Christians commonly teach that Faith and Grace don’t mix with the Old Testament Law. Since the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Ga 3:24), does our faith in Christ relieve us of our obligation to obey God’s Law, or at least certain parts of it? (Ga 3:25) If Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf (Mt 5:17), why should we worry about it?
God addresses this issue directly, saying: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Ro 3:31) A right understanding of salvation by grace through faith solidifies the continuing relevance of God’s Law in our lives. How so?
Firstly, sin is defined as breaking God’s Law: every time we sin we break God’s Law (1Jn 3:4a), because this is the definition of sin (1Jn 3:4b)
Secondly, Christ aims to take away our sin (1Jn 3:5), not just forgiving us of sin’s penalty, but delivering us of its power in our lives (Ro 6:14); so, as we corrupt the definition of sin we deceive ourselves concerning the purpose and work of Christ.
Without God’s Law, we don’t know what sin is (Ro 7:7), or uncleanness(Ep 5:3), or holiness. (Eze 44:23) This blinds us to whether we’re truly in fellowship with the living God, or worshiping an idol, an image of our own imagination.
Since our carnal nature will never obey God’s Law (Ro 8:7), comparing our hearts with the standard of Torah (Ja 1:23-24) is God’s way of helping us clearly and consistently identify what’s displeasing to God within us (Ps 119:9); it’s how we dispel the darkness. (Ps 119:105) If we don’t align with Torah, we have no light (Is 8:20), and will inevitably make up our own definition of sin, harming ourselves and others. But if we purpose to keep it as well as we can, our lives will be blessed. (Ja 1:25)
God’s Law is perfect, converting our souls (Ps 19:7a), as God uses it to transform us to love others with pure motives, discern between good and evil, and to know Him as He is. (1Ti 1:5) Torah is good for us when we use it as God intended.(1Ti 1:8)
If we could go back to the early days of the Church, and observe the followers of Christ during the time of the Apostles, most of us would be surprised by their passion for Torah, the Mosaic Law. The early Christians were zealous of Torah and we’re keeping all of it diligently, as well as they possibly could. (Ac 21:20)
According to the Bible, the original twelve Apostles who lived with Christ, walked with Him in Person and heard His teachings for three precious years, whom He commissioned to make disciples of the nations (Mt 28:19), never understood that any part of Torah, the Law of Moses, was abolished. (Mt_5:18)
These devout men, who walked in intimate fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, declaring unto us God’s way so that our joy might be full (1Jn 1:3-4), continued keeping Torah their entire lives, as if our duty to obey Torah was perfectly consistent with the redemptive work of Christ. (Acts 21:24)
These spirit-filled men were also deeply familiar with the ministry (Ac 21:18-19) and writings (2Pe 3:15-16) of the Apostle Paul, and were convinced that he also kept Torah as well as he could, and that he believed, practiced, and taught men to follow Christ the same way they did. (Acts 21:24)
Further, both historians and theologians verify that the idea of Christian’s having liberty to ignore certain kinds of Mosaic Laws was contrary to the beliefs of the early Church, only becoming common several decades after these early leaders passed on to glory.
So, the early Jewish believers, under the constant guidance and instruction of these original, spirit-filled Apostles (Ac 2:42), were all zealous of Torah, and the Twelve Apostles as well as the Apostle Paul were encouraging them in this. (Acts 21:24)
They weren’t keeping Torah in order to be saved, trying to establish their own righteousness as their unbelieving Jewish brothers were (Ro 10:3); they understood that faith in Christ establishes the Law (Ro 3:31), affirming its centrality in our walk with God. (Mt_5:19)
In other words, the thought of Christ abolishing Torah, and relieving His followers of their obligation to obey any part of it, was rejected by the early Church: this was considered heresy by the men who were the first-hand witnesses and custodians of the teachings of Christ Himself, and also by their direct disciples. Further, aware that Paul was often accused of promoting this specific, anti-Torah mindset, being very familiar with Paul’s writings and ministry, the Twelve Apostles concluded that these accusations were false, and that Paul’s beliefs and practices were perfectly consistent with their own. They held to the Law as the very definition of sin(Ro 7:7), a blessing to all who keepit. (Ja 1:25)
How can these things be?
