The Law

By John David Clark, Sr. - March, 1990

The following is the first of a series concerning the Law of Moses. If Jesus fulfilled the Law, then clearly there is wisdom and knowledge of God to be found by studying the thing which Jesus was sent to fulfill. May God open our eyes to behold the wondrous truths found in the Law which, by the grace of God, was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul"

Ps. 19:7

Introduction

Jesus said, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" Ponder over that for a moment. Jesus has truth for us which he very much desires to give, but to be able to receive the truth, we must prepare to receive it. And according to Jesus, learning and believing the writings of Moses is essential to that preparation. Failure to believe Moses will result in failure to believe the truth when Jesus sends it your way.

Do you think that you believe Jesus? Jesus said emphatically that you cannot believe his truth if you do not believe what Moses wrote. And how can anyone believe what Moses wrote, if he does not know what Moses wrote? My friend, you are in grave danger of failing to hear what the Spirit is now saying to the Church if you are ignorant of the Pentateuch of Moses (the first five books of the Bible).

This is no game. This is no gimmick. You are even this very moment engaged in a warfare, a warfare for your soul that is being waged by unseen, evil spirits that would turn your heart from learning Moses's writings. But if you've ever trusted the words of our Lord, trust them now, and for your own soul's sake take the learning of the Law of Moses as an extremely serious matter.

WHOSE LAW IS IT?

Historically, but especially in this century, religious teachers have influenced many who belong to Jesus to be less than perfectly reverential toward the Law. Somehow, despite the words and conduct of our Savior and the Apostles, many in the Church apparently believe that the Law is irrelevant to our lives. To be sure, by the works of the Law none of us will be saved, but there is much more to the Law than its works. In the Law, there is direction for leaders of the nation, guidance for family life, and instructions on how to be a good neighbor and friend. Moreover, there are commandments concerning moral behavior, and even revelation for proper conduct toward nature and animals. The mind and heart of God was revealed to man in the Law as it had never been revealed before that time and never was revealed again until Jesus came to bring Moses's Law not to its intended fulfillment.

Speaking of the Law, Jesus said, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but, whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Did you know that Jesus never once transgressed the commandments of the Law which Moses gave to Israel? The savior himself obeyed every precept of the Law perfectly, from the heart. Openly, he voiced his reverence for the Word which his heavenly Father had spoken to Moses, and to those who might have supposed that he were a rebel, he proclaimed, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill."

No, our Lord never transgressed the Law's commandments. Not once. In keeping the commandments of God, however, he found himself at times in conflict with certain religious traditions of The Jews. These traditions had been developed over time; they were not commandments from God for His people. One should always keep in mind that there was a tremendous difference between Godís Law and the "traditions of the elders" mentioned in the gospels.

Jesus and his enemies agreed on the sanctity of Godís Law. The rulers of Israel, however, considered their traditions to be as authoritative as the Law, and at times they acted as if their traditions were more authoritative than the Law (Mk. 7:1-13). This is the issue that divided them and the Savior. Jesus did not show disregard for the traditions of the Jews merely to provoke them, and he obeyed those traditions for the sake of harmony as long as in doing so he was not in violation of his Fatherís Law. When a choice had to be made between obeying the Law or keeping a ďtradition of the eldersĒ, Jesus never failed to fear God rather than men.

So important had the traditions of the elders become in the mind of Israelís leaders that they actually referred to their traditions as if they were a part of Godís Law. For example, they condemned Jesus's disciples as being law-breakers for plucking and eating corn on the Sabbath as those hungry disciples followed Jesus through a field (Mt. 12:1-8). Yet, the Law of Moses specifically allowed that deed to be done (Dt. 23:24-25). It was their tradition that made it illegal. On many occasions, they criticized Jesus for breaking the Sabbath by healing on that day because their tradition forbade it. The Law never forbade that kind of activity on the Sabbath (e.g. Mt. 12:10-13). So, the word "law" held a different meaning for the rulers of Israel than it did for Jesus. ďThe LawĒ to them included their traditions; for Jesus, nothing was the Law except what God had commanded. For the Jews, that misunderstanding concerning what is the Law was tragic. In the end, it cost them their souls.

