by Roland W. Keith
In His letter to Titus Paul wrote, “Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:9-10). The first time I can recall reading that passage I wondered how do we “adorn the doctrine of God?” Since then I have even read some commentators describe it as dressing up or decorating the word of God to make it more appealing to those we are trying to evangelize, which sounds dangerously close to telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear, something we are warned to reprove and rebuke, not to use as a teaching method (II Timothy 4:1-5). Of course, the answer to my question is made clear when we read the verse in its full context.
In Chapter 1 of his letter to Titus, Paul writes that an overseer (and all Christians for that matter) must hold firm to the word, rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). The second chapter begins with Paul instructing Titus to teach according to sound doctrine (2:1). Finally, in Chapter 2:11-12 we are told, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). We are not to dress-up the word of God to make it more appealing, rather we are to adorn ourselves with the word of God— in our habits and actions, so that the world will see the word of God reflected in us. As John put it to abide in the word is to have the Father and Son; those who do not abide in the word do not truly have a relationship with God (II John 1:9).
It is a hard fact for many Christians to accept but we are not responsible for the world’s behavior. Whether they accept the gospel or reject it is a choice each person makes on their own. We are only responsible for giving them the opportunity to know Christ, and to reason with them insofar as we can. But if they turn away to follow other beliefs and reject the word we bring them that is beyond our power to control (See again II Timothy 4:1-5). Concerning those who reject the truth Jesus said, “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town” (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5). We have an obligation to take the gospel into the world and share it with as many people as we can, but we have no power or authority over the free-will choice they make with regard to the word— we cannot make anyone believe what they will not to.
If we are dutiful, studious followers of Christ then we are well-equipped and prepared for the Lord’s work (II Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 6:10-18). We have in fact adorned ourselves with all that we need to go forth in the world to do our part in God’s work, and we are well-protected against the advances of the devil and his minions. Being prepared also means being forewarned. The world is not our friend, nor can it ever be so long as we are faithful members of the Lord’s kingdom (James 4:4). We are in very real terms mortal enemies. Only in death will we be truly free of the world and its temptations. Only then will we be beyond the reach of its dark master. We are protected, but we remain subject to our own free will, which is why we are warned to protect our own salvation so often in scripture (Philippians 2:12; Hebrews 2:1-3; I Peter 2:2, 10-11; Jude; Ephesians 6:10-18).
If we wonder what being adorned with God’s word looks like we can compare some of the world’s adornments to those of scripture by reading Galatians 5:19-25: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Those who live by the Spirit are in step with the Spirit. To be in step we must live according to the word that God delivered to us through the Spirit. If we dedicate our lives to God’s word and His service our lives will be transformed, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). The truly religious person separates himself from the world in personal behavior, because the focus of their life is the spiritual welfare of the world, not the secular goals that others pursue. Does that mean we turn our backs on all forms of worldly success? No. It means that the focus of our lives is driven first and foremost by God’s will and not our own. According to James the Christian seeks to “keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
The Godly prepare their whole lives for the return of their King, as Paul wrote to Titus, we are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). We may achieve great financial success in the world, even fame and fortune, but for the true Christian the first goal is always the kingdom of the Lord (Matthew 6:33). We cannot, as Elijah put it limp “between two different opinions” (I Kings 18:21). Our hearts cannot be divided between the world and heaven. Jesus directed John to write these words to the church in Laodicea: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelations 3:15-16). The Christian who is not on fire for the Lord or trying to divide his loyalties between the world and the church will find himself rejected by the Lord.
We adorn ourselves with the doctrine by worshipping the Lord in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), with worship that is acceptable to the Him (Hebrews 12:28-29). When we are gathered in His name, it is for two reasons— to edify ourselves and build one another up in our faith, but more importantly it is to bring glory to the Lord with a form of worship that conforms to His will, not man’s (Hebrews 10:25; Romans 12:1; Matthew 15:9; John).
We are adorned with the doctrine when we do the works of God for which we were created as His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). As workers in the Lord’s service we can do no better than to follow Paul’s directive on the matter: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (I Corinthians 15:58). It is in our service to the Lord that many of us find our greatest reason for rejoicing (Philippians 4:4-5). Who does not feel joy and find satisfaction in strengthening a brother, or being there for a sister in her hour of need? Who would not thrill to have someone they are studying with come to the Lord as a result of that study?
