P.O. Box 432 | Spring Hill, TN 37174 l (904) 200-1671
I was born again by the grace of God in late 1959 at the age of twelve. It was a Sunday evening. Our pastor had preached on the Second Coming (Rapture) at church that evening. As I laid in bed looking out my window at a starry sky, I realized for the first time that I was not ready. I reached over, turned on my night light, picked up my Bible and read John 3:16. For the first time in my life, the Spirit of God applied the truth of that verse to me. As I read the word “whosoever”, I heard the Spirit of God say “Don”. All of a sudden the gospel became personal.
I closed my Bible, put it back in its place, turned off my night light and lay there in the dark for several minutes as the Spirit of God continued to convict me of my lost condition. A struggle was raging in my young heart. I finally slipped to my knees by my bedside, and prayed: “Dear Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner, and without you I will go to hell. Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins, come into my heart and give me eternal life. Thank you Jesus for dying for me. In Jesus' name, Amen!” Somewhere between “come into my heart” and “give me eternal life”, the Lord lifted the burden of sin from my heart. I got back into bed with the peace of God in my heart.
As a twelve year-old boy, I had no comprehension of what had happened to me in that moment, other than the fact I was saved and that Jesus now lived in my heart. I have since learned that I was passed from death unto life, justified by faith, regenerated by the Spirit and the Word, redeemed by Christ's blood from the curse of Mosaic Law, sanctified (set apart) by virtue of my position in Christ, elected to serve God as part of a chosen generation, predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, sealed by the Spirit (the earnest of my inheritance) until the day of redemption. Christ was in me, and I in him. Moreover, I came to realize I had been crucified with Christ and was therefore dead to the Law.
Discipleship is a multi-faceted and life-long task. In the course of discipleship, believers learn to walk by faith (daily dependence upon Jesus) in like manner as they were made spiritually alive by the same faith (Colossians 3:6). The walk of faith expresses itself in prayer, study of the scriptures and practical obedience to Christ as one continues to learn more about his Lord and acquire more light. The ultimate goal of discipleship is conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). The apostle Paul described it as the quest to “win” Christ and “apprehend” that for which Christ had “apprehended” him (Philippians 3:8-14). It's the life goal of the believer to attain in practical righteousness (godliness) what God gave him in positional righteousness (justification). As the believer walks by faith, immerses himself in scripture and keeps his mind renewed, the Spirit of God changes him “from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The goal of true discipleship is conformance to the image of Christ, not compliance with Mosaic Law! The indwelling Spirit of God is the ONLY power that can make that happen. It's his job!
Jesus illustrated this life-long process in John 151ff, where he portrayed himself as the Vine (infinite reservoir of life and living water) and us believers as branches (conduits through whom the life of Christ flows). Branches who abide in Christ bear fruit. The more consistently they abide and manifest the life of Christ in Spirit power, the more abundantly they will bear the fruits of righteousness. The Mosaic Law is lifeless. It cannot bring life to the compliant; only death to the non-compliant. Therefore equating discipleship (Christ living his people) in ANY way whatsoever to compliance with Mosaic Law--Ten Commandments, Feasts, Sabbaths--reflects complete ignorance of grace and of the Christian life. Torah compliance, at best, can make one a disciple of Moses; but not a disciple of Christ. The Pentateuch, however, is profitable for instruction in righteousness inasmuch as it provides countless glimpses of and truth about Christ, which the Spirit of God can then build into the thinking of the believer and gradually conform him to Christ's image. Men live according to how they think! The more he thinks like Jesus, the more he will become like Jesus!
One of the first truths a believer in Christ must learn is his new relationship to Mosaic Law. Prior to his faith in Christ, a lost man is “under the Law” (obligated to keep it, liable for breaking it). He is a debtor to do “the whole Law” if he seeks to be justified by it (Galatians 5:3; James 2:10). Since no man is able to keep the Law perfectly, he is “guilty before God” when he breaks it (Romans 3:19). He is “under the curse” if he “continues not in all things” written in the book of the Law (Galatians 3:10). God “added” Mosaic Law alongside the Abrahamic covenant because of transgressions “till the seed [Christ] should come to whom the promise was made (Genesis 15:8-21; Galatians 3:19). As an addition, it served as a “schoolmaster” to bring lost men to Christ, that they might be “justified by faith” (3:24). A believer in Jesus is “no longer under a schoolmaster” once he is justified by faith in Christ (3:25). God reckons the believer, by virtue of his union with Christ, to be in full compliance to Mosaic Law at all times. A believer IS the righteousness of God. This is the grand positional truth of the gospel of grace!
