Law of Moses

Are we lawless Christians?

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We have been considering what the Scriptures say about the Law. We have seen that we are released from the Law (Romans 7:6). Does that mean that we are lawless? Are we lawless Christians?

The New Testament Scriptures show that we are no longer under the Law of Moses. If Christians are no longer under the Law, does that mean that we are lawless?

The Scriptures speak of our freedom in Christ. Does that mean that we free to do whatever we want to do?

1.      Released from the Law

The coming of Jesus Christ was not a minor event in the history of salvation. The eternal God took upon himself the form of a man. He became a real man while continuing to be truly God. He took upon himself not only our human nature, but on the cross, he took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He suffered, bled, and died as the spotless, perfect, Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice once and for all for the sins that you and I and every other human being has ever committed. Then God raised him from the dead. The wages of sin is death, but he paid the penalty of sin. His blood was shed to pay the penalty of sin. His body was broken to break the power of sin. Romans 4:25 says that Christ was delivered — i.e. crucified — for our sins and that he was raised for our justification. We are confronted with his incarnation, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, his death on the cross for you and me, his resurrection from the dead, and 40 days later, his ascension to the right hand of his Father where he intercedes for you and me. Things cannot go on as usual. Everything has changed. When God dies and rises again, we cannot think that we are made right with him by following a list of rules.

As we have seen in recent weeks, the Old Covenant announced and pointed to the New Covenant. The Law of Moses was a parenthesis in the plan of God. The real deal was the Promise, the Promise that God had made to Abraham and ratified by the Prophets. Even the Law prophesied Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But when Christ died, we died to the Law. As the body of Christ was torn, the curtain into the Holy of Holies, which was 18 meters high and 9 meters wide, was torn from top to bottom showing that God has opened a new and living way into his presence for us. Things cannot remain the same:

Hebrews 10:19-20 ESV Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

The Son of God came and died and rose again. Everything has changed. We cannot go on living as if we were under the law: “Do this, do that!” No! The message of the gospel is not “Do this.” The message of the gospel is “Done!” “It is finished!”

So everything has changed for us. Hear these words:

Romans 7:4 ESV Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law…

Romans 7:6 ESV But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive…

Romans 6:14 ESV …you are not under law but under grace.

Galatians 3:13 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…

Galatians 3:23-25 ESV Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

The Scriptures also speak clearly of the fact that we are free.

John 8:32 ESV and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:36 NLT So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

So these verses tell us that we are no longer under the Law because Christ came to set us free from the Law. We are therefore not to go back to the Law.

So does that mean that we can live however we want? Does that mean that we can continue to live the way we used to live before we became Christians?

That is what some people accused the Apostle Paul of saying. Paul explained in Romans 3 how our unrighteousness showed off the glorious righteousness of God, just like a candle glows all the brighter on a dark night. So some said, “Let’s keep on sinning! It makes God’s righteousness shine even more!” Paul speaks of these people in…

Romans 3:8 ESV And why not do evil that good may come?– as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

But that is not the gospel. Our liberty in Christ is not a license to sin.

The verses that I quoted moments ago go on to explain that we are no longer under the Law because God has given us what the Law could not give us: God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we may live righteously.

Romans 7:6 ESV But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 3:13-14 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

When the apostle tells us that we are no longer under the law but under grace, he is explaining that grace enables us to live righteous lives:

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Some people think that grace means that we can continue to sin. Not at all! Again Paul confronts this sinful way of thinking in…

Romans 6:1-4 NLT Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

When Jesus promised freedom, he was not promising freedom to sin. He was promising freedom from sin. When he spoke of knowing the truth and being set free he said,

John 8:34-36 ESV “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The good news of the gospel is that we do not have to be slaves to sin. Jesus came to set us free.