There are many things we can do in life that are worthwhile and are therefore worthy of our time and effort, but none so valuable as the time we give to the Lord. None so critical as when we wear His armor into the world to fight the good fight. Again, we would all do well to heed the words Paul wrote to Timothy: “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (I Timothy 6:12). What letter of recommendation are we writing for ourselves as servants of the Lord? Paul told the Corinthians that they were his letter— those that he had brought to Christ, that he had labored to strengthen, that he had guided, and risked health, life and limb for. That letter he informed them was written with the Spirit of God, on human hearts (II Corinthians 3:1-3). Do we not have the same word that Paul had to work with?
Jesus told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13-15). We too are followers of Christ. Have we lost our saltiness? Or do we wear the doctrine, the armor of the Lord, with pride? Are we lighting the path for others, or are we blending into the shadows of the world?
What do our letters of recommendation say about us? How many hearts have we written on with the Spirit of God? Some letters may be long, some may be short. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we write them. I already know what I want the last two sentences of mine to read, “Lord, I did my best to touch others with Your word and to keep it Mat 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Mat 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Mat 5:15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
myself. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’” (II Timothy 4:7).
By Roland W. Keith
For those of us who have made a study of the life of the apostle Paul one thing stands out— he was a confident man. Whether he was persecuting Christians or trying to convert the world to Christianity he did everything in the confidence of his convictions, so much so that when standing before the council for preaching in the name of Jesus he told them, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day” (Acts 23:1). Even when he railed against God in trying to destroy the church Paul was a man of integrity, zealous for God and the traditions of his forefathers (Acts 24:16; 22:3; Galatians 1:14). It may be that God chose Paul to carry the word into the Gentile world, precisely because of these personal attributes. As the Lord told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:15-16).
It would take a man of tenacity and toughness to succeed in bridging the two worlds of the Jews and Gentiles in order to bring them together as one in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-22). That such a man would suffer in his efforts was an unavoidable part of the job description (II Corinthians 11:22-33).
Many years after his conversion Paul would write, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13). Suffering for Christ had taught Paul to distinguish between need and want, between the power of the Spirit and the desires of the world. Among the things that he had learned was the joy of knowing Christ and the sufficiency of God’s mercy and grace, and the right of the Lord’s followers to approach the throne of God with boldness and confidence to receive more when in need, in the assurance of passing every test with the faithful execution of God’s commands (Hebrews 4:16; Ephesians 3:1-12; I Thessalonians 2:1-4; I Corinthians 7:19).
How did Paul gain such confidence? As noted, before he was a zealous follower of God (Galatians 1:14), who had studied the law at the feet of his generations most noted scholar, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In his letter to the Ephesians Paul instructed his readers in how they could prepare themselves to face everything that Satan and the world would throw at them, equating it with a soldier preparing for battle by putting on the appropriate armor and taking up his shield and sword (Ephesians 6:10-18). Included in that instruction was the need for prayer, preparation in the knowledge of God’s word, and perseverance in effort. The reward for the determined soldier of God? Nothing less than his own salvation and that of those he helped to free in the fray between good and evil.
For those who serve their King faithfully Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39). Paul’s confidence was unshakeable. He was fully convinced that no matter how fevered the battle became, no matter what the enemy did to him, the Lord would ultimately rescue him and usher him to safety (II Timothy 4:18).
The apostle John also had something to say about our trust in God. When we compare his writings to Paul’s, we see revealed two vastly different personalities. Paul was the bull of the woods, a man of action, with the battle scars to prove his mettle. John was the apostle of love. His confidence came from allowing Christ to perfect His love within us. Where love reigns fear is banished, replaced by our confidence in the Lord and the surety of His promises. When that love is achieved one need never shrink back from God in fear or shame. We stand uncondemned in our own hearts, knowing we have kept the Lord’s commandments, and with such knowledge we can stand before the Lord with confidence (I John 4:17-18; 2:28; 3:21; 5:14).
The Lord’s brother James also spoke of confidence. Jesus had once said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57). Indeed, none of Jesus’ brothers believed in Him growing up, or even throughout His ministry (John7:5). In fact, they thought He was crazy! (Mark 3:21). Apparently, it wasn’t until His resurrection that they finally came around and were noted to be in the upper room with their mother and the other women who followed Jesus, along with the apostles waiting in devotion and prayer. Speaking from the perspective of one who had grown up in the same house with Jesus, refusing to believe until unbelief was no longer an option James’ advice? Banish doubt from your mind (James 1:5-6) and have faith.