There is only one reasonable way to interpret these facts and remain consistent with both scripture and history: admit that Christ did notabolish Torah, concede that He explicitly tells us notto think this way (Mt 5:17), and acknowledge that the Apostle Paul did not believe or teach this either. (1Ti 1:8) This fundamental error was introduced by ungodly men seeking to corrupt the Christian faith, and they did so very early in Church history.
The Apostle Paul himself warns us that this will happen (1Ti 4:1) shortly after he completes his ministry, spreading deception and infecting the churches. (Ac 20:29-30)
And at the end of his life, the Apostle Peter himself, whom Christ especially commissioned to care for His sheep (Jn 21:16), precisely describes what we find here: some things Paul writes are very hard to understand, which the unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction. (2Pe_3:16)
So, those who aren’t zealous of God’s Law (Ps 119:20), who aren’t meditating in it day and night (Ps 1:2) and trying to obey all of it that they can (Ps 119:6), thinking Paul teaches us to live any other way, dismissing any part of Torah, are not rightly dividing the Word; they’re missing God’s heart, and why He gave His Law to us (1Ti 1:5): the Spirit of Christ in every true believer delights in Torah. (Ro 7:22)
Of the abundance of our hearts we speak, whether for good or evil (Lk 6:45), so taming our tonguesis taming our hearts, which is no small thing. (Ja 3:8)
Yet we’re commanded to let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouths, only that which is edifying, ministering grace. (Ep 4:29)
Pure communication is more than just telling the truth; it’s speaking truth in love – for the benefit of both ourselves and others. (Ep 4:15) It’s refusing to demean others, or ourselves, or to posture or manipulate or control, or even simply to please and entertain. (Ga 1:10)
When we speak inauthentically, falsely, we re-wire our own spirits and minds, diminishing our character and weakening our inner man (Jon 2:8), corrupting our spiritual, mental and emotional constitution. (Pr 5:22) It’s then easier to speak more lies (2Ti 3:13), continuing to blur our own perception of reality (Ep 4:18), until we’re blind and numb (1Ti 4:2), having no clue where we are. (Pr 4:19)
As JEHOVAH God spoke Jesus Christ, the Logos, the divine Word (Jn 1:1), Truth itself (Jn 14:6), to bring the universe into existence out of nothing (Col 1:16), we also, made in the image of God, continually transform the chaotic potential before us into a present reality, both for ourselves and others. (Pr 18:21)
When we speak the truth in love, carefully articulating reality as well as we can, we create the most beneficial order out of the chaos, and transform the potential of the future into the best reality that we can. When we choose anything less, though arrogance or carelessness, we use this incredible, supernaturally empowered capability (Ja 3:6) to create something twisted, broken, corrupt. Whatever we do thus create with our words is etched into the very fabric of history itself (Re 20:12), indelibly and permanently for all to consider (Lk 8:17): it can never be undone.
Let’s be asking God to make us observant, aware of our speech, and any corruption in our words (Ps 119:29), which weakens and pollutes our souls, harming ourselves and those about us. Let’s weigh our words, measuring them, testing them (Job 12:11), fashioning them with purpose and deliberation and dignity. (Ec 5:2)
Let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom (Col 3:16), permeating our spirits, so that our speech will be Him living through us, speaking spirit and life anew by us (Jn 6:63), creating new reality with Him as we go, word by word; we will give account for every single one of them (Mt 12:36), and they will either justify or condemn us. (Mt 12:37)
Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in God’s sight, our Strength and our Redeemer. (Ps 19:14)
The scriptures are essential to spiritual life (Ps 119:9); to depart from their precepts is to walk in darkness. (Is 8:20) They’re given by inspiration(2Ti 3:16) to make us wise unto eternal salvation(2Ti 3:15), providing more evidence of spiritual reality than any miracle ever could. (Lk 16:31)
But how do we know what scripture is? What documents should we consider to be inspired of God? How do we go about validating this? What tests should we apply? Several characteristics are common to all of the books included in the Bible, giving us ample clues.
To begin, we know that Jesus Christ, the greatest figure in human history, accepted the 39 books of the Old Testament cannon as scripture (Lk 24:44); He acted as if the Jews of His day had correctly identified all scripture, and only scripture, within these texts. (Jn 5:39) This is now a well-documented, historical fact.