So what does all that mean? It means that being set free from the Law does not free us to continue to sin. Grace is not only unmerited favor. Grace is not only an undeserved kindness from God whereby he forgives us for all the rebellion and animosity and hatred toward him that is expressed by our sin. Grace is the power of God — the power of the Holy Spirit in us — to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

So grace is the power to desire and to do what pleases God:

Philippians 2:13 NLT For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Titus 2:11-12 ESV For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…

2.      The Problem with the Law

As we begin reading the New Testament, it becomes clear that freedom does not mean that we have a license to sin. Being in Christ does not mean that we can lie, or steal, or take the Lord’s name in vain, or covet someone’s iPhone or his wife. There are many passages in the New Testament that tell us that these works of the sinful nature are out of place in the life of the regenerated Christian. In fact, the Word of God contains severe warnings that we would do well to heed:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people– none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:3-7 NLT Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes– these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do.

Now some of that sounds like the Ten Commandments: no idolatry, no stealing, no lying, no adultery, no coveting. The coming of Christ into the world did not make evil things good! His coming did not make sinful things less sinful! Sin is still sinful. And God is still holy, and he commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Here is the problem with the Law of Moses. The Law was external. It was a written code, written on stone tablets rather than on the heart of man. The Law of Moses was powerless to change man’s heart.

But in the New Covenant, the very Spirit of Christ comes into our hearts and begins His work of changing us into the image of Christ. What does that mean? It means that God is in the character building business and by His Spirit in us, he is working to make us to be more and more like His Son.

In each of the passages that I just quoted, the Apostle Paul goes on to talk about the change that Christ makes in our lives when we are in Christ:

1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:22-23 NLT But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Ephesians 5:8 NLT For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

3.      Are We Lawless?

But the question remains: Are we lawless? Do we as Christians have no law? We will have to consider the evidence of the New Covenant, i.e. the New Testament.

The message of the New Testament is clear: you do not become a Christian by following rules or by obeying laws. A Christian is someone who is born of the Spirit of God. He has repented of his sin and has believed the message that it is done: Christ did everything that we needed for salvation. This is what the Word of God says in…

Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

So we are still left with the question: As Christians, do we or do we not have a law to guide us in the decisions that we must make from day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute?

To answer that question, we must turn to 1 Corinthians 9.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul is talking about his freedom. Actually, he is telling the Corinthians that they should follow his example. For the sake of the gospel so that souls would be won to Christ, Paul did not make use of all his freedom. He did not make use of all of his rights. For example, he had the right to be married to a believing wife, but he was not married. He had the right to take a salary for his ministry, but he did not. His concern was winning people to Christ. This is what he said in…

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Now Paul says some remarkable things in this passage. It is frequently misunderstood by many who only quote part of it out of context. But this passage is important for our understanding of the role of law because in just two verses, verses 20 and 21, Paul uses the word “law” nine times!

  • “Under the law” – 5 times
  • “Outside the law” – 4 times

All that in just two verses.

Paul also uses the word “win” five times. He wants to

  • “Win more of them” (v. 19)
  • “Win Jews” (v. 20)
  • “Win those under the law” (v. 20)
  • “Win those outside the law” (v. 21)
  • “Win the weak”” (v. 22)

His mission is to “save some” that he might “share with them” in the blessings of the gospel (v. 22-23). So Paul talks about how he related to various groups of people in order to win them to Christ.

“To the Jews,” he said, “I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews.”

Now that is a most remarkable statement, and it gives us great insight into the mind of this great missionary apostle. “To the Jews, I became as a Jew,” he said. Wait just a minute! Paul was a Jew! This is what he says about himself in another letter:

Philippians 3:5 NLT I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin– a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law.

So how does he say that he became as a Jew to the Jews?

Here we see that Christ changes everything. Paul’s real identity does not depend on the circumstances of his birth, where he was born, who his parents were, or even his personal past. He real identity is in Christ. He recognizes that God had set him apart even before he was born (Galatians 1:15). His citizenship is now in heaven (Philippians 3:20). When we come to Christ, we recognize that we belong to his lordship. He is our Lord, our Master, our God. Being American or Australian or Austrian or ni-Vanuatu or Vietnamese is secondary to our new identity as citizens of heaven.

