Know the Real God
Should Christians follow the Law of Moses?
Some of our church family have been exposed to what is called the Hebrew Roots movement. There are various organizations within this movement, with a variety of beliefs. Some have a proper view of the gospel of being saved by grace through faith. Others do not. Some have a proper view of Jesus as the Son of God, the second person of the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost being the three persons of the tri-une God—One God, three persons, all equally God, yet distinct). Others deny the deity of Jesus. What is common to all of them is that they teach that believers should study Hebrew and learn about Jewish culture. They most importantly adhere to following the Old Testament Law in order to live righteous lives. They emphasize the Sabbath, and the feasts of Israel.
The Hebrew Roots movement has a large presence on the internet, teach that Christian churches are far off the mark of true Christianity. Thus, they do not attend a local church, but listen to these teachers online.
Some of the key passages they refer to are the following:
“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. For truly I tell you, 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. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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.
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
Do Christians need to follow the Law to be righteous? Are we wrong for not worshipping on the Sabbath? Are we wrong for not following the Jewish calendar of feasts? Are we wrong for not teaching people to follow the law?
Let’s pray and ask God to give us wisdom as we dig into the word this morning.
What is the purpose of the Law?
Is the Old Testament the real scriptures that are useful for teaching and training in righteousness.
Do we need to worship on the Sabbath?
Answering the questions at hand, is something that really involves opening up the Bible, and studying it through. Something, we cannot accomplish in a mere 30 minutes.
So, what I want to do, is just look at a couple of the key ideas that will help us understand the issues.
What is the purpose of the Law? Why the Law was given, and knowing that will give us understanding into whether Christians need to keep the law.
Are the Old Testament passages really the scriptures that we need to follow for teaching and training in righteousness? 2 Timothy 3:16
Also, one of the questions that has been raised is whether we need to worship on the Sabbath. I do want to address this as well.
I am going to hit the two easier first.
Is the Old Testament the real scriptures?
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Peter recognized Paul’s writings as scripture.
Paul referenced Deuteronomy 25:4, and Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18, calling both scriptures.
The earliest church writings acknowledged the gospels and epistles as scripture. So, the New Testament is also scripture, and carries a lot of weight in how we view the Old Testament.
Second, why do we worship on Sunday, and not the Sabbath.
Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2 reference the church meeting on the first day of the week. Now, 119 ministries and other hebrew roots movement groups show that the Greek uses the word ‘one’, not ‘first’, and the word used for week is same word used for sabbath. Therefore, they say, this really should say one sabbath.
What they do not tell you is that this is a common expression for the first day of the week, as the word for sabbath can be used for week, and the phrase is the same as occurs in Matthew 28:1.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
No one, even the Hebrew Roots people try to argue that Jesus rose on the Sabbath, that is Saturday. So, when they try to use the Greek, which sounds so convincing, they are not being faithful to the Greek.
We worship on Sunday, as did much of the church even from the beginning of the church because it was on Sunday that Jesus rose. That is what our hope is in! Jesus’ death and resurrection! It was a Sunday that Jesus appeared to the disciples again. It was a Sunday that Pentecost took place with the coming of the Spirit, and the beginning of the church.
And, honestly, if you choose to worship on Saturday, it does not truly matter. We do not worship according to law, but in the Spirit! We do not worship on one day, but everyday! We do not worship in one place, but everywhere. Sunday is just the day we, and most of the church of Christ, have chosen to remember Jesus, our hope, and to gather together to worship Him!
So, All Scripture is valuable. Both Old and New.
We worship Sunday, and worshipping on Saturday is no better or worse. Colossians, Galatians, Hebrews all mention that the observance of days is not the important issue.
Now, the bigger issue behind these and the whole Hebrew Roots movement is, Why then 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.
What does Jesus mean when He says He came to fulfill the law?
To know that answer, we need to understand the point of the law. When was it given? Why was it given? What was it’s purpose?
Let’s review the Old Testament for a second.
God Created the World
Man Sinned and was condemned. Note: There was no law until Moses came a few thousand years later.
Abel was accepted. Cain condemned. Note: No law. Why? Faith.
By the time of Noah, everyone was only sinning. But Noah found grace in the eyes of God. Note: No law. However, they were still condemned. Noah was saved by Faith.
Abraham was an idolater. However, he was shown grace, and was saved by Faith. Note: No law.
Melchizedek was a priest of God. Not a descendent of Abraham. God was at work with those outside Israel. He has always loved the World.
How were they sinners if sin is ONLY lawlessness, meaning without the Law of Moses? I say that because the Hebrew Roots movement uses 1 John 3:4 to say that sin is lawlessness, therefore, to not follow the law is the very definition of sin. Therefore, we must follow the law or we are sinning. So, is sin JUST lawlessness? Well, all of these people who lived and died before the Law was given were sinners. So sin must be something more than just lawlessness. Let’s look at a couple passages in Romans.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
Paul was showing those in Rome that both Jews and Gentiles, those with the law, and those without the law were sinners. How? God has put a conscience into each person. That is part of being created in the image of God. So, those without the written laws, had the conscience, so they were still sinners.
To sin without a command is still sin. It’s just clearer when there is a law, and no way to argue your way out of it. That’s the gist of Romans 5:12-13.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law.
