Have you ever been in a conversation with someone about morality and when you brought up the law of God you hit a wall? Have you ever tried to help someone understand the validity of the law concerning homosexuality and they bring up Leviticus 18 and remind you that in that very chapter where Homosexuality is called an abomination that God prohibits the eating of shellfish? How do you harmonize and prove from scripture what you know in your spirit? Hopefully this blog will help give some clarity. Contained here is from sermon notes as we've been walking through the whole of scripture in a year and this week we found ourselves in Deuteronomy(second law), specifically chapter 25 verses 1-4.
25 “If there is a dispute between men and they go to [a]court, and [b]the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be if the wicked man [c]deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his [d]guilt. 3 He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes. 4 “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.
As we journey together through the scriptures we find ourselves over the past week deep in the law of God here in Deuteronomy! As we said last week, Deuteronomy means “second law,” not in addition too but reiterated. Here in Deuteronomy Moses reminds the Israelites of the Law of God in detail, declaring the standard that God requires of His creatures! I would argue that one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Christian faith has to be the relationship of the Law and the Gospel! What does the Law of God mean for us today? Is it binding? Is it abolished? Most Christians are very intimidated by such a conversation but in this blog I want us to walk through the conversation together because it’s vital to our moral foundation and Christian worldview.
If you’ve try to defend righteous living and morality, especially in this day of sexual perversion, you’ve probably heard an argument like this… “That same chapter that talks about homosexuality says not to eat shellfish. Do you eat shellfish?” Now, how many laymen, how many of you can give an answer that both defends the moral law as well as expresses Christian liberty. Most just live “knowing” that certain things are wrong and other commands are secondary or abrogated but how do you defend that Biblically? I hope to help you with that tonight!
When we think of the Law we must do so in a biblical, New Covenant way. The Old Testament concealed, the New Testament revealed! What is the Law? What is it’s purpose? What is its application? Many wrongly think that the law is abolished or abrogated completely in the New Testament which is untrue. Certain parts have an abiding validity! We serve now in newness of spirit and not in oldness of the letter. That’s what image Paul the Apostle gives in Romans 7 about our relationship to the law. We are not bound to it for righteousness or right standing before God because it is impossible for this sinful flesh to keep it. The Law viewed and applied in that way towards us sinners only brings death because our flesh cannot and will not keep it! We, therefore, crucify the flesh and walk in the spirit. We were saved unto good works that were foreordained from eternity that we should walk in them as we’re told in Ephesians 2. But what is good?
Paul says that the Law is our school master! It taught us our fleshly depravity but does that equate to an abandonment of it or an abolishment of it? Paul says, "God forbid!"
Paul continues in Romans 7……
7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except [e]through the Law; for I would not have known about [f]coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not [g]covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me [h]coveting of every kind; for apart [i]from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart [j]from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was [k]to result in life, proved [l]to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
The Conflict of Two Natures
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold [m]into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the [n]principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [o]in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in [p]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [q]of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from [r]the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Though the flesh rebels, that inner man, the spirit man, that regenerate man, he submits!
Deliverance from Bondage
8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is [d]alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [e]through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you [f]must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
We are not in bondage to the Law but the Law is in bondage to the spirit of resurrection!
31 Do we then nullify [a]the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
The writer of Hebrews says that the Law was a shadow of the good things to come! So, if the law is a shadow and an image and a school master, then what is it showing? What is it teaching? In what way is it still abiding in validity?
2. The Law; In Substance!
From the scriptures we see that the Law is good and holy according to the apostle Paul! Jesus also affirms that the Law is good and that He is in no way abolishing it but fulfilling it!
He also makes this peculiar statement…..
19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [a]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [b]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
But we know that there were differences in application and abiding validity between the Hebrew nation of Israel, their Law, and the application of it to the New Testament believer, specifically Gentiles! For example, Peter was given a vision from God concerning clean and unclean animals and God gives the freedom to eat any animal, for all are now clean, so how do we harmonize these truths! We must understand the Law in its substance or essence. When we say "the Law" we typically mean all of the commandments from Exodus to Deuteronomy and so on but then when we get to Christ, he declares that ALL of the Law and Prophets hang upon the greatest commandment and the second like unto it, which is to love the Lord thy God with all our heart, soul, might, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But how do we do that? That is expressed farther in the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments. The first four are vertical, the greatest commandment, and the last six are horizontal, the second. With this we can say that all the commands of God flow forth from His glory, righteousness, holiness, majesty, and love which works itself out in our adoration for Him and those that bear His image!
From the Decalogue onward we must recognize the three-fold nature of the Mosaic Law. The moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law. The Moral Law is for all people and for all time! It consists of natural law and revelation and the Decalogue. We know this because though the Canaanites, the Hittites, and others who had never received special revelation from God concerning His law were held accountable to Him simply by natural law and were destroyed and spit out by the land because of their immorality, sexual perversions, abominations, irreverence, idolatry, and the like!
Israel Provoked God
9 “Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, great cities [a]fortified to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.
4 “Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before [b]you, ‘Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. 5 It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the [c]oath which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
24 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its [a]punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. 26 But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 29 For whoever does any of these abominations, [b]those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the Lord your God.’”
Next, we have the ceremonial law. The ceremonial law consists of all the laws applied to the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood. These laws were fulfilled in Christ as priest, prophet, king, and sacrifice! We vicariously keep this law through the very righteousness of Christ applied to us through his substitutionary atonement at Calvary! As well, when we worship the Lord of Glory on the Lord’s day and partake of the sacraments we fulfill them in the image they bear, the work of Christ!
Lastly, we have the civil and judicial law of Israel. These were the laws that were put forth to draw a distinct line of separation between God’s people, the nation of Israel, and the Pagan nations surrounding them. The civil laws of separation were for Israel in that time and are not valid today except through general equity, what was the essence behind the law and how does that apply today? For example, when we live holy, a set apart life for service unto God we are fulfilling the general equity of that civil law of Israel. As well we have the many sundry or judicial laws given, case law if you will.
For example, the scriptures say….
8 “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.
In that culture the roof was like a porch where people would relax and they were commanded to think safety first and to put up a barrier to keep people from falling off and you be liable!
That may sound familiar….. Building codes.
Another example is our text, specifically verse 4.
4 “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.
Now what does this have to do with us? In what way do we apply general equity? Paul quotes this specific law, implies it’s continued validity in the new covenant, and reveals why God gave a law concerning animals who do not bear His image.
1 Corinthians 9:8-10
8 I am not speaking these things according to [a]human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? 10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.
The law is for our good and God’s glory!
3. The Law & The Gospel!
We are not in bondage to the law in the sense that it validates our righteousness for our flesh cannot and will not submit to it! But we are new creatures in Christ Jesus! Born again by grace through faith that is a gift from God!
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
What are those good works? The goodness, holiness, and standard of God, His Law Word! They flow from the greatest commandment and the second alike! When we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, might, and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves the shadow, the substance, the essence, the glory of the whole law will flow through us! The moral law, the atoning work of Christ(the ceremonial law), and the general equity of the judicial law rest upon the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us into the image of Christ as we walk not in the flesh but in the Spirit that we may equipped with the very mind of Christ! The Gospel is the Law fulfilled in Christ which is then imputed upon us so that we walk not in bondage to keep the law for righteousness but we are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ as we walk in the freedom to fulfill the law of God in LOVE!
Walk not in the flesh to fulfill its lusts but walk therefore in the Spirit!
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh [a]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you [b]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [c]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [d]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [e]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [f]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Pastor Bradley Testerman