More importantly, Paul realizes that being a Jew will not save him and that we do not have to become Jews in order to be right with God. We do not have to adopt Jewish culture or Jewish practices or the Jewish calendar. We do not have to worship on the Sabbath to be right with God, and worshiping on the Sabbath will certainly not make us right with God. Nonetheless, Paul says that he became as a Jew in order to win Jews to Christ. He could fit in with them. He could even go to the synagogue on the Sabbath in order to share the Good News with Jews that Jesus Christ came to do what keeping the Sabbath could never do: Jesus Christ came to make us right with God.

As if that was not enough, Paul makes an even more startling statement:

1 Corinthians 9:20 ESV …To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

Here the Apostle clearly states that he is not under the Law. Yet, because the Law is not sin (Romans 7:7), Paul can follow certain practices of the Law in order to win those who are under the Law. So he can follow the Jewish practice of making a vow and cutting his hair (Acts 18:18; 21:23-27), for example, to reach his own people, the Jews. His desire is to win people to Christ.

Romans 10:1-4 ESV Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Paul says that the Jews are wrong think that they can get right with God by clinging to the Law. But he will become as one who is under the Law to reach them, though he plainly says that he is not himself under the Law.

In his desire to see people saved, the Apostle tries to win not only people who are under the Law, but people who are “outside the law”:

1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Who are these people who are “outside the Law”? They are Gentiles, like me and most of you. The Old Covenant of the Law was not made with us; it was made with the Israelites. So we are outside the Law. The Apostle Paul was sent by God as a missionary to the Gentiles. He adapted to the various cultures of the Gentiles. The old saying is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” To some extent, that was Paul’s method. “To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law.” But immediately, Paul adds a qualification, just as he had with the previous statement. Though he became as one outside the law, he immediately adds that he was not outside the law of God.

Does everything depend on culture? Is right and wrong only a matter of culture? If we are not under the Law, how do we know what is right and what is wrong? If we are not under the Law, how do we know what we should do and what we should not do? When you are in Rome, can you do everything that the Romans do?

No, Paul says. “I am not outside the law of God.” What does that mean? He has just said that he is not under the Law. Now he says that he is not outside the law of God. So he is neither under the Law nor outside the law of God. Paul the Christian, yes, Paul the Apostle tells us Christians that we are neither under the Law nor outside the law of God. We are not under the Law of Moses, but we are not left to our own devices. This is not simply a question of everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. The next phrase gives us the answer to our question. We are not under the Law of Moses and we are not outside the law of God for we are “under the law of Christ.” Hear him again,

1 Corinthians 9:21 ESV To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Paul will never change the Good News of the gospel. But he will become all things to all people, that by all means he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). His heart’s desire and prayer for them was that they might be saved. Sounds like love to me. What do you think?

4.      The Law of Christ

Clearly then, the Christian is not under the Law of Moses because Christ has come. Christ is the end of the Law for everyone who believes. But now that Christ has come, we are under the law of Christ.

Paul uses the phrase “the law of Christ” one other time and that in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 6:2 ESV Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

It is important to note that Paul uses the word “law” 32 times in this letter to the Galatians. In fact, he gives a thorough thrashing to the Judaizers who want to make Jews out of Christians. They want to put these new believers under the Law of Moses. Paul will have none of it. What they are preaching is a distortion, a twisting of the gospel, Paul says in Galatians 1:7. Listen to some of what Paul says about the Law of Moses in this letter:

2:16 we know that a person is not justified by works of the law…

2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

2:21 … if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse…

3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law…

3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…

5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

This is the very first letter of Paul. He mentions the word “law” 32 times. In the first four chapters, he has thoroughly rebuked the Judaizers who insisted on keeping the Law as a requirement for salvation. It is hardly surprising that sabbatarians avoid the epistles of the Apostle Paul. You cannot believe the New Testament and believe that the Sabbath is binding on Christians.

But now he warns about the opposite error: lawlessness, the idea that Christians are free to do whatever they want to do. Not so, Paul says.

Galatians 5:13 ESV …you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Love? What’s love got to do with it? Just yesterday I was in a store that was playing that song over the sound system. What’s love got to do with it?

