Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 10/5/03
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16, RSV).
Last month, I received a thoughtful e-mail from a brother in Canada, who was confused by what I have written about keeping the Law. He wrote,
"On many occasions you have referred to the freedom of Christianity and how all the rules and regulations are eliminated. I have had a bit of difficulty with this and at times have wondered if you were referring to God's law given to Moses, or the rules and regulations laid down by various denominations, particularly the evangelical hard shells." End Quote.
Dear Nigel (not his real name),
I do the best I can to write clearly, but all of us have been so programmed by churchianity and legalism, that only God Himself can deliver us from their conflicted doctrines. I have prayed that He will remove the fog and shine the light of His life giving Spirit into your heart and mind so you can see how wonderful, how marvelous, how SIMPLE His plan of the ages really is. It does NOT depend on law, on rules and regulations, but solely upon His grace and unconditional love.
The Hebrew letter you referred to was written to Jewish Christians who were tempted to just add Christ to the law they were trying to keep. This explains why there are such dire warnings to be found in the book: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Heb. 10:26-27, NIV). That verse frightened me for years until I realized it does not refer to specific sins, but to continuing to live by law, rather than by grace. Here's a passage you may have overlooked regarding the Law: "In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" (Heb. 8:13, RSV). Another translation says that the law is fading away: What does that mean?
To understand, we have to go back to God's covenant with Abraham. It was a unilateral (one party) agreement. God appeared to Abraham, a pagan, to whom Paul says He preached the gospel, i.e., that in his seed, will all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8). He identifies the Seed as Christ (Gal. 3:16). This covenant did NOT depend on Abraham's behavior, but upon God's promise.
Circumcision was Abraham's acknowledgment that he believed God's promise even as people today are baptized when God gives them faith to believe that Christ saved them from their sins. Some insist that baptism is what saves us, but in fact, it is merely an outward acknowledgment of God's circumcision of our heart, a physical symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Fast forward the tape to Mount Sinai, where God through Moses brought Abraham's descendants after delivering them from Egypt. The mountain was full of smoke and rumblings and earthquakes. The people were terrified and said to Moses, "You go find out what He wants. Tell Him we'll do whatever He says to you, but do not let Him speak to us, lest we die" (Ex. 20:18-19). This is the essence of the Law, which was perfect in every way (Ps. 19:7), BUT "the law made nothing perfect" (Heb 7:19). It isn't that there was anything wrong with the law, all 613 parts of it, but the problem was that no one except Christ could keep it! He said of Himself that He was the fulfillment of the law (Matt. 5:17). He lives in us; therefore, the Law is fulfilled in us as well, by His living in us!
Under Law, a bilateral (two party) agreement between God and Israel, His blessings totally depended upon their obedience to it (See Deut. 28). They sinned grievously before Moses ever got down from the mountain with the tablets of stone, which he smashed in disgust because they worshipped the golden calf (Ex. 32:15-19).
God gave Moses another set (Ex. 34:1), but no one could keep it either. More than 30,000 Christian denominations, all claiming to have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, cannot agree on what it takes to be saved, let alone which rules we have to keep to please God. Religion is a total failure; only God can satisfy Himself!
God's plan is so pure, so SIMPLE, so brilliant, that many people miss it, especially those who have been brainwashed by legalism. To learn about His plan, the New Covenant, we go back to Hebrews, Chapter 8, again, NIV Translation:
Hebr. 8:7: "For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another." WAS there something wrong with it?
Hebr. 8:8-9: "But God found fault with the people and said : "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord."
Follow the progression here. God gave the law, but there was something wrong with it (Vs. 7). What was that? The success of the Law depended on their obedience, and man has never been able to do anything right for very long.
Hebr. 8:10: "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people."
He created a New Covenant with the house of Israel (remember the writer is talking to Jewish readers, but it fits us as well, because most Christians are Jewish in their attempts to reduce the gospel to rules and then try to keep them).
This Covenant, God said, would NOT be like the first one which the people couldn't keep; it would NOT be written on a stone monument in a Federal building. This one would be written on their minds and hearts. It would be lived and breathed within them by the Holy Spirit Himself. Hebr. 8:11: "No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest."
The result of this wondrous accomplishment of God's LOVE is that ALL will know Him, from the least to the greatest, and man will not need to say to his neighbor, "know the Lord" (a commandment), because they will ALL know Him by God's grace. By living inside a man, and replacing his heart of stone (tablets of stone) with a living heart (Christ), God brings forth the New Creation, and because this New Creation is God breathed and God lived, it cannot fail! Hebr. 8:12: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
Hebr. 8:13 "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one OBSOLETE; and what is obsolete and aging will soon DISAPPEAR."
Under this New Covenant, God forgave our wickedness and remembered our sins no more. This is why the Old Covenant has been made obsolete and why it is disappearing. To the degree that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, to that same degree we do not need rules or regulations; He has replaced rules with love!
