My wife had a conversation with some friends about keeping the law… How good we were… And if we are able to keep ANY of the law at all. She came up with the following illustrative ‘conversation’ and as it relates very well and it informative, I am sharing it here…
A CONVERSATION FOR KEEPERS OF THE LAW:
When I want to teach my small child a rule like keeping their room clean, I start out with a much simpler idea because they lack understanding. I will first teach my small child how to clean up a few things. I don’t tell them to “Keep your room clean”. This is too big an idea for them to know what I mean. I simply tell them, “Pick up the toys on the floor.” Any time we want to teach our children a larger principle we start out with something much simpler to begin the teaching.
Enter the Children (Pharisees): “Our room is perfect! We picked up all the toys on our floor.”
Enter Parent (Christ): “I’m glad you did, but actually your room is not perfect. It’s not even clean. That is just the beginning of having a clean room. The rule was just there to instruct you. Your bed is still a mess, the walls have mud on them. Even your ceiling is dusty.”
Child: “You didn’t say anything about my bed, or walls, or ceiling.”
Parent: “You’re right. I didn’t.”
Child: “But I kept the rule to clean up my toys.”
Parent: ” You kept the letter of the rule, but not the Spirit of the rule. You lack understanding. The room is still not clean. More than that, you cannot possibly clean it. But don’t worry, I can!”
That was the analogy. Now, here’ s how it relates:
God: “Thou shalt not murder.” (Deut. 5:17)
Pharisees: “We are good; we don’t murder.”
Christ: “You miss the point. You break this law if you hate your brother, or if you are angry with him, or even if you insult him.” (Matt. 5:21&22)
Pharisees: “It doesn’t say not to hate my brother in the commandments…or anything about anger.”
Christ: “You’re right, it doesn’t.”
God: “Keep the Sabbath.” (Deut. 5:12)
Pharisees: “We are good; we keep the Sabbath holy.”
Christ: “Again, you miss the mark. I AM lord of the Sabbath. (Matt 12:1-8) I am set apart and holy every day, and also you are, if in me.” (Romans 8:1-4)
God: “You cannot even begin to keep the simple rules I have given to instruct you. You stand condemned. But I will send you a Savior, one who can keep the full intent of the law, which He knows and
Pharisees: “But I like keeping the law. It makes me feel like I am pleasing God.”
Christ: “Apart from me you can do nothing to please God. Now a new law is in effect for you. I am offering something greater in its place.(Hebrews 8: 6-13) I am offering myself as the one to complete these. Only I know perfectly how to keep all of the laws. I’m the only One who can. Just stay close to me. Abide in me. It won’t be about not murdering anymore, because the full intent of that law is to not hate
or even be angry with your brother. With man, this is impossible, but not with God.
Pharisee: “I don’t believe you. I CAN do this!”
Christ: “No, you really can’t! The moral laws are deeper than you can even fathom. Only I can fully keep them.”
Pharisee: “At least I can keep the Sabbath holy.”
Christ: “No you can’t. Do you know what it means when I say I am Lord of the Sabbath? It means that I am the Lord of your rest. I give you rest in me EVERY day. I am holy EVERY day. Only I can keep this. You abide in me every day, and I fulfill the Sabbath.”
Pharisees: “I don’t understand.”
Christ: “It’s not about murder, it’s more than that. It’s about not even hating. Likewise, it’s not about one day of the week to keep holy, it’s more than that. It’s about abiding in my holiness all of the time………………. Please understand that any effort on your part to fulfill even one of the commands will be FUTILE. You only have hope of “keeping these commands” by trusting in me and my ability to know how to perfectly obey each of them. So the rules are not in effect any longer to teach you righteousness. They are insufficient to do that work. Do you see it yet?….Because you can’t even understand the Spirit behind them. ONLY I can. If you LOVE me you WILL keep my commands! So love me….trust in my ability to do this in You. Be found in me and then MY LAW will be written on your hearts. Allow my ability to fulfill the law to replace your insufficient application of it. This is why I came. You cannot even keep one moral law! But I can!”
Pharisee: “I still want to at least try to do one or two. I know I can make sure I don’t commit adultery.”
Christ: “No, not one moral law can you keep. Not even this one.”
Pharisee: “But I’m an old man and I never have done this evil.”
Christ: “You have if you have even lusted after a woman.”
Pharisee: “That’s not fair. You never said not to lust. You just said not to commit adultery. This is too hard. And you never said to set apart every day as holy for you. I can’t do this.”
