Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Are The Ten Commandments Removed?

In my post, Is Ceremonial Law Removed? we investigated whether or not the ceremonial law was indeed gone, as many claim. We found that even though it is removed, the very ones who stress the hardest that it is gone are the ones treating it the most like it is not gone. They do this by retaining cherry-picked elements of ceremonial law while telling us those elements are somehow not ceremonial.
Today, we will do this same investigation on the Ten Commandments.

Unfortunately, this topic will mean a long post. My apologies in advance.

Do we have to keep the Ten Commandments in the New Covenant? Does eliminating the Ten Commandments kick the door wide open for an immoral free-for-all, as some claim? Can we modify the Ten Commandments and still say we're keeping them? Are we keeping them even if we don't realize it?

This and more will be explored as you read on. Let's start at the start.

WHAT ARE THE TEN?

The Ten Commandments were first given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses was to give them to Israel. They were for Israel alone (DEU. 5: 3). If you read Deuteronomy 5: 1-22 or Exodus 20: 1-17, you'll be up to speed.

Regarding the name "Ten Commandments", I will quote Judaism 101:

"In the Torah, these words are never referred to as the Ten Commandments. In the Torah, they are called Aseret ha-D'varim (Ex. 34:28, Deut. 4:13 and Deut. 10:4). In rabbinical texts, they are referred to as Aseret ha-Dibrot. The words d'varim and dibrot come from the Hebrew root Dalet-Beit-Reish, meaning word, speak or thing; thus, the phrase is accurately translated as the Ten Sayings, the Ten Statements, the Ten Declarations, the Ten Words or even the Ten Things, but not as the Ten Commandments, which would be Aseret ha-Mitzvot."
-"Aseret ha-Dibrot: The Ten Commandments", Tracery R Rich, Judaism 101. Accessed 6-2024.

The Ten Commandments should not be translated "commandments". This fact ought to help people who are confused when they see the word commandments in the New Testament. We might read, "If you love Me, keep My commandments," and think that is referring to the Ten Commandments, because they both say commandments, but that is incorrect. They do not both say "commandments" in Hebrew. Ancient Jews, the actual audience, wouldn't think this. The Ten shouldn't have been translated commandments in the first place.

People argue over how the Ten should be numbered, but the numbering is really an artificial construct. The Bible does not number them. The difference seems to come from what source you used. In the end, it doesn't matter if the Sabbath command is listed as the third or the fourth. The numbering is artificial anyway.

In Armstrongism, the Sabbath command is numbered as the fourth. This happens to be the way most Jewish groups number them. This is not how the Catholics number them. That is neither right nor wrong. It just is. The failure comes in when one accuses others of eliminating the fourth commandment simply because the numbering is different. Catholics have not removed the Sabbath command. They just list it as the third rather than the fourth. You can see that for yourself in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part three, Section two, Chapter one, Article three "The Third Commandment". Church of God ministers bring shame on themselves for violating the command against bearing false witness while they preach about the validity of the Ten Commandments.

COVENANT LAW

The Ten Commandments are "covenant law". What does that mean? It means the Ten Commandments are inextricably part of the Old Covenant.

Think of the Old Covenant as a contract. The only difference between a covenant and a contract is God is directly involved. It is a legally binding agreement between specific parties to achieve specific ends for a specific duration of time. All contracts apply only to the parties of that contract, in this case God and Israel. Contracts by definition cannot apply to anyone who is not party to that contract. All contracts have terms. Terms are what the parties agree to do. The law are the terms. All good contracts also have penalties. Penalties are what happens if the terms are not met. Contracts have a start. The Old started at Sinai. Contracts have a termination. For an individual Israelite, it ended when they died. When God died, it ended for everyone.
We go over this in great detail in our post "Confusing the Covenants".

All 613 laws in the Torah, including the Ten Commandments, are the terms of the Old Covenant. It's not like we have the Torah over here, and the Old Covenant over there, and the two really are only tangentially linked. No. They are essentially linked. The Ten Commandments are integral to the Covenant.

