Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Law of Moses - conclusion

     What  is my conclusion of the relevance of the Old Testament law delivered by Moses, for the Christian today ?

The law of Moses is a distinct signpost, pointing to Jesus Christ the Lord.

 It is good, presenting the character and holiness of God as foundational to moral and holy thinking. It was given distinctly to Israel.

 It is fulfilled and surpassed by the coming of Christ, so as the foundation of a building is not so much seen, so Christ being the 'substance' stands beautifully high upon the fulfilled law.

 It is unable to bring justification to eternal life.

   The law fulfilled in  Christ, becomes the law fulfilled in us  as we are by faith 'in Christ'. This living faith produces fruit, as the branch abides in the vine.

         So then we are not under Moses law for salvation, not even asked to keep the law for sanctification but rather to walk as HE walked, in the grace of His character, and the truth of His word.  As we let the 'words of Christ dwell in us richly', His holy Spirit will grant to us the partaking of the divine nature so that we are changed into the same image, ' from glory to glory'. Thus fulfilling the law of Christ.

Who is sufficient for these things?

"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." John 15.8

What links me to the vine?  Faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God
What keeps me in the vine?  Faith in the once crucified, now risen and exalted Lord Jesus Christ.

This has been an extended meditation on the subject over many months, but I trust it has been a blessing to some as it has to me.

John McKee 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hebrews, James, Peter, John, Revelation on the Law

 Hebrews - The unknown author takes us into the writings of the law and the prophets including the Psalms in a most blessed way. Many themes run through the book, but this one stands out  -  " better than, more than ". Christ is shown to surpass the law and Moses. He goes on to show the glorious height of the great shepherd in heaven itself. The writer quotes extensively from the Old Testament to show the surpassing glories of the Son of God.
    I could spend a long time in Hebrews( maybe later), but I pass over to James. This is one of the earliest NT writings  and because of its emphasis on works to accompany faith, is disregarded by some. But wait, James might have commanded us to keep the law of Moses, but rather he refers to the "royal law of liberty" - liberty from the burden of Mosaic law (Acts15) and traditional law, to the "Law of Christ"(Gal.6)  . Put into context, this letter is a brilliant restatement of the teachings of Jesus, and the emphasis on works is just like the Lord's exposure of the hypocrisy in the empty 'faith'  the Pharisees, scribes etc. Please note how little of the law of Moses is mentioned in James, considering that he was surrounded by Christian Jews of the circumcision persuasion.

Peter was the Apostle to the circumcision. In his letters, he speaks as one sent by the Lord Jesus. His exhortations are very much linked to the history of the Israelite people, but instead of turning the people back to law keeping, he shows again and again the Old testament incidents are fulfilled in Christ eg 1.18,19 Redemption is by the blood of the Lamb. In regard to practical sanctification, he gives commands eg 2.1- 'put away malice'. The flow of instructions continue, frequently interrupted with references to Christ. He appeals often to the Old Testament to illustrate his point eg  Sarah. lastly he presents his own chequered experience as a good reason to exhort the elders.
Any references to the keeping of the law, the Sabbath and synagogue services are distinctly missing.

       In his second epistle, he makes no obvious reference to the law of Moses, but does present the significance of Old Testament prophecy as the 'more sure word'.In Ch 3.2 he brings together the prophecies and the commandments of the Lord and Saviour through the apostles. In 3.16 he put the teachings of  the apostle Paul among the ' other scriptures'. How significant.

      1 John presents plenty about commandments, but not the commandments through Moses! Rather the commandments from the Lord Jesus.  Ch2.2- the measure of our sanctification is linked to the way that Jesus 'walked'. How blessed  we are to have four Gospel records of the work and walk and words of the Master. Ch 2.14 'the word of God' may well have broad inclusions, so as to include the Old testament, but the understanding of truth is connected with the anointing f the Holy Spirit 2.27.
    Sin is described as lawlessness ( so law is recognised), but John traces sin to it's source - the devil -showing that if we practise sin we are falling under the spell of the evil one.  By contrast, John presents the Christian life as 'walking according to His commandments' - this being a true expression of love. 2 John 6.
In third John, he uses another word in sanctification - "Imitate". Peter also presented Christ as an example and that we should 'walk in His steps'.

  The world around us and the flesh within us will make every excuse not to live this way, but still the call is clear.