Christ: “Then don’t! That’s the point. Only I can keep the full meaning, and only as you love me can you keep my commands. Just love me. That’s it. Nothing more. I fulfill it all. Please accept my free gift to you. Stop working to keep the letter of the law. It’s useless. I offer myself to do what you have no capability of doing! As soon as you say that you are pleasing me because you haven’t murdered, you are wrong! You have murder in your heart. As soon as you say, “I am pleasing God because I keep the Sabbath”, you are wrong! You are incapable of keeping it also! I AM the Lord of the Sabbath, not you! Only I can master it. You cannot keep its full meaning. Because it is not just about one day of the week, as murder is not just about killing someone. The Sabbath is about a person. It is about me, and abiding in my rest every moment. Have faith in me, not in yourself! Remember when I rebuked you when you didn’t understand why I healed on the Sabbath? Read the passage again. Is it not sin to cease goods works on the Sabbath? I have prepared many good works for you, every day, and my burden is light. I AM your rest.” (Matt. 11:25-12:8)
Christian: “Thank you so much, Jesus! I accept your gift of righteousness for me! I realize now that I cannot even keep one commandment. The 10 commandments are a moral law but they do not offer us the full scope of their entire meaning. We couldn’t keep them even if they did. They were given to show us our need, our insufficiency. As long as we think we are sufficient to keep even one of these moral
laws, we show our lack of understanding for the greater law at work. Jesus fulfills them all….and that is what it means to be free from the law of sin and death!” (Col. 2:6-19)
Christ: “Yes, because if you stumble in even ONE part, you are guilty of ALL of it. But I have come to be righteousness for you. Love me, and in so doing you will keep my commands because I will keep the FULL meaning of what it is to be righteous. Just abide in me, precious child.” (James 2: 10-13)
Note: *This singles out just 3 of the 10 commandments. Thou shalt not murder, keep the Sabbath holy, and thou shalt not commit adultery. There is so much more that we can’t begin to fathom for each one of the 10 commandments. The Pharisees thought they could keep all 10, and Christ in Matthew 5 graciously corrects their misunderstanding. The 10 commandments only scratch the surface of what it is to be holy. We think we know what it means to have no other gods before Him…we don’t. In reality it means to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength. This is the greatest commandment. And we certainly can’t do that one -ever! Only Christ has ever fully loved God with His whole heart, soul, and strength at any given moment. We break this commandment every moment. It is ONLY in Christ as our substitution that righteousness is counted to us. Only Christ pleases God. Only Christ fulfills (completes – actually performs) the full meaning of each of the 10 commandments. We only rob God when we think we can fulfill even one of these laws. Either Christ is the fulfillment of all of them on our behalf, or He isn’t.
This passage below is often used to keep us held in bondage to “The Law of Sin and Death”. Please understand what Christ is saying here. Matt. 5:17-20 “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 say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” PLEASE understand these verses:
1. Christ has not come to rid the world of the Law or the Prophets. How could He? They are what God, the Father uses to reveal what Holiness is – what HE is. Christ came not to abolish Holiness, but to fulfill it (to complete it) since we cannot.
2. He will fulfill and meet every iota and every dot that Holiness requires as given in the Law, since we cannot.
3. Therefore whoever relaxes (discounts, makes less of) these commandments (God’s standards of holiness) and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.. We CANNOT make less of this standard of holiness, nor our complete inability to keep it, for the
first acknowledges WHO GOD IS, and the second acknowledges WHO WE ARE. This is the key to the whole passage.
4. but whoever does them (and only Christ does) and teaches them (again, Christ is the only one who fully knows them and is therefore the only one able to impart their full meaning) will be called great in the kingdom of heaven, so it is Christ who will be called “great” in the kingdom of Heaven, and without receiving His righteousness as our own we don’t have a chance!
5. unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (remember these are the ones that followed the letter of the law), we will not enter heaven. How can our righteousness exceed theirs? Christ’s point is that ours can’t. Only His can. That’s why He is our righteousness. Continue reading Matt. 5 to get the point here.)
6. If we don’t receive Christ as the only one that can keep this extreme holiness on our behalf, we will not enter heaven.
He has performed what it means to “have no other gods before me.” How then can we DO this commandment? Abide in Christ. Trust Him that living in Him means this commandment is fulfilled in Him. Does it mean we can have other gods then? By all means “NO!” How could it, if this command is fulfilled in Christ as the one having no other gods before him? In the same way, Christ has performed what it means to “Observe the Sabbath day” (literally to observe the rest He gives), to keep it holy. He has met that qualification of holiness, by declaring Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath! If we are in Him, the Sabbath keeping is fulfilled in Him for us. How then do we DO this commandment? Same answer for every other commandment that is impossible for us to keep the full meaning of (which is ALL of them): “Abide in Him. Trust Him that living in Him means this commandment is fulfilled in Him. Does this mean we should not honor the Sabbath then? By all means “NO”. How could it if this command is fulfilled in Christ as the fulfillment (the literal) Sabbath Day? We honor Him, we keep the Sabbath. He IS our rest. Christ is the embodiment of each of the 10 Commandments. He is the fulness of God in bodily form. He IS the holiness we cannot achieve. We abide in Him, we keep them all.
Note, particular for the Sabbath: *Colossians 2: 16-17 “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink (ceremonial law) or with regard to religious festival, a New Moon celebration (a Feast of Trumpets observation) or a Sabbath day (moral law). These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality however is found in Christ.”
Please don’t take me wrong that I’m saying we shouldn’t rest from our work on Saturdays (observance the Sabbath). Based on the above Colossians statement and Romans 14:5-12 “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike….” we have freedom to choose this as unto the Lord. It would be wrong of me to tell anyone not to rest on Saturday just because Christ is already the fulfillment of that law. At the same time, if anyone else wants to keep any other day holy or set apart unto the LORD, or regard them all as holy in Christ, then these verses make it clear that that is well too. (As far as “worship” goes – New testament believers often met daily to worship the Lord together, further emphasizing these Scriptures.)