(EXO. 34: 28) So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
(DEU. 5: 1-21) … 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said… [lists the Ten Commandments].
(DEU. 9: 9) When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.
(DEU. 9: 11) And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
(DEU. 9: 15) So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.

Recall the Ark of the Covenant. Why do you suppose they called it the Ark of the Covenant? Because it was the Ark (box, repository) of the Covenant (Ten Commandments).

(I KIN. 8: 9, 21) 9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

Anyone who insists the Decalogue is not the Old Covenant, I'm very sorry, but the overwhelming weight of this evidence stands against your interpretation.

We have gone over all of this many times before. I suggest you read "The Covenant and the Testimony".

The Old Covenant law does not exist apart from the covenant. The law does not stand alone. The Ten only exist within and because of the Old Covenant. The covenant is what binds the law on the people. They agreed to the terms (the law).

Understanding covenants is utterly, absolutely, critically essential. Not understanding covenants, and how the law and the Old Covenant are one, is the single biggest mistake most legalists make.

If you actually read the Judaism 101 article I mentioned earlier, you will see they start the article like this:

"All 613 of those mitzvot [laws] are equally sacred, equally binding and equally the word of G-d. All of these mitzvot are treated as equally important..."
-ibid

And they are correct! All of the laws in the Old Covenant are equal. Why? Because they are all terms of a covenant. They are covenant law. All of them. This is how James can say:

(JAS. 2: 10) For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

The law that bars Gentiles from observing Passover (EXO. 12: 43-49) is equally binding as the law that says it can only be observed in Jerusalem (DEU. 16: 5-7). Are you keeping Passover? Yes. Are you a Gentile? Yes. STOP! You've violated the law. Are you keeping it in Jerusalem? No. STOP! You've violated the law.

If you are keeping the Ten, but not keeping some other portion of law you don't think is important, then you've violated it all. If you say you need to observe a Holy Day, but don't do all that the law says must be done on that day, then you have not followed the law but you've violated the law.
People who believe they are observing the law by keeping some cherry-picked selection of laws are forgetting that all the whole body of laws is one unit, indivisible. If you stumble in any of it, you’re guilty of all of it.

If you’re not keeping all the law, you’re not keeping the law at all (GAL. 3: 10).

And once you’ve failed, you’ve failed. The law has no provision for forgiveness of a willful sin. For each and every last one of us - except Jesus Christ Himself - it’s already too late. We've already failed. Further failed attempts will not help you.

The good news for us sinners is - when the Covenant ended, the terms dissolved.

Anyone who says the Ten Commandments continue on to today has misunderstood how a covenant works, and misunderstood that the Old Covenant has ended and has been dissolved (HEB. 8: 13). Law gone. End of story. The terms of a covenant do not and cannot continue beyond the termination of the covenant. That was Paul's entire point in Romans 7: 1-6. If the New Covenant has any similarities to the Old (and it does) it is not because the terms came forward, but because similar yet completely new terms were created.

Think of it this way. If you get married you are bound to that covenant so long as you both shall live. But one sad day, your spouse passes away. My condolences on your loss. Eventually, your heart finds new life and you get married again. Once again, you are bound to that covenant so long as you both shall live. You are in the same condition as the first marriage. Why?

A) Because the second marriage is really just a continuation of the first, and the terms of the first marriage "came forward", or,
B) Because all marriages have similar terms because they have similar reasons to exist, but this is a brand new marriage and not a continuation of the first in any sense?

The answer is B. The first is gone, dissolved, no longer existing, but the second is going to be similar just because of the nature of it. And so it is with the two Great Covenants.

Paul's uses marriage as an example in Romans 7: 1-4. His point is the Old Covenant is gone. You have died in baptism, and the law has no hold on you any longer.

