“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
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“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Joh.1:17).
THE WORKS OF THE LAW and THE LAW OF CHRIST
Many people have failed to understand that they are really in the sight of God and do not feel the need of God’s mercy to be forgiven and to enjoy His grace and His gifts in their lives. The Bible indicates: “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?” (Pr.20:6). They assert that they are ‘sinners as everybody else’, but that, in reality, they are good people and have never done anything really bad! And that the iniquities they have done in their lives nothing will be found to be considered as a true sin (Hosea 12:8). Others who – though believers – have some difficulties in making the distinction between faith and works.
Some believers have the tendency to overlook the moral commandments of the Old Testament because they have read in the Bible that “… Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom.10:4). The Bible, however, is clear on this point: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Rom.3:31). But what law the apostle Paul is referring to? He is referring to the moral law. Only the ceremonial and social ordinances were abolished. The commandments, for example: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me’; ‘Honor your father and your mother’; ‘You shall not murder’; ‘You shall not commit adultery’; ‘You shall not steal’ etc., were never abolished. These commandments have to do with God’s holy character and were given to us for our good, for our protection, for our prosperity and eternal life! God richly rewards our compliance with His commandments! On the other hand, the same moral laws exist in man’s heart and constitute the basis of the human law! Theft, murder, etc., have always existed and exist as bad acts in all the peoples of the world, even the most underdeveloped. God has implanted these moral laws in man’s heart and spirit! So, if we do not understand these truths correctly, “law is deprived of its terror and grace of its freeness” as someone said.
Law is an expression of the mind of God, of His righteous requirements. Man must fulfill them or the offender will be punished. The law, however, is not the basis for justification, but for condemnation (Rom.7:12, 14; 1Tim.1:8-10; Gal.3:11-12). He who transgresses it will reap sooner or later the consequences. And “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb.10:31; also Heb.6:4-8 and 2Pet.2:20-21).
God’s commandments are given in order to be implemented. It is supposed to be within the possibility of those who are under the law to obey them or be given the power, to that end, by the Holy Spirit. What we read, however, in the Bible is indeed strange. For example: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom.3:19-20). We also read: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal.3:24). The law of God is so perfect and man is so weak that he cannot obey it perfectly. We cannot serve the LORD: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive our transgressions or our sins (Jos.24:19).
The terms “sin” and “repent” have no sense if they are not considered in relation to a moral behavior model, to a touchstone… The legislator is God; His moral principles are unchangeable, bound to His own character. Is it ever possible that, we, weak human vessels obey all holy God’s requirements? Then two questions: Which act is a sin, and in relation to what? If what we do is sin, then we must repent. We must repent, but in relation to what? The answer is clear: The pattern of our behavior is the ‘man’ Jesus; the instructions to be conformed into his image are given in the Bible; and the power to apply God’s commandment is provided to us by the Holy Spirit.
These ‘thoughts’ pushed me to make a relatively detailed STUDY dealing with the “Works of the LAW” and the “Law of CHRIST”. As I was preparing it, I understood that this study is one of the most important and wide spectrum themes that I have ever dealt with. I was deeply blessed in my inmost being!
PART ONE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Now, let us examine one by one the basic moral commandments of God, the Ten Commandments (Ex.20:2-17 or De.5:6-21). We shall compare and comment on them, at the same time, with some basic principles of Christ’s Law, the New Testament, and the “perfect law of liberty” (Jas.1:25). Why? Because we must understand them and compare ourselves to that unique model, who was Jesus Christ.
1. You shall have no other gods before me…
Our Lord Jesus Christ has confirmed and explained this commandment. He told us that it is He Himself the Lord and the One that the Father God has established… No other god before His face! It is written: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” (De.18:18-19). This is why God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, of those on earth and of those under the earth (Php.2:9-10).
So, if God has brought us out of the land of sin, out of the house of bondage, it is to Him only that we must give our loyalty, because we were bought at a price; therefore, let us glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are God’s (1Cor.6:20). No place, therefore, for other gods or any form of idolatry… We read in Isaiah: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior” (Isa.43:11). Elsewhere: “Look to me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isa.45:22). Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1Cor.8:6). And John the apostle: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1John 5:20).
Someone could object by saying that the points I am mentioning do not concern believers, since they already have made their choice. On the contrary, I do believe that they very much concern us! Here are some questions that I firstly asked myself:
- In moments of crisis, do I put my trust in politicians, in members of my family, in medical doctors, in my income, etc. or in God?
- Do I prefer the friendship of the world or God’s approval? (Jas.4:4). Do I seek to please men or Christ? (Gal.1:10; Ac.4:19-20)
- Do I prefer my material profit and success in life or God’s will and glory? Is my God “myself” and/or “my dignity”?
