Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Law in the teaching of The Lord Jesus

The Gospel of Mark records the first preaching of Jesus - "Repent..." , which implies that something was wrong among the people to whom the law had been given. The sermon on the mount begins, not with a set of kingdom rules, but rather with heartfelt attitudes e.g. poor in spirit, meekness, purity. His teaching was different to others. He was linking good works with the relationship of God as Father (Matthew 5.16). Lest anyone think Him to be radical, He states His relationship to the law and the prophets (Matt5.17). The law and the prophets hoped to identify a man upon whom the favour and smile of God could rest without disappointment. (Isaiah 42. Deut 18). As an answer to the fallen need of the people, the law looked for a sacrifice without flaw and of such value as to bring the slaying of animals to an end. Now the king stands among the people and says 'that's Me!' ("but to fulfil ") The most significant climax is later reached when Jesus stands before the Jewish court and is asked 'are you the Christ the Son of the Blessed?' His answer is clear "I am" (Mark 14.62) They well knew He was claiming to be the fulfilment of the law and the prophets, and sentenced Him to die!

        The King proceeds in Matthew 5.20 to show that His kingdom surpasses the standard of law which was taught by the scribes and Pharisees. His is a heavenly kingdom, not a Sinai kingdom. The subjects in His kingdom were not driven by commands "you shall not.........."  but rather their righteousness was derived from the Father and marked by grace flowing to even the unworthy V44,45.

     Matthew 8.4 - the lord recognizes the place of ceremonial law in Jewish society - to the leper He says "Go show yourself unto the priest".  Matthew 12, the Lord comes under censure for His disciples plucking ears of corn on the Sabbath day. Likewise when He healed on the Sabbath day.  Well,    was not the command right there in the 10 commandments ?  - yes  - but mercy (V7) prevails against law. Should He heal on the Sabbath? Doing good (love), is not cancelled out by human interpretation of law.

       I noticed in the parable of the sower, the seed is not the word of Moses,but the word of the king as He brings in His heavenly kingdom.

       It is worthy of note, in the question of marriage and divorce, the Lord refers back to the first book of Moses as a reference point (Matt.19.4). He points out that under law, allowance was made for the hardness of the people's hearts!
         Matthew 19.17, life is described as the objective of keeping the commandments  -' if you would enter into life, keep the commandments'. This does indicate that the commandments have a definite value in this present life. Society with Mosaic laws will be just, safe, considerate etc . But Jesus was calling His disciples to a higher purpose and devotion - to be devoted to HIMSELF alone and completely. This was new and different for the Jewish mind. eg to be persecuted, to carry a cross, to be poor for the Lord Jesus!
         Matthew 22.40  This summation is most significant. 'the whole law and the prophets depend on the two commandments - to love God and to love one's neighbour' . Once again He takes us beyond external righteousness or ceremonial observance to the transformation of the heart - to love God and others.
          Matthew 23.2,3 Jesus puts His finger on the problem of law - it can be taught so well, but none fulfill it as God intended.   Like Romans 2 -a preacher of law but not a practiser.
           Matthew 28.18-20 In the final great commission, He does not do what Moses and Malachi did - refer the people to the law of God. Rather the ascending Lord refers them to His own teaching as the path of life!

   The observance of law leads to this 
      "  let sinners be consumed from the earth and let the wicked be no more" Psalm 104.36

    The submission to grace leads to this
        "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"

Neither is actually wrong, but the later ties in with the verse I began with in another article - 
   "Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ"  John 1.14

Keep reading and let the Spirit of the living God teach you more and more.

J. Mckee

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Keep the law??

Within the Torah, within the ceremonial law delivered by Moses, is the recognition that none could truely 'keep the law'.   I refer to the extensive detail relating to sacrifices for sin. (sin being the breaking of the law). Some sacrifices related to particular sins, trespasses committed. Others involved the blood of atonement more because of the incapacity or ruined character of the offerer. This provision of sacrifice implies the problem of  a broken law.
        God Himself knew and knows the incapacity of humanity to rise to the  law, so He sent His Son in the likeness of sinful man both to fulfil the law (Matthew 5) and also pay the penalty incurred by a broken law (Romans 8.3). Are we then to rush back to the law and start again?
     Several times in the Gospel records, the Lord Jesus refers enquirers to the law e.g. to the rich young ruler ' in the law how do you read?'     ...      The greatest command  ..go and do likewise....etc     on each occasion He exemplified the goodness of the law and challenged them to rise to the standard- in which they failed. Did He direct them to try again? - NO -He called them to follow Him and find rest.- the Sabbath rest of God in His Son.

