The Lawless Law-Keepers

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Something eternally significant happened about 2,000 years ago.  Few people acknowledge it.  Even most of those who do acknowledge it with their lips, corrupt the truth and malign what happened by what they teach and how they live…

Christthe Messiahthe Son of God paid the penalty for all human sin and then rose again.

The LORD Jesus Christ fulfilled the mission of the long-awaited Redeemer who had been purposed from before the creation of the world (1 Pt. 1:202 Tim. 1:9Rev. 13:8), promised to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15–16), prophesied of by Moses (Deut. 18:18Acts 3:22), desired by Job (Job 19:25), and proclaimed by King David (Ps. 2:1–1216:9–1122:1–31).  He became the atoning sacrifice for all who have ever walked the earth—the propitiation for everyone with genuine faith in YHWH.  It was of this eternal Redeemer that the Prophet Isaiah spoke thus, some 700 years before He came:

Who has believed our message [THE GOSPEL]
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished. [THE ATONEMENT]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death, [THE TOMB OF JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA]
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth. [HE WAS A SINLESS SACRIFICE]

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied; [THE RESURRECTION]
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great[GLORIFICATION]
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

– Isaiah 53

Since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, three things have stood against humanity, bringing death to all of us: 1. Sin (evil, ungodly conduct), 2. Iniquity (evil thoughts and desires), and 3. Transgressions (breaking faith with the LORD).  The LORD Jesus Christ took all three to the Cross.  Every problem we have is answered by His death and resurrection.

And what’s more, He is the only answer (Jn. 3:1814:6Acts 4:12) because there is no other sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:26–31) and all of us are totallycompletely, and hopelessly lost in our depravity without God.

May the self-righteous among you learn the Word of the LORD:

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

…They are corrupt; their acts are vile. There is no one who does good.

Do not bring Your servant into judgment, for no one alive is righteous before You.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

No one is good—except God alone.

As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.’

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The Roman Catholic Church (and many legalistic Protestants) teach that mortal sin causes one to fall from grace.  To the contrary, the Scriptures say trying to be justified by something other than Christ and Him crucified is what really causes one to fall from grace:

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

But the Law is good and from God.  Isn’t this message of “easy believism” denigrating the Law?  No, we are upholding the Law in its fullness (Rom. 3:31).  But how?  Because we believe in God’s Law whereas the legalists and hypocrites do not.  In their pride they think that somehow they will please God by keeping the Law, but not one of them has ever kept the Law.  This is what the Scriptures say about keeping the Law:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to control his whole body.

Again I testify to every man who gets himself circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole Law.

Despite how they flatter God with their words, the legalists belittle, malign, and denigrate God’s Law.  God’s Law is perfect and so holy as to be unobtainable.  Yet they think they can obtain what only Christ could.  They think they can please God with their flesh or maintain their salvation by their futile efforts.  They exalt their own righteousness after they tear down the Law.

Here’s an example: You’ve probably heard many Pharisees whip out these words of Jesus when confronted with the Gospel:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

“Yes, I believe in the Gospel, but if you want to be saved you must fight and struggle against sin.”  “You don’t have to gouge out your eyes, but you better take sin very seriously.  Don’t get caught red-handed.”

No.  Jesus’ words are clear.  He took the impossible-to-completely-keep 600+ laws in the Torah and raised the bar even higher.  He meant what He said.  If you want to avoid hellfire by keeping the Law then you better gouge out your eyes and cut off your hands.  Jesus wasn’t being facetious.

Do you see?  The legalists claim to be taking the Law seriously, but they actually reduce Jesus’ words so that they, in their self-righteousness, can uphold themselves while condemning you.

Likewise, many legalists think they are more right with God because they use Hebrew names only, keep the Sabbath, or avoid pork—or attend Church regularly, read the Bible daily, and avoid alcohol.  They are not any better off.  They’re in the same dangerous place every pagan is.  Their hearts are uncircumcised.  Not because they do good and obey the Law, but because they do it for the wrong reason.  They do it to justify themselves whereas it is God alone who justifies.  Salvation belongs entirely to the LORD and we have no part in it except to believe (Ex. 14:14Ps. 3:862:1Jn. 6:28–29).

Jesus repeatedly raised the Law’s bar:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Legalists break these commandments of Jesus all the time and couldn’t even confess to God all of the times they’ve sinned even if they tried.  Again, Jesus wasn’t being facetious.  He was restoring the Law to its proper, glorious, high and lofty place.  Like the Pharisees, they lower the Law’s standard until they think they can meet it, all the while condemning others, but they don’t even meet their own standard (Mt. 23:1–15Jn. 7:19).