- Is my work and/or a person the center of my thoughts and preoccupations? What and where is my treasure? (Lu.14:16-24)
- Do I really fear God, trust Him and honor Him by obeying His Word?
- Do I accept the Bible as the unique authority in my life or do I rely on pastors, religious traditions and books of Christian literature?
- Do I excuse myself by saying “So does everybody”?
- The last but the most important: Have I accepted Christ as my Savior only or as the Lord of my life, too? (Rom.10:9; Jean 20:28).
This same commandment can be seen in another way: Since it is not allowed to have other gods, that means that God must be given CONSTANTLY and PERMANENTLY the first place in our hearts. No human being should be worshiped! (Ac.10:25-26; Re.19:10 and 22:9). The first and the greatest commandment is: “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…” (Mrk.12:30). No man can serve two masters (Mat.6:19-24). What the first commandment requires is absolute loyalty to the Lord! Let this phrase be not misinterpreted: Peter’s unfaithful act – due to his weakness – to deny the Lord should not be confused with the faithfulness of his heart towards Jesus! (Joh.21:15-19). Peter was weak but was not wicked, proud and double-minded! All Peter’s thoughts were in CHRIST, just as all David’s thoughts were in his LORD! When a man really loves God who has saved him, then and only then he will be able to know and comprehend the multidimensional love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that he might be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph.3:18-19).
Let us pay attention to the following verses: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Ps.10:4). Jeremiah says: “And the pride of Israel testifies to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him for all this.” (Hosea 7:10). Pride: the worst sin, the greatest obstacle in the spiritual life!
Only God is worthy of our worship… Loving God is the secret of success (Mat.6:33). The man of God has his delight in the law of God in which he meditates day and night. He who disobeys God’s first and greatest commandment commits the greatest sin and is guilty before God! We must, therefore, give God the place that He deserves: Absolutely the first! No family member should have the first place! We must never forget the disastrous consequences that will follow if we disobey! Disobedience costs much more than obedience! It is, therefore, indispensable to repent and humble ourselves before Him in order to avoid being humiliated by Him! The Lawgiver is One! He who disobeys in one is guilty of all… What a terrible thing is disobedience!
Unfortunately, there are “Christians” and even workers of the Gospel “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” (Php.3:19). Jeremiah the prophet describes such ‘prophets’: “I listened and heard, but they spoke not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course…” (Jer.8:6). They do not differ from the Scribes and the Pharisees of Christ’s time that were pure and simple manipulators and had made the House of Prayer a den of thieves: “… for every one from the least even to the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even to the priest every one deals falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jer.8:10-11).
Closing my comments on the first commandment, I would like to add one expression that Paul used at the end of his epistle to the Church of Ephesus: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity (in purity, in incorruption, undecayingly). Amen.” (Eph.6:24). So, that means that there are people who… ‘love’ the Lord Jesus Christ NOT in sincerity, in purity, undecayingly!!! (See Eph.6:24; Php.1:15; 2Cor.2:17; Gal.6:12 etc.). Who are they? Are comments necessary?
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them…
The Bible says that “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Joh.4:24). That means that even if we have the true God as our God, God does not want us to worship Him through images or statues but “in spirit and truth”! Those who worship God through or by means of images (icons) and statues fall into the category of idolaters! The first case of idolatry referred to in the Bible was when the people of Israel made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt (Ex.32:8). The same thing happens today when we corrupt ourselves and make for ourselves a graven image, we kneel before them, we worship them, and we kiss them and pray invoking their help and ask them even to do miracles! Then, we say that it is that “miraculous” image of that saint etc., that healed us or saved us or delivered us from a danger as if it were our God or as if the deceased saint in the image is all-present and all-powerful to perform miracles! The apostle John says: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1Jo.5:21)
According to the Scriptures there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus and that there are no other deceased saints, even Jesus’ Mother, that can help us and save us directly or indirectly through their icons, etc. Consequently, IF we do not hold fast the Good News that was proclaimed to us and IF we do not stand therein, IF we do not believe it correctly and IF we do not apply it THEN we have believed in vain! (1Cor.15:1-4 and 1Tim.2:5)