So what exactly is the believer's relationship to Mosaic Law? In two key NT texts, the scripture says he is DEAD TO THE LAW (Romans 7:4; Galatians 2:19). In the Romans 7:1-4 passage, Paul employs the analogy of marriage to make the point. When God nailed “the body of Christ” to the cross, he nailed his sinless Son, who had completely fulfilled the Mosaic Law. The Father raised him from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:25). God imputes (reckons) to the believer the very righteousness of Jesus. He is therefore “complete in him” (Colossians 2:10). The Father made Jesus to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Paul's marriage analogy, he represents the Mosaic Law as the surviving spouse, who buried the believer. Jesus fulfilled the Law in full; he did NOT destroy it (Matthew 5:17).
The Mosaic Law is alive and well. God reckons a believer to have DIED TO THE LAW with the death of Christ inasmuch as God reckons the believer to have DIED WITH CHRIST (Galatians 2:19-21). The believer has been “CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST.” The other side of that crucifixion coin is “CHRIST LIVETH IN ME” as God applies the effects of both the death and resurrection of Christ to the believer. These truths are fundamental to the gospel of grace. If a man is ALIVE to Mosaic Law, he CANNOT have been crucified with Christ. He is still spiritually dead in his sins. If a man has been CRUCIFIED with Christ, he is spiritually ALIVE in Christ and DEAD to the Law. For a true believer to place himself afresh under Moasaic Law, to which he died by virtue of his death with Christ, is un-gospel-like, to say the least. The believer who has been justified by grace through faith and then seeks to be sanctified (discipled) by law is a FOOL whose mind Satan has corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:3).
How many times does God need to say “DEAD TO THE LAW” to establish it as spiritual fact? While the Law is the surviving spouse in Paul's analogy, Christ himself becomes the new husband to whom the believer is now married! He is loosed from the bondage of the Law and free to embark upon the quest of conformity to the image of Christ, to which God predestined him. When Jesus said: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36), this is precisely what he had in mind. Jesus iterated the same truth in Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” This fundamental gospel truth leads to us to conclude that the Law, the yoke of bondage, CANNOT produce Christ-likeness! If that was possible (i.e., a law that could have given life), the believer could have remained married to Mosaic Law. But since the Law, the believer's former husband, was incapable of generating neither righteousness nor spiritual life (Galatians 3:21), it was necessary for God to crucify the believer, raise him him up with a new birth and wed him to Christ his Son, from whom life and righteousness flow and abound. It is obvious how spiritually counterintuitive it is for a believer, who DIED to the Law and got MARRIED to Christ, to behave as if he is ALIVE to his old husband! Wouldn't that be grounds for spiritual adultery? Christ-likeness is the purview of the Spirit as he works in tandem with the Word, writes the truth of God in fleshy tables of the heart and empowers the believer to achieve increasingly greater degrees of godliness. Mosaic Law has no power whatsoever to accomplish this.
Whether one is a believer or an unbeliever, he CANNOT compartmentalize Mosaic Law. It's an 'ALL or NONE' proposition. One who is “under the Law” is obligated to keep and obey the ENTIRE Mosaic Law – Ten Commandments, Sacrifices, Sabbath days, Feasts and Dietary Laws. Some seem to believe that Christ in his death took care of the sacrificial aspects of the Law but left the other aspects in tact as the way for a believer to attain to God's righteousness. This falsehood is known as 'Torah Compliance' as taught by the modern-day 'Restoration' movement. It claims the Church went astray almost immediately after Pentecost by not carrying over these aspects of Mosaic Law into Church life, and for two thousand years has been teaching the doctrines of man.
This is a theological hybrid that denigrates Christ and diminishes his gospel (death and resurrection). It would have believers straddling the fence between Law and Grace. It is nothing more than convoluted, satanical nonsense. The scriptures teach unambiguously that one CANNOT be “under Law” and “under Grace” simultaneously. Christ either satisfied ALL of the Law's demands or satisfied NONE of them. If this compartmental approach to Mosaic Law is true, the believer might be BLESSED with Abraham at one moment and CURSED with Moses at another. In addition, the Lord who passed him from “death unto life” (John 5:24) would have to pass him from life back to spiritual death and condemnation. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the CURSE of the law if they fail to continue in total compliance (Galatians 3:10). Scripture affirms that perfection is impossible. If 'Restoration' theology and the doctrine of 'Torah Compliance' are valid, Christ died in vain, there is no gospel of grace and Paul's epistles are fabrications.