So, sin is more than just lawlessness. I think of it this way. My pet Max is a Lab. He is also a, well, there are lots of opinions as to what else he is. So, the bigger word we can use is dog. Max is a dog. Now is it wrong to say he is a lab? No. That is one variety of dog. Are all dogs labs? No.
The same goes with sin and lawlessness. Sin is the big word. It is described with a variety of other words. Falling short. Missing the mark. Hitting the wrong mark. Ruin. Wickedness. Rebellion. Transgression. Iniquity. Guilt. Error. Failure. Going Astray. Moral Failure. Ungodliness. Lawlessness. Falling away. None of these words are wrong. All of them accurately describe sin. However, we cannot make the larger word, sin, JUST one of those smaller descriptive words and leave the rest out. Just as we cannot make all dogs to be labs.
This really is a misuse of 1 John 3:4, and misses the point entirely. And, this use of 1 John 3:4 leaves out the full context. Read 1 John 3 through, and you will see that the whole chapter is about loving one another, and John concludes with
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
That is the command, and something we will come back to shortly.
Fast forward. The time of Moses. Moses Father-in-law, Jethro was a priest in Midian. He was not a Jew. He was not a Levite. Note: No law. How was he saved? Faith.
Finally the law comes through Moses. The law contained the moral codes, civil codes, and levitical (worship) codes. It also contained sacrifices and feasts for the people. Why the sacrifices? Because they could not keep the law. When you sin… make this sacrifice.
So, was the law for them to be righteous, or something else?
The Pharisees were the most religious people of Jesus’ day. They felt studying and following the law would make them righteous. They really did adhere to the law.
What did Jesus say to them? That is what Matthew 5-7 is all about.
At the beginning of Matthew 5, Jesus pointed out from the Old Testament that those who mourn over their sin are saved; which is in line with Psalm 51:16-17.
He goes on to point out to them that the letter of the law is one thing, but God’s righteousness is an even higher standard than the letter of the law. That is why he said that your righteousness must be greater than the Pharisees, and then went on to say that murder is just thinking evil, or hating. Adultery is just looking and thinking in your heart. Evil is not something outward but something inward, proceeding from the heart, something that only God can change. Which is exactly why God said He would give them a new heart in Deuteronomy 31.
Luke 18:18-27 also gets this point across.
The point of Matthew 5-7 is to show the people how they cannot live up to God’s standard of righteousness. Something that Jesus taught repeatedly.
No, the point of the Law was to show they were not righteous and that they needed the savior who would provide THE sacrifice for sin. Jesus says in John 5:39,
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,
So, the point of the law that Jesus continually pointed out was that no one could live up to the true, righteous standards of the law. Rather, the law showed that they needed God to save them!
That is exactly what Paul, through the Holy Spirit tells us in Romans.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
This is also explained in Galatians 3:19-22.
Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
We uphold the law, because we use the law properly. We use the law to show everyone that we are sinners before a holy God, completely unable to be righteous on our own. We need Him to save us. And that salvation comes through faith. Not by the law.
Using the Law properly is what Paul referred to in 2 Timothy.
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.
We can use the Law properly if we use it as Jesus did. We use it properly if we use it as God does, to shut every mouth and show all that they are sinners in need of a savior.
As we read in Galatians this morning,
Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
The law was a tutor to lead us to Christ! The fulfillment of the law. For the law showed sin, and showed that blood was required to pay the price for sin and make us righteous. Jesus fulfilled the law. He paid the price!
So, now how should we live? Under the new Covenant.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The New Covenant.
This is what God promised back in Deuteronomy 30:6 and explained further in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Why then the Law?
Why then the Law?
So, the Law of Moses was given to Israel, to show men that they are sinners, in need of a savior. To show us that we need something better. We need a savior to can pay for our sins, and give us a new covenant.
Hebrews talks quite a bit about this. In talking about Jesus being a better Priest than the Levitical/Law Priesthood:
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
I plan to take more time to go through Hebrews with you at a later date. It is awesome to read through how this New Covenant, which replaces the Old Covenant, is so much greater! But let me finish this reading in Hebrews with chapter 10:19-25.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
It is this new covenant that does not separate us from God, but brings us close to Him! The Old Law showed us sin, and brought condemnation. The New Law brings us forgiveness, righteousness and life with God! The very same thing Paul says in Romans 8.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We are brought near! We are forgiven. We are no longer under the law.
But Paul says, even though we are no longer under the law, we are under the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Notice the carry each other’s burdens?
What is the law that God will write on their hearts? What is the command that God writes on our hearts?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
The law of Christ, sums up the moral law of the Old Testament, and is what we live by today. That is why in these passages that we have seen in Galatians, Romans, 1 John all talk about us being free from the Old Law, but needing to Love. Love God. And, Love our neighbors.
If we Love, we will live righteously in Christ who has taken the punishment required by the Old Law, to give us the freedom of the New.
We no longer need to observe days, seasons, years or rituals that have the appearance of making us righteous. Rather, we live by faith, and in the power of the Spirit to love.
Are we under the Old Testament Law? No. That is bondage, something God never intended for us who believe in Christ.
Why the Law? To show us we are sinners. And, To show us the way to the New Covenant, the Law of Love. Having our sins forgiven, and now walking close to God, loving as He has loved us.