We must take heed to ourselves for the LORD, our God, is a consuming fire, even a jealous God (De.4:24; Ex.20:5). HE is THE LORD, and will not give His glory and praise to images! (Isa.42:8). Such images, etc., have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes but cannot see, ears but cannot hear, noses but cannot smell, hands, but cannot handle, feet but cannot walk (Ps.115:5-7). People carry them, set them in their places, they stand and cannot move! They cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good (Isa.46:7; Jer.10:5). However, in such images they attribute the ability of the protector of a city (Jer.2:28 and 11:13), of a corps of army or the Mother of Jesus as taking part in their wars!!! Where have they found all these? Nowhere! They have simply invented the compromise excuse, asserting that this icon is not worship, but it is simply an expression of respect to certain people in the image!!! Those who are attached to icon worship, in the worship of dry dead bones and to Mariolatry etc., are people who shut their eyes, that they cannot see and they stop their ears that they cannot hear and they harden their hearts that they cannot understand! Why? Because they do not want to be converted and be healed! Their deceived heart has turned them aside, that they cannot deliver their soul, nor say: Is there not a lie in my right hand? (Isa.6:10; 44:20; Ac.28:27). “Thus said the LORD to this people, Thus have they loved to wander…” (Jer.14:10). Elsewhere it is written: “Aussi Dieu leur envoie une puissance d’égarement, pour qu’ils croient au mensonge, afin que tous ceux qui n’ont pas cru à la vérité, mais qui ont pris plaisir à l’injustice, soient condamnés.” (2Thes.2:11-12). Those who make such images and worship have become spiritually blind and deaf! Why? Because their craft and their income make them blind (Act.19.27) or because they have accepted blindly false traditions. How clearly and beautifully Paul describes them: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Why God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” (Rom.1:21-25; De.4:16-18).
Idolatry is a work of the flesh… and those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal.5:19-21). The people of Israel, to whom the Law was given by God, saw no form; they only heard a voice. That is why God told them to take careful heed to themselves, lest they act corruptly and make for themselves a carved image in the form of any figure (De.4:11-28). Idol is whatever stands for or is a substitute for, the living God. Idol worship is an insult to the very nature of God (Isa.44:19). True worship is to stand in awe, to open our hearts to Him and to obey His voice (His Word).
God promises blessings upon blessings, not only to us, but also to our descendants if we obey His commandments. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments. This is true worship! The expression “If you love me, keep my commandments” means faith in Him and worship directly to Him and NOT through angels, icons or dry bones of dead saints not even by using religious processions…
We must worship only Him who is God’s only begotten Son, who has been made flesh and has been delivered for our offences and Who has been raised from the dead for our justification. He who wanted “… through death… destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb.2:14-15). He who is above the angels and archangels who loved us with an eternal love and who gave Himself as an expiatory victim to transfer us out of darkness into the marvelous light of His kingdom (1Pe.2:9). He who is called our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Tit.2: 13); “… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev.1:8) and Who will gather together all those who have made a “… covenant with Him by sacrifice” (Ps.50:5). If we have idols in our life, whether things or persons or icons, etc. let us be afraid! Let us get rid of these idols immediately. The worst idols are our ego, our money, our profit, our life’s arrogance, even our worries… Unfortunately, we sacrifice everything in order not to lose our idols!!! “… Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mat.6:21). I would like to my comments on this commandment by this verse: “… how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1Thes.1:9-10). If we have idols in our life, let us turn our back to them in order to be delivered from the wrath to come!
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…
Who take the name of the LORD in vain?
- Those that swear in the name of God falsely (Mat.5:33) or who use God’s name without serious and justified reason;
- Those who forswear (promise) but do not perform their oaths (promises). Many are those who are covenant breakers either orally or by writing even for God’s work!!! Jesus declared: “But let our communication be, Yes, yes; No, no: for whatever is more than these comes of evil.” (Mat.5:33-37);
- Those that make jokes by using God’s name without respect. Laughter is useful to our health, but to make jokes either by using God’s name or in order to make our preaching more pleasant and attractive is spiritually unhealthy, disastrous and profane the name of God! (Lev.19:12). May God keep us! The Psalmist said “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps.141:3). Taking His name in vain or lightly, it means that there is a problem of heart: frivolity or hypocrisy or lack of godly fear!
- Those that blaspheme the name of the Lord (Lev.24:16);
- Those who what they say or preach does not correspond to their life. We must practice the things we preach. Jesus said: “… but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat.5:19). This is true also for people who sing hymns of love and praise to the Lord while they are not keeping His commandments! They are lying in hypocrisy! Such people love God in word and tongue, but not “in deed and in truth”. (1Jo.3:18). “But to the wicked God said, What have you to do to declare my statutes, or that you should take my covenant in your mouth?” (Ps.50:16). He holds guilty all those that do not pay attention to His warnings. The outcome can be very painful!
