Saturday, January 24, 2015

Remember the Eternal Law of God

The New Covenant Church should remember the Law of Moses, since it has not been abolished, even though the Old Covenant has become obsolete. I'd like to explore what that means for Christians, according to God's Word.

In Mal 4:4, it states, “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.” (Mal 4:4)

Matthew Henry, the 17th century Puritan preacher, faithful pastor, and Bible commentator stated: “…if we expect the benefit of the [new] covenant with Israel (Heb 8:10), we must observe the commands given to Israel, those of them that were intended to be of perpetual obligation.”

Henry continued, "The summary of our duty, with reference to the law: We must remember it. Forgetfulness of the law is at the bottom of all our transgressions of it; if we would rightly remember it, we could not but conform to it. We should remember it when we have occasion to use it, remember both the commands themselves and the sanctions wherewith they are enforced. The office of conscience is to bid us remember the law.”

He continued, “Even when we have made considerable advances in knowledge we must still retain the first principles of practical religion and resolve to abide by them. Those that study the writings of the prophets, and the apocalypse, must still remember the law of Moses and the four gospels.”

After all, Jesus Himself quoted Malachi 3:1, when He said of John the Baptist, “This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'” (Mt 11:10; cf. Mal 3:1; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27).

And the angel Gabriel quoted Malachi 4:6 in Luke 1:17, "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Mal 4:6)

In his letter to the Romans, Paul quoted Malachi 1:2, “'I have loved you,' says the LORD. But you say, 'How have You loved us?' 'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' declares the LORD. 'Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.'" (Mal 1:2-3; cf. Rom 9:13)

The apostle Paul alluded to Malachi 3:6, which says "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed," when he wrote "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb 13:8).  The Lord Jesus Christ who taught us His ways in the gospels is the same, living Word of God found throughout the Scriptures, including the Law of Moses. He did not change His ways when He stepped out of eternity into time, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  He is the same yesterday -- as far back as eternity, today, and forever.

The will of God doesn't change.  It is the same throughout all generations, and His will is found in His Holy Word, which endures forever. "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (Isa 40:8). That's why the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 Jn 2:17b), because he lives according to the pattern of the living, enduring eternal, Word of God.  For our Lord said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." (Mat 7:21)

So we cannot accept only certain verses from Malachi for today and not accept all of them.  The same prophet who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the verses that were quoted and alluded to in the New Testament also wrote in chapter 4 verse 4 that we must “Remember the law of Moses…”  

One last note about Malachi is that he ended this last inspired book written before the coming of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ by mentioning both Moses and Elijah with these words, “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” (Mal 4:4-5). And these were the two men who appeared alive and speaking with our Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew stated, “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”  (Mat 17:2-3)

So there is ample evidence in the Bible that we are to remember the Law and the Prophets.  Our Lord in His Word has sanctioned them, and consistently set His seal of approval on them. It is Jesus who said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:17-19)

Christ in us fulfills the law and prophets. But it’s not all automatic without any participation or action on our part. It happens as we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, abiding in Him, walking in the Spirit, doing the will of God. He is all about fulfilling the law and the prophets. That’s what He came to do (Mt 5:17).  So if it is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20), then He will be fulfilling the law and prophets in my life and through it.

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3-4)

As Paul said, the Lord Jesus fulfills the righteous requirement of the Law within those who live according to the Holy Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

The Unity of the Scriptures
The Scriptures are like an expensive pearl necklace.  Each pearl is a Scripture and they are all connected to each other. You cannot take out one Scripture verse and say that doesn’t apply, but keep the other one.  If you remove one, they all fall off and you have nothing.  The Scriptures can only be accepted in their entirety.

"Every word of God is flawless." (Pr 30:5)

"...Your Truth is everlasting..." (Ps 117:2b)

"...Your commands are my delight. Your statutes are forever right." (Ps 119:143b-144a)

"Your Word, O Lord, is eternal…" (Ps 119:89.)

"...All your commands are true. Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever." (Ps 119:151b-152).

"All your righteous laws are eternal." (Ps 119:160b)

"All your precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever." (Ps 111:8)

"Praise the LORD. Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands." (Ps 112:2)

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2Ti 3:16-17).

This is why Jesus said that His disciples were becoming teachers of the Law, who would bring out new treasures as well as old. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Mt 13:52).

Let us remember the Law of Moses and allow our consciences to be trained by it once again, according to the working of the Holy Spirit within us.  And let every teacher of the law who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven bring out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old, proclaiming the whole counsel of God written in His Word, including the Law of Moses.

The Bible's highest purpose is to reveal God’s character. We approach God through His Son Jesus Christ, through His cross and through His shed blood, not through observance of the Law and its ritual sacrificial system. The Bible says that we must not observe the Law, and yet we must observe God's commandments, those of them that were intended to be of perpetual obligation.

