Have you ever been afraid of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.”, I sure have!!!! We will get to that soon but first we must clarify some things……
What is the law for? I have been taught many different things i.e. : It is there to keep us safe. It is there so we know how to “act” as Christians. It is there to point out how Holy God is and how unholy we are. It is there to give us a framework for our behavior. It is what we have to do to secure our salvation….what a minute…..WHAT?!?! This in so many ways is what is taught to the church (ekklésia the body of Christ). Behavior is what keeps you going to heaven. Here are some examples, DO NOT: lie, cheat, talk bad about people, listen to certain music, read certain books, be around certain people (because they are doing “wrong things”), don’t drink wine or any alcohol, don’t gamble, don’t dance, don’t wear pants….I mean the list could go on. The Law in the Old Testament was given to Moses, not Abraham. Abraham believed God and that is where he received his righteousness, a gift from God. The Mesopotamian’s had their own law known as the Code of Hammurabi which predates the Law given to Moses by around 300 years or more. The Code of Hammurabi has many similarities to the Law given at Mt. Sinai, Why? We’ll get to that in a minute.
Paul also talks about the law in Romans 2 and here from a biblical scholar we have a huge answer about the law. Let’s read from the Message version:
“If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.
If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.
When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.” Romans 2:9-16 MSG
And to save on space….(so I encourage you to go and read all of Romans)…..Here is a little more:
“Circumcision, the surgical ritual that marks you as a Jew, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being circumcised. The reverse is also true: The uncircumcised who keep God’s ways are as good as the circumcised—in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law uncircumcised than break it circumcised. Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.” Romans 2:25-29
“So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. Their throats are gaping graves, their tongues slick as mudslides. Every word they speak is tinged with poison. They open their mouths and pollute the air. They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, litter the land with heartbreak and ruin, Don’t know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day. This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” Romans 3:9-20 MSG
It sounds like there were Jews judging non-Jews saying that they are all fine and good because they were given the Law and are circumcised; not realizing that they also need a propitiation for themselves just as much as the non-Jew. But why? They followed the law and yet still sinned. Remember the rich man who followed the law completely until he was asked to give all he had to the poor and follow Jesus. He couldn’t do it. We all have our places where we fail to follow the law. Paul was making it very clear the law nor their personal behavior could ever make them righteous; because there would always be an area of failure in every single person’s life no matter if they are Jewish or not. Circumcised or not. Taught the commandments or not. We all fall short of the glory of God. The law is put in our conscience from the beginning of conception. It is written in the fabric of our being because of Adam and Eve. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil it was implanted in them and as we are born from the seed of Adam we also have the understanding of good and evil in each of us. The Law comes from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Pure and simple. Otherwise how could Hammurabi come up with some of the same laws 300+ years before Moses wrote them down for the Israelites?
Paul makes it clear that we all have a conscience that has been written on what is right and what is wrong. That is why you would see the uncircumcised following the law without ever hearing of the law. The Law just makes known that we know what is right and wrong and we, in and of our own selves, can NEVER do what is right and avoid what is wrong 100% of the time. Nor has God EVER BELIEVED we COULD!!!! That is why He had to set things right. Here is the scripture:
But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-24
Okay, the question I have today to some of the church leadership around the world is the same question Paul asked the Galatians in chapter 3 of his letter to them:
You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
Selah (Hebrew for lift up,exalt or pause) Please pause and think about the above statement Paul made.
The Galatians, like many Christians today, were trying to perfect what God had already done. They were “working their heads off to please God”. Remember the list above I had made of the do’s and don’ts? Those things are common sense things. Some are just rules that are said to “keep us safe”. But, in the end all of these “things” will not cause God to be pleased or not pleased with us. What we need to understand is that God was pleased to give His only Son on our behalf, to set things right for us. He pleased Himself with what He did for us. The Galatians were so caught up with themselves and pleasing God with their behavior they forgot what Jesus said to the crowd at the sermon on the Mount:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NASB
I don’t know about you, but for me this verse has scared the daylights out of me. I was so scared that I would do something wrong and then when I am ready to enter the kingdom of heaven Jesus would look at me and say, “I knew you not, depart from Me.”. I believed this was based on behavior. I could think of the lawless deeds I have done since becoming a Christian and what if I missed one that I didn’t say sorry for….WHAT THEN!?!?!?!???!!!! I AM DOOMED!!!! AND MIGHT AS WELL STOP TRYING…..because I could never fully live up to the law. Until, I understood I am righteous in CHRIST JESUS and I will never negate what He FULLY FINISHED at the Cross for me. And this Scripture above proves that. Let’s look at the Greek meanings from the above scripture in Matthew:
- will=theléma= properly, a desire (wish), often referring to God’s “preferred-will”, i.e.: His “best offer” to people which can be accepted or rejected.
- do=poieó=With nouns which denote to carry out, to execute; as, in Classical Greek to make a law of legislators; but in Biblical Greek to do the law to meet its demands-the things which the law commands.
- lawlessness=anomia=NOT law; properly without law i.e. : (“lawlessness”) includes the end-impact of law breaking– i.e. its negative influence on a person’s soul (status before God).
First, what is His BEST OFFER? Of course that is Jesus, Who He is and what He has done for the whole world. That is God’s “best offer”….remember Paul said the crucified Jesus is where God set things right for us.
Second, do the things the law commands. What are the commands of the New Covenant? According to 1 John 3:23, it is: This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another*, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (*loving one another is the Law of Liberty talked about in James chapter 2, which I will discuss in another blog.)
Third, lawlessness here in scripture is pointing to a person’s soul and it’s status before God. When we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be delivered, made righteous in Him and be justified before God. (Romans 10:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:1 and many others). This means your soul’s status is clear before God because of what Jesus did for us (propitiation).
It is time for the true Message to go forth once again. Full circle to what was originally taught by the apostles. The Message of exactly what Jesus Christ did on the Cross and in His Resurrection. ALL of what He accomplished at the Cross when He said, “It is Finished!” For our faith to be in Him not in our behavior. It is time for the church to let go of teaching behavior and simply teach JESUS. It is simple trust that sets you right with God not your behavior. Keep the faith in what He did for you which FULLY assures your soul that it’s status before God is pure…not because of what you did but ONLY because of what He did for you.
It is all about: Knowing Whose you are and who you are.