So many within the body of Christ believe that their salvation, even more so that their transformation into the image of Jesus, is based on their works or their performance in following doctrinal precepts.
They believe that God works on some type of brownie point system. Obey the law get a cookie. Obey another law get another cookie. Disobey the law, loose a cookie.
Further more these same people believe that they can, through their own free will and under their own power, obey the law. Why is it that for many there is this emphasis on obeying? That is not to say that we should be disobedient. God forbid. My curiosity stems from the idea that obeying the law will get you into heaven or help you to gain God’s approval and love.
This idea of obeying the law has put more Christians into bondage than any other false doctrine within our faith! These people would have you believe that this concept is not only biblical but that it is not a slap in the face to our Lord and the price that he paid, His life, to break those chains of bondage for us meant nothing.
Do you realize that Jesus only used the word hupakouō (obey) one time in His ministry and when He did use it He was speaking about faith and that if it is commanded that a sycamore tree be planted in the sea it should obey (Luke 17:6). As a matter of fact not one time out of the 24 times that the word “obey” is used in the new testament are we told that we must obey the law.
What Jesus and His apostles do say is to “keep” His commandments, which is not the same thing as obeying or even keeping the law.
Keeping the Law
(Act 15:5) But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
(Act 15:24) Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:
(Rom 2:25) For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
(Gal 6:13) For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
The phrase “keep the law” is only used 4 times in the new testament. And as you can plainly see that this keeping of the law is being used in the context of the circumcision. Notice in Acts 15:24 where Paul says,with regard to being circumcised and obeying the law, that no such commandment was given. Paul goes one step further in Galatians 6:13 where he states that these people only seek to be self glorified in their imposing this doctrine on others.
It is important to note here that the Greek word tēreō (keep) literally means to keep watch, to keep the eye upon, to guard. It does not even imply a command to obey. It means to keep your eye on the mark.
Having said that let’s take a look at what Jesus does say:
(Joh 14:15) If ye love me, keep my commandments.
(Joh 14:23) Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
(Joh 15:10) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Jesus clearly says that if we love Him we should “keep” His words and His commandments.
What those who would put us back under the yoke of the law would have us believe is that because it was Jesus, as the Word of God, who gave the law to the Jews in the old testament, that He is referring to the old testament commandments here.
This is simply not true!
When Jesus made reference to that which was written in the old testament he always used the word graphē (scriptures) which means a document and comes from the word graphō which is a verb meaning to write. Therefore when Jesus makes reference to the word “scriptures” He is clearly speaking about that which has been written on a document. In that time these written documents were scrolls. There were no bound books.
In the light of these facts I submit to you then when Jesus uses the terms “my words” or “my commandments” that He is not talking about that which has been written in the old testament rather the words and commandments that He Himself gave during His earthly ministry.
John 15 is very telling and supports what has just been stated. Jesus is saying; “if” we keep His commandments we will abide (stay or remain) in His love just as He remained in the Fathers love because He “kept” His commandments.
Notice here that Jesus did not say to “keep my Father’s commandments”. He said to “keep His commandments”. Subsequently there must be a distinction between the two.
Now Jesus does teach us about the commandments of the old testament.
(Mat 5:17) Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
(Mat 5:18) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
(Mat 5:19) Whosoever therefore 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.
(Mat 5:20) For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The first thing that Jesus says here is that he has not come to destroy the law but to fulfill them.
What does it mean to fulfill (plēroō) something?
I means to make replete (complete, executed). It means to cause God’s will (as made known by the law) to be obeyed as it was meant to be and that God’s promises, as given through the prophets, had come to fruition. When Jesus declared “it is finished” as He hung on the cross, He was making a proclamation that all that God had given Him to do had been completed. All that the prophets had declared about Him had come to pass. The people had been taught the true intentions and purpose of God’s law. And the promises which God had made the old testament fathers regarding the gentiles had come into effect.
(Joh 17:4) I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
(Joh 17:8) For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
Jesus claims in verse 4 that he has “finished the work” that He was given to do.
In verse 8 our Lord states that he has given unto the people the words that He had been given from the Father and that the people had received (lambanō – take hold of in the hand) them.
Now as you know Matthew chapter 5 is about Jesus sermon on the mount where He was speaking to the multitudes.
Our Lord tells the people that “not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away till all be fulfilled”(v.18). Jesus said, while on the cross;
(Joh 19:30) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is (teleō – to end from telos – to set out for a definite point or goal) finished:
What had actually happened here is that Jesus ushered in a more perfect way for mankind to conform to the will of God. When the old had been fulfilled the new came into being.
What is that new and better way?
The renewing of our mind and the law being written on the fleshy tables of our hearts through the ministry of the Holy Spirit which was to come into effect 50 days later at Pentecost!
(2Co 3:3) Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
You see brothers and sisters the old way simply did not work and God, in His infinite wisdom, mercy and grace, provided us with a way to become children of God the Father through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
There is nothing that we can do of our own will and of our own power. Our salvation and transformation into the image of our Lord is accomplished by the grace of God and through His power alone!
Our only part in this whole process is to submit. That is to say that we must decrease so that He can increase within us. When we do this the Holy Spirit brings our soul into alignment with God’s will. His will then becomes our will. It is at that point that our soul begins to bring our flesh into submission to our will which has become God’s will.
This is the process of our being transformed into the image of Christ.
It is by grace and grace alone by which we are saved!
(Isa 10:15) Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.
All praise and glory and honor to God that this is accomplished through His power and not through works or our own abilities, that no man should boast.
(Eph 2:8-9) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Amen & Amen!
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