          Paul lays out this principle in Romans 7 - our failure under the law renders us condemned and incapable.  Our faith in Christ crucified sets us free from the demands of law as a code   of life. Chapter 8 demonstrates a new and living way - the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer. His functions for the believer vary, but most significant is the relationship established 'in Christ'. We are accepted as children and now say "Abba Father".  This stands in contrast to the people of Israel who asked that the Almighty not speak to them directly lest they die. (Exodus 20).
           The letter to the Galatians reinforces the point that our initial acceptance by God in salvation, is by the cross of Christ and not by keeping law. Paul then declares that the Christian life continues on the same principle - an active God involved in our lives, a speaking God changing our character from within so that we might be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
Just as Moses communicated the will of a speaking God, so the apostles did (1 Corinthians 2), and God is yet operating in our hearts today e.g. the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5.4)

I trust we can see the kindness of God in providing a better way!

John McKee
Next article  the law in the teaching of the Lord Jesus


       As noted  in the last blog, the law is holy, righteous and good. It is a reflection of the brilliant character of God.
       Shall we not then embrace it as the handbook for living? Well  - somewhat difficult for distant  gentiles e.g. the command for all men to appear in Jerusalem three times a year. How shall we insist on clothing that is not of mixed materials. How shall we keep the Sabbath in a land that knows no day of rest? etc  As a free nation in the land of Israel, there was a possibility, but now the millions of the Lord's poor, scattered across the globe, are often without the options.
    This reality check was the cause for the Acts 15 conference of the Apostles. They concluded that salvation was by grace through faith (15.11) and that law keeping may be possible for Jews, but not to be imposed upon Gentiles.  And so a letter was sent out with some basic prohibitions, but beyond that, grace was the converting principle, not law.

One may try to observe the law, for health and happiness sake, but remember, to break one commandment, is to be a lawbreaker.

Let Paul the Apostle show you a better way:
Romans 13.8 " Love one is the fulfilling of the law"
     Love is a God given motive to achieve the objective of the law under the compelling power of grace.
The glory and goodness of the law is not diminished, but the means to the fulfilment is not by human effort or discipline, but rather by understanding and accepting the mercy and grace of God. Romans 13:1 is a beautiful summary of this - "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." He not only kept the law and made it honourable, but lifted the standard of God's glory higher e.g. not only the action of sin breaks the law but the very thought defiles the person. Instead of saying "  You shall not steal"  , He said     "give and it shall be given to you"


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The giving of the law

Exodus chapter 20  relates the giving of the law to Moses with Aaron as witness.  Deuteronomy relates the restatement of the law many years later and restated relative to the Israelites going into the Promise land.

So often we read the Bible to see what it has for US. Let us change viewpoint to see what this law reveals about God. (This is important since the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament)

Exodus 20.2  unveils a speaking, acting God whose actions include power and grace. i.e. mightier than the gods of developed Egypt and willing to deliver the unworthy Israelite slaves !

20.3 The gods of human invention are many and ranked in order of significance. The God now speaking to Moses does not rank greatest among many , but rather claims singularity and the only deity.

20.4 God the maker of all things claims distinction from the things He has made,  and being invisible, gives no room for the visible to distract true worship, homage and obedience.

20.5 Not only is this God great and gracious, but able to stand His ground in pre eminence and holiness to the point that rebellion He will personally reward. History is full of just retribution given to God deniers and idolaters.

20.6   Yet in the midst of the righteous wrath of the Almighty shines His brilliant love and mercy to those who fear Him , love Him, obey Him.

20.7 God is represented in His Name, and to use words to dishonour Him is the same as actions of rebellion. Although His judgements are not executed speedily,they are sure  in the end. According to His mercy, He gives time for repentance  (maybe not to angels).

               Now put these truths into the context of 3500 years ago when gods were many and in control of every detail of life. - how different and delightfully liberating to be connected to the Just one, the almighty who was not cruel but pure and loving!!
    I ask you my reader to read and see how the remaining commandments further reveal a trustworthy God.

John McKee