Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Law is not a Guide to Holiness (17)

Another common problem is the false idea that the Law of Moses contains a complete list of all sins. This is just not true.

God gave the law revealed to Moses in Exodus and Deuteronomy to provide a way for people to live in harmony. It was not intended to be a complete list of all sins. Pride is not mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Nor is presumption or gluttony. We should not be surprised at these ommissions, because this is not the purpose of the law.

Moses understood this. He was the most humble man on the earth, even though humility is never mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Moses was humble because he loved God, not because he obeyed the law. He understood that the law was not given to define sin, but to provide a way for people to live together in harmony.

Jesus corrected this error. In the Sermon on the Mount, he gave a new standard of righteousness. He then explained that keeping the law was not sufficient for those who want to live a holy life. There are plenty of people who have never committed adultery, murdered someone, stolen from their neighbour or perjured themselve before a court, but that does not make them holy. Jesus explained that anger and lust are sins, even though they are not forbidden by the law.

Our righteousness must surpass the standard required by the law (Matt 5:20).

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48).

Keeping the law makes us peaceful citizens, but it does not make us holy. God’s holiness requires a much higher standard than the law.

Some Christians assume that Jesus was changing the law and setting a higher standard. This is not correct. He confirmed the law.

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 (Matt 5:17-18).

Jesus has not changed the law. What he did was to explain the difference between the standard of the law and the standard of holiness. The law is sufficient for people to live in harmony, because that is its purpose. It is not our standard of holiness.

Jesus has strong warning for those who teach people to disobey the law. Those teachers in the modern church who despise the law should take note.

Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:19).

Those who teach the law will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven! This is one that we have not noticed.

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Jim Fedako said...

Have you ever read books by Gary North? antipositivist

Ron McK said...

Hi Jim
Yes I have read quite a lot of Gary North's work. I have found them really helpful.