Saturday, July 25, 2015
Who Needs the Law?
A dear sister in Christ asked me a great question: Because Jesus died for my sins, and we no longer have to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, does that mean we no longer have to live by the commandments that God gave Moses?
Jesus was the perfect, complete sacrifice. He said "It is finished" (John 19:30) because His completed, perfect work on the cross was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all mankind, past, present and future (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). When God looks at the born-again believer (John 3:3-8), He no longer sees our sins, but the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22,25;5:18).
Jesus Christ has forever removed us from the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 3:25. Animal sacrifices (Numbers 15:1-13), which only temporarily covered sins and did not remove them, had to be repeated often, but His perfect sacrifice only needed to be made once (Hebrews 7:26-28; 9; 1 Peter 3:18).
So we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices -- instead, we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). We know that we cannot perfectly keep the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 3:23), but even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39).
But Jesus expects us to refrain from sin by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 3:9). When we do sin, breaking the commandments in thought or in deed (Matthew 5:28), as we do nearly daily by having a covetous or lustful thought, getting angry, etc., it is because the sin nature that we still have to deal with has momentarily won out over the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25).
Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15,21). He also summarized the Ten Commandments by saying "Love God (the first four commandments) and love one another" (the last six commandments; Matthew 22:36-40).
So what about all of the law that God gave Moses? To understand which laws still apply to us today, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Some of those laws were intended specifically for His chosen people at that time in Bible history, like keeping menstruating women outside the camp (Leviticus 15:19).
Many of these laws preserved the lives of His people. In an age when “physicians” in Egypt “treated” open wounds by rubbing animal dung in them, the laws God gave Moses at the same period in history contain the elements of modern day germ theory. In essence, avoid and cleanse yourself after contact with sick people, dead bodies, unclean animals, and human waste, and you’ll live longer (Leviticus 11; Exodus 15:26). Only through the Holy Spirit could Moses record these laws long before mankind even had the first clue that bacteria existed and caused disease.
Some of the laws, such as not mixing two kinds of fiber in the same garment, are never mentioned in the New Testament, and I think it's safe to assume that those are not intended for God's children in the Church Age where we are now. Other laws, such as those dealing with circumcision (Leviticus 12:3) and diet (not eating shellfish, pork, and other unclean animals; Leviticus 11) have health benefits even today, although clearly we do not need to follow these laws to be saved.
The early church argued about some of the laws, with Peter and others even insisting wrongly that Gentile Christians should be circumcised before they could be truly saved. But Paul explained that we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) through faith alone, and the church then specifically concluded that these Jewish laws did not apply to Gentiles who were engrafted into God’s family by their faith (Romans 11:5-25; Acts 15:1-11).
Adding a practice like circumcision to God’s perfect plan of salvation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son to pay for all our sins is like a slap in God’s face, for it implies that the ransom price Christ paid for us was not sufficient or complete (Romans 4:1-16).
However, other laws that God gave Moses, such as laws prohibiting homosexual acts, are repeated in the New Testament. Jesus reiterates Adam’s statement (Genesis 2:22-24) that one man and one woman unite as one flesh in the sacrament of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), and Paul specifically states that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-30).
We are saved by grace, not by works, and Jesus Christ has freed us from bondage to sin. Given our liberty in Him (Luke 4:18), are we not freed from the law? (Romans 7:4-6). When asked if we can sin freely so that God’s grace can much more abound, Paul replied, “God forbid!” (Romans 3:31; 6:1-15).
We should yield to the Holy Spirit, Who empowers us to keep the law that is still our standard of conduct, namely the Ten Commandments and any commandment repeated in the New Testament. But praise God, even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation, and we no longer face the penalty of sin, which is physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23).
Similarly, we can't earn our salvation by being "good" or by not breaking the law (Romans 3:10-12) If we are guilty of breaking even a single point in the law, whether in deed or even in thought, we are considered guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-13). .Only One Person could keep the law perfectly, and that is Jesus, Who died and rose again so that we could be freed from sin and death (Hebrews 9:14-15).
We still need the law, not for salvation (Romans 3:19-21; Hebrews 7:19), but as a mirror to show us our sin and our need for a Savior (James 1:22-25). May we daily die to our “old man” – our flesh that still wants to sin – put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-13), and yield to the Holy Spirit Who cannot sin and Who will lead us in the path of righteousness!
© 2015 Laurie Collett