Something occurred to me as I thought about the people I meet in my Christian walk who see God as a rule enforcer. They ridicule people don’t follow a written code or set of rules. Most of those rules were never of God. To be perfectly blunt, after Jesus, none of them are. Jesus came as a fulfillment of the law to bring a new covenant of love through His blood. The love developed through a walk with Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit make the law obsolete and unnecessary. The absence of The Spirit requires people to seek laws that they have not allowed God to write on their hearts.
After seeing the rejection of all those who do not meet their legalistic standard, I had thought. If they reject those who are unworthy of God’s favor, do due lack of adherence to His impossible standard of holiness, or their man-made version of pleasing God; how could they accept God’s chosen of the past either? Wouldn’t they, based on their un-Godly behavior, have to reject the teachings and wisdom of those who fail according to the law? They would certainly reject a man who committed adultery and then had the husband killed to cover up the resulting pregnancy (1). They would certainly reject a polygamist who worshiped other gods (2). They would reject a murderer (3), a persecutor of Christians (4), a person who denied Jesus (5), people who would sell a family member into slavery out of jealousy (6). They would certainly reject these people and absolutely reject any advice/ wisdom from those same people. Agreed? Now let’s see what this looks like.
- (1) King David (A man after God’s own heart)à His Wisdom/Influence: Psalms, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles [ 989 times mentioned in 28 books of the bible]
- (2) Solomon (God made wisest to ever live) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [283 times mentioned in 15 books of the bible]
- (3) Moses (Chosen to lead God’s people to the Promised Land) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers [796 times mentioned in 31 books of the bible]
- (4) Paul (Spread the Gospel to the gentiles) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Gospel of Luke, Acts, All (11) of the letters to the churches, (3) pastoral epistles [195 times mentioned in 15 books of the bible]
- (5) Peter (Cornerstone of Christ’s Church) à His Wisdom/ Influence: Gospel of Mark, Acts, 1&2 Peter [162 times mentioned in 8 books of the bible]
- (6) The Sons of Jacob (The heads of the 12 tribes of Israel) à Honored and protected as God’s chosen through-out all time
Add to this that the Gospel of Matthew was written by a tax collector, the fallibility of the Judges like Samson, and the sin of Adam/Eve/Noah/Abraham; we are left with a list of minor prophets and some writings by John (none of whom were sinless either). I only make this point to show the absurdity of legalism and that true redemption is found in God’s grace and the blood of Christ. Don’t let rules cloud the significance of Christ’s sacrifice for you. Don’t let the legalism of others draw you away from the truth, and your identity as a forgiven child of God in Jesus Christ.
(Philippians 3:9-11) 9 and be found in him (Christ), not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead
Believing that following rules (laws) makes you any closer to God is false. If it were true then the death of Jesus would not have been necessary. God wouldn’t have had prophets telling of our eternal king alongside the laws of the Old Testament if they were sufficient. The scripture above tells us that the righteousness of God is found in Jesus. Trusting in the law for “righteousness of our own” is a neglecting of Christ and a belief that our righteousness is better than God’s. It means not having ‘faith’ in the ‘power of His resurrection’.
In God’s desire to reconcile YOU to Him for all eternity, He decided to fulfill the law with the blood of the Savior one last time. The law required blood without blemish to forgive sin. God became the only sinless man who will ever exist for the purpose of showing the power of the spirit, the example of Godlikeness, then suffering and dying for YOU. If God has chosen to fulfill the law, then why do some people choose to turn back and ignore the new covenant for the old? Accepting Christ means allowing the Spirit to indwell in you and show forth fruit, against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:23).
Old Testament Law is death. The law killed Jesus Christ. People who could quote scripture and lived blameless in the law killed the Word — made flesh (John 1:14). Even Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisee, had to die unto himself to escape a life lived perfectly in the law. The law had to die in him for the spirit to fill him with the love of the new, better and perfect covenant. Paul tells us (Philippians 3:8) For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Paul is saying that his life, perfect in the law of the Old Testament, was worthless (as dung), in comparison to knowing Christ and living in His spirit. Without the law, sin is dead. (Romans 7:8) apart from the law, sin lies dead. Sin is made alive in the law but cannot exist in love!
(Romans 7:5-6) For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 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.
