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Red Letters: By Your Command part 1

4.2.2023


Editor’s note: We also should strive to rightly divide the Word of God and this year I have decided to use Sundays to bring some of the insights into correctly understanding the things Jesus said while completing His earthly ministry. The ‘red letters’ are words often misunderstood by Christians and I will address what the Holy Spirit is showing me about His words. I hope these writings will help you and bless you.  If there is a particular teaching of Christ you would like addressed please let me know via messenger or in the comments.

 

Growing up I watched a show from the 70’s called Battlestar Galactica. It was later remade but didn’t hold a candle to the original! The show was about a group of humans who fled their planet as the evil Cylon empire overran it. They were trying to make it to Earth and refuge but were constantly battling the Cylons. The Cylons were all large robot soldiers in silver shiny armor except for three in the highest rankings. Interestingly, it was a human named Baltar who was second in command under a robot dictator and Baltar had a very odd-looking robot assistant directly under him. Baltar was the one we mostly saw, but occasionally the supreme leader would give the orders and Baltar would relay them to the robot troops. Whenever they did get the orders they would respond by saying, ‘by your command.’ Baltar, however, often neglected the orders he was given and gave his own to the robot troops who always replied, ‘by your command.’ They never caught on that the commands Baltar gave were not always what they should have received because they would never follow Baltar over their supreme leader. They followed commands they shouldn’t have because they were deceived.

 

This analogy provides us with a good launch point to have a discussion over what our commands are as Believers because this is an area of great confusion and misunderstanding and leads to problems in living out our faith. Many in today’s church follow commands never meant for us because too many preachers and Bible teachers have been deceived by years of erroneous interpretation and tradition and have not opened their hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. In turn, those who listen to them are deceived and have also failed to be good students of the Word and diligently seek what is true or not. For the next few Sunday’s, let’s get into the ‘red letters’ to see if we can uncover the truth- what commands (commandments) are we to adhere to under the New Covenant of Grace.

 

The primary reason for confusion is that we don’t dig deeper to find what Jesus, or others refer to in keeping commands. We tend to think anytime we see the word ‘commandment(s)’ that it refers to the Law. For example, Jesus said:

 

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15

 

Ask most people and they will say that Jesus was talking about the Ten Commandments (aka, the Law). First, if that is the case you will need to go do some counting. The Law had 613 commandments dealing with everything to the type of fabric that was acceptable to the way you cut your hair. Some dealt with sacrifices and others focused on behaviors, but the 613 laws were extensive beyond our comprehension. If Jesus was really referring to the Law of Moses (from this point we will use ‘Law of Moses’ to clearly annotate the 613 commandments we often think of) we have some big time problems today! But, was Jesus really referring to the Law of Moses, or even for the sake of argument, the Ten Commandments exclusively? To answer that we need a basic understanding of the fact there are several ways the Bible speaks of some form of law or commandment beyond the Law of Moses.

 

The first basic concept we need to understand is that the Law of Moses did not exist from the beginning. We sometimes forget that several hundred years went by before the Law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Sin, however, was in existence from the beginning, but other than the command not to eat from two trees in the garden no other laws or rules were needed. When Adam and Eve took the bite from the Tree of Knowledge they became aware of good and evil as God placed that knowledge in their hearts. Paul addressed this idea:

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Romans 1:18-23

 

Paul makes it clear that God has a ‘universal’ law that all are under. It is like our Federal law in the U.S. that trumps State law. Everyone is under these universal laws of righteousness and why it is a serious error to assume Gentiles were, or are now, under the Law of Moses. Paul also made that clear:

 

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14

 

The Law of Moses was given specifically to Israel and had a few purposes. It made clear how Holy and Righteous God is and, in turn, showed us how IMPOSSIBLE it was to keep and EARN righteousness. Because man would fail, God also used the Law of Moses to provide the means to be appeased for sin and in that it served as a foreshadow of the One who would fulfill the Law on our behalf. But, the Law served another special purpose that is very relevant to our discussion. The Law was meant to set the nation of Israel apart from the other nations (Gentiles):

 

Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine. Leviticus 20:26

 

Therefore, those who think that Jesus wants us to keep the Law of Moses because He said, ‘keep my commandments,’ have to wrestle with the fact it was not ever meant for the Gentiles. Even those Gentiles (foreigners) who traveled with Israel out of Egypt had several provisions within the Law to make this distinction. One of which was that Gentiles could not go into the official Temple area and had to remain in the one place reserved for them:

 

Thus says the Lord God, “No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary. Ezekiel 44:9

 

This is a big obstacle to overcome when we assume Jesus was referring to the Law of Moses or even just the Ten Commandments. How is it we Gentiles can be under this Law when it clearly wasn’t meant for us. To overcome this hurdle, many will argue Jesus changed that when He came and made us a part of Israel. The idea is that Believers are ‘grafted into’ Israel. This doesn’t hold up to Scripture very well either. First, we have many passages making it clear that no one who is in Christ is under the Law- whether Jew or Gentile:

 

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14

 

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. Rom 7:6

 

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Gal 5:18

 

If this is not clear enough, we can look at one more place that leaves no doubt:

 

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” Acts 15:5-11

 

Did you catch that? Peter and the others quickly squashed the notion that anyone had to adhere to the Law of Moses. Yes, they did tell the Gentiles to refrain from food sacrificed to idols, from strangled animals, from sexual immorality, and from blood (Acts 15:20). One must ask, why, of all 613 commandments did they choose these four? Why not four from the ‘big Ten?’ Simply, these would help the young churches remain separated (holy) from the false religions surrounding them. The Gentile Believers were greatly outnumbered, and it was critical to be very distinct from the other religious practices most found normal. It would be akin to a Christian church in Utah being advised to not wear white shirts, black pants, and a tie when going to witness to someone or for a Christian fellowship next to the Vatican from wearing robes and white collars.

 

At this point we now have God’s ‘universal’ law and the Law we associate with the Ten Commandments (Law of Moses). Hopefully, it is now clear Jesus did not mean these when He spoke. That leaves only one thing left- the commandments Jesus spoke about. What did Jesus really mean when speaking of ‘His’ commandments? We will dive into that next week and, just in case you are still not convinced, we will look at one more proof it wasn’t about the Law of Moses also.

 

Prayer focus: for Believers to use wisdom in witnessing to the lost.

 

 

 

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