Saturday, February 13, 2016

Was Jesus Teaching Law Instead Of The Gospel?

The teaching exists, and is in fact quite common, that what Jesus taught in the gospels is not gospel, but law. The idea is that Jesus came to people who were under the Old covenant; who were under law, therefore what He said to them has little or no application for us today. One must go to the writings of the Apostle Paul, they say, to understand the gospel of grace under the New Covenant.

The Sermon on the Mount, his teachings on anger, forgiveness, worry, laying up treasures, divorce and remarriage, turning the other cheek, etc. were all law given to people under law, and while they may have some merit today, they are quite unnecessary, as they have nothing to do with salvation in this day of grace. Many teachers exist, indeed have existed in the past as well, who explain  away all of His teachings found in the gospels in this manner.

Jesus taught much in the three and a half years He walked upon this earth. Could it be true that what He taught, what He emphasized was only for a brief transition period between the dispensations of law and grace? Could it be possible that what He taught His disciples the night of His betrayal and arrest on obedience, abiding in the vine, and bearing fruit (John 14:21, 15:1-11), could be safely disregarded within the next few days after His resurrection? What about His severe statement found in Matthew 7:21-23? He states that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of His Father in heaven will enter. Those who live disobedient lives will be cast out on the day of judgment, as workers of lawlessness. Is this a mere legalistic statement that we can now safely ignore as those who are not under law but grace? What about the sheep and goat judgment found in Matthew 25:31-46? Has this threat now passed from us under the New Covenant?

Look at what Jesus began to proclaim from the very start of His ministry.

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
(Matt 4:17 NASB)

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
(Luke 4:17-21 NASB)

Jesus begins His ministry preaching the kingdom of heaven. This is a new thing, not the chosen kingdom of Israel with all of it's rituals and laws, but the kingdom of heaven. He is proclaiming the gospel to the poor, and release to the captives, sight to the blind, and freedom for the spiritually oppressed. This is good news, as that is what is meant by the term gospel. This is not law, as so many believe, but the good news, the gospel. This same gospel of the kingdom was proclaimed by Philip (Acts 8:12), and the Apostle Paul (Acts 20:25, 28:30-31). Jesus was not teaching something temporary during a transition from law to grace, but was teaching the same gospel that was later proclaimed after His ascension. Jesus states, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come " (Matt 24:14 NASB)

When John the Baptist sent his disciples to question Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus replied to them in a similar manner. "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them (Luke 7:22 NASB). Once again, Jesus is not claiming to preach law, but the gospel. We read later on in Luke's gospel that the law and prophets were proclaimed until John (the Baptist). Since that time, the gospel of the kingdom of God is being preached (Luke 16:16). Once again the good news of the gospel, not law.

Prior to His ascension, Jesus gave His disciples the "great commission." They were to go into all the world and make disciples, (Mark records Preach the gospel), teaching them to observe all that Jesus had commanded them (Matt 28:19-20). Jesus emphasized obedience to His commands.

God has always had a moral standard of righteousness that He requires from each and everyone of us. This has been true from the very beginning. In the Old Testament, as well as the New, we read that we are to be holy, as God is holy (Lev 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-16), we are to love God with supreme love (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37), and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev 19:18; Matt 19:19; Luke 10:25-28). Jesus summed up the law and prophets by telling us to treat others in the same way we would like them to treat us (Matt 7:12). When God gave Israel the ten commandments (the moral law), He was not giving them some terrible, burdensome commandments to make life miserable for them. To the contrary, He was showing them how He expected them to live; how they were to worship and love Him, and how they were to treat one another. Paul repeats this theme in his epistle to the  Romans when he states that loving our neighbor is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8-10). 

When Jesus ministered upon this earth, He set about to uphold the law, which had become twisted and made of non effect through the vain teachings of the scribes and Pharisees of the day. He was not imposing legal standards that must be rigidly kept if one was to be saved, but He was holding forth, for the world to see, God's holy standard of righteousness; what He expects from all people, namely, that we would give up our selfish devotion to our own welfare and lusts, and instead love God with supreme love, and love our neighbor as ourselves. 