(Romans 7:7) if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin –Apostle Paul
In a genuine walk with Christ it is inevitable that we will come across those who take a legalistic view of God. They focus on the rules that must be followed to be in relation with/ accepted by God. The Old Testament consisted of rules that were meant to keep God’s people focused on Him as well as show the generations to come how impossible a perfect adherence to the law was. In God’s wisdom He fulfilled the law by becoming a perfect/ sinless human and allowing Himself to be offered as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all who are willing to accept the sacrifice. Not only was the law fulfilled by Jesus Christ but the Ten Commandments given to Moses/ laws of the Prophets were covered in the Two Commandments of Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40). Living in a manner commanded by the Savior leaves a believer in a redeemed state where the focus isn’t law but grace. In the Holy Spirit and its fruit there is no law (Galatians 5:23). A person redeemed through Jesus has the law written on their heart, the fulfilment of law through love is in their new nature. Don’t lose sight of the redemptive work of Jesus. Allowing OT law to rule your life and take your focus away from Christ isn’t God’s desire. If we are meant to fulfill OT laws then Jesus died for nothing, His forgiveness isn’t the only way to redemption, and He was lying in (John 14:6).
Walking in the truth of God will make clear that Jesus is our way, He fulfilled the law, and was truthful in being the way to true reconciliation. I refuse to make my savior and God’s plan obsolete by looking past Jesus to a law that created a need for my Savior. Know God, know Jesus, and know that a heart that belongs to God does not require written laws!
These laws can shed light on God’s desire for us today. We can become closer to Him as we identify His character through His instruction. We can function well in this darkened world by walking in His light. We can be noticeably set apart as we follow the lead of the Creator. God used these laws to, most importantly, bring Glory to Him. He wants the credit, the attention, and above all, our love. The laws sound crude to us today but there is always relevance in God’s words. Sacrificing of animals shows God’s desire for us to give up the idols that cloud our ability to focus on Him and His better provision. Clean food speaks to God wanting us to avoid the contaminating filth that consumes the world around us and to become clean vessels so that the Holy Spirit and dwell and grow inside of us. The Sabbath is God desiring that we spend time with Him, not just weekly like the law but daily so that our path is made straight in His continual guidance. All of God’s details in terms of time and measurements show His precise control over a world that looks to be in chaos. It is larger than we can imagine and God has this timed and placed down to the second and millimeter. Who better to lead than the engineer of the universe?
Kept Order/ Set Apart His People
When God put forth His precepts He wanted His people to interact with this world in a way that created growth, both in the world and toward Him. When the people followed the leadership of God or the leadership of His chosen who ruled in the ways of God, the people of this world trembled at the presence and abilities of God’s people. They blew horns and shouted, crumbling the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:20), they stood inside a furnace without being burned (Daniel 3:19-28), they brought fire from heaven to consume the king’s men (2 Kings 1:9-14). The power of God is found in obedience to His design and will. Following the instructions of God allowed His people to prosper and be noticeably set apart. The laws also kept order among His people. God designed us and knows how we should interact among each other. God creates order and exemplifies order in His being. Since we are His people we should allow His order to be shown in our interactions through adherence to His design.
The laws set forth by God show His desire to guide His people to the best life possible. That life is found in relationship with Him. He was a Heavenly Father before He ever was addressed that way by King David. He wanted His people to find joy and prosperity in union with the One, Eternal God. His allowance of sacrifice to request forgiveness is the mercy of a father. The laws that instruct interpersonal relationships/ government show how a father would desire His children act toward one another and in public. His instruction on food and cleanliness assured that His children were healthy and growing in their physical nature. His timing allowed His children to excel above the sinful nature of the earth. The laws may sound harsh or unnecessary but isn’t that the same feeling we had as children toward our parents when they created rules that we didn’t see the need in only to appreciate them when we had children of our own?
A trend exist today where people brush aside the Laws and Protocols that God gave to Moses after the Israelites were lead out of Egypt. Just like people now, the people had a tendency to forget about God and His desires for them if it wasn’t continually in front of them. Even then, they tended to turn away from God. God lead His people with pillars of smoke by day and fire by night, He provided food and water when none were available, and He parted The Red Sea and The Jordan River! People assume that if God Himself walked up to take them by the hand, they would believe and follow. That is doubtful because everyone carries an expectation of what God would look like, and if He didn’t match that standard they wouldn’t accept Him or His provision. Proof is found when God did come to earth and was rejected by The Pharisee who had studied God and His prophecy all of their lives. They not only turned away but killed God’s Word made flesh because they disagreed with how God chose to present Himself. We all have a tendency to humanize God. We forget that what God is transcends our ability to comprehend Him fully. God, in His Grace, decided to help His chosen focus on Him through Laws and rituals that personified (1)His character, (2)kept order/ set apart His people, and (3)created relationship/brought attention to the Creator, Sustainer, and Lord of the universe. As with all things of the Old Testament, they were all shadows of the truths to come. Let’s look at a few ways we can identify with God as He shows us His character, desire for us, and desire for His kingdom.
Please look at this link and its list of the 613 commands of God in the Old Testament. Each one has a purpose to guide His people as well as create understanding of Him through their compliance.