Everything.

Galatians 5:13-14 ESV For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What’s love got to do with it? Everything in the world since love fulfills the law.

Now Paul is no situation ethicist.[1] It is not a question of loving God and doing as you please. Not at all. He does not hesitate to list offenses that are completely incompatible with love for God and neighbor:

Galatians 5:19-21 NLT When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

We are not under the Law of Moses. Rather, we live by the Spirit of God:

Galatians 5:18 ESV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Paul tells us just four verses later, that the fruit of the Spirit is love.

A few verses later in Galatians 6:2, he tells us,

Galatians 6:2 ESV Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

There it is! The law of Christ! Bearing one another’s burdens is an expression of the love of Christ. Again Galatians 5:14 tells us,

Galatians 5:14 ESV For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

One day a lawyer asked Jesus a question to test him:

Matthew 22:36-40 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

James, the half brother of Jesus, called the law of Christ the “royal law.”

James 2:8 ESV If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Jesus did not say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you keep the Sabbath.” This is what he said in

John 13:34-35 ESV A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is not a list of laws written on stone. This is a changed heart. Love comes from the heart. Jesus came to cleanse us from sin, to set us free from the power of sin, and to put his love in our hearts. We are not lawless. We are under the law of Christ, the law to love God with all our hearts and to love one another as Christ loved us.

What must you do to be saved? It’s not a question of going to church on a certain day of the week. What must you do? You must believe and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Call out to him. Ask him to come into you. He will save you. Only trust him now.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism”:

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Law and Sabbath, the Old and the New

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments...

Moses with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt (1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Good morning, friends. This week a listener texted me this question:

Wenam nao ceremonial sabbath o law and wenam difference blong hem n how nao e finish hem?

So what is the difference between the ceremonial sabbath and the law, and how can we say that it is finished?

I appreciate the good question. What are we to make of the Law and of the Sabbath in particular?

1. The Law

1.1. The Importance of the Law

First we need to affirm the importance of the Law in biblical theology.

The Law was good.

Romans 7:12 ESV So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

1 Timothy 1:8 ESV Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

It reveals sin:

Romans 3:20 ESV For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 7:7 ESV ¶ What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

The Law was a guardian:

Galatians 3:24 ESV So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Most importantly, the Law prophesied the coming of Christ; it pointed to Christ as its fulfillment.

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

1.2. Four Approaches

Dispensationalism holds that nothing in the Old Testament law applies to the Christian life unless the New Testament repeats it and endorses it. For example, the New Testament says nothing about wearing clothes woven of two kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19), so we feel free to wear shirts made of polyester and cotton, though that would have been forbidden under the Old Testament.

On the other hand, the New Testament says nothing about consulting mediums or spiritists (Leviticus 19:31), yet surely this is inconsistent with the life in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

Secondly, Covenant Theology takes the opposite approach: everything from the Old Testament carries over into the New Testament unless it is forbidden. So the Old Testament would rule out consulting mediums. But what about clothes made of two kinds of material? Most of us have violated that Old Testament commandment!

Third, one common approach has been to distinguish between Old Testament ceremonial laws, civil laws, and moral laws. We first find this approach in Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Catholic theologian. Ceremonial laws would have to do with the temple and the system of sacrifice that is no longer in existence. Civil laws would deal with everyday life in ancient Israel. Moral law would deal with theft, lying, hatred, slander, etc.

But many laws do not seem to fall into these categories and frequently there is no attempt to group them in categories. Where, for example, do we put the Leviticus 19:27?

Leviticus 19:27 ESV You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.

Is it moral, civil, or ceremonial? And that command is sandwiched between commands to not eat flesh with the blood in it, to interpret omens or tell fortunes or to tattoo yourselves. And if the Lord God has given all of these 613 commands of the Old Testament, isn’t our obedience to them somehow a moral issue and not just a civil or ceremonial one?

A fourth approach is to privilege the “Big Ten,” the Ten Commandments. Yet, in no place in the New Testament are all of the Ten Commandments dealt with together. In fact, there is one of the Ten Commandments that is never repeated as a commandment in the New Testament.