As Roland Buck said in his book, Angels on Assignment, “Since we are now justified, we have already been accepted by God, so these other things which are done by our own efforts and our own spiritual achievement are not for the purpose of God's acceptance...” We do these things because we love God and love our neighbor, as Jesus taught us! As our love abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, we are enabled to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1:9-11).  " For he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" ( Rom. 13:8b ). "Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" ( Rom. 13:10b ).

If you are interested in a more detailed explanation, I strongly recommend reading the following articles below, beginning with the ones in the left column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
Faith Works!
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
The Obedience of Faith
Righteousness by Faith not Law
Listen to Jesus
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
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully
What Then Must We Observe?

Examples of Perpetual Commands
We are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14).  Yet as Matthew Henry said, “We must observe the commands given to Israel, those of them that were intended to be of perpetual obligation.”

For example, the apostles and elders of the first century Church issued the following decreed for Gentile disciples: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell." (Act 15:28-29). We Gentile believers must still abstain from eating certain things, namely food sacrificed to idols, blood, and the meat of strangled animals. We must also abstain from fornication. This decree was based upon the law under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

In the book of Malachi, we also see numerous references to other such commands intended to be of perpetual obligation. They are important to God, and we know these are still important today, since He changes not. We are the ones who have turned aside from His decrees and changed, not Him. 

"From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. "But you say, 'How shall we return?'”  (Mal 3:7)

The Lord is calling us to return to Him, not to the Old Covenant. He is calling us to submit to God's righteousness, not to the Law.  We are not seeking to establish our own righteousness, because we know the righteousness of God that comes by faith. We are not endeavoring to keep up the Law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ.

However, the Lord also said in Malachi 3:5 that in the day of His coming, which is the future, second coming of Christ (not Old Testament Days), He will come near for judgment and be quick to testify against those evildoers who have gone stray from His commands.  Therefore, I’d like to give some examples of violations of His commands, so that you understand clearly what I mean by "remembering the Law":

They include, but are not limited to robbing God (Mal 3:8-10; Mt 22:21), divorcing treacherously (Mal 2:14-16; Mt 5:31-32; Rom 7:1-3; 1 Cor 7:10-11,12-13), marrying non-believers (Mal 2:11; Ezra 9-10; 2 Cor 6:14 – 7:1), offering Him second best or less than our best (Mal 1:6-14), saying harsh things against Him (Mal 3:13-15), turning from the way and causing many to stumble (Mal 2:7-8; Mt 18:6), turning away from His decrees (Mal 3:6-7), sorcery (Mal 3:5; Rev. 21:8; 22:15), adultery (Mal 3:5; Mt 5:27-28), perjury (Mal 3:5; Mt 5:33-37), defrauding laborers of their wages (Mal 3:5; James 5:4), oppressing widows and orphans (Mal 3:5; James 1:27), depriving aliens of justice (Mal 3:5), and not fearing the Lord (Mal 3:5; Mt 10:28; Ac 9:31; 13:26; Rev 15:4).  All of these are still sins in the sight of God. However, this is not an all-inclusive list.  For more examples from the New Testament, please see my articles, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven and Abominations in the Sight of God.

Examples of Obsolete Laws
Although the perpetual commandments of God still do apply to Christians today, it is important to note that many biblical laws were given only to ancient Israel, and do not apply to us today. I would like to give some examples, so that you have the ability to know which ones do not apply.

For example, there were various regulations for divine worship and the earthly sanctuary (Heb 9:1). These are now obsolete, and we understand that they were shadows and types of the things to come under the New Covenant. In other words, they are illustrations for the present time (Heb 9:9).  As Paul said, “They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” (Heb 9:10).  These regulations pertained to the tabernacle, the arrangement of its furnishings, ceremonies, priestly duties, animal blood sacrifices, gifts, and offerings, including food and drink (Heb 9:2-8).

There were also regulations that required the observance of days and months and seasons and years, such as the seven annual feasts of Israel (Lev 23; Gal 4:10).  As I wrote about in my article, God’s Priorities Seen in the Jewish Feasts, the feasts typify God’s seven priorities. The Passover of the Lord illustrated the blood of Jesus (Lev 23:4-5; Exo 12:26-27; Mat 26:26-28; Heb 10:19). The Festival of Unleavened Bread illustrated our fellowship and communion with God (Lev 23:6; Luk 12:1; 1Co 5:7-8). The Festival of First Fruits illustrates that Jesus Is Alive! (Lev 23:9-10; 1 Cor 15:20). The Festival of Pentecost illustrated the promise of the Holy Spirit (Lev 23:15-16; Act 2:1-6). The Festival of Trumpets illustrated that we must go tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ (Lev 23:23-24; Mat 28:18-20). The Day of Atonement illustrated that the atonement of Jesus is Everlasting (Lev 23:26-27; Heb 9:24-25; 13:11-12). Finally the Festival of Tabernacles illustrated the return of Jesus Christ (Lev 23:33-34; 1Th 4:15-17), which is the only one of these feasts that has not been fulfilled, and it will be fulfilled soon! These festivals were so important to God that he had Israel rehearse them every year.