This is where the excuse-making starts up.
People will claim the law is eternally binding, they proof text "not one jot or tittle", they make up fantasies about British Israelism, etc etc.
We have several posts addressing these excuses and workarounds. Try reading our series on Common Legalist Arguments or "Two Trees - Two Covenants".
Some people even go so far as to deny there is a New Covenant. That is patently ridiculous.
But all of these excuses fall down flat when we inspect them fairly and honestly, from a neutral standpoint.

DO WE NEED TO KEEP THE TEN?

No.

The Ten Commandments are terms of the Old Covenant, and the Old Covenant is gone so the Ten are gone. We do not have to "keep" the Ten Commandments. Jesus died and it is gone for all, you died with Him in baptism so it is gone for you, and it was confirmed in Acts 15 & 21 that the law is not necessary for new converts. You do not need to keep the Ten Commandments.

"Wait! What!? Now I know you've lost your mind, xHWA!" [rips garments]

Hold on! Don't tear your garments yet. Hear me out.

People think they must keep Old Covenant laws, like the Ten, first because they don't understand covenants (which is why I started there), second because that is what they were told and they haven't thought it through or haven't heard the other side (which hopefully this article is going to help you do), and third because they find it difficult to argue against a law that says something like You shall not murder. Let's look at that.

"How can you not keep that law? Christians don't murder! Is it ok for me to sleep with your wife?"

I used to say that same thing, and I thought it was clever, too. It is true that it is not acceptable to murder, steal, bear false witness, or commit adultery in the New Covenant ...but not because of the Ten Commandments. It has nothing to do with the Ten Commandments.

"xHWA, you're contradicting yourself. You don't have to keep them, but you do have to keep them?"

This is no contradiction. The law is gone, but morality remains.
I recommend Miller Jones' article "Washed, Sanctified, Justified, and Glorified in Jesus".

Oh, bet your backside morality remains!! Revelation 21: 8 is not the verse the "Buddy Christ" type like to cite. On the other hand, legalists assume the Old Covenant law is the only place we can find morality. That is not so!

"There is another."
-Yoda (It's not a Vader quote, but it will have to do.)

The Old and the New have similarities, but not because laws from the Old have come forward. How can the two be similar without the laws coming forward? Because they have the same author. There is something above and beyond the law. It has nothing to do with the Old Covenant law, and everything to do with love.

(ROM. 13: 10) Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
(JAS. 2: 8) "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you do well."
(I COR. 13) [read the whole chapter]

Love is above and beyond the law, and is the source of the moral requirements of both great covenants.The terms of the two Great Covenants have similarities, not because they are the same, nor because anything "came forward", but because above them and beyond them is one and the same principle of love.

"But x, all the Commandments are reiterated in the New Testament."

All except the Sabbath command, you mean. This does not indicate nine of the Ten have come forward. It indicates the same principle of love dictates both Covenants.

When the Ten are mentioned in the New Testament, they are being used as examples. If you look closely, you will see the Apostles quoting the Old Covenant regularly. That doesn't mean it all comes forward. We just read Romans 13: 10, but let's read verses just prior:

(ROM. 13: 8-9) 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do you see how Paul is just quoting them to make a point? He isn't bringing them forward, he is showing how love fulfills them. His point is love, not law. Even when James quotes from the Ten in James 2, his point is really about mercy. Isn't mercy really about love? Read James 2: 8 again. The Apostles use the law to help us understand a point, then direct our eyes above the law, to something greater - to love.

Where did the Apostles get this idea? They got it from Jesus.

(LUK. 10: 25-28) 25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

The lawyer was quoting Deuteronomy 6: 4-5 and Leviticus 19: 18. These are the two great commandments. Jesus responds, "do this [love] and you will live.” Jesus reiterates this same thing in Mark 12:

(MAR. 12: 29-31) 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Remember, the Ten are mistranslated as "commandments". These two which Jesus cites, He calls  commandments. They are greater than the Ten. Greater than the Ten?? Yes! It is no coincidence this information is recorded twice.
And where did Jesus get this idea? From His nature.