# COMMANDMENT TIMES
1 We are to worship God alone. 53
2 We are not to have any idols. 12
3 We are not to take the name of the Lord in vain. 4
5 We are to honor our parents. 6
6 We must not murder. 7
7 We must not commit adultery. 12
8 We must not steal. 6
9 We must not lie or bear false witness. 4
10 We must not covet. 9

Guess which Old Testament commandment is never repeated in the New Testament: the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is never repeated in the New Testament. Each time the Sabbath commandment is mentioned, it is diminished, made smaller and shown not to be binding on New Covenant Christians.

Lists of sin in the New Testament:

Mark 7:21-22 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. Romans 1:29-31 ESV They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Guess what is never mentioned: not keeping the Sabbath.

2. The Sabbath

2.1. Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Sabbath

In the last several broadcasts, we have considered what the Bible says about the Sabbath, the Law, and the kingdom of God.

We noted first that Jesus and the Pharisees were always on opposite sides of the conflict over the Law. The Pharisees insisted on outward observance of the Law but ignored the intention and purpose of the Law. The Pharisees were concerned with appearances. They wanted everything to look just right on the outside, but they gave no attention to the inside. Jesus said that they were like people who washed the outside of the cup but never worried about cleaning the inside. He said that they were like the tombs of the dead: beautifully painted and kept up on the outside, but inside they were full of corruption and dead man’s bones (Matthew 23:25, 27). Those are strong words that Jesus had for these keepers of the Law.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed many of these questions. The Law had said, “You must not murder.” So the Pharisees figured that as long as they didn’t knife someone, they had kept the commandment. Jesus say that if you hate someone, you have already committed murder in your heart. If you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment. If you insult someone, you are in danger. If you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Murder is a matter of the heart.

The Law had said, “You must not commit adultery,” so the Pharisees figured that it was enough to avoid climbing into bed with someone. Jesus said that if you desire someone sexually, you’ve already committed adultery. Adultery is a matter of the heart.

The Sadducees and the Pharisees continually put the accent on the external conformity to the Law:

  • No murder, but it’s okay to hate, insult, and curse someone.
  • No adultery, but it doesn’t hurt to look.
  • Tired of your wife? Give her a piece of paper so you can marry the woman you want.
  • If you made a vow, you’ll have to honor it. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you said.
  • Someone hurt you? Hurt them back.
  • Got an enemy? It’s okay to hate. Just love those who love you.

And where did they put all their emphasis? The put it on keeping the sabbath.

Jesus’ greatest enemies were strict sabbatarians. They were constantly on Jesus about the Sabbath.

  • When he healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees persecuted him (John 5:16; 7:21-24).
  • When he healed the man blind from birth on the Sabbath, they declared that he was a sinner and could not be from God (John 9:16, 24).
  • When Jesus healed on the Sabbath a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit, the synagogue leader was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day (Luke 13:10-18).
  • When the disciples of Jesus picked grain on the Sabbath, the Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples (Matthew 12:1-8).
  • When Jesus healed the man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath, the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus (Matthew 12:9-14).

The Sadducees and the Pharisees put all the emphasis on the Sabbath. They could judge whether a man was a sinner or a saint by the Sabbath. If someone went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, they judged that he was right with God. But…

  • If a man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If a man picked grain on the Sabbath, they judged that he was a sinner.
  • If Jesus did some good work on the Sabbath, they judged that he was sinner.

The Pharisees looked on the outside, but their hearts were full of judgment, full of condemnation, and full of sin.

2.2. The Institution of the Sabbath

For the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the main thing was the seventh day, the Sabbath. We saw that for the first 2,500 years, from Adam to Moses, there was no Sabbath. Not one person was ever mentioned keeping the Sabbath before Exodus 16. In fact, the Sabbath is not mentioned one time in the 50 chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It is not mentioned until Exodus 16. That was 2,500 years after God created the heavens and the earth. There was no Sabbath for Adam, or Noah, or Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or Joseph. There was no Sabbath for the Israelites during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Day after day after day, the Israelites made bricks for Pharaoh, with no Sabbath.

