Last week we covered the founding apostles' decision not to put any requirements for obeying the law of Moses on Gentile believers, and that Paul and the apostles observed the feast of Pentecost by choice from a position of freedom, rather than as being made to do so as one under the law.
But today there are many well meaning and sincere believing Gentiles who explore the Jewish roots of the faith, and of those, some have moved from Paul and the apostle's example of observing (parts of) the Mosaic Law by choice into the belief it is a requirement that pleases God. No one wants to disappoint the Lord, and that is the motivation in part with many of those believers. But there are some things they believe God wants, that isn't true. Here is the most common error:
Many Messianic Christians will tell you God established Saturday worship as the way to keep the Sabbath. The truth is very different. Exodus 20: 8-11 records the law of the Sabbath, which states that neither they, nor their employees (servants), nor animals may do any work on that day. God quit from creating and they must too. He added in Leviticus 23:3 it is a holy assembly of the family, and emphasized no work may be done on the Sabbath. Consider the Sabbath holy, family time.
The only command for worship God gave Moses was for 3x each year they had to go to (temple), which would be in Jerusalem. (Exodus 23;14, 17- Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Tabernacles)
The practice of Saturday gatherings for worship started around the rule of John Hyrcanus (164-104BC). In the 300's and 200's BC the Greeks had not only conquered Israel but had also introduced Greek culture throughout the land. Their culture included things new to Jews like gymnasiums, sports, athletics and focus on appearance and the body, changing fashions, theater and the arts, and so on. Soon Greek culture permeated Jewish culture and the knowledge of God was being lost among the population.
A holiness movement arose to 'separate' the Jews from the Greeks, and those leaders realized they needed regular, weekly, 'gatherings' to educate the people, because just going to temple 3x each year wasn't doing it - there was no national educational policy in place. So these 'separated ones' decided their weekly 'gatherings' would be on the Sabbath, their only day off, in homes, and that copies of the law of Moses would be sent around the country to be read. They determined every 10 families (adult males) would gather in homes on the Sabbath. The Hebrew word for 'gathering' is synagogue, and 'separated ones' in Hebrew is the word Pharisee.
The Pharisees started out as a holiness movement that founded Sabbath worship. By the time of Jesus the holiness movement had done as they tend to do; make up its own rules and regulations which soon became elevated above what God had said. God gave Moses 613 laws, the Rabbi's had over 800 on top of that and soon those became more important to them to keep than God's original law - which is the point of conflict they had with Jesus. So the practice of Saturday services was man's idea, not God's. Christ is in us, every day is Sabbath to us - but not all have this knowledge, or if they know it they don't accept the implications.
But Jesus said...
Very often someone wanting to justify their Messianic faith will quote Matthew 5:18: "For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle will in no wise pass from the law, until all is fulfilled", as a means of saying the Old Testament law is still required of us today.
The concept of fulfillment is lost on us today, but I can use an example that makes Jesus' point. When a person buys something over time, say a home, and they take out a loan and make monthly payments, they have a mortgage, which is a contract. That contract is the law. It has blessings contained in it and it has curses and penalties as well. If you live within the confines of the contract/law then blessings will be on you, but if not, then that same law can bring you to ruin if you don't keep your part of it.
When a home is paid off the owner becomes the possessor of that contract, of that law. They are no longer under the rules of the contract for they now actually own the home solely in their name. They own the contract. As owners they may do with their home and the contract as they wish, they are no longer required by the contract to maintain the home to the law's standard.
When Jesus uttered 'It is finished' on the cross He was completing the last payment on the contract of the law. The Greek word 'It is finished' is 'tetelestai' (tuh-tell-uh-stye), meaning 'to bring to completion, to finish, to fulfill'. It was used of Generals at a time when they saw they had won the battle and there was nothing left but to take the spoils. Paul alludes to this in Colossians 2:15 when he says Jesus 'spoiled principalities and powers' - Jesus took spoil of them as a victorious soldier takes the spoils of war.
Jesus was the final payment on the contract as Hebrews 9:13-28 says, that the blood of bulls and goats were not a permanent solution, they were merely 'monthly payments' on the contract. But one final payment had to be made, which was the sacrifice of Jesus. Paul wrote it this way in Colossians 2:14-15: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, He took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross, and having spoiled principalities and powers..."
Why grace is actually much harder than the law...
We now possess the law. When Christ moved to live in our spirit it meant we now have to take responsibility for our lives. No longer do we have external rules and regulations telling us what God wants or doesn't want, He moved inside us to walk with us and personally direct our lives. Paul called the law a schoolmaster, a tutor to bring us to Christ, and after Christ has come we are no longer under the schoolmaster, in Galatians 3:24-26. He says we are no longer students, but have been made children of the Most High God. We graduated from the schooling of the law to sonship in the royal family.
We have Christ in us, what rule or regulation or observance can we add to what Jesus did for us? And that was Paul's point in Galatians 3:21 when he said if God could have issues a law that could have given us eternal life, then life would have come through the law - but it could not. The choice God made was to use the law to show us we were sinners and we needed Him, and then knowing a law could not bring life, He decided to re-create our spirit with His Spirit and gave us His Son - far above any law of Moses.
Guilty of the whole law
James, the same one that spoke for all the authors of the New Testament in Acts 15, the brother of Jesus, said in his letter 2:10, that if a person lives by the law and breaks a single law (of those 613 laws of Moses) then he is guilty of all the law. To break 1 law is to break all laws. That was his point. You can't walk with God like that, as Peter said, it was a yoke neither their fathers nor they were able to bear.
Christ is now us requires us to take responsibility for our lives and actually live up to the fact Christ is in us. No longer can we blame an external law for our woes and an external God who lives 'out there somewhere'. He is not 'the big Man upstairs', He lives in us. We must therefore take responsibility. We must walk in love from the inside out, not because God commanded from the outside in to forgive. He deals with us internally, so that we may walk with Him and live from the inside out.
It means life is a process and He loves the process and walking with us through the decisions we make every day. Grace in that respect, of taking personal responsibility for our lives and decisions, and suffering the consequences, is harder than having an external law that if we break it, we just go to temple and offer a sacrifice and go on our way. Internally now with grace, we must grow as human beings, we must mature as we live, in Christ.
That freedom to grow is something that some people don't like - they prefer rules and regulations because they offer security and stability. They see goofy behavior among some charismatics so they run to orthodoxy or the sacraments or a church with a set, predictable, schedule of service and expectation of behavior. They have a tragedy or near tragedy in their lives that can't be explained by their church doctrine so they search out the cause and effect of the OT law, or many other reasons.
Others just want to know the Jewish roots of their faith, and get pulled in to a fear based, 'I might offend God isn't this what He wants?' faith that affirms them in the ancient rituals. I don't find fault with the motivation of wanting to know the Jewish roots to our faith, but I do find fault when I see a person brought under bondage, believing error. If someone wants to to celebrate feasts and fasts, Passover Seder or even Purim or Hanukkah by choice and to learn of the roots of the faith, more power to them - amen for that. Just do so as Paul and the Gentile believers did, by choice, not by force, guilt, or mistakenly thinking God is more pleased with you if you do that.
Christ is in us. There is nothing you can do, give, sacrifice, or say that can improve on that. And there is great peace to those who live by this rule, as Paul said as he closed his letter to the Galatians in 6:15-16: "For in Christ Jesus being circumcised or not being circumcised means nothing, only a new creation. As many as live by this rule then peace is on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God."
The new creation in Christ is what matters - nothing is greater than the recreation of the human spirit by God's Spirit - Christ is in you. What more do you need? What can any effort in this life add to that?
New subject next week, until then, blessings,