer can obtain righteousness by observing the Sabbath day, being circumcised, keeping the Passover, refraining from eating pork. God will not impute righteousness to us if we attempt to gain righteousness through the works of the Law now that God has made the perfect, complete atonement.
This is what Paul was maintaining.
We Gentiles, not being oriented properly toward the concept of righteousness for righteousness sake (apart from residence in Paradise), have interpreted Paul to mean God has given man a new way of pleasing Him. Righteous, holy, and obedient behavior are no longer necessary because an eternal righteousness has been given to us, an eternal amnesty has been declared. We now are eligible for residence in Heaven.
In this we have missed the heart of God entirely! We do always err because our heart is wrong!
God imputes righteousness to us apart from the Law when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. God then expects that we will obey Jesus and His Apostles. The blood atonement covers our sins while the new creation is being formed. The new covenant is not a new way of pleasing God in which we believe in Jesus and live according to the lusts of the flesh.
When we maintain we now are righteous apart from righteous, holy behavior because we have received Jesus, and then continue to walk in the lusts of the flesh, we demonstrate that we do not have the faintest idea of the redemption that is in Christ.
Christian scholars have constructed a philosophy of grace that is abstract—removed from behavior. It is as though God has called us righteous on the basis of accepting Christ without any thought of changing our conduct. This is a delusion.
It may be compared to the Israelites remaining in Egypt and stating that God had freely given them the land of promise as an inheritance; or reaping non-existent crops in the desert because God had given them the feast of Pentecost to observe.
The current Christian theology presents a removal from that which is actually true, a withdrawal from reality. Indeed, the scholars teach that the Church is a parenthesis in the plan of God, a mystery not found in the Old Testament. Yet several passages of the New Testament reveal it is a continuation of the old, not something different from the Old or not found in the Old.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; (Hebrews 1:1,2)
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David,
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began,
That we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. (Luke 1:68-75)
“And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers.
“God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ (Acts 13:32,33)
“But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)
“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. (Acts 26:6)
Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, (Romans 15:8)
To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into. (I Peter 1:12)
It is taught by Christians that on the basis of belief in Christ the Church is kept in a state of righteousness and holiness. One day God will call the Church to Heaven where it will abide in Paradise, somehow being changed magically into the moral image of Christ.
As for the Kingdom of God that is to come to earth, the doing of God’s will in the earth, Christian teachers leave this for the Jews (whether Christian Jews or secular Jews we do not know).
Current Christian doctrine is unscriptural, inconsistent, illogical, and mythological. It is time for a remnant of believers, both Jewish and Gentile by race, to return to the truth of God’s Word. There is no Gospel apart from moral reformation. The current teaching is a lie, a delusion of monumental proportions.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (I John 2:3-5)
God always has, does now, and always will require righteousness, moral purity, and obedience on the part of all of His creatures. The eternal moral law can never be changed in the smallest detail. The soul that transgresses shall die. This always is true. Any change in the law of sin and death would be a change in God Himself. Any change in God would be the ultimate disaster, and every creature of God, angelic and human, could then wish for nothing better than extinction.
Whether under conscience, the Law of Moses, or the new covenant, righteousness is required. Pure moral behavior is required. Obedience to God is required. The difference is not in a change of requirement but in the amount of Divine enablement given to make the change from sin to righteousness possible.
The demands under conscience are not as strict as the demands under the Law of Moses. The demands under the Law of Moses are not as strict as the demands under the new covenant. The enablement given under conscience is not as great as the enablement given under the Law (the offerings, the Tabernacle, the priesthood, the written statutes). The enablement given under the Law is not as great as the enablement given under the new covenant (the body and blood of the Lord, the testimony of the Apostles, the born-again experience, the baptism with the Holy Spirit).
God always is moving people toward the moral image of His Son and toward perfect union with Himself through Christ. If the new covenant did not require and produce more righteousness, more holiness, and more obedience than the Law of Moses, it would be an inferior covenant.
We understand, therefore, that it is time for a reformation of theology. Neither the Catholic nor the Protestant theologies, as we understand them, are in harmony with the Scriptures.
Worship and holiness. We have presented previously the concept of the two classes of redeemed people—the Church and the nations of the saved. We have discussed the total demands on the elect concerning worship with the entire personality, and the perfecting of holiness in the fear of God.
