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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Law: What's it all about?

Growing up in church, I heard a lot about The Law. By that I mean the Law of Moses, which basically refers to all the laws found in the first five books of the Bible. In those books are many, many laws given to man by God through his servant Moses. They include the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), lots of laws pertaining to the tabernacle, worship, and sacrifices, and lots and lots of laws pertaining to how man should conduct himself as a follower of God.

But even though I grew up hearing about and reading about the Law, I didn't understand how it related to me, a Christian living in the 20th century. Did God really expect me to keep hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of laws in order to be saved? If he did, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? How do those two things -- the Law and Christ's death-- co-exist in Christianity?


I found a good explanation of the Law's purpose on www.christistheway.com: "The Law was a covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 19:5-6; 24:3-8; Deuteronomy 5:1-3). A covenant is a binding contract between two parties, both of whom have obligations specified in the covenant. Ancient covenants were characteristically made between an all powerful ruler and his servants. The servants were guaranteed protection and benefits from the ruler. In return, the servants owed complete service and loyalty to the ruler. They demonstrated their loyalty by keeping the covenant rules. If a servant violated the rules, he had demonstrated disloyalty, and the ruler was to punish him according to the penalties set out in the contract. This is the way the Law of Moses is constructed."

But one question keeps coming up in today's modern world. Especially when discussing things like homosexuality and gay marriage, among other things. That question is:

DOES THE LAW STILL MATTER?

The simple answer is, "Yes, it does."

The more complicated answer is,"Yes, it does."

In Jesus' first public speech -- the Sermon on the Mount -- he makes it very clear that the Law is still the law of the land:

"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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Matthew 5:17-18

Pretty clear, right?

So, if the Law is still the law, why don't we have to keep all of them

Short answer: Because of Jesus. 

The Law was put in place by God because of man's sin. We needed laws -- rules -- to keep us out of trouble, out of sin. If you are a parent, you know what I'm talking about. Children need rules to stay out of trouble. Without rules, they have no boundaries. They run wild. They do things that are dangerous and stupid. It's the same with the laws God gave the Israelites. They were drowning in sin and needed some boundaries. Some of the laws also seem (to me, anyway) to simply be busy-work. You know. Keep 'em busy keepin' the laws, they won't have time to get into trouble. 

But the laws were never meant to be the way to salvation

"What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come." Galatians 3:19

God always planned for Jesus, the Seed, to be the way to salvation. He had a timetable though, and until it was time for Jesus to come, the Law stood as a beacon of salvation for the Jews. Jesus, however, came as a beacon of salvation for the entire world. 

BUT -- and that's a big but -- we are not free to simply ignore the Law now that we have salvation through Christ. We are not free to say, "Well, we have the New Testament, so the Old Testament doesn't pertain to us anymore." That is simply wrong. Paul constantly referred to the Law while writing the letters we have now that teach us how to live Christ-like lives. He especially emphasized keeping our bodies holy and sexually pure, in accordance with the Law. In Acts 15:22-31 the apostles in Jerusalem sent a letter to the Gentile believers in other lands who were being told they must follow all the Jewish customs and laws in order to be saved, even though they had confessed Christ. The letter states, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality." Peter received a vision from God (Acts 10:9-23) that gave us permission to eat the foods that had previously been declared off-limits by the law.

Salvation doesn't come through the Law, but the Law is still very much a part of the life of a Christ follower. 

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This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand

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