The Gospel and the Law

In the Old Covenant the badge of covenant membership in the family of God was Circumcision, Temple-observance, and Torah-keeping, with this last involving Sabbath-keeping, kosher diet, and keeping the Feasts, (among hundreds of other things). These were the borders defining the “people of God.”

In the New Covenant the badge of Covenant membership is faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel. He became “faithful Israel” because fleshly Israel could not.  And He also became the curse promised by the Torah to those who could not truly keep Torah. Jesus also embodied the badges of old covenant membership: He was the Temple, He fulfilled/will fulfill the Feasts, He is our Sabbath rest, and His law delivers the “heart circumcision” that Moses predicted would come in Deut. 30:6.

Israel could not keep Torah and indeed that is what was predicted right from the very beginning (Deut. 31:16), even though it was also declared (paradoxically) that these laws were not too difficult for Israel to keep and obey (Deut. 30:11). The hard reality is that the giving of the Mosaic Covenant was a covenant designed to fail, but to “fail” for a specific purpose.

The purpose of the Torah was to act as a trap to highlight and contain sin and death. The devil thought that he had defeated Jesus when He died on the cross, but Jesus showed His triumph over sin and death through the resurrection. Indeed, without Torah the seriousness and reality of sin would have gone unrecognized. That is why the end-point of a covenant based on Torah-keeping was always death, until God sent His Son to fulfill Torah for us.

Torah has served its purpose, which is why we can now become members of God’s covenant family through faith alone. Membership is no longer dependent upon Temple-observance (including sacrifices for sins), fleshly circumcision, or Torah-keeping. Does this mean there is no longer any Law? Of course not. There is still a law.

The early Church Father Tertullian wrote that the biggest deception of gnosticism was the separating of the Law from the Gospel. Every kingdom has a Law, including the Kingdom of God. That is why Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” That is why it says in Revelation 22:14 -KJV, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.”

The question is, what Law is being spoken of here in this New Covenant context?  It is the Law that comes from the heart; the Law that flows from the teachings of Jesus as the King of His Father’s Kingdom.  It is the Law of Christ. It is the Law written on our hearts bearing witness through our Holy Spirit-redeemed consciences!

You can read about some of the Laws of the Kingdom of God in Matthew 5-7 within the Sermon on the Mount. It is a law that reaches into our minds and hearts and beyond outward observances. It ministers to the heart-problems that emerged after the Fall of Adam and Eve: those of anger, lust, greed, pride, and fear. These were the problems that Jesus was sent to solve, rather than the political problems of Israel’s day, and of ours today, that outwardly “religious” people tend to get so worked-up about.

Today the biggest problem within “Christianity” is lawlessness. Indeed, this last great heresy is predicted in the New Testament, and I highlight it in my blog here: https://redmoonhawaii.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-great-heresy-of-the-last-days/

This unfortunate separation of Law from Gospel, which began with gnosticism, re-emerged in the teachings of Martin Luther during the Reformation.  Luther taught that the teachings of Christ were largely irrelevant, and that essentially all that was needed to understand the Gospel was Paul’s letter to the Romans. See here: https://redmoonhawaii.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/martin-luthers-foundation-of-sand/

This separation gathered further pace with the introduction of dispensationalism, which argued that all of the teachings of Jesus were for “Israel” and were never intended for the “Church Age.”

Today in the USA we are reaping the consequences of this bad theology that has been sowed relentlessly over the past few hundred years. Yes, today the Church is a mess, and lawlessness has increased, with the love of most growing cold.

Dear God, what are we going to do!? The answer for many people, coming out of this dispensationalist-based evangelicalism, which looks fawningly upon all things related to fleshly Israel, the Jews, Zionism, and the modern-day state of Israel, is to return to the Old Covenant Law of Moses.

Paul taught that it would be God’s blessings upon a faithful Church that would cause Israel to be jealous and thus bring about Israel’s end-times redemption (Romans 11), but the fact is that within this twisted dispensationalist perspective it is lawless Christians who have become jealous of Israel! Yes, it is clear to me that dispensationalism has proven to be the stepping stone towards the Hebrew Roots Movement, in that it provides room for a lawlessness that HRM then attempts to remedy.  But this false solution leads only to the very same dead end warned about repeatedly by the Apostle Paul!

The answer for our problems today, indeed the only answer that has ever worked, is to return to faith in Jesus. Not a dead faith that is based solely on acknowledging certain facts about Jesus, but a living faith that actually believes who Jesus is and lives by what He taught.  His commandments are not optional, and keeping them is the evidence of the Spirit’s work on the inside of our hearts. A true and living faith is always accompanied by works that bring glory to our Heavenly Father, just as Jesus taught in Matt. 5:16.

Jesus claimed to be the Temple, but now we are the Temple when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and work together to establish His eternal Kingdom.

Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World, but He also tasked us with the responsibility of shining our own lights, which are given to us by Him.

Jesus claimed to be able to provide the living water that was described in the Old Covenant as the river of life that flows from the Temple, but He also said that we would have springs of living water flowing out of us, water that we can offer to those around us who are thirsting for truth and righteousness.

