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The Rest of the Law - Part 7 The Purpose of the Law

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Issue #147April 2001

The Rest of the Law - Part 7 The Purpose of the Law

Our study of "the rest of the law" could continue for many years, because this is a very large topic. We do not propose to do so. However, in order to really understand the rest of the law, one must see it from the perspective of the New Testament. That is, we must understand it, not only from the perspective of the Passover Age, but also from the perspective of the Pentecostal Age.

Furthermore, since we are now entering into the Age of Tabernacles, we ought to have a clearer perspective of the law than did the early Church.

In His "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus taught the law from an understanding that went against the mindset of the average rabbi of the day. Jesus knew the mind of God and understood not only the letter but the spirit of the law. In other words, He understood not only the language of what was written, but also its true intent from God's perspective.

There are some today who think that there is some inherent disparity between the letter and the spirit of the law. I do not believe that we should pit one against the other. There are times when they do SEEM to be opposed, but we should not view it in that manner. For instance, the laws of sacrifice say to "do this," but the spirit of the law in the New Testament shows that those sacrifices were to be done in that manner for a limited period of time. The book of Hebrews shows that Jesus Christ was our final Sacrifice. His blood was effective for all time--making the animal sacrifices unnecessary and obsolete.

There are many forms that were changed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Even so, the spirit of the law remains perfect and unchanged. The moral aspects of the law are no different now than they ever were, assuming we understand the mind of God, who changes not.

The Purpose of the Law

The old covenant is often called the law covenant, and the new covenant is often called the covenant of grace. I have no problem with these terms, but I do believe that they often give a wrong impression.

The law is God's standard of morality that defines sin and righteousness. 1 John 3:4 reads literally, "Sin is lawlessness [anomia]." The Greek word anomia comes from nomos, "law." A man who is said to be anomos is one "without law, lawless." In other words, the divine law defines sin, even as man's law defines crime.

Paul adheres to this view when he says in Romans 3:20, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." Again, Paul says in Romans 7:7, NASB:

7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet."

The purpose of the law is to set a righteous standard so that man can measure himself according to the stature of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ never broke the law itself, for He was the Lamb without spot or blemish (Heb. 9:14).

The religious leaders of His day did their best to find fault with Him, but failed to do so. In the end they had to bring false witnesses against Him to make Him out to be a sinner (lawbreaker). He was then crucified on a charge of blasphemy (Matt. 26:65, 66).

The Covenants

Both the old and new covenants deal with the law.

The old covenant says that if you are obedient to the law, you may have a relationship with God and will be saved, or blessed.

The new covenant says that if Jesus Christ is obedient to the law on our behalf, then by faith we may have a relationship with God and will be saved or blessed.

Both covenants deal with the requirements of the law. It was impossible for men to be saved by the old covenant. No man has ever been saved by his own obedience, because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Moses was saved by grace through faith. David was saved by grace through faith. All the prophets were saved by grace through faith. The new covenant saved them all and gave all of them a relationship with God. Habakkuk 2:4 says, "But the righteous will live by his faith." This is from the Old Testament, and Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17 and again in Gal. 3:11.

In regard to the law, neither Jesus nor Paul taught a new doctrine. It was always in the old scriptures. It just had not been understood correctly by the majority of the people. Both Jesus and Paul restored the law to its proper place as God had intended from the beginning.

Did they put away the law? No. Jesus made it clear in Matt. 5:18-20 that He did not put away the law. Paul made this equally clear in Romans 3:31, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

God's Requirements for Us

If, then, Jesus' perfect obedience to the law satisfied the requirements of God, does this mean that we may now cast aside the law? I am amazed whenever I hear this. Some have told me that because Jesus was obedient to God, we are no longer required to be obedient. It is true that our own obedience is not part of the requirement to be justified before God, because this is something Jesus did. But to think that God no longer cares if we continue in sin--this is a perversion of the Gospel.

Paul addresses this question in Romans 6:1, asking the basic question, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Some had misinterpreted Paul's words, saying that faith in Jesus Christ now gives us a license to sin, that is, to violate the law. After all, our obedience is not necessary for justification.

Paul's response is "God forbid!" He then explains how baptism signifies being "dead to sin," that is, dead to lawlessness. We are to reckon ourselves incapable of sin. Does this mean that no matter what we do, no matter how disobedient we are, we may justly reckon ourselves as perfect in the sight of God?

Again, God forbid! Our righteousness is certainly by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteous life fulfilled all the requirements of the law. But should not our lives then begin to reflect the life of Jesus Christ? 1 John 2:6,

6 The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

He was our Substitute insofar as He paid the penalty for our sin. But He was our Example, the Pattern Son, insofar as how we ought to conduct our lives in obedience to God.

