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The Persecuted Church

 

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LAW AND GRACE, WORKS  AND CHRIST

What is the relationship of law to grace and how do we reconcile the commands in the Old Testament law with grace. So many say grace is there to keep the law, but the bible states in the New Testament that if you fail to keep one of the laws you have broken them all. This is the very reason we are under grace. In the Old Testament there was grace under the surface of the law in the New Testament grace rules over the law. If you failed in one of the commands the way it was dealt with was by sacrifice. With New Testament we are not under grace to keep the law of the Old Testament because the scripture makes it clear no one can. It is Jesus who kept the law where we could not and he kept it absolutely perfectly. Every requirement small or large was kept in the absolute way God required it of man. So Christ lived a perfect righteous life even to the point of his death on the cross. We are under grace because of his righteousness that is imputed or given to our account. So many people misunderstand which covenant they are living under and because of this there is so much confusion that they get condemned because they have not lived up to the perfect standard the law requires. Not realizing the purpose of the law is to make one guilty, so we are to go to the ultimate sacrifice found not in animals without blemish but in Christ Jesus the lamb.

So many do good works because they think it is demanded of them, instead of it flowing out of natural lifestyle of faith.

The old covenant was for the Jews only. For one to be under the Old covenant they need to convert to Judaism. In the new covenant, it is for both Jews and gentiles. In Eph.2 when we believe in Christ we become part of the body of Christ, not Judaism. God made a whole new entity called the church, the body of Christ, and filled it with his spirit to operate in his ways.

Hebrews 8:6, “But now hath He (Jesus) obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a “Better Covenant, which was established upon “Better Promises”. The new covenant is not a covenant of works: but rest in his work. By it all the Body of Christ is not under of the condemning ministry of the law (2 Cor. 3:9; Rom. 8:1-2 there is no condemnation), since believers are not under the law they are beyond its grasp to condemn (Rom. 3:19).

Paul states in Rom. 6:14...” for you are not under law but under grace.” He also makes it clear in Gal. 5:18 “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  The previous verses state “so that you do not do the things that you wish.” The Law is not given to the Christian as the standard to live by, but to show the unbeliever how below the standard we do live, as Paul states in 1 Tim.1:9 The Law is for the unrighteous.

Paul states the LAW is Not of Faith. The ministry of the law working in a Christian cannot please God, for it is not of faith yet the law is not of faith, but “The man who does them shall live by them.” Gal. 3:12

In the dispensation of grace, “the law is not of faith.” Today faith and law are mutually exclusive. In Israel's dispensation of law, faith and law were equally beneficial, one needed both (Rom. 10:5-6, 10). Without faith the requirements of the law would not be acceptable. This is why The Lord said that he rejected their sacrifices because it was not mixed with faith. Under law, faith is necessary. Under grace, the OT law is prohibited. So today, “the law is not of faith.” And Paul states without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). So if the Law is not of faith what do we live by? For a member of the Body sins by putting himself under the requirements of the law. Remember Paul said in Rom. 14:23 “whatever is not of faith is sin.” (he used the example of food to represent this concept).

The righteousness we need cannot come from the Law. For the law demands perfect obedience. Gods standard is perfection, something we cannot fathom since we never see it or experience it. It is impossible to please God by following the law, because the law is not of faith. Righteousness pleases God, but today righteousness cannot come from doing the works of the law, but from faith alone. A faith which shows that it is alive and active!

Rom. 4:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. Paul further makes it clear in Gal. 3:21 “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” In the past, with Israel under the law, righteousness and the law went together (Rom, 10: 5-6, 10), but now Paul writes, the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed... Rom. 3:21 We know that today, Christ is “the end of the law for righteousness.” Any requirement, any command, all that God asked, Christ fulfilled.

So there must have been a time in the past, when Christ was not “the end of the law for righteousness.”

Gal 3:23-25 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (teacher for the immature).”