To refuse to do this, to selfishly pursue our own interests at the expense of our devotion to God, and our care for our fellow man, is rebellion. Paul tells us that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, refusing to be subject to the law of God. There is that word law again. Paul teaches us that if we are not in subjection to the law of God, we are His enemies, and are dead spiritually (Romans 8:6-8). Jesus teaches us that those who love Him will obey Him, and be loved by God, the Father (John 14:21). Once again, remember the solemn warning found in Matthew 7:21-23. God has always, and will always, expect obedience. this applies to the New Covenant, as well as the Old Covenant. God's standard of righteousness has not changed.

We read in Hebrews 8, 

For if the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord. 
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
(Heb 8:7-10 NASB)

We also read this in Romans 8,

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
(Romans 8:3-4 NASB)

The problem was not the law, the law is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). The problem lies within us. We do not wish to submit to it. the law serves to show us God's standard, but it does not empower us to obey it. The entire chapter of Romans 7 is a lesson on the futility of a person under the law trying to be good on his or her own. It cannot be done. Jesus tells us that the problem is found within the heart of man (Mark 7:20-23). The one who commits sin is the slave of sin (John 8:34). Paul agrees with this (Romans 6:16), as does Peter (2 Peter 2:19).

What the New Covenant provides is the willingness and power to subject ourselves to God's standard and will for our lives. We can now live victorious lives in freedom from the dominion and power of sin. Instead of being forgiven in our sin, we are forgiven and set free from the power of sin, and enabled to be obedient to the law of God. This is not a slavish obedience, but a loving surrender to the rule of Jesus Christ over every area of our lives. Jesus said that the one whom He sets free is free indeed (John 3:36). Back up a few verses, and you will read that it is essential to continue in His word if we would be His disciples, and find the truth that makes us free (John 8:31-32). Once again, obedience is essential to the life of a true disciple. Not legalism, but love.

We read that Jesus came to redeem us from this present evil age (Gal 1:4); that He came to destroy the devil's works, and as a result, the one born of God does not sin (1 John 3:8-9). Yes, we must be forgiven our past, as it stands between us and God. but it is also true that we are in desperate need of transformation, if we are to live a life pleasing to God by faith.

To many, it may appear that Jesus was teaching commandments and laws, while Paul was teaching salvation by grace through faith, but a careful reading of the epistles of Paul, as well as Peter, James, and the epistles of John, show us that it is all the same message, the same gospel that Jesus proclaimed as well. We must heed His warnings to the disobedient. We dare not become careless or complacent when it comes to His commands and teachings, for He requires of us that we be obedient to the faith, as Paul also agrees with (Romans 1:5; Titus 3:11-13). 

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
(2 Tim 2:19 NASB)

1 comment:

  1. A teacher teaches: "The Torah is the Law, commonly known as the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.”

    Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

    Matt. 5:19. Whosoever therefore shall ”break”—rather, "dissolve," "annul," or "make invalid."

    one of these least commandments."

    [There is a Greek verb lyo in the verse Matt. 5:19, lyo, to loose, translated as annul , translated as loose in Young's literal translation verse Matt. 5:19 ]:

    Whoever therefore may loose one of these commands -- the least -- and may teach men so, least he shall be called in the reign of the heavens.

    Ben teaches: ”

    ,...” The law was not nullified.

    In verse [Rom 7: 6], ... Rather, he says we, through death, were “nullified ”

    .... So the way that we were “nullified from the law ” is that we `died`.”

    ”the Greek uses the same word for abolished [KATARGEO Strong's Gk. #2673] both in Rom. 3:31 and Eph. 2:15a.”
    [and also in Romans 6:6 , 7:2 and 7:6]

    Emeal teaches:

    ”...It was determined that Paul and Barnabas should go up to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders in order to settle this dispute.

    ... the apostle Peter asked regarding this matter: "Why do you test elohim by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" [Acts 15:10]. It was then revealed by the holy spirit that the Gentile believers were not obligated to keep the law of Moses, but they, as well as the Jews, are saved through the grace of the lord Jesus.”

    John McArthur teaches:

    "When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council [Acts 15], they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers."

    William teaches:

    ”Jewish christians continued to follow the law of Moses

    Paul also kept the law. James bears witness that Paul was law observant in Acts 21:20-24