I'm sorry that I haven't posted in a while...life has been a little more *intrusive* with my time as of late.
I came across a saved WORD doc. that I've probably had in my Documents folder for a couple of years now. It was from a time when I was engaged in an email exchange regarding the Law (Torah) of God, and the Christians responsibility to it. It was a rather lengthy conversation that took place over several months. The particular doc. that I found recently was a response I typed up but never finished, nor sent (probably because I got too busy and the conversation dropped). I wanted to post it here for the purpose of examining the biblical notions and doctrines that we all hold. Paul tells us to "examine" ourselves, to see whether we are "in the faith." He also tells us to "test all things; hold fast that which is good." So, I present the following for the purpose of not only testing what others believe, but also myself - therefore I heartily invite dialogue regarding the matter (IF it is not simply to argue and waste my time, and IF it is not simply to solicit people to your own blog/website/whatever).
It is a bit lengthy, but I hope that it will provoke some thought, and most of all, deeper study into God's word.
Hi (name removed),
I wanted to try to directly answer a few of the questions you posed in your email. You asked me what the Law specifically "does" for a Christian. You asked "does it justify? Give righteousness? enhance faith? Make God love me more? Make you holy or more holy ?"
First I'd like to ask what your definition of the "law" is. When you say "law", what do you mean? Are you speaking of a specific 'law', or of a certain group of laws, or all of God's commandments, or the Pentateuch (5 books of moses), or the whole of the OT, or the OT plus the "oral law", etc.? The word in the NT translated "law" (gr. 'nomos') is used in a variety of applications. It also has a very narrow definition (that being "law"). Paul uses it , for example, in Rom. 8:2, where he says the "law (nomos) of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law (nomos) of sin and death." He goes on to say that the law was "weak through the flesh" so God sent His Son "in the likeness of sinful flesh" and "condemned sin in the flesh (1 John 3:4 says that "sin is the transgression of the Law")" so that "the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Paul does not say that to walk after the Spirit is to not do God's commands. God did not save us from the law (so as to say that we are saved from doing it) - He saved us from the condemnation of the law for breaking it. To walk after the Spirit is to be Spirit filled so as to walk IN God's ways (ie. commands, Torah - "Law"). This is not fanciful exegesis - God said this is what He would do by giving us His Spirit -
Ezekiel 36:26,27 - "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them]."
Jer. 31:31-33; Heb. 8:8-12 - "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts ; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more ."
Paul makes this distinction throughout the book of Romans. God did not remove His law from us in His grace - He gave us His Spirit, to dwell within us, so that we COULD walk in His ways (something we could NEVER do in the flesh, because of sin). That is why God sent His son in the "likeness of sinful flesh" and "condemned sin in the flesh." Why in the world would God destroy His law, or remove it from us? If He somehow took away the law, changed it, removed parts of it, or simply said that we did not need to obey it, how would He then judge the world? Without law there is no transgression. The court is left powerless. Psalm 19:7-11 says - "The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there is] great reward." David then goes on to say in the next verse "Who can understand [his] errors? cleanse thou me from secret [faults]." How does a judge rule without a law to execute judgement? Paul expresses the same sentiment - Rom. 3:1-6 - " What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God . For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged . But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? [Is] God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?" Our "unrighteousness" is defined by God's law - all of it. You cannot seperate commandments - you cannot keep some, and do away with others without destroying the whole thing. Is this not what James tells us - "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all." (James 2:10).
To begin to answer you directly ("Does it justify? Give righteousness? Enhance faith? Make God love me more? Make you holy or more holy?"), no, it does not justify - it NEVER has. It was never meant to - not when you are speaking about justification before God in a "salvation" sense. Yes, it does justify in a natural sense (ie. if I am innocent of a crime that I have been accused of - and proved to be so, I am "justified" in the eyes of the law, BY the law). So it all depends on what you mean by "does it justify?" For some reason, Christian doctrine so often makes a switcheroo on people. Let me ask you - should a Christian be baptized? If yes, then why? I know your answer already. Yes, a Christian should be baptized. Why? To be obedient. Well, then is he "justified" by being baptized. Of course not. He is simply being obedient. Why is it that you can apply this thinking to baptism, but if we talk about the Sabbath, kosher, or any other thing that God commanded, it is relegated to trying to "justify" oneself. Why can't we be consistent? If we can be obedient to one command without trying to be "justified" by it, then we can be obedient to 5, 20, 250, or 1000 commands without trying to "justify" ourselves by it/them, but rather, simply out of obedience. How is it that if I try to be obedient to "Jesus' law" (as if it is different than "God's law") I am o.k., but if I try to be obedient to God's law (again, is it different?) I AM trying to justify myself?!
Dr. Kent Hovind points out that evolutionists will often point to examples of MICRO-evolution, and then try to prove MACRO-evolution by it - the old bait and switch method. Christian doctrine does the same thing. If you obey Jesus, you are simply being obedient. If you obey the "OT Law", you are being legalistic.