The requirement of worship and holiness with regard to the nations of the saved may not be as rigorous as is true of the elect. Nevertheless God demands a certain amount of worship and holiness from every human being.
As we have stated previously, it may be true that when the Lord Jesus spoke of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and one hundredfold, He was denoting ranks in the Kingdom of God. The hundredfold may be a firstfruits of the Church who are obligated to respond in total worship, total holiness, and total personality transformation. The sixtyfold may be the balance of the Church, again having rigorous demands upon them in terms of righteousness and holiness but not having met extreme tests of obedience, of union with God through Christ.
The thirtyfold may represent the members of the nations of the saved. If this is the case, then every member of the nations of the saved has a portion of Christ in him or her and is required to worship the true God of Israel and to lead a holy life.
The concept of every saved person having a portion of Christ in him appears to agree with the following verse:
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. (Ephesians 1:10)
In due time, all that is redeemed will be in Christ and Christ in the redeemed until God is All in all.
As the Holy of Holies was more holy than the Holy Place, and the Holy Place of the Tabernacle was more holy than the Courtyard, so it may be true that the firstfruits of the Church, the remainder of the Church, and the nations of the saved, signify differing degrees of the Fire and Presence of God.
To draw near to God is to draw near to Fire. Who among us is willing to follow Jesus into the midst of the Consuming Fire, into the bosom of God?
When we maintain we are not under the Law but under grace, and that Christ is the end of the Law, we must understand that attaining the goal of the Law, which is the possession of Christ Himself, is made possible by the grace of the new covenant.
The demands are infinitely stricter, the enablement is infinitely greater, and the result is infinitely more glorious than has been true of any previous covenant.
Now that God has provided such powerful grace through the Lord Jesus, sin no longer can maintain its dominion over us.
Perhaps we should add a word that might help the Jewish believers.
In many Messianic congregations there is confusion concerning some of the traditions, such as the keeping of Passover or the mikvah cleansing. Some Christian Jews, becoming disgusted with the Christian errors and lack of righteousness, are returning to the Orthodox synagogues and are observing the Law. Others are not ready to go to this extreme but still are undecided concerning the relationship of some of the Jewish traditions to Christianity.
The answer to this confusion is the new creation. God is bringing forth a new creation through Christ. Our old adamic nature is to be crucified with Christ. The new nature is created from the body and blood of Christ and then filled with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.
Circumcision, the mikvah bath, the keeping of the Sabbath—all such commandments and traditions govern the adamic nature. They have no part in the new creation.
If someone desires to circumcise his baby son, let him do so. But this has nothing to do with the new creation.
If someone desires to observe the Sabbath, let him do so in faith. But this has nothing to do with the new creation.
If someone desires to keep the feast of Passover, let him do so with rejoicing before the Lord. But this has nothing to do with the new creation.
If a woman desires to observe the cleansing of the mikvah, then let her do so in faith before God. But this has nothing to do with the new creation.
The problem with observing the Jewish traditions, such as the Passover or the Sabbath, is that they tend to take the believer’s eyes off the Lord Jesus. Instead of looking continually to Jesus for salvation the believer is looking part of the time to Jesus and part of the time to the traditions. Also, more time is spent discussing the observance of the tradition than is occupied with prayer and worshiping the Lord.
Let no one despise the believer who keeps the tradition, and let not him who keeps the tradition despise the believer who looks only to the Lord Jesus.
For those who are strong in faith, let them follow the Apostle Paul, the Orthodox Jew, who said:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (Philippians 3:7-9)
“Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.” For the Jewish believer who can accept it, this is the answer to the question of whether Jewish believers should observe the traditions. Every observance of a tradition of the Law tends to be our own righteousness and therefore is loss for Christ. In this case, the faith of Christ no longer is deemed to be sufficient for our righteousness, our salvation. We are attempting to add our own righteousness to the perfect righteousness of God in Christ.
To be not under the Law of Moses but under the grace of Christ means that the righteous demands of the Law have brought us to God’s holy Christ. Christ then assumes responsibility for us and proceeds to change our personality so our behavior pleases God, meanwhile keeping us under His holy blood covering. Because of the blood of atonement we remain without condemnation with the result that God is able to hear our prayers for grace to help us in our struggle against sin.
(“Not Under the Law but Under Grace”, 3171-1)