(I JON. 4: 7-8) 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Two different covenants, for two different peoples, for two different purposes - both initiated by one and the same God, who IS love. Of course they are going to have similarities because of God. That moral nature is most certainly reflected in the Old Covenant law. God gave commandments and statues for Israel's good because He loves. Same as now.

At the outset of this post, I emphasized how the Old Covenant is gone. Here, I emphasize how it is similar to the New. I do this so we can discuss something.

I think this is where people stumble. Most everyone understands that there is a need for morality both in the Old and the New Covenants. Something deep inside them just seems to know this. They see that morality itself in its essence has not changed. They know murder was always wrong and always will be (so long as there is mortality). They see points in the Old are practically identical to points in the New. They know that morality is an attribute that flows directly from God's own being. And here they get confused, stumbling over how moral law does not continue forward. The thinking goes like this: "God is eternal, so morality is eternal, so the moral law must be eternal." On the surface, it seems very reasonable. But no.
We went over that in the article "Common Legalist Arguments - Part VI".

The answer to this puzzle is not that the moral law comes forward, but that love is eternal, and love is expressed in very similar ways in both Covenants, even if that isn't obvious.

Love predated the law. Love was in the law. Love is above the law. Love continues past the law.

As we see in Luke, even the lawyer knew the real crux of the law. This was during the Old Covenant period. He read the law and saw the most important parts were to love God and love your neighbor - in the Old Covenant period. That isn't obvious, so this guy was astute. He chose love, and the Author agreed. What this clearly means is moral law was always a subset of love. Jesus said this very thing.

(MAT. 22: 40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

In the New Covenant, we are called to look higher than the law. We are called to participate in the essence of our Lord, as part of His spiritual body. We are not called to participate in laws, but directly in that moral nature of God. God doesn't need the law to be moral, and neither does a mature Christian. You don't need the law to be moral any more than you need a shadow to cast a body (COL. 2: 16).
You need love. You need to participate in Him. And how do we participate in him? Faith!

The New Covenant laws are faith and love.

When the scribe reiterated what Jesus said, what was our Lord's response? "You are not far from the Kingdom of God" (v. 34). Not that he had reached it, but that he was close. His law keeping didn't get him there, just like the Rich Young Ruler who kept the law but went away when Jesus showed him there was more to it. Or think of the Pharisees who kept the law fastidiously yet Jesus had little praise for them. Why? Because they were all missing key ingredients. The scribe and the ruler had law but not faith, and the Pharisees had law but not love. They all went away.
For all their law keeping, they still went away.

Now that we've looked at similarities, perhaps it might help to illustrate differences one more time.

Is it ok to rape, or to be arrogant and demeaning, or to do a 'hit and run', or to do a 'bait and switch', or to entrap someone, or to kidnap someone, or to bully someone into harming themselves, or to gaslight someone, or to abandon your spouse, or to take bribes, or to judge unfairly, or to charge someone full price for shoddy work? No! Yet, I don't see any of that listed in the Ten Commandments. Read the Ten again. Guess what's not there: deceit. Is deceit wrong, then? I bet you are going to say 'yes'. Why? Because you just know? No. Because it violates love! You can blow a mile-wide crater into morality and not violate the Ten Commandments, but you will have violated love every single time.
So, which do you suppose is the superior moral system?

DON'T WE KEEP THE TEN ANYWAY?

"Tell me this, xHWA. If we are loving, and love has the same ends as keeping the Ten Commandments - we are loyal to God, we aren't murdering, bearing false witness, stealing, or committing adultery - then, aren't we keeping the Ten Commandments?"
Fantastic question! Yes! ...and no. It depends on your approach.

If you approach this from the perspective of grace and faith, yes, love fulfills the spirit of the law. You have kept every requirement of the Ten without needing the Ten. You've done it! Welcome to mature Christianity. So, yes.
But if you approach this from the perspective of legalism, no, due to our sinful nature you have failed and the law brings a curse to you.