For the Christian faith and confidence should go hand-in-hand. John said, “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). However, the Bible speaks of two types of fear. One is the fear of evil, or the “spirit of fear” that does not come from God (II Timothy 1:7), which is what John was alluding to. The other is the fear of the Lord. King David spoke of the first when he wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). It is this fear that we overcome with faith and confidence. David’s son, Solomon wrote of the second type of fear in Proverbs 14:26: “In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.” The first form of fear is born of dread. The second is born of awe and reverence for God, His power and glory, and His mercy and love. One saps our confidence away, the other is our basis for trust and spiritual strength. As the Psalmist wrote: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
It was such understanding that led Paul to write, “So we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6). It is this combination of fear and confidence, containing all the love of God and faith in Him that compels His followers to seek and attain the spiritual heights that are possible when we give our all as workers in service to His name (II Timothy 2:15). Those who reach such heights will not be ashamed to be found doing the Lord’s work or to be called a follower of Christ (II Timothy 1:12). The struggle for most Christians is in seeking those heights and maintaining them. How do we find and strengthen our confidence, thus securing our reward (Hebrews 10:35-36)?
Put on the armor of God that Paul spoke of (Ephesians 6:10-18). Study and work hard (II Timothy 2:15). Assemble with the saints encouraging and strengthening one another (Hebrews 10:23-25). Endure persecution (I Peter 5:10). Pray (I Thessalonians 5:17). And follow Paul’s example. Even when everyone around him deserted him he refused to lose faith, writing, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth” (II Timothy 4:16-17). Paul did everything listed above in this paragraph, yet one thing that he did came above all others— he put his faith in God, trusting in Him for deliverance (II Timothy 4:18).
Paul was determined to honor Christ even to the point of death (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6). He encouraged everyone to share in the suffering for the gospel (II Timothy 1:8-9). He did not want to be like others, but he did want them to be like him— in following Christ (Acts 26:28-29). Paul was belittled and beaten, chained and held in contempt, yet he was never ashamed of who he was or Who he belonged to (Romans 1:16). He was justly proud of the example he had set for others in following Christ (Philippians 1:14), ceaselessly encouraging those he taught. In his second letter to his young protégé, Timothy, he wrote, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1: 6-7).
None of us has had a miraculous gift imparted to us. Nonetheless, we do have God-given abilities that we can flame into a fire of action. We can exercise our abilities in the spirit of power, love and self-control that we have developed in applying the Bible’s wisdom to our lives. We can be a part of the church’s work in making known the manifold wisdom of God’s plan of salvation— a plan that was fully realized when Christ Jesus rose from the dead and subsequently established His church (Ephesians 3:10-12). And we can do all these things in Christ’s name with complete confidence so long as we are willing to hold onto that confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:14).
By Roland W. Keith
The prophet Jeremiah once wrote, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). An odd statement to make about a being who was created in the image of God and given dominion over the earth as its caretaker. But a lot had changed since the creation of man and Jeremiah’s time. Man had been corrupted by sin and no longer walked in harmony with God. As God spoke through Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God’s intellect and understanding is infinitely superior to man’s to be sure, but there was a time, albeit briefly, when the mind of man was at least perfectly attuned to God’s will.
What man lost in the Garden of Eden is beyond our ability to assess. That which is not perfect cannot adequately understand nor describe that which is perfect. For us perfection is an idea or goal to strive toward, but it is not a reality. As Christians we are made perfect through Christ, yet our weaknesses remain with us even as we try to emulate Him. And, as a species our flawed nature is reflected in the world we have created for ourselves, demonstrating just how far from God and perfection we have wandered. Even so, there can still be a connection between us and perfection, between the creation and its Creator.
Through a knowledge of the Messiah and the infallible word of God that leads us to Him we can become reconnected with perfection. We can find the path that brings us back to God and another chance to follow His will. Adam and Eve were to rule the earth according to God’s direction. That is still man’s charter. That which Zechariah prophesied concerning Joshua has been true of man throughout the ages: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in My ways and keep My charge, then you shall rule My house and have charge of My courts…” (Zechariah 3:7; see also Exodus 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 28:1-2; 30:16; Jeremiah 7:23). Those words and promises were delivered to mankind by men God inspired to speak and write for Him. The last such men included first and foremost the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ, and the men that He and the Holy Spirit inspired to complete the final covenant between God and man (Ephesians 3:3-5; Hebrews 1:1-2; II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:16-21; 3:15-16).