This time was Israel's, as a whole nation under the law. But when God moved from law to grace, Israel resisted that move, preferring the old program of rules and regulations from Moses, illustrating the danger of law. The law looks appealing today, but it separates those who embrace it from the Spirit of grace.

For [Israel] being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For ' Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Rom. 10:3-4

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law ... but the righteousness of faith speaks in this way... with the heart one believes to righteousness. Rom. 10:5-6, 1.0

Charles Spurgeon “There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes than upon the relation which exists between the law and the gospel. Some men put the law instead of the gospel: others put the gospel instead of the law; some modify the law and the gospel, and preach neither law nor gospel: and others entirely abrogate the law, by bringing in the gospel. Many there are who think that the law is the gospel, and who teach that men by good works of benevolence, honesty, righteousness, and sobriety, may be saved.

Such men do err. On the other hand, many teach that the gospel is a law; that it has certain commands in it, by obedience to which, men are meritoriously saved, such men err from the truth, and understand it not. A certain class maintain that the law and the gospel are mixed, and that partly by observance of the law, and partly by God’s grace, men are saved. These men understand not the truth, and are false teachers. … The coming of the law is explained in regard to its objects: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.” Then comes the mission of the gospel: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

The law came through Moses, grace came by Jesus Christ. The law is synonymous of Moses, grace is synonymous to Christ.

Our relation to Christ is by his death and resurrection in the new covenant. The law is of the old creation from another dispensation. We are made into new creatures, prepared for a new heavens and earth. No law or act of obedience can help us to prepare, it has to be grace. We obey him because we love him and we don't like to hurt the ones we love. The times that we are disobedient are summed up by loving something else instead of him.

God let Moses see the promise land from the Mt. top, we can see the promises by faith in his word. The law killed Moses because of his disobedience, only once did Moses misrepresent God to the people, by striking the rock twice in anger. (Num.20:7-12). The whole generation of Israel that came out of Egypt except 2 entered the promised land. Only 2 who had a different spirit entered. The old creation could not enter the promised land, only the new. They could not enter the land under the law (being disobedient) so everyone had to die. But they entered it under faith.

If one continues to look to the law for their guidance, then true successful Christian living cannot really occur. Practicing this runs the risk of consciously or unconsciously thinking they have obtained or are keeping salvation by the works of the law. But it is actually what separates them from Christ, as Paul said, falling from the grace of God (Galatians 5:4).

When Stephen was arrested, the charge was that he spoke blasphemous words against both Moses and God. That he spoke judgment against the temple (against this holy place)… they knew what Christ said about the temple being destroyed in the future. They also accused him of speaking unceasingly against the law because he spoke of grace. They also stated they heard him say that Jesus will change the customs of which Moses delivered to us. This would include both the torah and the Law of Moses. What Stephen was preaching is that the law had come to an end with the Messiahs crucifixion. And that Judaism as they know it was to be replaced by faith. Those who love laws, biblical or not, will always persecute those who hold to pure faith. 2 Cor. 3: 6-9. In this portion Paul states that we are “servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” This is why law keepers condemn others who live under this new Covenant because they are living under the wrong covenant. The letter is the law and it only makes one guilty, and unless one depends wholly on grace, they continue to strive by the commands given to Israel.

As Walter Martin said, “Now, we don't begin our day saying, Today I am going to make the effort to keep the Ten Commandments.” We begin our day saying, Lord Jesus, give me the grace that I may walk with you.” Because if I am going to walk with Christ, I'll be obeying the will of God and the law of God.”

In the dispensation of grace, “the law is not of faith.” Today faith and law are mutually exclusive. Under law, faith is required. Under grace, law is prohibited.(Gal.3:1-3) A believer of the Body doesn't become more spiritual by keeping the law but actually sins by putting himself under the law.

So are we without law? Absolutely not, we are under the law of Christ, the royal law of the spirit of life. The Holy Spirit becomes our instructor in the word and in our personal walk; in what is beneficial and what is not.