The Requirements of Pentecost

Jesus was our Passover Lamb. In that capacity, He brought us out of "Egypt," that is, out from the bondage of sin. Passover signifies Justification by faith in the blood of the Lamb. When Israel came out of Egyptian bondage, it was prior to the giving of the law. Their only requirement was to have faith that the blood of the lamb on their lintels and door posts would save them from death that night.

The next day all these justified people began their journey out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. Were they perfect? Were they righteous? Only by faith, not by actual experience. They were no different from the Church today that has been justified by faith.

The law came at Sinai some seven weeks later. The giving of the law at Sinai came to be celebrated as the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. The purpose of Pentecost is to teach and require obedience. It was to write the law upon the hearts of the people. This was to be accomplished by hearing the voice of God.

Here the Israelites failed to experience true Pentecost because they refused to hear God's voice (Ex. 20:18-21). The fulfillment of Pentecost was deferred for another 1,500 years. We read of its fulfillment in Acts 2, where God gathered 120 disciples who were willing to hear His voice and be obedient to what He said.

What God tells us to do is, by definition, a law. There are general laws for all, and then there are specific things that God tells individuals to do. Both are important. We are to live by every word that comes from God's mouth (Matt. 4:4).

For example, when God commands us not to steal the property of other people, it is a general command that is applicable to all men. But when God told Moses to speak to the rock, this was primarily applicable to him alone.

Some think that if they just study and learn the law that God spoke in the written word, they need not hear the voice of God themselves. Others think that if they just hear the voice of God, they need not study the rest of the written word that God spoke in times past. Both views are incorrect. We need to live by every word. If we do not do this, we will be unbalanced or incorrect in much of what we think and do.

Pentecost teaches us obedience. This requires a higher level of faith than what was required at Passover. Faith is not exclusive to our Passover experience of Justification. We move, as Paul says, "from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17). That is, we grow and increase in faith through the steps outlined in Israel's feast days.

We are on a journey even as Israel was on a journey to the Promised Land. So let us not be as they were when their hearts were hardened and refused to hear His voice and be obedient. Heb. 3:7-11, which quotes David's words in Psalm 95:8-11, tells us,

7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, 8 Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me, And saw My works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was angry with this generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart; And they did not know My ways'; 11 As I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.' "

Israel was disqualified for entering the Kingdom in the first opportunity. Why? Because they refused to hear His voice, as evidenced by their rebellion and disobedience. I believe that this prophesies of the first resurrection, which is the first historic opportunity for believers to enter the full promise of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Even as the church in the wilderness was disqualified, so also is the New Testament Church disqualified for the same reason--anomia, "lawlessness," that is, a deliberate lawless heart. The overcomers will qualify, and these will inherit life, or immortality, in "The Age," as the Scriptures so often reveal. The rest of the Church, however, will remain in their mortal state until the general resurrection at the White Throne at the end of "The Age." [I refer to this coming Age as the Tabernacles Age in order to distinguish it from the Pentecostal Age.]

Not Under the Law?

As we said earlier, in Romans 6 Paul deals with the question of obedience. "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" The answer is no. But then Paul makes a statement that seems to contradict his clear teaching on obedience to the law. Romans 6:15, NASB:

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

The reason people misunderstand this verse is because they no longer live in a Hebrew culture or understand its manner of speech. To be "under law" means to be under the judgment of the law, whereby the law requires us to work until we have paid our debts incurred by sin.

For example, if a man steals $10,000 and is convicted by the judge for this sin, the law specifies that he is to pay his victim at least double, or $20,000 (Ex. 22:4). If he cannot do so, then he must be "sold for his theft." That is, the law commands that he work for a specified amount of time for his victim or for a kinsman who might "redeem" him. As long as the sinner owes a debt, he is "under the law." When the debt is paid, then he is "under grace," for the law no longer has power over him to restrict his liberty in this manner.

So also it is with us. Adam incurred a debt that he could not pay, because of his sin. The law commanded that he be sold into bondage. He lost his inheritance (the immortal, glorified body). And not just him, but also "his wife, and children, and all that he had" (Matt. 18:25) were sold into bondage in order to pay the debt.

And so we ALL lost our inheritance through Adam's sin. We are therefore in need of a Redeemer. Jesus Christ qualified as a Redeemer, because He did not take upon Himself the nature of angels, but flesh and blood, in order that He might redeem us who were subject to death (Heb. 2:11-15).

In addition to this, He also took upon Himself the seed of Abraham, in order to qualify as Israel's Redeemer (Heb. 2:16).

Jesus, then, is the Redeemer of Israel and is also the Redeemer of everything that Adam lost.

The whole world has been "under the law" since Adam sinned, for Paul says in Romans 3:19, NASB:

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God.