When Jesus came to earth His Father gave Him all authority. Jesus used that authority to establish His church, command His disciples in their duties, and to call all men to Himself in obedience to His word (Matthew 28:18-20). It is our responsibility as Christians to do our part in Gods great commission and all works done internal to the body of Christ as well, knowing that all that God has decreed shall come to pass, as spoken in Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
It is our duty to stir one another up to remembrance of God’s word and commandments, and to follow His teachings, continuing in them throughout our lives (II Peter 3:1-2; II Timothy 1:13; 3:14-15). As members of Christ’s body it should be our goal to attain that which Paul hoped for Timothy when he wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Moreover, we must hold to that word throughout our lifetimes, helping to forward to future generations the faith and traditions in which we stand, ready at all times to affirm God’s word and commands (Philippians 2:16; II Thessalonians 2:15; II Timothy 4:2; I Peter 3:15-16; Jude 1:3). Part of that affirmation includes protecting the integrity of the written word.
In his second letter Peter wrote, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (II Peter 2:1-2). It is our job to combat such attacks on God’s word. We must not let false doctrine invade our congregations or go unchallenged in the world. To allow such things is to be complicit with those Paul described as “the sons of disobedience”, risking the wrath of God along with them (Ephesians 5:6-10). We must be able to say, along with Paul, “we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God” (II Corinthians 4:2).
Unfortunately, some will be misled even among those who have a zeal for God: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness” (Romans 10:2-3). Many are those who believe in God who have been taught and ascribe to the idea that they can worship their Maker according to their own will, without truly seeking or submitting to God in the matter. Paul wrote, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3).
No matter how earnest we are in our worship if we drift away from the truth we are courting disaster. So great is that danger that Paul informed the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John recorded this warning that truly applies to all scripture: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
Jesus Christ issued another warning during His ministry: “If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:47-50).
The word. It is the authority and power of God over man and all of creation. Each of us has a duty to obey it and a responsibility to protect it from, and to share it with the world. The protection and sharing of the word being among the works that God created us for (Ephesians 2:10), that we might bring glory to His name. So, the next time you pickup your Bible ask yourself this question, “How well am I handling the word of God?”
By Roland W. Keith
From the human, historical perspective the Bible is a product of forty writers, all of whom were Jews, except Luke, the physician. However, as Paul wrote, “the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2). Accordingly, all the texts in the Old Testament were inspired by God, the final text being that delivered by the prophet Malachi. After his writings a four-hundred-year period of silence between God and man, known as the intertestamental period, occurred.
That silence ended when John the Baptist began his ministry as the Messiah’s forerunner in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign (Luke 3:1-3), followed closely by the ministry of the Messiah Himself(Acts 10:36). Jesus’ life and ministry fulfilled the law and prophets ((Matthew 5:17), issuing in a new, and brief period of miracles, inspired prophesy and writings, which ended with the death of the last person given such powers by the Lord or through the laying on of the apostles hands, a period which culminated with the inspired writings we now know as the New Testament.
Cumulatively the works of both the old and new covenant periods and their writings have a single goal: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:18-19).
God’s word is truth (John 17:17), given to man with the intent of freeing him from his sins (John 8:32). It is both the weapon we need to defeat our enemies and a shield by which our Savior protects us (Proverbs 30:5). And since the last writing was completed late in the first century, it contains the completed and final covenant between God and man, including all the knowledge we need to reconcile ourselves to our creator and to live in accordance to His will for us (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:20-21).
According to Peter knowledge of the inspired word provides all that we need to live full, godly lives. Moreover, it reveals to us both the Heavenly Father and His Son, all the work that they have done on man’s behalf, and all of God’s promises, including His plan of salvation for man (II Peter 1:3-4). In describing the word Peter wrote, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for 'All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.' And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (I Peter 1:23-25).
James, the brother of our Lord, once said that the man who looks into the word of God and perseveres in its application would be blessed (James 1:25). But what of the one who refuses its wisdom? As Paul wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
The Bible is full of blessings and curses. Blessings for those who obey God, and curses for those who rebel against Him. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). In the end God’s word and His judgments will stand— for eternity. The Savior also observed, “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15).