So how are we to be accepted by God if not by his commands. It is by the work of Christ that we are accepted, not by anything we can do. This is the content of the Gospel. Acts 20:24 says it is a Gospel of grace. We find the disciples preaching Jesus' death burial and resurrection all through the book of Acts. His work for us, as God saw mans predicament He took the initiative to do for us, something we could never do for ourselves.

Why does Islam hate the cross? Is it because they do not believe in sacrifices? No. Because they do not believe that we can have such grace from God that it would exclude doing intense religious duties.

Why do Mormons twist the scripture to say it wasn't at the cross that we had our sin dealt with, but in Gethsemane that he suffered. But in Gethsemane he never suffered as much as he did on the cross where all the sins were laid upon him, and he felt the judgment and penalty of sin. At Gethsemane he wrestled over the decision of the cross knowing what it would entail, yet it says it was his joy to go to the cross, not his demise. Mormons simply want to prove their own righteousness by their works.

Why do Jehovah's Witnesses hate the cross? Calling it pagan and saying God would never sacrifice his son on a pagan symbol. But the Romans were pagans, this is what they used to crucify those guilty of heinous crimes. The fact is No religion has ever recognized the cross. It makes no sense to the natural man that one could suffer in the place of another, take their deserved penalty, serve their sentence, and out of mercy give them his life of freedom and his riches for doing no work on their own. To the Jews a suffering Messiah was repulsive, as the Son of Joseph, he was weak. They wanted a conqueror, the ruling King who would overthrow their enemy Rome. They wanted the Son of David or nothing at all.

Why does Roman Catholicism attempt through the sacraments to obtain what the cross did almost 2,000 years ago. The cross is everywhere one looks in the church, but they do not tell the people that the cross Christ was on was the final work for their sins. They depend on today's sacrament of the wafer as an ongoing sacrifice for their sins.

But there is no longer any propitiatory sacrifices offered for the forgiveness of sins, the church, the body of Christ was made by the one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross and the Holy Spirit sent on Pentecost. That sacrifice is never to be repeated because it paid the full penalty demanded by God's justice and made it possible for God to “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3:26). So “there is no more offering for sin” (Heb 10:18).

Why is it in every religion of the world man has a deep longing to know his maker but he attempts to go to God their own way and not come the way God has ordained and declared to the whole world. Jude states that the grace of God has appeared to all men. Why do people look to their own works instead of accepting Gods grace? Its easier to look at ones self obedience to gauge how we are doing spiritually than to rest in Christ's work for us. If we stop trying to live it in our own strength and let Christ live it through us by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can see the results of the new life. We will understand it is all by grace; which is found in Jesus suffering and death on the cross.

The cross is hidden to those who think they are wise. It is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are saved by faith we know it is the power of God. But the cross became Gods highway to Himself. As Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to Father except by me. But it was a certain way. It is not just following Him as a good example, someone who has a greater set of ethics and morals. Nor is it following Him as a wonderful teacher or the greatest prophet, or a miracle maker.

It is going through the cross (and the one who died on it) for ones relationship to be restored to God. Exactly where Jesus pointed to and where all the apostles pointed too as well.

In John 10:1 Christ said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved...” (Jn 10:9). In v.11 Jesus tells them “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

The night before at the last supper Jesus revealed the prophetic meaning of the Passover to his disciples. It spoke of him in his crucifixion. He was introduced by John to the people as the lamb of God and now he was about to become the lamb. Judas sitting at the table had Satan enter him and he betrayed the son of man after he ate the bread. But he did not partake of the wine which was his blood. The bread was His body and it would be broken for them. But he (Judas) did not partake of his death the blood that could cleanse him of his sin. Satan hates the cross where our sin was dealt with. He tried to have Jesus killed in his ministry before he went to the God ordained altar. If Jesus had died any other time or way it would have annulled the atonement for our sins.

Heb. 10:19-20 “We can enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh.” He became a living tabernacle and just like the Old Testament tabernacle there was only one way in. The first thing anyone saw when they went into the outer court was the sacrifices on the brazen altar. The only way to God today is through the sacrifice of Christ.