   The book of Revelation presents the man Christ Jesus in glory executing judgements on all created beings. most of the book is based on an understanding of the Old Testament. The real triumph is that the one "whom they pierced" will gather unto Himself a redeemed people, with whom He will enjoy the new heavens and new earth. His word will be enough,  His will best, Himself the light of all!

John McKee  - conclusion next time

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Law of Moses - Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy

       It  remarkable how Paul deals with different problems about the law in different letters.
Here the obvious reference is Chapter 2.14." the debt that stood against us...... nailing it to the cross"  The legal demands of debt incurred being paid by  His becoming a curse for us on the cross.
        Then he deals with the traditions and Pharaseeical demands that may give satisfaction to the flesh, but give little glory to God. Included is new moon festivals, Sabbaths, which he describes as shadows of things to come. Could that imply that Sabbath keeping is ceremonial and limited to a particular time frame? Could verse 17 mean that the Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ?  Maybe that is the teaching of Hebrews 4 - I think so.

         This is quite significant - for if we plan to keep the 10 commandments, we cannot avoid the call to Sabbath day keeping!   I think Paul shows a more excellent way in Chapter 3. The heavenly mind changing earthly behaviour so as to carry the image of the creator (v10).  How?? 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly'(v16)

      Thessalonians does not directly mention the law, but the sanctification of the believers is distinctly presented as being ' in Christ' along with the effect of anticipating the future glory of the Lord's return.  But hold on  - I have just read a verse that says it all  2 Thessalonians 2:13,14  " God chose you as the first-fruits to be saved, through the sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our Gospel, so that you may obtain theglory of our Lord Jesus Christ"
        Sounds like God at work, by the Holy Spirit,via belief in the truth via the Gospel to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ!

       Timothy.  This book has been described as the handbook for the pastor. Well it sure does mention the law relative to the Gospel. It appears that some of those 'superior teachers' from Judaism had sought to impose law keeping on the Gentile believers. Paul bluntly puts them in place and describes the law as a means to expose and condemn sin. Although Saul could say ' before the law he was blameless' (Phillipians 3), yet he takes the place here as the 'chief of sinners'. At this point of humility, grace steps in, as the grace of Christ seeking sinners is exemplified.  
      Perhaps Christ presented as the' one mediator ' ,(Chapter 2), is in contrast with Moses the mediator.
     When Paul tackles the role of women in the church, he goes back to the writings of Moses to bring in the principle unchanged of male and female order.  Again the law is quoted (5.17) to support remuneration for teaching elders.
     It would appear that the imposition of law is wrong, but drawing upon it's unchanging principles is right.

Summary - It is not the law at fault, rather it's use. - it reveals our deserving of judgement and revels our need of Christ.
Now faith in Christ Jesus the Son of God by the Spirit, puts the same principles into effect by a new power and  excels in glory.
 Principles of holiness (the holiness of God implanted as an inward spring Hebrews 8.10)
 Principles of order ( relationships in creation Matthew 19.4)
 Principles of redemption ( foreshadows in the sacrifices etc 1 Corinthians 5.7 )
 Principles of purpose ( Reconciliation and glory Acts 15,17)

Moses law took the principles and applied them culturally to Israel.

The Gospel of Christ takes the principles and applies them to believers all the world. This is indeed 'new wine'
     The objective of the Gospel teaching, is to produce 'love' as God loves, a ' conscience' in accord with the character of God, and 'faith' that is focused, full and functional.  1 Timothy 1.5

May God in His grace lead you to search His word and be satisfied.
John Mckee

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Law in Galations

       This time we come face to face with the question we began with - is the law of Moses part of Christian justification and  sanctification? Paul here claims more than knowledge and experience. He claims apostleship at the hand of God Himself.  Some refuse the teaching of Paul, but to do so is to deny the very teaching of Christ, who said His apostles would complete the revelation of truth by the Holy Spirit ( John 16 ).

       Chapter 1 &2   His doctrine from the risen Lord was confirmed by the apostles in Jerusalem.
       Chapter 2 Justification before God is only through faith in Jesus Christ.
        Chapter 3  Justification by faith dates back to Abraham.
                          A broken law invokes a curse, but in the death of Christ, the curse is carried away .
                     3.19  The law was added to show sin to be exceeding sinful i.e.  the offence to God's holiness and the costliness of sacrifices for sin.