"Come on, x, you're contradicting yourself. I can fail to keep the law by keeping the law?"

Correct. That was no contradiction. It really does matter. 

If it didn't, then Paul wouldn't have written Galatians. He wouldn't have said things like, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?" (GAL. 4: 21) Or, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (GAL. 5: 4)

Those are heavy words! Your approach matters.

Is that what you think you've done, kept the Commandments? You sat on your hands one day out of seven? You didn't murder, so therefore you've kept the commandment? Or you didn't commit adultery, therefore you've kept the commandment? How easy it would be if that were the standard! But it's not.

In Matthew 5: 21-30, Jesus shows that sin is of the heart. Violation of the Commandments happens long before you ever act out anything. If you lust, you're done. If you anger without cause, you're done. Game over. Fail! The game is already over for you. There is no going back to the starting line because the game is over.
By that standard, we've all failed .. me too! I've miserably failed. Worse than you, I'd bet. For all my blogging and preaching about love, I've blown it for the law. I am guilty under the law! Mea culpa! And I have no hope left in the law.
More law, or rather more failure, will get us all precisely nowhere.

All this talk about we've kept the Commandments just because we didn't kill is nonsense. Herbert Armstrong knew this. He preached this very thing, and he was right! (See? We admit when he was right.)
But then he would go on to say in the New Covenant the law is harder. No. Wrong. Matthew 5 is during the Old Covenant period, not the New. This was always the standard. Just read Zechariah 8: 17.
Herbert Armstrong also taught, "Jesus made the law harder to keep, then provides us the Holy Spirit so we can keep it." Again, wrong. Why don't you keep it, then? Is the Holy Spirit a failure? Do you not have enough Holy Spirit? Why are you praying for forgiveness if you've done such a good job? Why are you looking towards the Day of Atonement? Because you know this fails just as much as I do. We go over this in "Common Legalist Arguments - Part I".

Making it harder was not what Jesus was doing. He was merely stating what the standard had been all along. He was making His audience aware of what the standard actually was.
It was always this hard!

No wonder Isaiah says, "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags" (ISA. 64: 6). No wonder Peter calls law keeping, "...a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (ACT. 15: 10).

That's right. Even at our best, we do not rate. Not even close. You might think you're keeping the Ten, but there's a decent chance you're not. Did we not just read Paul, who said, "you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (GAL. 5: 4)?

The same Paul who said that also said this:

(ROM. 9: 30-32) 30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

And that is why Paul said this:

(GAL. 2: 18) For if I build again those things which I destroyed [the law], I make myself a transgressor.

Israel failed to keep the law by keeping the law. We will fail to keep the law by keeping the law.

So, this is a yes and a no. Approach this through legalism and you will fail, but approach it through faith and grace and you will fulfill the whole law.

Now that I've said that, I want to make something abundantly clear ---
I am not saying that merely keeping a law is what causes you to fail. For example, merely keeping a seventh-day Sabbath does not cause you to fail. People on one side say keeping Sunday is a sin. People on the other side say keeping Saturday is a sin. Both are wrong. What I am saying is that looking to the law for righteousness causes you to fail. For example, demanding that Christians must keep a seventh-day Sabbath, and thus holding yourself up as superior to others because you do, will cause you to fail. Once the idea of "earn" or "merit" or "qualify" is added to law, you've failed. If keeping a day helps you feel closer to God, do it. If you are a Jewish convert and you see the law as your heritage, do it. If eating pork harms your conscience, don't do it. Only don't think it gets you anywhere with God. And by all means, do not judge and condemn your fellow Christian who disagrees (ROM. 14: 6).

THE ONLY WAY

"But x, you are violating Matthew 5: 19 by breaking the commandments and teaching others to do so."

Au contraire!

There is but one way to accomplish our goals, oh beloved of God. One and only one. There is no other. That way is faith.