At the same time Christ died Matt. 27:51 states, “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the old temple which no longer had the ark or the presence of God was dealt the death blow the same time Christ died. The way was made open for all by the person of Christ and his sacrifice.

The Cross, was a symbol of shame to the Romans, but glory to the Christian who is saved through it. This is why so many cults focus on their works, they do not see the glory that is in the cross.

The fallen nature loves religion, the gospel is the opposite of religion, Religion is mans answer to God, Christ is Gods answer to man. The fallen nature of man tries to justify itself by doing deeds to prove it is worthy. But then this would mean Christ died in vain if we could reform ourselves by law or works.

Consider the prologue of Paul to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 1:17-31, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-- and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-- that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

The Jews request a sign. All through Christ's ministry they asked for a display of power and even at his last moments in life we find written in Mark 15:31-32, “the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Gods way is for us to look at the cross and see the sacrifice and believe. Mans way is to take him down and ignore it. But we don't ignore it, today it is worn as jewelry, even by non believers, by rock stars and Hollywood. The cross is more popular than ever big crosses, small crosses, beautifully plated ones. Completely unlike the one who died on a cross that was a plain piece of wood stained with the blood of others before His blood was spilled to cleanse our sin.

The cross has become the universal emblem of Christianity. Yet those who hate Christ the most, are able to wear it with no conviction, mocking the very event that can save them.

The Bible states It is the “preaching of the cross” that contains “the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Are we preaching Christ crucified, have we made revisions in the ancient story to fit it to our contemporary culture. It has become so popular to preach Christ without the uncomfortableness of the cross.

Gal 6:14-15, “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” God took what was most precious to Him, put him to death so that life could come to all who would look toward His death. To boast in His work is to take your eyes off yourself and give glory to another.

This humility was what Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to have; that the mind of Christ may be in them.

Phil 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”…”but made himself of no reputation”…And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

It wasn't just great bravery that had Christ fulfill this task, nor was it just a legal obligation. It was his being a servant and willing to do the Fathers will. Completely innocent of the crime he was accused of and was willing to take the brunt of punishment, not for a few, but all. Not just those on his side but those who opposed him, those who were his enemies. What religion has this kind of sacrifice or idealism. Can any other live up to this? There are many who were crucified, but who went with the intention to die for others? And who actually raised back from the dead just as they said, to prove that he died for others.

The cross had an eternal purpose Col. 1:20 “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

The world searches for peace by making agreements with kings, presidents, armies and countries. But it never stays as a solution. Here is the solution, Christ dying for all mankind's sins and therefore making a way to have peace with our maker. A better sacrifice than any man made in a war, no matter how valiant. Yet it is ignored. It is scoffed at, just as in the day it happened.

Consider the humiliation to be accused of a crime you did not commit. Trading places with a criminal so that you can die for those who hated you and everything you stood for. Not only did he endure the wrath and mocking of his brethren but God the Father turned away as he poured out his anger and punishment against our sin on him. (Rom.3:25 l Jn.2:2; 4: 10)

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus.3:5); “for by grace you are saved, through faith...it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast...” (Eph. 2:8-9). It is Gods work done for us, moved by love, so He can have mercy on us. Our part is to just believe it.

SO WHERE DO YOU STAND?

Instead of works, the gospel requires faith. It is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe. “Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness”(Rom 4:5)...“that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn3:16).

Christ died among his enemies with open arms to gather all to him. But he has left the choice up to each one of us.

To be saved, one needs only to believe the gospel. There is nothing else that they can do. No church can give you salvation, it's your decision alone.  It is between you and God.

For the Christian

To believe the gospel, it must be communicated by those who have already been saved by it. How can they hear unless someone is sent? We have a mission field all around us in post Christian America. Don't leave it up to someone else to do the job that God has called you to do.  Find the joy of sharing your faith and leading others to know the forgiveness and life found in Jesus. Its something you and they will never forget.

 

 

 

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