Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, Mo, on 5/9/04.
"It is clear that no one is justified in God's sight by obeying the Law, for: The righteous shall live by faith" (Gal. 3:11, Phil.)
No matter how many Christians claim that they live by grace, their actions speak otherwise, as evidenced by the tremendous brouhaha over removing the monument to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Building. People protested on radio, TV, the Internet, and some camped outside for days, preventing the monument from being moved with their own bodies! We had people write commenting on how insane that was since we don't live by law, and yet, I wonder how many even know what it means to live by grace. For instance, one of our readers, whom we've shared with for quite a long time now, totally misunderstood my position on law, and wrote once asking just what part of the Law of Moses was I talking about leaving out? He and a lot of others are unclear on the concept, and that's not their fault. They are a product of the religious systems today. He wants to believe that God is going to save everyone, but yet appears threatened to think that the Law is no longer in force. After reading last week's "A funeral for sin and death" (See link at end), he wrote the following:
"First let me say, God Bless you for finally clarifying your many comments regarding the Law. For the last year or so, probably longer, I have each week saved your weekly writings and many times have been tempted to push the key that would delete me from your mailing list. Each time, my fingers were removed from the key board and I stuck with you, although there were times when I wondered if you were really talking to God or the evil one.
"I guess my problem was that I see so much sin around me, not only on an individual level but on a national level. God never gave mankind the right to make his own laws, which is happening every day and as a result is getting us nationally deeper and deeper into trouble. Sin is the transgression of the Law; evil is evil. This has not changed. The fact that under the New Covenant, God has written His laws upon the hearts of (some) men does not remove the utility of God's law, seemed to have been foreign to some of your writings. Enough said, your piece on the funeral of sin and death greatly clarified your position and put it in the right prospective. It made me glad that God had removed my fingers from the key board at those times of doubt.
"I think one of the elements that draws me to your writing is your stand on the fact that God will have all men to be saved and ultimately every knee shall bow before Him and confess Christ. As you know, this position is not popular although it should be and it personifies the God that I love, worship and communicate with. God Bless and thanks for clarifying your position." End Quote.
While it is not nice to think that a reader might believe that I'm getting my thoughts from the devil, rather than from God, I got over it, as Dr. Phil would say. Like a lot of people, this brother has problems with the sin issue, so I began my answer to him by pointing out that Christians who still struggle with guilt about confessed sin have not really understood what Christ did for them on the cross. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He did not fail. Of course, there is sin everywhere, but why focus on it? God does not focus on sin, but upon Christ, His finished work. Most who focus on sin are still afraid of hell fire and damnation, but it's an inescapable conclusion that if Christ is "the Savior of all men" (1 Tim. 4:10), then sin is not the big deal to God that most Christians think it is. Does God like it? Of course not. Sin is an abomination to God, and under Law, He took stern measures against those who sinned. We know that Christ took our sins to the cross, but Paul says He did more: "He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross" (Col. 2:14, Phil.).
Because He nailed our sins and the Law to the cross, our mission to the world is reconciliation, not condemnation. Those of us who have the seed of God within us, are Ambassadors for the Christ to the rest of the world (2 Co. 5:19-20). We minister to the lost through God's unconditional love, rather than the conditional love/law that most churches offer. I told them Sunday morning at Medicalodge, that almost 2,000 years of ranting and raging about sin from the pulpits of the land have failed to produce anything but guilt and shame in Christians and ho-hum boredom and/or disgust in the world's eyes. Though most churches deal in the CONDITIONAL rather than the unconditional, only the unconditional love of God will heal the hearts and minds of lost men and women today.
Jonathan Mitchell's response to the "funeral" piece fits very well into this discussion. He commented, "The trouble that many have in seeing the truth and reality of the good news, is that their focus is on the realm of flesh (seeing with the carnal mind). No matter how much we know, or how long we've been a "Christian," if we turn our focus on the flesh and its failures, we cannot perceive the things of the Spirit, and for as long as we do this we abide in death, and remain hopeless. Our world view becomes the same as the world's view (spinning out of control), instead of perceiving the kingdom of God, and His total control. Just keep the light on, those with eyes to see will see." End quote.
The world looks at current events and sees chaos. The sons of God look at the very same picture and say, "I'm glad my Father is in charge of all that."
My sister has blessed me with the opportunity to help her edit the Bible course which she has taught once at the church where she attends. She feels like the Lord would have her offer it again this fall, and I have been going through her summaries to make whatever changes may be necessary. Last week, I worked up Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Because I was looking for typos and other mistakes, I went over the summary for each book probably 4 or 5 times. It was a fascinating experience which left me with two powerful impressions.
1) I want to fall on my face in worship before the Lord that we no longer live by law. The Law was good and needful, but some of it is puzzling, cruel, and often hilarious to the modern Western mind. Because the punishment for failure to keep the Law was often death by stoning, I imagine that the ancient Hebrews didn't give much thought as to "Why," but just concentrated on doing it.