God's purpose in putting the whole world under the law was to make all men "accountable to God" for their sin. Accountability is God's great teaching tool, even as it is with us when dealing with our own children.

But Jesus came as a Redeemer. According to the laws of redemption (Lev. 25:47-55), a near kinsman has the right of redemption. That is, if a mere friend wants to redeem someone, the right lies with the master of the slave. The slave's master may accept or refuse the offer. But a near kinsman has the right to redeem, and in such a case, the slave master has no choice but to allow the slave to be purchased for the amount of the debt yet owed.

Jesus redeemed us as our near kinsman. He paid the full price for both Israel's and Adam's sin. He purchased all that was lost in Adam--that is, the whole earth, which had been given to Adam. He purchased us from Death to restore to us the original inheritance God had given us--the glorified body, spiritual flesh, of the kind Jesus had after His resurrection.

Getting back, then, to our discussion in Romans 6, we find that Paul immediately speaks of the law of redemption in his discussion about not being "under the law." In effect, Paul says that we have been redeemed from the power of sin, so we have no right to continue serving sin. Paul says in Romans 6:16-18, NASB:

16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves ofthe one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

In other words, we had been slaves to Sin, resulting in the loss of our inheritance (life). But because Jesus has redeemed us from Sin, we have now become "slaves of righteousness." Redemption did not give us the liberty to do whatever we want to do. Redemption simply gave us a new Slavemaster, Jesus Christ. This is in accord with the law of redemption in Lev. 25:53, which says that the redeemed slave is to serve his redeemer.

The redeemed slave is no longer "under the law" that had sentenced him to work for Sin. He is now "under grace," because his new Master is a near kinsman that loves him. His new master will now teach him righteous-ness in a loving manner. The old master had taught him the ways of sin and unrighteousness.

In either case, however, the slave is still a slave that is subject to the master and has an obligation to obey. The difference is that whereas we had been subject to sin, or lawlessness, now we are subject to the law of God as administered by our loving Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Hence, when Paul says we are not under the law but under grace, he is NOT saying that God's law has been put away. Nay, rather it is the law of Sin that has been put away, for now we are no longer subject to Sin and his commands, or laws.

Paul summarizes his argument in Romans 6:22 and 23,

22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In other words, we have been freed from the slave master known as Sin. We have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ and are now "enslaved to God." The benefit of this redemption is that it results in sanctification and ultimately, aionian life, that is, Life in the Age.

Sanctification is a process whereby we learn obedience. Sanctification is the purpose of Pentecost, even as our Justification apart from works is the purpose of Passover. The wages we received by working for Sin is death. The life we receive from Jesus Christ is a "free gift," because it is based upon Passover, not upon Pentecost. Yet Pentecost is the next step toward actually receiving the promise of life. Pentecost was given at Sinai as the second step in Israel's journey to the Promised Land. It fell between Passover and Tabernacles.

The Promised Land

In the story of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, the Promised Land was their promised inheritance. Some people think that it signifies an inheritance in heaven. It is actually the glorified body that Adam lost when he sinned. This was Adam's inheritance, the "land" that God had given him. Adam was made of the dust of the ground and named "Adam," because the name came from the Hebrew word adama, "the ground."

Adam's body was made of the dust of the ground, but I believe it was not like our present bodies that grow old and die. I believe he had a body more comparable to Jesus' body after His resurrection. This was his inheritance from God. Through sin, Adam lost that inheritance. Through the righteousness of Christ, Adam will regain that inheritance.

This is the "Promised Land." It is not a location either in heaven or on earth. It is a condition, a state of being, in which we will be fully sanctified--spirit, soul, and body, as Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:23.

While Israel of old sought a physical land of Canaan, their journey was marked by events that were celebrated by feast days. Those feast days represent different relationships with God in our progression toward receiving the full promise of the Father.

If one is satisfied with a Passover experience, where one is justified, such a person will not continue to mature into the sanctification of Pentecost. If one is satisfied with Pentecost, such a person will probably slide back into the Passover realm or into a lawless form of Pentecost that inevitably substitutes the traditions of men for God's law.

There are some, though, who desire the full inheritance of God. Not satisfied with mere justification, they move on into sanctification until they come to the place of the glorification of the body. Paul speaks of this as "the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23).

These three levels of faith are the salvation of your spirit, soul, and body. When that process is complete in a small body of people called "overcomers," then God will use these as an example to the rest of the world. They will testify to all men that they have seen and are living in the Promised Land. They will urge all men to travel the same path toward the full revelation of the glory of God.

Then will be fulfilled God's vow in Num. 14:21,

21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.

I have confidence that God is powerful enough to do this, loving enough to want to do this, and determined enough to fulfill His word.