When God brought them out of Egypt, for the first time God said to them in Exodus 16,

Exodus 16:29-30 ESV See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

It is here in Exodus 16:23 that the Sabbath is mentioned for the very first time in the Bible. It would be not be a work day; it would be a day of rest.

2.3. The Sign of the Sabbath

So there was no Sabbath before God delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Only after the Exodus from Egypt did God give the Israelites the Sabbath. Again and again, God tells the Israelites that on the Sabbath, they are to do no work. This fourth of the Ten Commandments says,

Exodus 20:8-10 ESV ¶ “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work

No work. That was the outward sign. No work. But what was the meaning of the Sabbath? What did it mean to do no work? What was the significance… the signification of the Sabbath? What was the message of the Sabbath?

God is clear about the meaning of the Sabbath. In Exodus 31:13, the LORD tells Moses,

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

No work! The message is that sanctification is not our work but the Lord’s work! The message is that we cannot make ourselves holy by work. It is the Lord who makes us holy:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “…this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

If you think that you can make yourself holy and acceptable to God by going to church on the Sabbath, you have missed the point, the message of the Sabbath. If you think that the Sabbath is a work that you do to get right with God, you have perverted the meaning of the Sabbath. God says that doing no work was a sign that it is the LORD who sanctifies us.

This passage also clearly shows that the covenant of the Law was with the people of Israel, not with us Gentiles:

Exodus 31:13 ESV “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.

Exodus 31:17 ESV It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'”

Let us note, in passing, that there is no place in the Bible where the Lord said, “On the Sabbath day, you are to go to the tabernacle or to the temple and worship me.” The Sabbath requirement was a requirement of rest, not worship. The Sabbath was not a call to worship. It was a call to rest. Not work. God does the work of making us holy.

This same message is given nearly a thousand years later by the prophet Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 20:12 ESV Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

The message of the Sabbath is the same as we find in Ephesians 2,

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Our hope is in Christ alone:

MUSIC: 02 Kristyn Getty, In Christ Alone. 4:39 • 22 sec lead-in • Fade after 4:15

3. The Old and the New

Next we looked at the old and the new covenants. God made a covenant with the nation of Israel, but the Bible tells us that the covenant of the Law was a parenthesis in the plan of God. The Law was a covenant that had a beginning and an end. It began with Moses and it ended with the cross. The Law was neither the beginning nor the end of God’s plan. Four hundred thirty years before the Law, God had made a promise that would not be broken. God had promised Abraham that his many times great grandson would be the source of blessing for all the peoples everywhere. The Apostle Paul explains that promise in Galatians 3. This is how the New Living Translation renders Galatians 3:15-19,

Galatians 3:15-20 NLT ¶ Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children,” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”– and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. 19 ¶ Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. 20 Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.

In other words, the promise to Abraham was given directly from God to Abraham and has precedence over the Law which was mediated through angels. Paul continues in verse 23,

Galatians 3:23-25 NLT Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

This is the same message that we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews. We saw in Hebrew 8:8-12 that Jeremiah the prophet, though he was a prophet of the old covenant of the Law… Jeremiah prophesied 600 years before the coming of Christ that God would establish a New Covenant. The New Covenant would not be like the old covenant of the Law (v. 9). It would not be a matter of external rules written on stone tablets. In the New Covenant God would write his laws on our hearts. Ezekiel tells us that God would cleanse us from everything that is unclean and He would put His Spirit in us. The temple is no longer a building in Jerusalem; in the New Covenant, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So the writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jeremiah, “In speaking of the new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete…” It is finished. The end.

In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul tells us that God has made Jews and Gentiles one new people, breaking down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility:

Ephesians 2:15 NLT He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

That is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18. He said that the Law and the Prophets would not pass away until all was fulfilled. And he said that he had come to fulfill it. So on the cross, he declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He died. He was buried. And on the third day, the first day of the week, Christ was raised from the dead. After appearing to several that morning of the resurrection, Christ joined two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:27 NLT Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus showed them that the Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ. The purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ. Once Christ has come, the purpose of the Law was achieved.

