Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Spirit of the Law

Dear Kingdom workers, in my previous article, The Spirit’s Law of Life, I indicated that the Law of the Spirit and the Law of Christ agree with the Law of God.  Having posted that, I feel the need to write here today about the Spirit of the Law to ensure that I am making myself clear.

I can say with the apostle Paul that I worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as a follower of Jesus Christ, and I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets. I have the hope in God that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (Ac 24:14-16)

If you need to know God’s definition of sin, read the Law and Prophets. For starters, in order to get an elementary level of understanding, go back and read The Ten Commandments, and realize that none of them have been abolished, not even the Fourth Commandment -- not one (Ex 20:1-17; Mt 5:17-20).

So am I suggesting we seek by the flesh to fulfill only the letter of the Law? Certainly not! The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.  As the apostle Paul said:

"He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Co 3:6)

As a Gentile follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am no longer looking for instructions about circumcision, various gifts, sacrifices, food, drink, and ceremonial washings, which were merely shadows of the realities we have found in Christ (although I can still learn about God through those passages).  I’m not looking for laws to perform with regard to religious festivals, New Moon celebrations, or Sabbath days, since they are "things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Col 2:16, 17).

By the way, the word for the Sabbath is the Greek word "sabbaton," which means "the Sabbath (that is, Shabbath), or day of weekly repose from secular avocations (also the observance or institution itself); by extension...the interval between two Sabbaths; likewise the plural in all the above applications: - sabbath (day), week."  (Strongs). The apostle Paul's statement that "no one is to act as your judge in respect to...a Sabbath day," simply means not to let any man judge you with regard to this.  You must not let any man judge you with regard to how we keep the Sabbath, as the Pharisees did in accusing Jesus of breaking it by healing on that day, or doing anything else that is good and right in God's sight, or breaking traditions of men on that day.  You must keep it holy according to God's Word, and He will be the one to judge you if you truly break it.  One application of this is let no man judge you for not keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week, as some people are known to be quite judgmental of others in this regard.  As I said, you must do what is right in the sight of God.

Since we know Paul agreed with the Ten Commandments, and everything written in the Law (Ac 24:14-16), and he upheld the Law (Rom 3:31), and he said that what matters is the keeping of God's commandments (1 Co 7:19), we know he was not suggesting we break the Fourth Commandment.  Some think he may have been referring to the plural form of Sabbath (as in "Sabbaths"), rather than the weekly "Sabbath Day."  If so, that would refer to other “special Sabbaths”, like what we would call national holidays that occur throughout the year.  Likewise, he may have meant "weeks," such as "the Three Weeks of Sorrow" and "the Seven Weeks of Comfort".  If so, that would explain why he said that these are "things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." (Col 2:17). Therefore, I am not suggesting we break the Fourth Commandment. But we are living according to the Spirit that gives life, and not the letter.  That means that we most surely honor the Lord’s day and keep it holy (1 Co 16:2; Re 1:10).  (See my blogs Resting from Work, Keeping Sundays Holy, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II, and The Lord's Day).

Moreover, it’s a higher standard spiritually than what is written. Remember, Jesus explained God’s standard regarding the commandments in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).  God looks at the thoughts and intentions of the heart, and His standard is high. This means we should always uphold the spirit of the law, and ask the Lord what His heart is for us today for His holy people with respect to these things. His heart is always that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourself. (Mark 12:29-31) His heart is always that we restrain sensual indulgence (Co 2:23) by the power of the Holy Spirit, taking up our cross. His heart is always that we pursue holiness, know the Truth, and seek His righteousness (Mt 6:33; Heb 12:14, Ro 14:17; Jn 8:32-36; 14:6). His heart is always the message of the cross, repentance and forgiveness of sins, believing the gospel of the kingdom, and following Jesus in His eternal purposes (1 Co 1:18; Ac 2:38; Jn 3:16-21; Jn 4:24) Lk 13:5; Lk 24:46-47). His heart is always preaching the gospel of salvation to all creation, and rescuing lost souls from perishing in hell. (Mk 16:15; Lk 15:1-7; 2 Pe 3:9). His heart is always to destroy the works of the evil one (1 Jn 3:8). His heart is always for us to do good, do what is right, obey His commands, help the weak, the orphans, and the widows, and keep ourselves unstained by the world. (Ps 82: 3-4; 1 Jn 3:7-8; 5:3; 2:15-17; Jas 1:27).

The Holy Spirit may lead you to celebrate a special Sabbath found in the law, as a time of putting aside everything else to seek Him personally or corporately, or He may lead you to celebrate a Jewish feast found in the law as a time to worship the Lord Jesus, who is typified in all the feasts. But if you are not led to do so, don't let any man judge you with respect to such things.

By the same token, you will be viewed as odd or even judged, in these last and evil days, if you do not celebrate the so-called Christian holidays on the certain days -- and in the worldly ways -- that the apostate Church celebrates them. But if you are going to look for feasts and holidays to celebrate by gathering together, and you feel a need for that, then why not look at the Hebrew feasts that are already in Scripture? Aren’t they good enough?

Obedience is Essential for Disciples
Here are just some of the other blogs I have written, which provide a clear and biblical response to the concerns that my obedience doctrine is legalism, especially the first three in the left-hand column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
Faith Works!
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
The New Covenant
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully    
The Obedience of Faith
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
What Then Must We Observe?

Putting it All Together
We should believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.  The Lord Jesus did.  The apostle Paul did.  The apostle John did. The apostle James did.  If you think I am being legalistic, then you will have to also call the Lord Jesus and the apostles legalistic.  As a matter of fact, you would also have to say the same about John Wesley, D.L. Moody, Philip Henry, and his son Matthew Henry, the author of the famous, Bible commentary.

Let’s get back to the Bible and seek to live our lives according to God’s Word, not according to the letter, but in the new way of the Spirit. "We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Rom 7:6b). Do not rely on your obedience to the Law to save you, because it is only by grace that you are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  Always remember that we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5), and if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10).

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” (1 Thes 3:12-4:1).

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.  The "Holy Spirit" painting © 2012 Danny Hahlbohm, all rights reserved by the artist.

Author's note Also see part one, called The Spirit's Law of Life and my other articles called, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, Obedience by the Spirit, The Person of the Holy Spirit, and Baptized with the Spirit. You can access the Main Directory for Working God's Way, or my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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