One who is “under Grace” (dead to the Law and alive unto Christ) is under no obligation whatsoever to comply with Mosaic Law. At first blush, that sounds like heresy, as if we're teaching lawlessness for the Christian. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The believer who DIED with Christ and is DEAD to the Law is now ALIVE in Christ and subject to the Law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2). Rather than being subject to carnal ordinances carved in stone, the believer is now subject to the Christ who lives within him. This is the power and glory of the gospel! The Spirit of Christ WITHIN the believer empowers him to fulfill the righteousness of the Law (Romans 8:2). This is grace, pure and simple. For those who say grace is the equivalent of lawlessness, how can that be when the believer is now spiritually alive and subject to the AUTHOR of Mosaic Law? Is not the Lawgiver greater than his Law? Again, this is fundamental to the gospel of grace and its power!
Consider this word from Jesus when a lawyer asked about 'the great commandment' of the Law: “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 great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). Jesus taught that if a man complied with these Two commandments, he would find himself in compliance with all Ten. The first and foremost fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22-23), a love that is “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 5:5). As the Spirit bears fruit in the believer's life, he fulfills the righteousness of the Law. In addition to love, the Spirit produces a whole cluster of spiritual fruit – joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The Law is incapable of producing any of these Christ-like attributes. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit in abundance is the goal of discipleship.
Is there any benefit in Mosaic Law for the believer? There certainly is inasmuch as it reveals the mind and will of God for mankind! While the believer in Jesus is no longer under the schoolmaster of Mosaic Law, the Law does provide a sort of baseline for spiritual and moral rectitude. We must remember, however, that the fruit of the Spirit, when produced in the believer's life, will EXCEED exponentially the righteousness of mere compliance to the Law. It's why Paul referred to Mosaic Law and efforts to comply with it as “mine own righteousness” and “dung” (Philippians 3:8-9). He said the Law, if chosen by a believer as the means of righteousness, was: another gospel (Galatians 1:6), perversion of the gospel of Christ (1:7), bondage (2:4), frustration of God's grace (2:21), seeking to be made perfect by the flesh (3:3), the weak and beggarly elements (4:9), a covenant that breeds bondage (4:24), the yoke of bondage (5:1), making Jesus Christ unprofitable (5:2,4), debtor to do the whole Law (5:3), fallen from grace (5:4), disobedient to gospel truth (5:7), a little leaven (5:9), a cessation of the offense of the cross (5:11), vain glory (5:26) and the ministration of condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9). The believer who embraces compliance to Mosaic Law as the means of attaining true righteousness is “bewitched” (3:1). As Paul articulated so well, there is a “righteousness which is of the Law.” But it is nothing more than self-righteous “dung” (Philippians 3:8-9).
In contrast, scripture describes the work of the Spirit as: Christ formed in the believer (Galatians 4:19), putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (3:27; Romans 13:14), transformation into Christ's image by renewing of the mind (12:2), changed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4; 4:8,31; 9:17; 13:52), filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), being filled with all the fulness of God (3:19), filled with the fruits of righteousness (Philippians 1:11), filled with the knowledge of God's will (Colossians 1:9), Christ in me, the hope of glory (1:27), Christ living in me (Galatians 2:20), bringing every thought unto obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This is genuine, practical righteousness, which is of God by faith, also described as “wining” Christ (Philippians 3:9). The work of the Spirit in the believer is DYNAMIC (the ministry of the life of Christ) whereas Mosaic Law is STATIC (the ministry of death). The Spirit of God in the believer is insulted and grieved when the Mosaic Law is credited with producing holiness of life that only HE has the power to produce.
In the interest of balance, let's consider what scripture says about Law. Paul wrote: “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). The law is HOLY, no admixture of error. It's JUST in every way, reflective of spiritual and moral rectitude. It is GOOD, intrinsically as well as beneficially to those who observe it. But it CANNOT save a sinner by imparting spiritual life or producing righteousness simply because it is "weak through the flesh" (8:3). For that reason, the Law is a sin exacerbator (7:13). With the advent of Christ, the purpose of the Law is firmly established (3:1). In the same epistle, Paul said: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (15:4). Paul is referring to the entire OT: Torah, Poetic Books and Prophets. What we learn from these writings are the origins of man, the consequences of sin, the nature of God, how God has dealt and does deal with men, the history of Israel, the covenants and prophetic glimpses of Messiah, many of them embodied in the Torah. Jesus told the Jews: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). That is why Christians do not observe the OT feasts. They were merely figures, shadows that prefigured the glories of the coming Messiah. Once the believer is in possession of Jesus Christ, the substance of what the Law foreshadowed, there is no longer a need for the shadow. In Genesis through Malachi, we are afforded an encyclopedic look at the God of redemption, from which we derive patience, comfort and hope!