- Those who superficially or falsely say, “God told me…”; “God sent me…” or “God gave me…” or, or, or…, when God did not speak, did not send, did not give but it is our pride or frivolity or… “Then the LORD said to me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke to them: they prophesy to you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nothing, and the deceit of their heart.” (Jer.14:14);
- Those who say: “I had a vision from God who told me or did so and so…” or “I had a vision and the Holy Spirit told me, revealed to me”… We must be very careful to «visions» because Satan can deceive us by exploiting our ignorance or vainglorious spirit or even our inferiority complex… Satan can transform us into… false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming ourselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2Cor.11:13-14).
- The Holy Spirit tells ALWAYS the truth! There are many, however, who ‘manufacture’ another ‘holy spirit’ and its false gifts of ‘healings’, its false ‘speaking in tongues’ etc.!!! The Bible is full of descriptions of false prophets (ex. 2Pet.2). There are many that have been cheated by Satan and/or by their pride and have presumptuously assumed different titles such as “apostles”, “prophets”, “healers” “bishops” etc. They believe that repeating again and again their “supernatural experience” or their theological studies, that they will convince their hearers or their readers. In certain cases, those “supernatural” experiences are but illusions and hallucinations. Instead of appropriating such titles to themselves, they should let God or those who hear them, see them, read their writings and know their life to give them the proper title… The Word of God says: “For not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2Cor.10:18); and “And no man takes this honor to himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Heb.5:4). They remind me of something from the Bible about some “dreaming” prophets: “I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed……… The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? said the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? said the LORD; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer.23:25-29);
Such people assert that they can “deliver” others while they cannot deliver themselves. The way they speak and behave betrays them as people, who, in spite of their zeal or fanaticism, are people “having not the Spirit” … “foaming out their own shame” and silliness. In addition, some of them create a mixture of their religion with their nation or race! Others do not differ from the “prophet Balaam” who wanted to prophesy for money… “……… walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaks great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage……… These be they who separate themselves (because of their Orthodox doctrine or Catholic doctrine or of the particular doctrine or of the constitution of their Church or because they have spoken in tongues) …” (Jude 1:12-19). Some of them accept and want that their fellow men kiss their hand and bend themselves and kneel before them… They should do well to pay attention to what the apostle Peter said and did to Cornelius (Ac.10:25-26) and the angel to the apostle John (Rev.19:10).
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
A short but very useful parenthesis: The apostles John and Peter declare in their writings that they heard that voice which came from heaven when they were with Christ in the holy mount; they had seen with their eyes and had looked on, and with their hand had handled the Word of Life. Peter, however, declares emphatically that “MORE SURE is the word of prophecy (of the Bible) to which we as to a light that shines in a dark place…” (1Jean 1.1-3 and 2Pierre 1:16-19). Christ said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mat.24:35). This is the reason why the great scientist Pascal said that God’s prophecies are His permanent miracles!!!
4. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
There is a passage in Isa.58:13-14 that expresses God’s intentions, which reminds us of the good use of this day. “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…” He blesses and sanctifies those that keep the Lord’s Day and makes them a lot of promises. God’s goal is the rest of our body, the rest of those that serve us, including the animals of work and above all to deal with the things of God and for the blossoming of our spirit. It proves God’s caring love for us. It is a day for public worship and for private meditation and for a renewed sense of God’s presence in our workdays. It is, for this reason, an act of injustice toward God not to go to church in order to go to a picnic or go to the sea etc.! It is a sin not to go to church or to prayer meetings, etc., in order to watch TV or not to read the Bible in order to read our newspaper or magazines, etc. What counts is to separate ourselves and give ourselves time for fellowship with God, for the Lord’s work and especially during the Lord’s Day… For the true believer, every day is spiritually holy because he lives for the Lord…
Let us respect the Lord’s Day as well as all the days that the Lord has given us as a loan! Keeping the Lord’s Day should not become just a ritual… We should not, however, stick to the letter which kills but to the spirit that revives. There are people who are obliged, on account of professional reasons, to work on the day of rest (Sundays, Sabbath). Example: train or bus drivers… What is unacceptable before God is when, although we can respect the day of the Lord, we go and work because we are lovers of money or because we want to refresh our house or go to the sea to swim or go to a pick-nick… Everything depends on the spirit with which we do what we do…
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
5. Honor your father and your mother…
When God gave this commandment, He wanted to accompany it with a promise, the very first promise for longevity and prosperity: “Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” (Eph 6:2-3).
We owe our parents obedience, respect and loving concern. We owe them a respectful way of speaking to them and about them! It is a great sin to consider our duty towards our parents as a gift or a favor towards them. The Lord Jesus Christ said: “For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses father or mother, let him die the death.” (Mat.15:4-6). There are children who rob their father or mother, who insult and curse their parents and even beat them. There are also murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers! The consequences will be very severe! “Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.” (Pr.20:20).