2) I was struck by how many churches today are still operating by Law. The most striking similarity to me is the existence of clergy and laity. Under Law, no one but the Levites could come near the tabernacle without dying. Only Aaron and his Sons could touch the sacred utensils. Today, some churches still have the priesthood and prophets, and almost all churches make a distinction between the preachers, pastors, and elders and the rest of the congregation. Additionally, most churches have their own rules and by-laws (doctrine) that a member must keep, or risk being excommunicated.
Under the Law, death was an ever present threat for disobedience, though there is not one word about punishment that lasted BEYOND the grave. Isaiah said about God's judgment: "......When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). All retribution was for those on the earth, and according to this great prophet of God, it was given so that the world can learn righteousness. What usually happens today when judgment falls, is that conservative politicians enact new laws, build bigger prisons to hold the offenders, and proclaim a victory over crime to their constituents.
Churches rely upon the Law when they assign punishment for disobedience, but they upped the anti considerably, by threatening hell fire and damnation for all eternity, with no repeal or reprieve possible. I've been saying for years that hell fire is "good for business," church business.
Threats of death by stoning did not work under Law. The people still sinned and went whoring after strange gods (a good King James expression). Threats of hell fire and damnation have not worked in today's world either, no matter how many times Evangelicals like Tim Lahaye proclaim on national TV that those who follow Jesus (their way), will be raptured out of here while God smacks the rest of creation around in punishment for their sins. It is particularly reprehensible to me that they affirm that those who are raptured out will be looking on while God wipes out the sinners. I heard one Televangelist say that the rapturees would be watching it all from above, while banqueting on fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, with no concern about carbs or fat. Is this Love?
I can almost understand why Christians are loathe to let go of the Law, because to the carnal mind, it seems like they are leaving behind morality, righteousness and obedience to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Hebrew writer said, "By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (8:13). I imagine that the title to this piece, brought gasps from folks to whom letting go of Law is somewhat akin to turning loose of mom's apron strings.
When I asked the Lord to give me something clearly understandable about why we no longer live by Law, He enabled me to grasp the meaning of a scripture which on the surface of it, might be used to contradict my major premise: "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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Mt. 5:17-18, NIV). I saw in one of those moments of illumination which sweeps away all doubt, that the way Christ fulfills the Law is by Love, NOT by obeying every commandment meticulously, because it might be said that He did not do that.
For those of you binding, casting, and pleading the blood over my comment, consider this. Under law, a woman caught in the very act of adultery was to be stoned to death. When this scenario played out before Jesus' eyes, He avoided carrying out the capital punishment by remarking, "Let Him who is without sin cast the first stone." Again and again, He healed on the Sabbath, which to the legalists was a clear violation of the Law. This indicates that they saw strict obedience to Law as something that brought them closer to God, rather than seeing it for what it actually was: a reflection of God's love for man. Only when God opens our eyes can we discern the bigger picture of the Law.
Jesus fulfilled the Law because He WAS God's unconditional love incarnate. Christ was God's first word and His last word on the subject of Law. On one occasion, He had opportunity to spell it out for those who followed Him, who had asked Him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mk. 12:28-31, NIV).
What flashed upon my spirit was that the Law can be summed up in one word: LOVE! Lenny has always explained that when God's unconditional love fills our heart, we will never violate someone else's life, no matter what they have done or how they behave. This rises as far above Law, where we did good rather than evil to avoid punishment, as the moon is above the earth.
In Mk. 12:28, Jesus was quoting what the Jews call the "Shema:" "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut. 6:4-5, NIV). Now on the face of it, that's a powerful commandment, but ever since I was filled with the Holy Spirit, I wondered how this command could ever be obeyed under Law. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength," sure sounds like works to me, and on top of that, it seems an impossible commandment to keep without help from the Spirit of God.
The Apostle John made it really clear, saying, "We love because he first loved us" (1 Jo. 4:19). One of our dear friends admitted to a group of us one night that he does not love God. I admired his courage in telling the truth, but was sad because I knew it meant that he had never felt God's love in his life. This is the work of the Holy Spirit IN us, and John affirmed that we can only know this BY the Spirit: "We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit" (Vs. 13). I don't really see how we can love God at all unless the Spirit has revealed to us our Father's unconditional love for us. That must have put them in a world of hurt in Old Testament times, because the "Average Joes" were operating on soul power, NOT Spirit power.
People who cling to Law have not felt the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. They are judgmental, legalistic, sectarian, and woefully short of being able to love either God or their neighbor, except conditionally. How do I know this? Observation of so called "Christian" behavior makes it abundantly plain. The Law of Love is as far above the Law of Moses as God's ways are above our ways.
Father, deliver us from the works of our own hands by revealing in us Your finished work. Love us in ways that we can see and hear and feel and taste and touch. Put in our mouths the words You would have us deliver to the hungry world. We give You all the glory and honor and blessing. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"A Funeral for Sin and Death"
"Our Kinsman Redeemer, the Law Fulfilled"
"Spiritual Adultery, Set free from the Law"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 5/5//04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.