The Lord gave seven feasts to Israel for observance throughout the year (Leviticus 23). Israel was to observe four of these in the Spring (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost) and three in the Fall (Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles). All these feasts are pictures and figures that foreshadowed greater spiritual realities. Those realities are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah and the Head of his Church, the mystery God hid from OT prophets but revealed through his apostles, Paul in particular (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3-4; 3:9; Colossians 1:26-27). Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of ALL these feasts where the Church is concerned.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb, who shed his blood to accomplish our redemption from the bondage of sin. The Passover Lamb was to be eaten (see John 6:53). Jesus is the Unleavened Bread as the sinless Son of God, who, when consumed by the believer, produces an unleavened (holy) life. Jesus is the First Fruits by way of his resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23). Jesus is the fulfillment of Pentecost. According to Leviticus 23:17, God required an offering of two loaves of bread, which was a picture of both Jew and Gentile being joined together in one body, the Church. On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), God sent the promised Spirit of his Son into the hearts of Jewish believers. God would later send the Spirit of his Son into hearts of Cornelius and fellow Gentile believers (Acts 10) to certify God had made the two loaves one body in Christ. At the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), the apostles in concert with the Holy Ghost agreed that God giving his Spirit to the Gentiles in like manner as he did the Jews was the seminal event that made the two one.
The three Fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled. But Christ will fulfill them. The feast of Trumpets will occur when the Lord Jesus comes in the clouds with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God to catch away (gather) his Church from the earth (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The three primary uses of the trumpet in Israel were for worship, war and moving camp. When the trumpet sounds at the Rapture, the Lord will translate his Church to heaven for: (1) a time of unadulterated worship, (2) rewards for works, and (3) preparation to return with him at his Second Coming to make war with and destroy his enemies. The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled at that time. The Lord established the Feast of Tabernacles to commemorate his care for Israel as they wandered toward the Promised Land. During the Millennial Kingdom, the Lord will establish his Tabernacle in Jerusalem and fulfill this feast (Ezekiel 37:26; Zechariah 14:16-17). There the world will come yearly to worship Christ. Due to the truths that (1) the believer is in Christ, (2) Christ is in the believer, and (3) the believer is justified by faith in Christ, God the Father reckons the believer to be obedient to all the feasts, which Jesus kept perfectly, and in full compliance to Mosaic Law. Such is the glory of grace and imputed righteousness!
There are advantages to the Mosaic Law. One of those is the Dietary Laws. There are many (e.g., Seventh-Day Adventists) who pattern their dietary habits after Mosaic Law, believing God gave these to Israel for their physical well-being. While the believer is under no obligation to adhere to the Dietary Law, the wisdom of so doing as it pertains to health benefits is indisputable. The NT balance to Mosaic Dietary Law is: (1) “nothing is unclean of itself” as it pertains to food (Romans 14:14), and (2) food “received with thanksgiving” passes spiritual muster (1 Timothy 4:3-4). The overriding principle between believers, however, is that no man judge another for following his or her conscience in terms of dietary intake (Romans 14:1-23). “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (14:17). Whether weak or strong, no believer should do anything that causes his brother to stumble. A believer sins against Christ his Lord when he engages in conduct that either offends a brother or is done apart from a confidence that God is pleased with it (14:23).
The Fourth Commandment begins: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). The word "remember" teaches us the Sabbath Day had pre-Mosaic roots with which the Patriarchs were familiar. In 20:11, the Lord connected the Sabbath to creation: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." From the beginning, the LORD set himself up as a model for man, ceasing from his own labors on the seventh day. We can assume Adam understood and practiced it. There is no question Noah practiced it, working on the ark for six days, resting on the seventh. If one does the math, Noah spent 17 of those 120 ark-building years at rest. Noah is perhaps the best and most practical illustration of the Sabbath principle. Can you imagine working 120 years without a day off? As we shall see, the practical benefit of a Sabbath Day was latent with a larger spiritual truth!