How can we receive the blessings of God? By obeying His word (Psalm 119:9; John 8:31, 52). It is in His word that we find our eternal inheritance, according to Acts 20:32: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Next week’s blog: The Bible: Its Authority and Our Responsibility
Most Christians today, if asked, would most likely say that the Law of Moses was made obsolete by the New Testament. Some scholars on the other hand would argue that the old Law and the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), are founded on the same commandments (Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:37-40; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), therefore the Law of Moses was not abolished or changed—rather it was made perfect in understanding and thereby superseded by the New Testament, which is the same in its nature. This is based in part on this statement of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
The failure of this argument is twofold: (1) While Christ did not come to abolish the Law, He did come to fulfill it. When something is fulfilled, or its purpose has been met it is no longer required. As for the rest of this passage, Jesus was telling His fellow Jews, who lived under the Law of Moses as He did, that they could not relax in their efforts to uphold and obey the Law in its entirety (Not just the first two commandment on which it was founded); to fail in one point of the Law was to violate the Law itself, and to be accursed (Galatians 3:10). (2) If the Law of Moses was not superseded in fact, but in understanding only, then the Law and all its regulations are still in effect as well as the curse attached to it. However, when Christ was crucified and rose from the grave, He set us free from that curse (Galatians 3:13), by establishing a different sort of law, as Paul noted: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Both laws were from God. Both are founded on the same two foundational commandments (Mark 12:28-31). However, while one revealed sin and condemned violators to death, the other set them at liberty because its testator Himself had paid the penalty for all violators who are willing to come to Him for redemption. One system of law was based on works of the Law which required perfect adherence from its subjects (who could not live up to its demands), the other is based on grace freely given, and works of obedience, which does not require the perfection of its subjects, but faithful obedience to the One Who was made perfect for them. By proxy the followers of Christ are made perfect through His sinless life, not through their own actions.
The Law of Moses accomplished its task as God intended. The foundation of God’s law remains, but much of the original structure was swept away to be replaced. The ordinances and regulations and their associated works are no longer in effect. That which was by its nature incomplete has been replaced by that which was made perfect (I Corinthians 13:9-10; Hebrews 7:28; 12:23). Upon that foundation Jesus Christ has established a new covenant, which has been made complete in a way that the Law of Moses never was. The new covenant encompasses the perfect law of Christ/God (I Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Romans 7:22-25; Matthew 22:37-40). So, what is to be made of the Law of Moses?
According to Paul, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Old Testament, the Law and Prophets remain an example and a source of instruction (I Corinthians10:11). They also provide the student with the history of God’s dealings with man and the background that we need to more fully understand the New Testament, and man’s current relationship to his Creator.
When we look into that history, we find that the Law never stood alone, nor was it intended to be a permanent solution to man’s woes. It wasn’t until 430 years after God established His covenant with Abraham that He gave man the Law, for a specific reason: “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:17-24).
The law made man aware of his transgressions and convicted him, yet at the same time guarded him until Messiah would come to redeem him (Hebrews 9:15). It was Christ, not the Law that set man free from his sins and the burden of the Law itself (Hebrews 10:1-7; Romans 3:20). Jesus did what the Law could not do and what man could not do for himself. Through Jesus man can once again draw near to God, both Jew and Gentile, in order to be reconciled to Him (Galatians 3:10-16; 5:1). It is in Jesus Christ that man can throw off the shackles of the Law through faith (Galatians 3:24-26), as Paul wrote the Romans, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:4-6).
The Bible tells us that all who have broken the Law are dead in their trespasses but can be set free from its condemnation (Colossians 2:13-14). We can find that freedom by turning from the world to Christ: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:1-7).
In the end, while it still has much to teach us, the Law of Moses was made void. As Paul wrote, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). It was made so by Jesus Christ, according to the will of God the Father. According to Paul: “For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this One was made a priest with an oath by the One who said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, 'You are a priest forever.'" This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:18-22).
We do not live under the Law of Moses. We are fortunate, for we have been given an opportunity to accept God’s gift of grace. We are able to find salvation under a better, perfect covenant. On the Day of Pentecost, as Peter preached the gospel message those who stood convicted under the Law of Moses asked a simple question, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), “And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). On that day the new covenant was ushered in to effect and Christ’s Church was established.
Years later the Lord’s brother would write, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). A covenant is a contract between two parties. It stipulates what each side is responsible for and what benefits each will receive under its provisions. It also outlines what constitutes a breach of contract. James is telling us not to forget— to persevere so that we will indeed receive the benefits of the contract we have entered into. For those who do persevere there is a one-way ticket to a better place, as Paul wrote, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.