We must spend and be spent on behalf of them! But attention! This does not mean that we have the right to dishonor our wife or our husband in order to honor our parents and become the source of marital frictions. We need God’s wisdom! There are many people who are deprived of God’s blessings because they do not do their duties towards their parents! It is necessary to repent, to confess and to humble themselves and stop neglecting them!
And if God wanted to put the accent on this commandment, which are the consequences that can follow because of an attitude or a tendency to dishonor our parents in words or in acts? We, parents, have the tendency to take seriously the disobedience of our children, but we have the tendency to forget our duty to honor our parents. Even adult people are still obligated to honor their parents, even parents who are not worthy of honor. The Bible does not say, “Honor your father and your mother” only if they are good!
A young lady’s father was not worthy of honor. Convicted and guided, however, by God, she began honoring him and obeying him. That “unworthy” of honor father was at first astonished, and then he was won to Christ and became a man “worthy” of honor. By his changed conduct other people were also won to Christ! That, at that time, “young lady” is my wife…
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
6. You shall not murder.
This commandment does not refer to the act of killing, but in the act of murdering! This commandment does not seem to have to do with us, Christians, BUT it has to do with us in different ways:
- “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat.5:21-22). In certain cases, I would rather say in most cases, the NT dispositions are more severe than the OT ones! Christ has established a new rule, known as: “The golden rule”: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat.7:12 and Lu.6:31). The Holy Spirit gives the power to apply this Christ’s law of divine love to regenerated hearts.
- “… He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1Jo.3:14-15). The apostles’ letters were sent to Christians! He who loves only those who love him has already lost his reward; he who does not love his brother is spiritually dead and he who hates his brother is a murderer! How many are those who murder people secretly by the hatred and the envy they hide in their heart? A lot of “murders” are committed because of envy… (1Joh.3:12). They are as Cain and Abel: Envy leads to hate and hate leads to murder in act or in words. There are people who murder the character and the good name of the people by their gossiping or by their calumnies or slander and/or defamation!
- There are also people, whose mouth is smoother than butter, but war is in their heart; their words are softer than oil, yet they are drawn swords (Ps.55:21). The problem, consequently, lies in the human heart!
- Those who commit unjustified abortions, are they not murderers?
- Is it not a murder when we kill someone by a bitter word or by an insult?
Let us examine ourselves and see if we have ever committed such murders. However, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jo.1:9 and Ps.32:5).
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
7. You shall not commit adultery.
This commandment does not concern only men but also women! Potiphar’s wife who cast her eyes on Joseph and asked him to lie with her constitutes a Bible proof (Gen.39.7-9; See also Mrk.10:12 and Rom.7:3). There are different ways to commit adultery:
- First: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mat.5:28). This commandment concerns married and not married people! The issue before us is infidelity, promise making and keeping. It is a problem of loss of integrity. Is our word as good as a written contract?
- Second: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” (Mt.19:9).
- Third: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas.4:4). That is spiritual adultery: This kind of adultery has to do with believers or so-called believers who make doubtful compromises with the world or try to please people for their own profit or for their own protection… Such people resist and grieve the Holy Spirit! What will be the consequences? Spiritual blindness? Will they not forget that their old sins were purged? (2Pet.1:9). Will they be spewed out of His mouth? (Rev.3:16). God knows! Anyway, no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. God will judge them! (Eph.5:5 and Heb.13:4). Homosexuals are included… (1Cor.6:9-10).
Who has never committed one or the other kind of adultery either in his or her heart or in act? God’s grace, however, is greater than our weaknesses. He forgives our sins and failures and gives us the power to say “no” to temptations, provided we sincerely repent. What shocks me is to see people living in adultery, to sing, clap their hands, lift their hands and worship God as good Christians!
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
8. You shall not steal.
Who has never stolen a small or a big thing belonging to someone else? It might be a flower or money from his or her father or mother’s pocket or purse! Let us not elaborate on more important things such as stealing men (enslavers) and women and selling them as slaves… or as prostitutes! Slavery was applied and even promoted by many of the so-called Christian nations!!! And what should we say about the oppression, the defrauding and the exploitation of many poor, but rich in minerals and other natural resources, countries by some so-called Christian countries? (Amos 8:4-7). May be we have deprived our employees of something that was due to them. In the OT much is said about unjust balances, weights and measures, which were an abomination to the Lord! Of course, these words have also to do with unjust and disrespectful conduct towards people! They refer also to respect of persons. “To have respect of persons is not good: for a piece of bread that man will transgress” (Pr.28:11). If not, we have not given our Lord His tithes (Mal.3:8) or paid our taxes to the government! (Rom.13:6-7). If not, we very often steal words, one from another, we steal their intellectual property or spiritual property such as ideas that are not ours and we present them as ours, we usurp something that does not belong to us, etc.!