Instead of listening to the “Law Preachers,” listen to the Apostles.  They believed Jesus’ words about gouging out eyes and cutting off hands, but notice that not one of them obeyed that commandment.  Not Peter, not Paul, not James.  None of them.  Why?

…Because after Christ’s death and resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they realized that the purpose of the Law, which was made for man (Mk. 2:27), was to lead us to grace (Rom. 10:4Gal. 3:24–25).

So the legalists who proclaim that the Law has not been done away with our correct.  The Law still stands, but Jesus fulfilled it Himself, so that we, who cannot keep the Law, can have another means of justification before God—the atoning death and resurrection of the LORD Jesus Christ.

At the very first Church-wide council, the Apostles made it abundantly clear:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad.  When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.’

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ‘Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.’

I know I have harped on the legalists in our midst very hard, but they need to repent and believe the Gospelwhile there is still time, so that they too can receive the Holy Spirit and be saved.  I don’t think every legalist is unsaved—some genuinely believe the Gospel and have the Holy Spirit, but are confused about how to rightly divide certain passages of Scripture.  On the other hand, many have never truly understood the message and haven’t personally trusted in Christ for salvation.  The right time to believe is now.  Today is the day of salvation.  Believe on the LORD Jesus Christ and receive the Holy Spirit.

Despite the precarious theological position of the legalists, they do bring up an important point: how can those who claim to believe in God’s grace live like unsaved pagans?

There are some who are saved who do live like pagans (1 Cor. 3:11–155:1–5), but most of those who claim to be saved yet live lawlessly actually live lawlessly because they don’t understand the Gospel.  They claim to be Christians, but believe in universalism or that Christ is not the only way.  Or they do not regard their sin as something that needs to be atoned for (e.g. churches that promote the LGBT lifestyle).

You see, there are two sides of the unbelieving coin.  Two lanes on the broad road to Gehenna.  One side is populated by legalists who trust in themselves.  They are thieves and robbers who try to sneak into Heaven rather than going through the gate, which is Christ (Jn. 10:1).  The other side is filled with atheists and the grace-twisting lawless, alike.  Unbelievers from the lawless side of the road reject the truth of the resurrection, but many from both sides of the road, who claim to be religious and even “Christian,” reject the Gospel by rejecting the atoning aspect of it.  They claim to believe Jesus died and rose again, but they don’t understand or believe that His death is their only propitiation.

In truth, the lawless and legalists, alike, are really both lawless.  Legalism is just faux-religion.  Neither group acknowledges God’s standard.  While I love to proclaim the truth of God’s prophetic word, it is this message that I believe is the highest purpose of the ministry that God has given me, to call out satan’s deceit through both groups and thus magnify the Gospel and glorify Christ.

Salvation has always been by grace alone through faith alone in YHWH (Gen. 15:6Hab. 2:4Heb 3:7–4:11).  Many, like David and Job, looked forward in hope, longing for the Redeemer to come.  They were saved by faith.  In the Old Testament we see numerous examples of law-breakers killed for a single violation of the Law.  For example, in Numbers 15:32–36 a man is executed for merely gathering sticks on the Sabbath.  Yet King David broke the Law on numerous occasions (2 Sam. 11–12Mt. 12:3–4) and said of himself that his sins were as numerous as the hairs on his head (Ps. 40:12–13), but he was not killed.  He was saved because of his faith in the grace of God (Ps. 32:1–2).

Yet we, in this age of grace, look back and in faith remember the Redeemer who has already come, and in faith “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14).  We await the appearance of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who is soon to be revealed from Heaven, who will change our lowly bodies and take us with Him to His Father’s house.  (Click to Source)

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Further Reading:

THE GOSPEL: PART 1

THE GOSPEL: PART 2

THE GOSPEL: PART 3

THE GOSPEL: PART 4

THE GOSPEL: PART 5

WHICH JESUS DO YOU FOLLOW?

WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

WHY IS THE CHURCH DIVIDED?

ATONEMENT: THE DIVIDING LINE

CREATED FOR GOOD WORKS

THE TIGHTROPE OF FAITH

A CLOSER LOOK AT GENESIS 3-4

STAY ON THE NARROW WAY

ALL ABOUT BAPTISM

THE CALLED OUT ONES

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