That evening Christ appeared in the upper room to the disciples

Luke 24:44 ESV ¶ Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

The Law was not the real deal. The Law was temporary. The Law’s purpose was to point to Christ. The resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples the night of the resurrection and told them that the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms all pointed to him. He was the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Matthew 11:13 ESV For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Luke 16:16 ESV ¶ “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached…

A listener to this radio ministry asked, “How can we say that the Law is finished?” The Law is not simply finished; it is fulfilled. Christ fulfilled it. In every detail Christ fulfilled what the Law had prophesied. The Law was only a copy and a shadow of heavenly realities; Christ is that reality. Not the Law, but Christ is the real deal.

We can only say that the Law is fulfilled because God himself said it. Christ said that the Law prophesied until John the Baptist. The new message was not the Law, but the kingdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

The good news of the gospel is that we are not under the Law.

John 1:17 ESV For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 8:14 ESV For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Galatians 5:18 ESV But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

3.1. So what about Christian freedom?

If we are no longer under the Law, does that mean that we are free to do anything that we want to do?

Christian freedom is a reality, and so is righteousness. There is a strong accent on freedom in the New Testament, and it is a freedom from the reign and rule of sin. In fact, the freedom from the rule of sin is tied to our freedom from the Law.

Romans 6:14 ESV For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Here in this verse we see that sin will not dominate our lives not because we are under the law, but because we are not under the law. How does that work? Why should freedom from the law enable us to be free from the domination of sin?

Freedom from the law is only part of the equation, but it is an important part. The law actually provokes the sinful nature that we inherited from Adam. The law says, “You shall not…” and we respond, “Oh yes I shall!” This is how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 7:

Romans 7:7-11 NLT ¶ Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. 9 At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, 10 and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. 11 Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me.

That is why the Apostle Paul says in

Romans 3:20 NLT For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

The Law provokes sin in us. And when we think that we are successfully living by the Law, it provokes sinful pride and condemnation of others. We become like the Pharisees, full of sinful self-righteousness and scorn for others.

Galatians 3:2-5 NLT Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

The Law is useful to show us how sinful we are, but it is powerless to save. The Law may change some of your outward behavior, but it cannot change your heart. For a heart change, you need the New Covenant. You need the promised Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of the kingdom of God and the power of the New Covenant.

Romans 8:1-4 NLT ¶ So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

So we are free from the Law. We are not under the Law. If we are in Christ, we are led by the Spirit of Christ.

Galatians 5:1 NLT ¶ So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:4 NLT For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

Galatians 5:9-10 NLT This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! 10 I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.

3.2. What about the Commandments?

The Bible is very clear. We are not under the Law. We are not under the old covenant. Yet we are not to use our freedom as an excuse to sin. Notice the next verse in Galatians:

Galatians 5:13 NLT ¶ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

Paul goes on to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is something that is produced by mature fruit trees. You can recognize a tree by its fruit. If the Spirit of God lives in you, He will produce His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control.

This is what the gospel produces in your life. That is something that the Law could never do.

Romans 8:3-4 NLT The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

There are commandments for the children of God, but that will have to wait for another broadcast.

Scripture Union of Vanuatu has a wonderful booklet in Bislama called “Sarede o Sande? — Sabat Dei o Dei blong Masta?” It is only 20vt at the Scripture Union near Caillard et Kaddour Real Estate offices. Please stop by their offices and pick up a copy. It will help you.

Let me encourage you to find a Bible-believing church where the Word of God is preached, taught, and lived, and where the Bible and only the Bible — not someone’s vision or some other book — but the Bible and the Bible alone is the one and only final authority for what we believe and what we do. There is no other foundation than the Word of God.

Thank you for tuning in to FM 107. This has been a ministry of Joy Bible Institute. You can visit our website at joybible.wordpress.com. Our prayer is that the joy of the Lord would be your strength.

See also “Seventh Day Adventism“: