GOD’S LAW

DID PAUL PREACH LAWLESSNESS ?

One of the accusations made against Christianity by heretical groups such as the Hebrew Roots Movement is that Christians are lawless, and advocate lawlessness. This accusation comes as a result of a gross misrepresentation of the teachings of the apostle Paul.

Unfortunately, some Christian ministers have not helped the cause of Christianity by teaching doctrinally unsound things regarding Paul’s gospel of grace.

Did Paul teach that we are lawless now that we are under grace? Absolutely not! Consider the following from Paul:

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:20-21

In the reference above Paul’s reveals his evangelistic strategy. Paul was an incredibly versed scholar of the Jewish scriptures with great understanding of the law of Moses. In his evangelistic approach to the Jews, Paul knew how to use the law to preach Christ to them. Paul was also very skilled in his communication with those outside the Jewish community, and could debate with the most intellectual among the Roman empire. In his strategy towards them Paul took a different evangelistic approach. He became as one without law, though he himself was not without law to God.

Paul declared himself as “being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.”

Though Paul believed that in Christ we we not under the law (the law of Moses), Paul did not believe, nor did he teach, that we are without law (lawless). To explain Paul’s position regarding the law, I want to draw your attention to the words of the apostle John.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

The ESV says, Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

Allow me translate what John is saying here.

John is basically saying, “the new commandment is the old commandment, but it’s new in that we now have it in view of the light of the glory of God. The light of God has shinned in the person of Jesus Christ, overpowering the darkness. The commandment is new because we now understand it in a whole new the light, and we see it through an entirely new lens – the lens of the grace of God in Christ.

When Jesus came, the law of God was transferred from the administration of death and condemnation as the law of Moses, to the administration of life by the Spirit Christ Jesus.

This is why Jesus could quote the law and, say, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” ~ Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus wasn’t establishing a new law. He was citing the law of God in view of the spiritual life and light of God that now shines in our hearts through the gospel. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” ~ John 1:4

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul expounds on the administration of the law under Moses, referring to it as the ministration of death and condemnation. He says this in contrast to the law in Christ being the ministration of the Spirit and righteousness. In the very next chapter Paul says, Therefore seeing we have this ministry (the ministration of the Spirit and righteousness), as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of GodBut if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

When the law of God, which is fulfilled by love, is obeyed from the heart we walk in the light, the Spirit, and righteousness of Christ, A man may refrain himself from physical adultery, and be guiltless of violating Moses’s law which says, “though shalt not commit adultery”, but if he has lust in his heart towards another woman, he has violated the law of God in his heart.

Only Jesus can bring to light the things that are in a man’s heart.

When God gave the law through Moses he appeared to the children of Israel in a thick cloud of darkness.

And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. ~ Exodus 20:21

These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders… ~ Deuteronomy 5:22-24

The darkness was representative of the spiritual condition of the people to whom God was giving the law under Moses. The law, as it was administered through Old Covenant Israel, was for a nation in spiritual darkness, and not for a nation abiding in the light.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeignedFrom which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5-11

When Paul says the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart and of a good conscience, and of unfeigned faith, he is describing the work of the law of God in our heart under grace. He says that this is what some “swerve” from, and and consequently turn aside to “vain jangling”. They do not understand the law of God “under Moses”, in contrast to “under Christ.”

The writer of Hebrews contrasts the two covenants (the law under Moses, and grace under Christ).

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. ~ Hebrews 12:18-29

Never once did Paul or any New Testament writer teach that we are without law to God as New Covenant believers. When Paul teaches that were are not under the law, he is specifically referring to the law of Moses, which was given to a nation in spiritual darkness. Under Moses, God’s law was catered for a nation that was under the power of the flesh to teach them God’s ways, and to lead them to Christ!

God’s law (God’s rule, authority, and dominion) has not been abolished, but the administration of it through death and condemnation has. The ministry of the law of God has changed hands from Moses to Jesus, and through Jesus God’s law rules the hearts of those who love him. They do not have to be told to not commit adultery because their aim is to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Like their Master, their prayer is, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.” ~ Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:7-10

When Paul speaks of not being under the law he is not referring to being without law towards God, for Paul declares, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” ~ Romans 8:2

When Paul speaks of not being under the law, he is talking about not being under Moses as his mediator. He is talking about not being under the administration of commandments designed to corral sin in a nation filled with people in spiritual darkness.

Paul believed that Jesus is our mediator with God, and Jesus is he who searches the reins and hearts ~ Revelation 2:23. He is the one that can see the lust in our hearts and it is this same Jesus who gives us grace and power in our hearts to do his will and to please God.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son… ~ Colossians 1:12-13

Because we are no longer in darkness, but translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, we produce fruit unto holiness through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law (Moses), but under grace (Christ). ~ Romans 6:14

HAS GOD’S LAW BEEN ABOLISHED?

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. ~ Romans 3:21

Paul never once disqualifies the law of God in any of his epistles, but skillfully explained the purpose of the law. According to Paul, the law was weak through the flesh. The written code with it’s commands, decrees, and statues, as was given to Israel, was weak in that it could not put a stop to sin, it could only regulate sin.

Only by the power of Christ can sin be premanately dealt with, and only by the power of Christ can we live victorious over sin. Those who are changed by the power of Christ are not under the written code of the law as the Israelites were, because the law of God under the administration of Moses was given  to regulate sin only, not deliver them from it.

Does this mean that we are without any law from God now that we are in Christ? Absolutely not! When Christ came, he did not come to abolish God’s law, but to fulfill it, and those who follow Christ fulfill the law as well, for they do the will of God from the heart.

God’s law is fulfilled in those who live according to the power of Christ. This is why both Jesus and Paul tell us that love fulfills the law.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. ~ Matthew 7:12

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. ~ Matthew 22:35-40

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13:8-10

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ~ Galatians 5:14

The virtues of godliness such as kindness, self control, patience, peace, etc., are the very things to which the Law gave witness.

The virtues of godliness such as kindness, self control, patience, peace, etc., are the very things to which the Law gave witness. The law (the written code) had no strength to free us from sin and empower us with righteousness. Nor did we have this strenght in ourselves, for we had become servants to our own sins. Thus Paul says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” ~ Romans 5:6

Now that Christ has come, we have the strength to please God from our hearts and the law does not condemn us, for we are justified in Christ!

God’s law has not been abolished, but the administration of it in written code has. God’s law is now made manifest through those who have the power of Christ ruling their lives. The goal of God’s law wasn’t to keep us from murdering our neighbor, it was to teach us to love them.

In Romans 2 Paul speaks of the work of the Law in the heart and speaks of the same when he tells the Thessalonians, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. ” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:9

The Law of God is eternal, but the administration of his law has changed. No longer is it the ministation of death in written code. It is now inscribed on the hearts and minds of those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. ~ See Hebrews 10:16-22

Now it is administered as the commandment of love which only Christ can give, and properly know as “the law of Christ”!

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

HOW THE LAW TRANSLATES TO THE NEW TESTAMENT

When the Bible speaks of the law in reference to the law of Moses, it is referring to either: (1) the ceremonial laws within the law, or (2) the civil laws within the law, or (3) the Ten Commandments, or (4) all these  collectively.

Also, the New Testament sometimes refers to the Law as the whole of the Old testament, and sometimes the words of the prophets.We must determined which is under discussion based on the context.

Nowhere in scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, were Gentiles ever required to keep the civil or ceremonial laws given to Israel. In fact, Gentiles were forbidden from many things contained in the law because they were outside the covenant.

For example, the law forbade uncircumcised Gentiles from observing the Passover. Gentiles were outside the covenant and were forbidden from eating the Passover. If a Gentiles desired to eat the Passover, he had to be circumcised and come under the law of Moses. This is why Paul tells the Ephesians the following:

Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world… ~ Ephesians 2:11-12

Paul then tells the Gentiles that they had been brought near to God through the blood of Christ, for God had made Jews and Gentiles one in Christ. Consequently the dividing wall which stood between the Jews and Gentiles, which was the law, had been removed.

The ceremonial and civil commands within the law were for citizens of the nation of Israel only, and served the purpose of governing their civil life and the order of their worship. This is what has been abolished by the death of Christ.

The ceremonial and civil laws have been taken away by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The laws regarding pots, pans, different kinds of washings, animal sacrifices, stoning offenders, etc,. has been abolished. God’s law, which is fulfilled by love is no longer administered by such regulations.

Under the old Covenant, the civil and ceremonial laws were given to facilitate the moral laws given in the Ten Commandments, and governed Israel’s daily life and worship.

Even though Jesus died and gave us a new covenant, the things which the Ten Commandments reveal as sin, such as idolatry, adultery, and covetousness are still sins, and the New Testament reveals that God is going to judge the ungodly by this standard.

The New Testament also teaches us that the godly fulfill the law from their hearts because of the love of God in them. The only command not carried over into the New Covenant is the third commandment, which is the Sabbath.

The Sabbath played a large role in Israel’s ceremonial laws and civil laws.  The New Testament teaches that the Sabbath was a foreshadowing of the rest we have in God, through Jesus Christ.

Many people who make the Sabbath an issue have never actually studied the Sabbath in scripture, and would likely miserably fail a pop quiz regarding the Sabbath.

John tells us that Jesus broke the Sabbath. That will mess with your theology if you dared to believe it. Even though Jesus broke the Sabbath, he fulfilled it. Now that will really mess with your theology.

For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. ~ John 5:18

Jesus wasn’t a servant of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was his servant. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. ~ Matthew 12:8

When the Sabbath becomes about legalistic rules, we become it’s servant, and this was never God’s intent. God gave the Sabbath to Israel for multiple reasons.

1. The Sabbath was a sign of God’s covenant with Israel.
2. The Sabbath was a gift of rest because Israel had been slaves in Egypt, under hard labor.
3. The Sabbath was a reminder that Israel’s God is the creator, the only true God.

God rested from all his works of creation on the 7th day, and he therefore commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath, because he alone is the one true God the creator of Heaven and Earth.

Israel’s Sabbath was a memorial to God’s finished work of creation.

Though Israel observed the Sabbath day which they were commanded to keep, they never entered the Sabbath rest that God had prepared for them: a rest that had been predestined before the foundation of the world. 

The true rest for God’s people is not found in a day of the week.  It’s found in a person, Jesus Christ, who is the one to whom the Sabbath command pointed. An individual can keep the Sabbath day, but if he isn’t free from sin, and if his heart is cut off from God, he has not truly enter into the Sabbath rest of God.

The rest that God desires for his people is not found in a day, but in a person, and that is why Paul tells the Colossians to let no man judge them regarding the Sabbath. It was only a shadow, and the fulfillment of it is found in Christ!

 

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