A question frequently asked by advocates of Torah compliance is: "Whatever happened to the Sabbath?" The answer to that question consists in one word: Jesus! The Lord designed the Sabbath as a way for man to rest and cease from labor as God rested from his creative work. Hebrews 4:1-11 is a key biblical passage that speaks to this rest. The scripture says: "For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his" (4:8-10). When a man comes to Jesus Christ with empty hands and trusts the work of Christ, not his own works, to save him from his sins and give him eternal life, he enters into spiritual rest only Jesus can provide. The Sabbath foreshadowed that spiritual rest. For the believer who walks by faith, every day is a Sabbath of rest in Jesus Christ his Lord!
The spiritual truth of Christ being THE Sabbath for the believer does not negate the practical benefit of the Sabbath. While a believer, who is dead to the Law and resting in Jesus, is under no obligation to observe the Sabbath, Jesus taught: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). A man acts in his own best interests when he sets aside a day to rest from his labors, allowing the Sabbath to serve him, not him the Sabbath. It might well be the seventh day of the week (i.e., Saturday). But why not the first day (i.e., Sunday)?
In my mind, Sunday is NOT the Christian Sabbath. If you examine the book of Acts, the early Church met “daily” in the temple and from “house to house” (Acts 2:46). But as time passed, the frequency of their gathering appears to have diminished. In the NT, one cannot find ANY instruction for the Church to meet on Sunday. The habit of Sunday assembly is probably due to several factors: the resurrection of Jesus on the FIRST day of the week (Mark 16:9); a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples on “the FIRST day of the week” as they were assembled together (John 20:19); the seven days Paul spent in Troas wherein the disciples had come together “upon the FIRST day of the week” to break bread, receiving a preaching session that lasted until midnight (Acts 20:5-7); Paul's instruction to the Corinthian church to lay aside “upon the FIRST day of the week” (a clear reference to their day of corporate assembly) an offering for his ministry (1 Corinthians 16:2).
When John was in the spirit “on the Lord's day” and received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, it's clear to me it was Sunday, the FIRST day of the week (Revelation 1:10). While there is no NT instruction for the disciples (local church) to assemble on Sunday, the preponderance of biblical evidence suggests that meeting on the FIRST day of the week, at a minimum, became the accepted practice. In the book of Hebrews, God's people are admonished not to forsake the assembling of themselves together with a recommendation for more frequent assembling as they see the day of Christ approaching (Hebrews 10:25). In a technical sense, Sunday isn't the Sabbath for the Church. But if Christ's disciples, who have found their Sabbath rest in Jesus, can kill two birds with one stone, assembling plus resting, by meeting on Sunday, it would seem to be an appropriate solution.
Let me briefly illustrate. In the summer of 1973, I traveled to Alaska for three weeks to help missionary Lindsey Williams, bush pilot and chaplain for the Alaska Pipeline, develop a youth camp. On a certain Sunday, we flew out from Kenai to Kalgin Island to attend Sunday services at a mission church. There be were perhaps twelve people in the service, including the pastor's family and us. The work didn't seem very successful since the missionary had been there for years. Why the low attendance? We found out the main industry on the island was a salmon cannery. Roughly ninety percent of the village's adult population worked there. The cannery shut down one day a week – Saturday. When the missionary held services on Sunday, most adults in the village were at work. We marveled that this pastor was so locked into Sunday church that he couldn't do a church service on Saturday and expand opportunity for adults and their families to learn of Christ. It was a 'Sunday Sabbath' tradition that blinded this man to the full potential of his ministry. In the circumstances, having a church service on Saturday would have been a better option. If the cannery had been shut down on Thursdays, he could have done Thursday church.
We close by asking the question we asked previously: How many times does God have to say “DEAD TO THE LAW” in order to establish it as a spiritual fact? The Mosaic Law is a schoolmaster, a yoke of bondage. It was added to the Abrahamic covenant to exacerbate transgressions and lead men to saving faith in Jesus Christ. For the believer, who was crucified with Christ and in whom Christ now lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is his new spiritual reality. The Lord replaces the old Mosaic covenant in his life with the new covenant in Christ's blood, which also connects him with the Abrahamic covenant inasmuch as Christ is the Promised Seed. As he walks by faith and bears the fruit of the Spirit, he pleases his Lord, grows in grace and Christ-likeness. If he sins, he has an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who forgives his sin and cleanses him from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7–2:2). This is NT gospel truth upon which every believer, both new and old alike, should have a firm grip.