Nowadays, we have seen “flowering” another form of stealing: We see many so-called Christian workers, “men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness (1Tim.6:5), who by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple and who do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly” (Rom16:18), stealing in this way their money.
One of the worst ways of stealing is to steal from one another with beautiful expressions of love and praise to God while we neither believe them, nor live up to them: In all the above mentioned cases we have lies, thefts and hypocrisy combined! The problem, in reality, is that we love things more than people and we are possessed by our own possessions! God, however, orders: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” (Eph.4:28; Ac.20:35). This commandment was and is intended also for Christians!
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
This word that does not refer solely to the cases of false witness in front of a Court of Justice to wrest judgment, as it was the case, for example, of the chief priests and elders, and all the council, who sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death, but it refers also to lies in general. This is the reason why Paul, writing to the Church of Ephesus, tells them: “… putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” (Eph.4:25). Who has never told lies in a direct or indirect manner? Who has never exaggerated or minimized a fact or an attitude? How many of those that we call “conditional” lies are not true abominations before the Lord? One thing is certain: Honesty and integrity is a very rare virtue!!! Among the six things that the Lord hates and are an abomination to Him are: “… A proud look, a lying tongue, and… a false witness that speaks lies…” (Pr.6:16-19).
God demands that we treat people’s reputation as well as their property with respect. Of course, a truth that is told with bad intent is often worse that a lot of lies. When we pass on stories about others that we have not verified, they can be considered as a false witness or as talebearers revealing secrets. (Lev.19:16a; Ps.101:5). In this way we risk to diminish our own credibility while attacking the victim of the rumor. “… We all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body……… the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…” (Jas.3:2-6). Anyway, “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaks lies shall not escape.” (Pr.19:5).
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
10. You shall not covet…
It is a commandment that goes very deep… It suffices to make a comparison of ourselves with someone else better than yourself, richer than yourself etc. and then the desire inflates itself in us and we begin to covet and we are filled with envy… Then, lust kills us and we complain against God as if He had committed to us an injustice or as if He had deprived you of a blessing… It is on our lusts that our Lord put the accent: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mrk.7:21-23). The desires and the thoughts are the source… “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Pr.23:7).
Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death (Jas.1:14-15). The apostle John attributes “sin” to three basic lusts: “For all that is in the world——the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life——is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1Jo.2:16).
The lust of the flesh includes all coarse unlawful sensual pleasures and their excesses that predominate in the life of men. In here are included the excesses of surfeiting, and drunkenness, etc. These pleasures are but momentary tickles of the nervous system, which leave nothing behind them. However, how much sin there is in the world on account of the lust of the flesh!
The lust of the eye corresponds to the desire of acquisition, which sets on fire our whole being [(Gen.3:6 (Eve); Jos.7:21 (Achan)]. The reason for coveting? Money, home, car, sex, fame, etc. The unprecedented economic crisis we are passing through is due to the love of money, lies, thefts and exploitation! On the contrary, “… godliness with contentment is great gain……… the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Tim.6:6-10; Heb.13:5).
None but God can satisfy the longings of an immortal soul. “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecc.5:10). Covetousness comes from the destructive power of discontentment, which eats away the inner man. We should not pay attention to people who use good words, and who, with their mouth, so much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness (Eze.33:31). The Lord Himself declared in a solemn way: “… Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.” (Luc 12:15). To covet is to get sick and die: “So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which takes away the life of the owners thereof.” (Pr.1:19). That was not Paul’s case. He said: “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.” (Ac.20:33). Elsewhere he said: “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Php.4:12-13). So let us trust God and enjoy what He has given us! “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb.13:5).
The pride of life is the most terrible sin: The only thing that man tries to do is to promote or to put forward his personality, his name, his titles, his fame, his photo in a newspaper or in a magazine. Our desires are insatiable! Yes! The worst lust is that of pride!!!
- “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Ps.19:13)
- “That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man.” (Job 33:17)
- “These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, a lying tongue…” (Pr.6:16-19).
This is the reason why both the Old Testament and the New Testament put the emphasis on humility. A lot can be said about humility, but it suffices to just mention here some expressions from the NT. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that he who exalts himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Mat.23:12; Luke 14:11, 14). James and Peter say that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Jas.4:6; 4:10; Pet.5:5). This is the reason why our Lord declared that ‘Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ (Mat.18:3).