And Christ’s Apostles identified certain new texts penned in their own era as inspired, the 27 books of the New Testament, which recorded the details of Christ’s teaching and ministry, the history of the early church, and how to rightly understand the ways and nature of God in light of all that had already been revealed. (2Pe 3:16) This is also a well-documented, historical fact.
All of these 66 texts in the cannon of Scripture, the Bible, have several unique qualities in common, which are to be expected from scripture:
All scripture is committed to the Jews, God’s chosen people (Ro 3:1-2), who have recognized each inspired text, acknowledged it as scripture, and committed themselves to preserving it for us all. Just as salvation is of the Jews(Jn 4:22), so also are the scriptures, which teach us the Way of salvation, of the Jews.
Scripture does not exalt any mere mortal to spiritual prominence or importance. The authors of scripture often did not even know that they were writing scripture; they did not do so in order to promote or enrich themselves. Those who did write any details about themselves admitted faults which implicated themselves as fallen souls, much in need of grace. There is no record of any author of any biblical text proclaiming that God had perfectly inspired the text through themselves. The assertion and confirmation of inspiration was made independently, through godly men and women who were not in any kind of league with the author to promote them. (Lk 14:11, (Pr 27:2)
Scripture does not contradict any truth of any kind; each text retains a perfect integrity with every other inspired text (Pr 30:5), with science (1Ti 6:20), and with history. (De 18:21)
All scripture is generally received by the people of God as the Word of God. (Ps 119:105) As a pillar upholds a roof and connects it with the ground, so the church upholds the truth of God as His Spirit reveals it to her (1Jn 2:27), and teaches her how to translate that truth into godly behavior. (1Ti 3:15) As a spiritual community, the early Jewish Christians recognized the spiritual power of the Word of God in the New Testament cannon and affirmed it, piece by piece, just as their fathers had recognized the Old Testament cannon of scripture.
All scripture is profitable for godly instruction (2Ti 3:16), teaching us how to walk with God. It glorifies God, not man (1Co 1:29), and feeds our spirits so that we grow up into the image of Christ. (1Pe 2:2)
One of the most abused texts in Scripture must be Romans 10:13– “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Today, it’s generally taken out of context to try to help people receive Christ, teaching that those who ask God to save them are guaranteed eternal life.
But the context indicates we must already believe in God in order to rightly call upon Him, (Ro 10:14a), and that those who thus believe are already saved. (Ro 10:10a) Salvation occurs as we first believe in God (Ga 3:6), as our basis of trust changes from ourselves to Christ, not when we ask to be saved.
This exposes a basic contradiction inherent in the typical evangelical gospel message: when we ask Christ to save us we’re admitting we aren’t saved, and if we aren’t saved then it follows that we don’t yet rightly believe on Christ. (Jn 3:18)
So, asking Christ to save us can’t be an expression of faith; it’s an admission of our unbelief. Teaching that one can be saved like this, by rote prayer as they continue in unbelief, is in fact another gospel (Ga 1:6), a false, perverted one, offering a lie for eternal life.
What’s missing from this mechanical gospel is faith: supernatural assurance that Christ’s atonement has already secured our salvation. Apprehending the true nature of Christ’s work produces solid assurance of eternal life (1Th 1:5); without it we’re still lost, dead in our sin. (Ep 2:1)
Trying to mechanize the gospel takes God Himself out of the equation: yet He must enable us to believe unto salvation (Jn_6:29), bringing us to life as He gives us faith in Christ. (Ep 2:5) Until we’ve experienced this supernatural work, we must continue to seek the Lord.
It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve called upon the Lord if we haven’t believed on Him. Do we believe? That’s the question. It’s about who we’re trusting in: Christ or ourselves.
One way to tell whether we’re grounded in Christ is to notice were we look for assurance of our salvation. Do we look to Christ, and to the work He’s done? Do we look first to the cross, and see the efficacy and completeness of His work, how God has made Christ to be sin on our behalf? Or do we look to something we’ve done, to some act of receiving Christ? It makes all the difference in the world.
To call on the name of God means to take Him at His word, to trust that He’s faithful, reliable, to enter into His rest. (He 4:1) Only those who believe on Him can do this. (He 4:10)
To corrupt the Gospel by twisting such concepts is to miss the narrow gate. (Mt 7:14)Strive to enter; give diligence to make your calling and election sure(2Pe 1:10), and be established in your faith as God intended. (Col 2:7)