The scribes and Pharisees were fastidious! If you recall my post "Tithing - You're Doing It Wrong" you see how how fastidious they were. They were the penultimate law keepers, yet they blew it. Our Lord's harshest criticism, as always throughout the Bible, was reserved for the leadership. They failed the law because they pursued the law as an end unto itself. They kept the Sabbath yet failed at Sabbath-keeping, as Aphraphat the Syrian abundantly pointed out (see the article "Quartodecimans - Were They Law-Keepers?"). Why? The law was more important than mercy. They neglected the weightier matters of faith and love.

Even so, Jesus said this about them:

(MAT. 5: 20) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Why?
You see, He was paying them a backhanded compliment (that means it wasn't really a compliment). All of their law keeping, which the people were impressed by, didn't impress Jesus. The righteousness of law keeping is not what He wanted.

How can our righteousness exceed theirs, then? The one way and only way is the righteousness of faith ... the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How does Jesus' righteousness make you more righteous than the Pharisees? Let Paul tell us.

(II COR. 5: 21) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

His righteousness becomes our righteousness by faith.
By faith not law?
Yes! The righteousness God seeks is not our righteousness, but HIS own righteousness attributed to us by faith.

(PHP. 9: 9-11) 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In Phillipians 9, Paul, one of the very Pharisees that Jesus was talking about, gives us a long list of his genealogical, educational, and legal bona fides. He counts them all as dung! Why? Because no matter how good a human is, no matter how credentialed, no matter how careful, NONE of that can compare to the righteousness of God. God's own righteousness can only come to us one way: by faith.

(ROM. 1: 17) For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
(ROM. 3: 20-22) 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...
(ROM. 4: 5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
(2 PET. 1: 1) Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours
(GAL. 3: 10-14) 10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Paul mentions Abraham. What of Abraham?

(ROM. 4: 13-14) 13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless.

It was always by faith. The whole time.

It is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. In Matthew 5: 20, Jesus was really talking about Himself. Only by being joined with Him through faith can His righteousness be gifted to us, and there alone can we surpass the scribes and Pharisees.

Remember, our righteousness is like filthy rags, and Jesus did not make the law harder because that was always the standard. Well, the standard is a lot harder yet.

(MAT. 5: 48) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

"Oh, xHWA! How in Heaven or on earth can imperfect beings like us possibly be perfect like God the Father is perfect? I can't do that!"

You're right. You can't. It is impossible
...except when the blood of Christ washes us clean and God's own righteousness is attributed to us when we become one with Jesus through faith.

It is the only way.

So, cheer up! Lift up your face to the Son and be glad. He has you in His hands. Just believe.

(MAT. 19: 26b) “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

If you are still looking at your shortcomings and wondering what this all means, you need to understand something.
As with many other things in the Bible, it is partly completed now and fully completed in the future. It's not that we are perfect in this lifetime, but when God looks at us He sees His own perfection attributed to us. That's the agreement. It is attributed to us until such a time when we will be fully made perfect (EPH. 1: 13-14). He sees our potential. A potential that is not achievable without faith. So be content for now, and believe.

"...by faith from first to last."

You are one with Him by faith. By faith you are attached to Jesus the Vine, and you, the branch off that Vine, will bear fruit. First faith, then fruit. Or, if you will, first faith, then works.

Saving faith → Grafted in → In-dwelling of Holy Spirit → Attributed righteousness of God → Do works of love → Bear fruits of love.  That is how it works in the New Covenant.

Am I throwing Matthew 5: 19 out the window? No. I am not telling you to break the commandments. I am telling you the only way you can possibly hope to keep them as expected.

CONCLUSION

There is a confusion going on of the Ten Commandments and the word commandments in the New Testament. The Ten never should have been translated commandments in the first place. The word commandments in the N.T. can be any command, and most often does not refer to the Ten.