Nigel, you seem concerned with all the various rules, but remember that Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34, RSV). The Law has been reduced to one commandment: LOVE, but we cannot even do that by ourselves. Only by reckoning ourselves dead, can we overcome sin. Why? "For he who has died is freed from sin" (Rom. 6:7, RSV). Dead men do not sin! The Apostle John affirmed, "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9, RSV).
The gospel of Jesus Christ, simply put, is the POWER OF GOD (not man) unto salvation, to the Jew (the religious) first and also to the Greek (the pagans) (Rom. 1:16). The Gospel is NOT based upon the power and ability of man to keep the rules, as was the Law of Moses; it is based solely upon the promise of God to Abraham, fulfilled in Christ. When Christ died on that cross; our carnal nature (the old man) was nailed to the tree with Him, but he, our old man, did NOT come out of the tomb! The New Creation in Christ arose from the grave into eternal life. Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain" (Gal. 2:20,21, KJV). Attempting to keep the law to attain righteousness nullifies the death of Christ! It is Christ's faith which sustains us, not our own. Since faith is a gift of God to us (Eph. 2:8), no one can take credit for anything.
When Christ lives His life through us, we do not have a sin problem because Christ overcame it and He lives in us. When we look to our own efforts, we always fail, but when we look to Him, we cannot fail.
The Law was complex, and included the Mishna, which was the oral tradition handed down as a result of Rabbis debating the Law for thousands of years, considering it from every angle. The Gospel, hidden through the ages, revealed in these last times in Christ, is SIMPLE! When I said we do not live by law, perhaps you assumed I meant we don't do anything at all. That's NOT what I mean. What I mean is that WE are not the ones keeping the law, but Christ in us is keeping it. In Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Jesus distilled the Law into one commandment: "LOVE ONE ANOTHER" (John 13:34; 15:12; I John 3:11, 23; 4:7; II John 1:5).
Instead of that, we now have millions of Christians arguing and debating, behaving hatefully, dishonorably, sometimes even to those in their own churches.
God is now bringing His universal Gospel to light. Romans, Chapters 9-11, is Paul's perfect declaration of this simple plan of God: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy" (Rom. 9:16, KJV). The Phillips translation is excellent: "It is obviously not a question of human will or human effort, but of divine mercy" (Rom. 9:16). God's actions put us where we are and delivered us from it: "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). If man put himself in the soup of disobedience and sin, then he deserves to be punished, but if God did it, as Paul boldly declares, then HE is the only one who can reverse the curse, and He did, in our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Apostle bursts forth in ecstasy as he cries out, "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom. 11:33-36, RSV).
Do you see? Lord help Nigel and everyone else to see, that ALL THINGS came FROM God, go THROUGH God and return back TO God. My dear friend, we can't lose for winning! (This is Harry Fox's exclamation of praise to God).
I pray that the eyes of your understanding will be opened so that you will personally feel and touch and taste the unfathomable riches of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and that you may experience at a cellular level His unconditional love for all men and the entire creation about which He said, "IT is very good" (Gen. 1:31).
Earlier, I quoted Heb. 10:26-27, regarding the judgment and raging fire which will consume the enemies of God. Let me assure you that this is a promise, not a threat. "Our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29), who will consume the adversaries: anything that is not the truth. Fire is NOT to be feared, but to be embraced, for it destroys everything that separates us from the purity and holiness of our Father. The church has frightened men and women for generations with everlasting hell fire. Surely God is not so ineffective, so slow and inept that it would take Him an eternity to cleanse off the dross, burn up the tares, and consume the adversaries. In fact Paul says, "...a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (Rom 9:28, KJV). ALL of man's works (those not built upon Christ), will be burned up by fire, BUT, "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (I Cor. 3:15).
A business man will not operate his company with a flawed plan which never produces a profit. He will set it aside and find one which works. So, here's my question. Is God so slow and dim witted that He learned nothing from giving the Law of Moses? It never turned a profit either. Why then would He create the New Covenant just like the old one, knowing human beings were incapable of keeping the Law, any law? There is only one source of success in the Universe, and that is God Himself. The Old Covenant was dependent upon man's actions. It failed utterly because men were programmed to fail, consigned to disobedience by God Himself (Rom. 11:32). The New Covenant depends only upon HIS promise to Abraham. The brilliance of it is that not only did He step into flesh, defeating death by the resurrection, but He came back in Spirit to live in His followers. He writes His laws on our hearts and then keeps them, living in us by the indwelling Spirit, which He is. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (II Cor. 3:17, RSV).
Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). The cross, God's antidote for sin, was always part of His plan! Let us give up the works of our own hands then, and rejoice that God has provided a way of escape from sin and death and defeat, for all men everywhere. Let all creation praise Him that He is even now, through the fires of tribulation, in the process of conforming His sons into the image and likeness of Christ, the firstborn of many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
May God open your understanding to see WHY we no longer live by law, so that you can enter into rest and cease from your own labors. Then you can join with the Apostles and the elect throughout the ages in praising God for His unfailing mercy, His endless grace, and His unconditional love. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 9/25/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/28/08.