Conclusion: The Bible says: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Jas.2:10). Those who do not believe and do not accept these everlasting truths are either blind or insincere! It is not necessary to violate all the laws of a country in order to be or to be called a transgressor. Let us not forget the word that says: “…Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal.3:10). In all things? Yes, in all things! “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb.10:31). All these warnings were addressed by the Spirit of God to Christians!!! This is the reason why God says: “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Pr.4:23)
Disobedience costs much more than obedience!
PART TWO: LAW – GRACE
The law was given by Moses and grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (Joh.1:17). Of course, this does not mean that there was no law before Moses any more than that there was no grace before Jesus Christ. The forbidding to Adam of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Ge.2:17) was a law. LAW (in the sense of some revelation of God’s will, attributes and character) and GRACE (in the sense of some revelation of God’s mercy, His goodness etc.) have always existed. Man, however, does not always obey in whatever is written in the Law! “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.” (Ps.14:2-3). The terrible and painful results of sin cry out and denounce the fall and moral decadence of humanity. And if someone would doubt that man is cursed, the widespread misery and pain can immediately refute his doubts on the spot: Bloody and prolonged wars, violence, murders, lies, thefts, cupidity etc. Sin’s consequence is anxiety and misery.
The misery of sin in our earthly life is nothing compared with the terrible and endless misery, affliction and loss of soul in which the unrepentant sinner will be found after death. He will then remember the all-loving God, who never stopped calling him, waiting for him and even weeping for his pride (Jer.13:17) for him to see him repenting of his evil ways! (Mat.7:23). Let us also pay attention not to misunderstand God, first, because whatever He does and permits is for our good, even if we do not understand his ways and second, because God has not prepared Hell especially for man but for Satan and his demons!
What was impossible under the OT, God has made it possible through Jesus Christ. The New Testament of grace is “better” than the Mosaic Testament (Heb.7:19; Rom.8:3-4) as it is established on “better” promises. Obedience has now sprung from a spiritually circumcised heart full of good will and of a pure conscience. “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 in their Spirit and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Heb.8:10). In addition, the New Covenant secures a personal revelation of the Lord to every believer (Heb.8:11), a complete oblivion of sins (Heb.8:12; 10:17; 10:3) and rests upon an accomplished redemption wrought by Christ (Mat.26:27-28; 1Cor.11:25; Heb.9:11-12, 18-23).
As mentioned before, sinful man cannot obey Law perfectly; and the Law demands perfect obedience (Jas.2:10). So, the law was and is a schoolmaster (literally, “child-leader”) unto Christ. To GRACE, the Word of God ascribes salvation, justification, building up, redemption, security, effective service, a blameless walk, help in weakness, consolation, strength and deliverance from the dominion of sin, heavenly inheritance, a throne to which we may come boldly for mercy and help, instructions how to live, and a blessed hope! (Ac.15:10; Tit.2:11; Rom.3:24, 5:2; 1Cor.15:10; 2Cor.1:12, 12:9; 2Thes.2:16; 2Tim.2:1; Rom.6:13 etc.).
The Bible confirms that “… For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Rom.6:14-15). Certainly not! Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom.6:2). So you see, dear friends, that the Law is, in itself, holy, just, good, and spiritual (Rom.7:12-14). Nevertheless, the law, neither justifies a sinner nor sanctifies a believer (Gal.2:16; 3:2-3, 11-12) but it is always valid; we are not, therefore, permitted to sin. Otherwise, we will reap the consequences! Under grace, God bestows the righteousness which, under the Law, He demanded (Ex.19: 5; Joh.1:17). The new “law of Christ” (1Cor.9:21; Gal.6:2; 2Jo.1:5) is now his delight; the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom.8:2-4; Gal.5:16-18).
Conclusion: Being “under grace” does not mean being “without law.” “Grace (Paul says) reigns through (on the basis of) righteousness.” (Rom.5:21). In other words: We cannot enjoy God’s grace if we live in sin and do not repent sincerely of our sin!!!
Grace may be defined in the words of Scripture as God’s “kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:7) or the wholly unmerited “kindness and love of God our Savior toward man” (Tit.3:4). God’s grace to man is based on the work accomplished by Christ in His death on the Cross. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Eph.2:8). The basis for all the privileges of grace lies in Jesus Christ’s redemptive death on the cross of Calvary. What counts, therefore, is the blood of Jesus Christ! What also counts is to give Him our heart and be willing to walk always in sincerity and it is to have always a good conscience, “…in all things desiring to live honorably.” (Heb.13:18).