            A contrast develops which I have not developed before. It is the contrast between the promise of God and the law.  The law is described as the schoolmaster or guardian to bring us to Christ, but the earlier  promises given to Abraham as well as to Adam link our hope, not in law keeping, but in a promise keeping God.We remember the Lord's words in John 8 "Abraham rejoiced to see my day" - Abraham by God's promises anticipated the day of Christ arriving.   Moses likewise said "A prophet will the Lord raise up" - and so the law giver anticipated the arrival of Christ. The law was not an end in itself, but a signpost to the day of greater things in a greater person, the Son of God.

          Chapter 4 - The surpassing value of 'relationship' over the binding observance of law. Law keeping leads to bondage, the promises of God lead to freedom as children of God.
           Chapter 5 -Freedom is not freedom for the flesh, but under the control of the Holy Spirit, a very positive outcome is listed as fruit  - not goals or standards to rise to, but  fruit from an  ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit.
          The character of flesh is exposed and we must renounce it (repentance). The believer has new life by the spirit and is sanctified by walking in the spirit.
              Chapter 6 Paul introduces the "Law of Christ"(see previous blog)

               Keeping the law of Moses tends to either despair from failure, or conceited pride from judging others.   The cross of Christ cures both.

 Does Ephesians address the subject of commandments - well I was wondering until I reached chapter 2 verse 15 "by abolishing the law of commandments contained in ordinances"  What does this mean?  yes the law of Moses did invoke the partitioning of  the Israelites and Gentiles ( remembering that it also included the gracious care for strangers to find shelter beneath the wings of Jehovah).
       In the days of our Lord, the exclusivity of Jewish practice was extreme e.g. not to eat with anyone from another nation (Acts 11). The temple was built with a strata of courts i.e. priest's court, men's, women's, Gentile's court. Now Paul is teaching that this strata is abolished in Christ. (This was perhaps the greatest reason the Jews hated Paul - Acts 20-24).    How did Christ abolish this ordinance? - by drawing all people to Himself by grace alone. His blood alone gives us approach to God. His cross and our death with Him brings us all to the same level  - guilty but accepted !

        And our sanctification ?   " we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works" !!  ours is to know it, believe it and let God have His way in everything.
        Paul in this letter describes life that belongs to darkness and Satan, in contrast to the life that belongs to light and Christ.  He emphasises a new community apart from Israel, for whom the law was a cohesive part. The new organism comprising all believers in Christ, is called the church, the body of Christ. This is something very  different to that established by the law of Moses. This is the great assembly of all Christians, build by Christ Himself (Matthew 16).
           Paul concludes this letter - "grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus with love incorruptible"

Grace be with all who read this meditation.      j. McKee

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Law of Christ

          "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..... " Colossians  3.16

I once thought to go through the Gospel records to draw out all the commandments of the Lord Jesus.  It didn't work!  He is not calling us to a set of rules  so as to invoke the favour of God - no. He invokes the blessing upon us  unworthy ones (grace) by virtue of the atonement of His death on the cross (mercy).

       His method for sanctification becomes clearer as we watch Him during the years of service among the people.
* He called people to believe in Him (the Son of God - John 6)
*He called believers to follow Him ( the Shepherd - John 10
* He called the disciples to listen to Him ( the Word - John 1,5,12)
*He called His own to imitate Him (the servant - John 13)
* He called His friends to obey Him (the Master - John 14)
* He promised His loved ones that He would indwell them (The Holy Spirit - John 16)
* He anticipated the day in heaven when perfected, they would behold His glory (John 17)
       Many other scriptures could be referred to, showing His personal interaction with His disciples as the means of setting them apart for God.

        For us the 'law of Christ' is very much in His words, His teachings, His  instructions, His parables and His actions, reactions, His example etc
For example  -  Instead of saying ' be poor in spirit' as a command, He says "blessed are the poor in spirit". We cannot escape the imperative direction,but what grace this is, to inspire us to live in the good of this royal law of liberty. We are drawn higher "as your father in Heaven is ......"- and so our character is to be moulded by that upward gaze.
           It reminds me of the new covenant - 'I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds" Hebrews 10.16. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth. This I suggest is the law of Christ - the truth about HIM, the truth from HIM, the truth in HIM.

         In  John's gospel great emphasis is made of His words. So much so that when concluding the public teaching of the people, He Himself indicates that the basis for final judgement, would be referenced to His 'words' (not so much the law of Moses). This 'law of Christ' will then be opened on that judgement day!

I trust you are  able to gather the thrust of my writing - much more could be written, but I am a slow typist. My heart's desire is to inspire you to read and search the Bible, and thus find the great joy of God revealing Himself in Christ Jesus our Lord.

J. Mckee                 let the words of Christ dwell....................................every day