For more help on which laws are obsolete, please read the book of Hebrews.

The Ways of God Are Eternal
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote the Torah (Law), which is the first five books of the Bible. Even Genesis is part of the Law, in which he recorded events that occurred before God established the Mosaic covenant with Israel. Before the Mosaic covenant, there were people like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, who did the right thing and were righteous, although they did not have the written code. Even the apostle Paul held up the lives of these people of faith as shining examples for us in Hebrews 11. Abel was a righteous man (He 11:4), Enoch pleased God (He 11:5), Noah became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Heb 11:7), and Abraham obeyed God. They all did so by faith, just as we are supposed to do. They obeyed God without having the written code. Although they did not have the Law, they instinctively did the things of the Law, and they showed the work of the Law written in their hearts (Rom 2:14-15).

When Moses wrote about them, he surely knew that and gave an account of their lives in such a way that described how they did so. That included the tithes given by Abraham and Jacob (Genesis 14:20; 28:20-22), as well as the sacrifices offered by Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob.  God said of Abraham that he, "obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." (Gen 26:5).

Therefore, the eternal law of God predates the Mosaic covenant and outlives it. The ways of God are not limited to one covenant relationship that He had with a people or a person. While we are no longer bound to the Mosaic covenant and its particular requirements, we are not free from God’s eternal law, but are under Christ’s law (1 Cor 9:21).

Although the sacrificial laws have now been fulfilled by Christ's one sacrifice for all on the cross (Heb 9:28), we still offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips that openly profess His name (Heb 13:15).  We still have sacrificial giving, sacrificial service, and each one of us as His disciples has to offer to God the living sacrifice of our bodies, as we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Rom 12:1; Lk 9:23). His law of love, His character, and His ways can be seen all throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Tim 3:16).

All God's ways are righteous and true (Rev 15:3). Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (Jn 14:6).  As the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus loves all the ways of God, which are eternalThey are the ways of life! (Ac 2:28; Ps 16:11).  He reveals them to us, and enables us to walk in them by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit.  His precious blood frees us from the power of sin, not only so that we can be forgiven, but also so we might die to sin and live to righteousness. There is no other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ.  It’s always only through a personal relationship with Him, not through your observance of the Law. (Also see The Ways of Life).

Other Scriptures
Our Lord said, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.” (Joh 15:10) 

"No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him."  (1Jn 3:6)

"No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."  (1Jn 3:9)

"The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us."  (1Jn 3:24)

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Mat 28:19-20).

"But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Rom 3:21-26)

"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom 3:28)

"Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." (Rom 3:31, NIV).  Since Paul said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that we uphold the Law, you can be sure Jesus upholds the law.

"Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says...If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command." (1 Cor 14:34,37).

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'—which is the first commandment with a promise— 'so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'” (Eph 6:1-3; cf., Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16).

"Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." (Rev 14:12)

Putting it All Together
Many biblical laws were given only to ancient Israel, and do not apply to us today. Yet other laws do apply to Christians today.  Therefore, those of us who are under grace must remember the Law of Moses, because it teaches us the eternal ways of God. The Law has not been deleted, set aside, done away with, or erased.  Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.  Jesus did not call us to be lawless people or lawbreakers.

Granted, we are not to concern ourselves with ceremonial law like circumcision or animal sacrifices. We are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ. But the Ten Commandments, for example, are very clearly meant for all generations.  These still represent what pleases God today, and we express our love for Him by keeping His commandments.  Keeping God’s commands in what counts! (1 Cor 7:19b).

Jesus and the apostles taught from the Law. But we do not simply keep the letter of the Law, which is what man sees on the outward.  For the letter kills. Rather, we keep the true spirit and intent of the Law, which goes much deeper and gives life. This is only possible by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

We are not justified by doing the works of the Law.  It is only when we put our faith in Christ that He justifies us. When you know the Lord personally, you have true righteousness, the righteousness of God, and this is the intent or “end goal” of the law. Once you are justified, you will be led by the Spirit to be a doer of the Law (James 1:25; 4:11). 

Finally, 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). He Who lives in us fulfills the Law in us.  It's not something you have to force, or do legalistically, but it happens as you open up and receive the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to flow through you. 

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. Ten Commandments image from Richard Harrison's article called God's Ten Commandments.  The "Every Word of God is Flawless" image used in this article is by my sixteen-year-old daughter, C.V. Lacroix.  You can find more of her fine artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, I highly recommend Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. You may also like Abominations in the Sight of GodHoly Living in a Perverted World, Garments of Godliness, Is Tithing Required?, Keeping Sundays Holy, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?, Practicing Your Righteousness, The Law Established Through Faith, Pleasing the Lord, Why Paul Lived Like a Jew Among the JewsHolding Fast the Faithful Word, and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 

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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