Now, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, God shows His righteousness! His righteousness? Yes, His righteousness! He preserves His personal integrity, righteousness or justice and at the same time He justifies the one who has faith in Jesus apart from the deeds of the law. That process for saving men was applied in the case of Abraham: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Abraham and David and, and, and… all repented sinners were and are justified by God without works. The “work” that God requires is that we believe in Jesus that God the Father has sent for our redemption! This is the reason why David had expressed in a prophetic way what God was going to do through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” (Ps.32:1-2; Rom.4:7-8). So, we have become heirs of all the blessings that were heaped upon Jesus Christ our Lord in whom we have put our trust.
Many years ago I read the following statement written by Scofield: “…Under law God prohibits and requires; under grace God beseeches and bestows. Law is a ministry of condemnation; grace, of forgiveness. Law curses; grace redeems from that curse. Law kills; grace makes alive. Law shuts every mouth before God; grace opens every mouth to praise Him. Law puts a great and guilty distance between God and man; grace draws guilty man nigh to God. Law says, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”; grace says, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Law says, “Do and live”; grace, “Believe and live.” Law utterly condemns the best man; grace freely justifies the worst. (Lu.23:43; Rom.5:15; 1Tim.1:15; 1Cor.6:9-11). Law is a system of probation; grace, of favor. Everywhere the Scriptures present law and grace in sharply contrasted spheres. The confusion of law and grace in much of the current teaching of the day spoils both. Thus law is robbed of its terror, and grace of its freeness.”
Let there be no misunderstanding: the fact that “the Law of Christ” constitutes a better dispensation this does not mean that the OT and particularly the Law that God gave to Moses has lost its importance in the context of the Bible…
His commandments, love God and love your neighbor, which fulfill the law, are now functioning in us because we have been justified by faith and because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom.5:1-5). As soon as we believe that we have died with Christ and YIELD SINCERELY to His will, we are set free from the Law and from the power of the law of sin (Rom.8:4; Gal.5:16).
Let me insist on this point and prove my arguments by some verses, which will rejoice and encourage your heart: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their spirits I will write them, then He adds, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” (Heb.10:16-18). These verses from the NT are based and corroborated by the following verses of the OT:
- “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Eze.36:25-27)
- “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.” (Jer.32:40)
So, the law of Christ is within our hearts.
The basic prerequisites for every spiritual success of genuine Christians are SINCERE REPENTANCE and TRUST IN GOD, (which, however, result very often in their persecution, within and outside the Church, by those who are motivated by a carnal or mundane spirit!) Enormous is the importance of repentance! Three well known examples: One of the criminals on the cross was saved immediately because he repented sincerely and assumed his responsibilities! Peter denied his Lord three times; he was, however, forgiven because he humbled himself, his heart was deeply sorry because of His sin and cried bitterly! The adulterer of Corinth, whom the church gave over to Satan, so that his flesh should be consumed, but his spirit to be saved, when he repented! Paul and the church hurried to receive him amongst them and comfort him so that he should not be destroyed by his sadness. Extreme examples, yes, but enough to prove the forgiving spirit of God, but also the irreplaceable role of repentance!!! Christ, however, declared repeatedly: “I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” (Lu.13:3). Paul warned the Romans: “But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:” (Rom.2:5-6). Paul warned the Corinthians: “For I fear, lest…… lest there be debates, contentions, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, arrogance, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall mourn many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” (2Cor.12:20-21). Mourning not for those who have committed small or great of terrible sins, but FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT REPENTED of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness and certain other sins which they have committed. Who do you mourn for? For the living or for the dead?
I can tell you, on the authority of the Word of God, that all the blessings that our God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, will become blessings on each and every one of us if we love Him “in sincerity”! Yes, blessings of spiritual light, of spiritual insight and of heavenly heritage are also for you and me if we are sincere and honest, when we tell the truth, by being sorry with godly sorrow for our sins, by accepting our responsibilities and guilt as well as by calling without hypocrisy upon the name of the Lord!!! Notice, please, a wonderful verse: “Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (Pr.1:23). I will make you understand my words, if you accept and conform to my rebukes! This means: Light, discernment and spiritual power… Presupposition: repentance!!! God gives His Spirit to those who obey Him!!! (Ac.5:32). Let us not forget that, “… the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever” (1Jo.2:17).
Jesus Christ IN HIS MERCY forgives our sins and rescues us from everlasting death; IN HIS GRACE He offers us a spiritual Paradise here on earth and the true Paradise in His kingdom! Could any law do such things? By no means! But GRACE could, through the SACRIFICE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST! Alleluia!
To God be the glory!