The Law of Moses is God's Law. This is the first truth about the Old Testament Law which you must believe if you hope to understand Jesus. God's Law did not come from Moses; it came from God. Moses merely delivered it to Israel. There is not one commandment of Moses contained in the Law. Every word of the Law is the Word of God. Just as Jesus spoke only what the Father told him to speak (Jn. 7:16-18), so Moses delivered to Israel only the commandments and judgments of God (Dt. 4:1-2). In this regard, Jesus was "the prophet like unto Moses" which God promised to send to His people (Dt. 5:1-31 with Dt.18:15-19). None of what Jesus said was from Jesus. None of what Moses said was from Moses. Both of them spoke only the word of God to His people.

THE EARLIEST CHURCH AND THE LAW

The Apostle Paul said that if a man disregarded the words of Jesus, he was "proud, knowing nothing . . . destitute of the truth" (1Tim. 6:3-5). At the same time, this same Paul spoke of the Law of Moses with the same high regard: "Wherefore the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom. 7:12). Moreover, it was long after the New Covenant had been made that John wrote, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the Law, for sin is the transgression of the Law" (1Jn. 3:4). Furthermore, we see in the book of Acts that decades after Jesus' sacrificial death, the Jewish Church was still extremely zealous of the Law (Acts 21:18-20), and Paul himself performed some of the Law's ceremonial commandments to show that he was not a rebel against the commandments of God through Moses (Acts 21:21-26). All these Scriptures present us with a picture of the earliest Church as being unquestionably devoted to Mosesís Law, long after the New Testament began.

Some seem to think that Jesus and his followers were contemptuous of the Law, especially after the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts, Chapter two. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Indeed, the first followers of Jesus were, if anything, more zealous of the Law after being born again than they had been before! They understood the gospel as being exclusively for those who kept Mosesís Law. This left the Gentiles completely out of the picture.

Jesusís disciples had no concept of a gospel which would be preached to Jews and Gentiles alike. How could they? While walking with them on earth, Jesus told his disciples to preach only to the house of Israel (Mt. 10:5-6). He himself refused to heal the daughter of a Gentile woman until that woman admitted that she, being a Gentile, was a dog and the Jews were her masters (Mt. 15:21-28). This fact is not often noted by religious teachers. And we should always remember that Jesus demonstrated to his disciples the kind of life one should live and that his life on earth was a life of perfect obedience to the Law. Jesus kept the feast days required by the Law (e.g. Jn. 5:1; 7:2, 10). He told the lepers that he cleansed to "go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded" (Mk.1:40-44). Jesus was a Jew who was sent only to the Jews (Mt. 15:24; Jn. 1:11; Acts 3:25-26; Rom. 15:8). As far as the disciples were concerned, there was no other way to serve God but to be a Jew, and a devout one at that.

Notice also that when the Lord poured out the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, there wasn't a single Gentile present. Men were there, to be sure, "out of every nation under heaven", but we are told that these men were all devout Jews (Acts 2:5). For the first several years after the Spirit came and ushered in the new age of grace, no one but Jews were given this gift, and not even they could receive it unless they were walking after the commandments of God in the Law.

So, you see, the very earliest Church by no means held the Law in contempt. On the contrary, when they saw that God baptized no one with His Spirit except Jews who were obeying the Law, the Church was all the more zealous for it. The baptism of the Spirit, to them, was proof that a man must be a Jew and submit to the Law in order to please God and be accepted by Him. They had the proof of that truth: No one other than obedient Jews were being granted this conversion experience.

So, the evidence is abundant and incontrovertible that the very earliest Church consisted only of Jews and that those Jews loved, obeyed, and were more zealous for Godís Law than were other Jews of their time. In other words, God picked the proverbial "cream of the crop" to be in His Church. The gospel of liberation from the works of the Law was non-existent in the earliest Church, and for good reason: it wasn't true, at least not yet. At that time in Church history, those who desired to be in the will of God and to receive the holy Ghost were required to be of the Jewish nation and to be blameless according to the Law. It was not yet time for the gospel to be preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles.

THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Do you want to know God? Study the Law. God's heart was revealed to man by it. The Law was the will of God for man at that time, spelled out in black and white. One cannot have a bad attitude toward the Law and at the same time have a good attitude toward God. God is still the same God He was when He spoke to Moses. His will for man has not been altered. The New Covenant contains no new commandments. The New Covenant is the Law, written by the Spirit of God in our hearts:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. . . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord: I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.

Heb. 8:8-10, quoting from Jer. 31-33

A man who is truly "in the Spirit" is the man who is living according to the will of God. And the will of God for His people is written out in the Law (as well as in the other holy scriptures). It is the same God! It is the same truth! It is the same Spirit! Jesus died to make it possible for the Law of God to enter into our hearts. He did not die to rid us of the burden of the Law; he died to change us, so that keeping the Law would no longer seem burdensome to us. He died to make us "partakers of the divine nature" (2Pet. 1:4). The divine nature does not strain to love its neighbor. The divine nature is pure, patient, and prudent. The divine nature is easily entreated, merciful, and good. And when we, by the power of the Spirit, grow in grace to partake of that nature, we live according to Law of God because it is our nature to do so. True holiness, when it is perfected, is effortless. It is life at its simplest and best. All the Law and the prophets, according to Jesus, hang upon just these two commandments

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.

The ancient prophet Micah described the commandments of God in the Law in equally simple terms:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:8; cp. Dt.10:12-13

The notion that the Law was a hopelessly complicated, harsh Law that required an interminable array of sacrifices and pointlessly detailed statutes is not only wrong, it is insulting to our very loving God. Every commandment was given for our benefit, not His. And the reason Israel failed so miserably to keep His Law is not at all because His commandments were so many and so complicated. Quite the contrary, Israel failed in their walk with God because they did not believe He would make religious life so easy. They did not believe that with just the few and simple sacrifices which the Law prescribed, all their many sins would be forgiven. They did not believe that by simply loving God and one another, as the Law required, all their many needs would be met. The Law didn't seem religious enough for Godís Old Covenant people. In short, the Law so good that the Israelites could not believe it was good enough. It was so simple that it seemed, to them, to be incomplete, or insufficient.

So, Israel added sacrifices and other religious rites to Godís Law, and God disapproved of their faith. They worshiped the gods of fertility because they could not believe that God would bless all their crops all year long if they performed only the few short ceremonies of Moses's Law. Compared to the elaborate, richly decorated, and sensually appealing rituals of surrounding nations, Israel's worship must have seemed ludicrously simple. Apparently, it didn't seem right to many in Israel, for example, that to make an atonement for the sin of the whole nation God should require but one bullock to be offered (Lev. 4:13f). So, to assure themselves of divine approval they added sacrifices beyond what God commanded, including (as an act of supreme religious devotion) even the murderous sacrifices of their own children (e.g. Ezek. 16:17-21). Contrary to popular myth, God was not so harsh with Israel that they could not bear it; rather, He was so good to Israel that they could not believe it. He offered them so much, and required of them so little, that their faith staggered, and they fell in unbelief.

In the Book of Leviticus are given the details of the sacrifices which God told Moses to teach to Aaron and his sons. The knowledge of these details was required for the priests but not for the ordinary citizens of Israel. When an Israelite found himself in violation of the Law, all he had to do was repent of that sin and ask the nearest Levite (close kinsmen of the high priest) what was required of him in order to make atonement. The common people did not have to memorize the sacrificial details of the Law. They only had to ask the Levites, as the need arose. It was an extremely simple system, easily obeyed. For the common people, God required only that they love Him above all and love their neighbors as themselves. The parts of the Law which seem, to us, to be complicated all have to do with the ceremonial worship of Israel and were the sole responsibility of the priests and their servants. But they were not so complicated to them as they seem to us. And in comparison to the often gruesome and extremely complex ceremonies of Israel's heathen neighbors, Israel's ceremonies were, for some in Israel, embarrassingly simple. How could they claim to be serving the God of all the earth, if they only had one altar? It required great humility and faith for Israel to be faithful to Godís simple Law, to keep it exactly as God had given it to them. There was nothing in the Law which exalted men's power to worship God. The Law extolled only the mercy and goodness of the God who gave it.

As you enter into the study of God's Law now, consider yourself to be a privileged guest, honored to hear wondrous, sacred words, because that is the truth concerning both the Law and you.


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