The Ten are covenant law, but Old Covenant law not New Covenant law. They are only 10 out of 613 equal terms. Break any one and you've broken them all. Those who are under the Old Covenant must keep it's terms (and that is precisely nobody). Those who are under the New Covenant must keep its terms (and that is all Christianity). If you try to keep the Old Covenant while in the New Covenant you are sitting on a fence satisfying neither.

What are the laws for the New Covenant? Faith and love. Law is not the essential component, love is. Love, inspired and directed by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you because you are joined to Jesus by faith. Never has righteousness come from the law. Jesus took your sins on Himself so He could attribute His righteousness to you by faith. This is the only way any of us can achieve the righteousness God is looking for: His own. It is the only way.

The moral standards in the Old aren't really that different from the New. There are definite similarities. Those similarities do not come from law, but from the same source as the law: love. When you look at a New Covenant person vs and Old Covenant person, you won't see much moral difference. But try to achieve this by law, and you will fail.

If you've read and understood this post, you should re-read Galatians. I recommend you do that as soon as possible.

James seems to be the star Apostle of the law-minded person. Why, Fred Coulter even wrote his own version of the Bible so he could put James before Paul. (No, that isn't the 'original' order.) James seems to say Old Covenant law things, but when we look closely, he isn't really saying that at all. In the end, James concludes his idea with this:

(JAS. 2: 12) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.

This is the second time James mentions the "perfect law of liberty" (JAS. 1: 25). Where will you find that law? Not in the Old Covenant! This is a New Covenant idea.
James turns out to be speaking of the same things Paul did, and what I am trying to speak right now. Faith, love, liberty, grace, mercy, charity, patience, forgiveness... these are the New Covenant standards. Not individual laws, but big concepts. Concepts that flow straight from God's nature.

New Covenant standards are spiritually mature standards. Mature is not easy. Adulting is hard! It's not simple. I am not saying "remove the law and life gets simple." Nor am I saying "remove the law and Christianity becomes a Wild West free-for-all, where you do exhaust your every lust and turn to Jesus for the forgiveness you knew you would need afterward." I am saying, follow the guidance of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit. If you do that, you will no longer need laws.

So, do you have to keep the Ten? No. But if you step into the New Covenant in faith and follow the Holy Spirit in love, you will fulfill the spirit of the whole law, and with Christ's own righteousness attributed to you. In faith and love, you will keep them in a way you never could if you just attempted to keep them to the letter.


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11

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2 comments:

Miller Jones/Lonnie C Hendrix said...

This is an excellent and comprehensive treatise on the Christian's proper relationship to God's Law, and I am happy to endorse it fully! I have said many times that the Bible (Both Testaments) views Torah as a comprehensive whole, not as separable parts. Yes, used correctly, it is helpful for us to understand Torah by classifying laws as civil, ceremonial, moral, etc., but we must never forget that our categories are artificial (generated by us to help us understand). The biblical principle is clear: break any one of the 613, and you've broken the Law! And, as you have clearly and succinctly pointed out in this post, Torah represents the terms of the OLD Covenant. Christ instituted a NEW Covenant. Like the Old, the New is based on LOVE - the Two Great Commandments were drawn from Torah, and they comprehend Torah and serve as the basis for the New Covenant. Thank you for this post!

Jim said...

I sometimes compare the Sinai covenant/new covenant with the “Articles of the Confederation”/U.S. Constitution.

The Articles of the Confederation served the American Colonies well during the Revolutionary years, but it was replaced with the U.S. Constitution for our fledgling nation.
The Constitution and the Articles had similar principles and laws, but they were different and for a different time.
So, while they both taught the principle of an elected legislature. I don’t go to the Articles for questions I have about the US legislature, I go to the Constitution because that is the agreement I am under.
It doesn’t mean the Articles aren’t good, they just do not lay out the agreement I am under and there is now no reason for me to look to those stipulations in the Articles.

In fact attempting to live under the Articles rather than the Constitution can get you in trouble. Kinda reminds me of Galatian 4 where you must get rid of the maidservant or you will not receive the rewards of the new covenant.