The New Covenant is amazing and beautiful, and to be a part of it is to accept a priceless gift. Let’s get to know what it truly means and lay down our lives for our King, putting it into action! Jesus came in a single body two thousand years ago to seek and to save that which was lost. That ministry is still going on today, and now He has more than just one body to use, He has all of us!  Let’s go Church, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!


6 thoughts on “The Gospel and the Law

  1. Wow, Honestly, I have never heard dispensationalism decribed in those terms. Ever. And I am one, but certainly not by that definition, nor do I know any who are defined by that definition. No wonder you would want to disavow any association with them, if that’s what they believed, I would disavow them too.

    I can assure you that there are many of us (dispensationalists), who hold to what you are saying here in theology, but not defintions. And none that I know, would ever denegrate the teachings of Jesus like that, let alone say they don’t apply to the church body today. Christs words supercede everything else in the bible. Hence the purpose for him to come in the flesh, to set us straight on previous eroneous teachings.

    Perhaps too broad of a brush or just a different terminology or definiton is needed for dispensationalists? Or the other choice is that I have been wrongly taught what it means to be one and don’t really know what one is. But I feel prety solid about it after 32 yrs.

    And I totally agree with your stance against the HRM. I have personally seen the damage it has done in believers lives. Why do we feel (key word there), that we have to continually add to Christ’s words to validate our position in him?

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  2. Yes, I think the fact is that we really know very little about the deeper theological stances of dispensationalism. This is probably because they are embarrassing, and so they are kept in the background. I know I am coming down hard on this ideology here, but please know that it is specific to a few key issues. I still hold to many “dispensational” stances on end times, for instance the future fulfillment of the 70th Week of Daniel. What I am objecting to is the dispensational idea that Christ came to present the Jews with the opportunity of establishing a literal kingdom on earth that would fulfill the OT prophecies. D-ists say that since Israel rejected Jesus this fulfillment has been postponed. They also say that all of Jesus’ teaching must be understood in this context, as temporary and conditional instruction for the Jews, which became moot after they rejected Jesus. Then, they say, the “Church Age” began, as a temporary “parenthesis” within God’s greater plan for Israel, during which the teachings of Paul are our foundation, specifically his teaching of “justification by faith.” When Paul is emphasized over Jesus, even when Paul’s theology is correct, bad things happen. For the record, I can credit two sources for my new critical stance on dispensationalism: “Prophecy and the Church” by Oswald T. Allis, and also “Paul and the Faithfulness of God,” by N.T. Wright.

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  3. Ok good. Thanks for the clarifications. A few questions, retorical and otherwise. In Matthew 21:43, what did Jesus mean when he said the kingdom is taken away from Israel and given to the gentiles/church? IF it means that Israel will be given another shot at it, ala Rom 11:15, 25 – 27, when will that occur? If as most commentators think, that it will occur during the 1000 yr reign of Christ on earth, are we talking about a plurality meaning of kingdom? Both the earthly rule of the millennium and the inner kingdom of God that you have been teaching about? If the 1000 yr reign on earth is not to fulfill the promises to Israel that God made and swore to fulfill, then what’s the purpose of the 1000 yr reign? Why not go directly to the eternal state?

    Thanks in advance for your answers. I like being stretched and continually refining what I think I know. Iron sharpening iron.

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  4. Hi Peter, just a few thoughts about the literal interpretation of the Millennium. If we hold to a literal interpretation then it means that in the Millennium there will be a return to animal sacrifices, a Jewish priesthood that excludes Gentiles, a return of slavery, and some say polygamy based on Isaiah 4:1.

    Frankly. I am starting to have a difficult struggle with this interpretation. As I have said before, one of the first books I almost lived in as a new Christian is the Book of Hebrews. It has always caused a knot in my stomach when I hear preachers or teachers say there will be a return to theses things because it goes against everything I read in Hebrews.

    Keep up the good work.

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  5. You know Mike, the deeper I study the more I begin to realize how unnecessary a future millennium is. There are several ways to read Revelation 20. Reading it literally is probably not the best way. This is confirmed for me by the teachings of Jesus on the nature of the Kingdom. He gives no provision for a future temporary kingdom on earth, where sin and death make a new appearance, where a new rebellion occurs, followed by another “last battle” and then another “final judgment.” I don’t think very many people realize that if we read Rev 20 literally then we have to really twist the words of Jesus to make them fit the pre-millennial chronology. I’d rather take Jesus at his word, and then use his teachings to understand Rev 20 on a deeper spiritual level. This book has really helped to clarify things for me, even though I haven’t got it all worked out: http://amzn.com/B00JFFIB7U

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  6. This is a comment on Peter D. Goodgame February 1, 2015 at 8:12 am – what? blog?

    Are you on weed?? Jesus dictated the Book of Revelation so it’s Jesus’ words, all right. Your saying the teachings of Jesus on the nature of the Kingdom leave no room for a temporary – you mean 1,000 year – a new rebellion – a last battle and judgment. He didn’t say everything He has to say to us in the 4 gospel accounts in the sections dealing with the Kingdom. I’d say the book of Revelation is very much a Kingdom teaching. You can count on everything He’s recorded in the Book of Revelation coming to pass – in the near future I’m pretty sure. Whether you like it or not. You don’t get to pick and choose what you like or that fits your doctrine.

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