Jesus' "law" is absolutely no different than the OT law - He's the One that gave it at Sinai - He's the One that unhinged it from it's corruption at the "sermon on the mount." It is often said that He actually intensified (or added to) the law in Matt. 5 by saying that not only should we not murder, but if we are angry with our brother without cause we are in danger of judgment - and 1 John says that if we hate our brother we are a murderer. Did Jesus really add to the command not to murder, or intensify it even? Nope - nothing new here. Look at Lev. 19:17 "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart...." All that Jesus did was He tied the two together - He unified these two commands - which was and is nothing new. God's law is a complete whole - if you break 1 "you are guilty of all...." (cf. James) When He said that to even "look" at a woman to "lust after her" one commits adultery with her in their heart, was He giving us something new? Nope - check out Ex. 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife , nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that [is] thy neighbour's." All Jesus did was link the command not to commit adultery to the command not to "covet" (ie. lust after) our neighbor's wife. They are not distinct, individual commands. The Law is a complete whole. Didn't He Himself say that "not one jot or tittle will pass from the law....?" B.T.W. - If Jesus removed our need to obey certain commands (or Paul for that matter), or if He added to God's law, He would be guilty of breaking it!!!
Deut. 4:2;12:32 "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."
Prov. 30:6 "Add thou not unto his words , lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar."
Rev. 22:18,19 "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book."
As an aside: The Jews do not call the OT, the "OT" (as we Christians often do). They call it by an acronym - "TeNaKh"- which stands for "Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuv'im", or, the "Torah (law), prophets, writings." It is their name for what we call the OT. Torah means "instruction" and encompasses God's word as a whole (because it is ALL instruction). I would consider everything from Genesis to Revelation God's word, therefore it is all "Torah." Notice that the warning not to ADD to God's word, nor to DIMINISH it (ie. take away from it) is found in Deut. Prov. and Rev. - representing the "Torah (law - Deut), writings (Prov.), and prophets (Rev.).
Now, back to the "sermon on the mount." Did Jesus add to God's word? No. Did He diminish it? No. He did not and could not. Everything He supposedly "added" was already there! If He "diminished" (ie. lessoned, removed) any of it, He would be guilty of violating it, thus He would and could not be the Messiah.
Does God's law "give righteousness" you asked. It IS righteousness. Psalm 119 is replete with this message (as well as hundreds of other verses, including Paul's). To "do" it is to "do" righteousness. What does the Bible say about John the baptiser’s parents? " There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife [was] of the daughters of Aaron, and her name [was] Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless ." What?! I thought the law only condemns and kills? How is it that they are called "righteous" because they "walked" in God's law? They are called "blameless." Were they without sin?!? Of course not. This is the misconception that Christianity has regarding God's law, based upon a misunderstanding of what Paul taught (mostly). Tell me, was it possible to be "blameless" in God's law BEFORE the cross (in which Jesus died for our sins), but after the cross, we are only condemned by it; it could only "kill" as you put it?!? Doesn't the law only condemn? This is totally backwards, don't you think? Before Jesus died, weren't we all condemned by the law, but after His death, we were "freed"? How is it that they were "blameless" concerning God's law? I have an answer for it, but it differs from the common Christian understanding of God's law.
You asked if it "enhances faith". The answer is, yes - does not obedience to the Lord enhance faith? How do you obey the Lord without obeying what He says? Yes, my faith is CERTAINLY enhanced by obeying God's commands - so is my understanding. Do I think it improves my "justification"? Of course not, and I already covered this above. My faith being enhanced by obedience has nothing to do with my "justification", which is ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED by my faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf.
You asked if the law "makes God love me more." I don't think so. But it certainly pleases Him when His children obey Him, don't you think?
You asked if the law "makes you holy, or more holy." Let's first define "holy." How do you define it. As far as I know, the bible defines "holy', which literally means "set-apart." Peter tells us, in 2 Peter 1:15,16 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (ie. in all our "conduct", or "lifestyle", or "behavior"); Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." First: he tells us that everything about our life is to be holy. Second: he doesn't give us a working definition of "holy." Third: this is because he is quoting a previous passage in his instruction to us, thus, he expects that we will either already know what he is referring to, or that we will learn it by following his quote. Isn't this what biblical hermeneutics demands? Shouldn't we look up the passage he is quoting from as his basis for telling us to be holy? Well, one of the passages is Lev. 19 (it is stated also in Exodus 22; Lev. 11; Lev. 20, et al). You can check it out yourself, but I do think the first few verses are interesting - Here is the first 12 verses: "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God [am] holy (This is where Peter is quoting from). Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I [am] the LORD your God. Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I [am] the LORD your God. And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire. And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it [is] abominable; it shall not be accepted. Therefore [every one] that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather [every] grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I [am] the LORD your God.Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another. And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I [am] the LORD."
Here we see everything from honoring one’s parents, to not stealing, to keeping God's Sabbath’s, to not swearing by God's name falsely, to how your peace and freewill offerings are to be made, etc. etc. The entire chapter goes on and on. Could you please tell me what Peter was referring to when he gave us the blanket command of being holy - which of the commands in Lev. 19 are do we obey in order to be holy, and which do we ignore?
Yes, God's law makes us "holy." The more we walk obediently to God, the more we are "set-apart" from the world - God says so Himself.
*This concludes the email - as I stated already, I never finished it nor sent it.