The Moral Law – A Shadow of Things to Come
Many have set forth the argument that the ceremonial Law, and the Law of offerings and sacrifices, have been set aside for those who are in Christ, but the moral Law still holds sway over the life of an individual. They teach that the moral Law still is to serve as the believer’s code of conduct and a guide for righteous living. That the apostles and church fathers had the moral portions of the Law in mind when they declared the Christian to have died to the Law is evident in the Scriptures, and will be revealed to all who will rightly divide the word of God. Consider the following passage from Paul’s writings.
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. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”
To those who argue that Paul was merely setting aside the Talmudic additions to the Law, let them consider Paul’s arguments in this chapter of Romans. Where do we find the command “You shall not covet”? It is in the Law of Moses, in that very pronounced subset which is referred to as the ten commandments.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
People of God, the command to not covet most certainly belongs to that division of the Law that some have described as the moral Law. What does Paul say in regard to it? “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.”
A number of things are to be observed in this statement. The Spirit has supplanted the role of the Law. The Spirit of Christ is that which is far fuller, more substantial, powerful, and capable than the Law delivered to Moses. The Spirit not only is able to reveal to the sons of God the will of the Father IN ALL THINGS, but it is able to impart the divine life needed to obey.
A second thing to observe in these words is that we are to continue to serve Yahweh. Being freed from the Law we are to enter into a fuller service to God. This service is not to continue under “the oldness of the letter.” Paul testifies that we have died to that manner of living. Rather, this service is in the newness of the Spirit.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
In sharing with the saints of God over the course of many years that those who are in Christ are no longer under the Law, including the moral Law, many emotional arguments have been raised. One of the common arguments is to ask, “So, do you believe it is now okay to commit murder, or to commit adultery, or to steal?” Others will ask, “So, what part of the moral Law do you want to violate?”
People of God, such arguments have failed to comprehend that which the scriptures are teaching. They are not promoting lawlessness. They are declaring that there is a far more excellent way to discern the mind and will of Yahweh than through the Law. The Law was weak, and it contained only a shadow of the will of God. The Spirit is able to reveal the will of God in fulness.
I do not desire to walk lawlessly. I desire to know the will of the Father and to do it. The Law cannot disclose the Father’s will with the same precision and fulness as that of the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Remember, Moses brought men under the rule of Yahweh by establishing the covenant of Law. Christ brings men under the rule of the Father to a far surpassing degree. His life establishes the pattern to be lived by all those who are born of His seed.
Yahshua was not guided by the Law. He was guided by the Spirit and He perfectly fulfilled the will and pleasure of the Father. From the moment the Spirit descended upon Him at the Jordan in the form of a dove, we read of Christ’s life being directed by the Holy Spirit.
It came to pass in those days that Yahshua came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
It was the Father’s will for His Son to begin His earthly ministry by fasting for forty days, dwelling in the wilderness, and being tempted of the devil. Christ did not arrive at this knowledge of the will of His Father through the Law. Christ revealed the pattern of His life in the following words:
Therefore Yahshua answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.”
How is it that the Father disclosed what He was doing to the Son? It was through the Spirit.
I Corinthians 2:11-13
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
I want to share with you here one of the most tragic consequences of looking to the Law as a guide for righteous living. Because the Law contains only a shadow of the will of the Father, and not the full substance of His will, those who are guided by the Law will fail to discover and walk in all that the Father has appointed for their lives. Those areas of the Father’s will they are most likely to fail to enter into are one’s in which the saint would experience suffering and persecution.
Let us look to Christ once more as a pattern. It was the Spirit that directed Yahshua to heal on the Sabbath day. Although the Law did not strictly forbid healing on the Sabbath, neither did it say that one must heal on the Sabbath if an opportunity presented itself. Yahshua understood that if He healed on the Sabbath, the Jewish religious leaders would condemn Him and eventually seek to take His life. If He were guided by the Law He might have reasoned, “I can wait until the Sabbath is over to heal the people. They will still be healed, and I will avoid condemnation and persecution.”
This however, is not how Christ formed His decisions. He was careful to do whatever He saw the Father doing, and He saw the Father healing certain people on the Sabbath day. If Yahshua was to accomplish all the Father’s will, He had to be submitted to do all that the Spirit revealed to Him. Observe how this topic of persecution ties into the passage we read previously.
For this reason the Jews were persecuting Yahshua, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Therefore Yahshua answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”
Yahshua saw the Father healing on the Sabbath. Therefore, He healed on the Sabbath. This submission to the leading of the Spirit resulted in Christ’s persecution. If Yahshua were directed by Law He could easily have waited and healed on the next day and avoided persecution. Many Christians today who are directed by the Law, or look to some Christian moral code as their source of direction in life, are continually making similar decisions. They avoid persecution and suffering by living by a code of conduct. They are freed from a life directed by the Spirit. The Christian’s mind becomes that which directs them, choosing the best manner to apply the Law to their circumstances.
People of God, let me state to you plainly, in order to be conformed to the image of Christ you must live by the Spirit. The Spirit will ALWAYS lead the sons and daughters of Yahweh to experiences where those around them will condemn them, scorn them, and persecute them. The Spirit will ALWAYS direct the saints to an afflicted path that leads to life, and few there are who find it.
I know of no greater deceit today among the people of God than that which clings to the Law with passionate arguments of wanting to do the Father’s will. Embracing the Law provides an excuse to avoid suffering while maintaining an appearance of righteousness. It sunders the Christian from submission to the Spirit of Christ with the result being that the disciple’s cross is avoided.
This is the reason that Satan works so tirelessly to sow confusion among the body of Christ in relation to the role of the Law. Satan knows that the Law makes nothing perfect, but life in the Spirit brings forth mature sons and daughters. Satan does not want to see Christ fully formed in men, so he leads them away from the one path that can produce saints who have attained to the fulness of the stature of Christ.
If one walks by the Spirit they must go wherever the Spirit leads them to go, and do whatever the Spirit directs them to do. The same Spirit that led Yahshua to heal on the Sabbath and to confront the sin and corruption of the Jewish religious system, will lead disciples today to works and words that will result in their persecution.
As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.
Do you perceive what Paul is stating here? The Law allows men and women to make a good showing in the flesh while avoiding the persecution of the cross. Let me give you an example to illustrate this.
The Law tells a man that he is to give the firstfruits of his increase to Yahweh. He is free to do with the remainder whatever his soul desires as long as he does not violate the righteousness found in the Law. This is a shadow of the will of God, but not the full substance. The substance is realized in Christ.
“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
Christ brings in the fulness of the Father’s will for mankind. Everything that a man possesses is to be surrendered to the Father to be used as He directs. Those who live by a Law of righteousness make a good showing in the flesh by giving to the Father a tithe of their increase. Those who walk by the Spirit must surrender to the Father EVERYTHING.
‘So, then, every one of you who doth not take leave of all that he himself hath, is not able to be my disciple.’
[Young’s Literal Translation]
There was a rich young ruler who kept the Law of Moses. He was outwardly of a very godly character. To borrow Paul’s description, he made a good showing in the flesh. I do not doubt the sincerity of this man. I do not believe he was a hypocrite, or a play actor. He wanted to be found approved by the God of Israel. This young ruler came to Messiah and asked the following:
“Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
Yahshua answered him by citing a number of the ten commandments. The young ruler assured Yahshua that he had kept all these things. He then said, “What more do I lack.”
Observe closely the response of Christ. He does not tell the young ruler that he is perfect for having kept the commandments, for the Law makes nothing perfect. Instead, Christ replies:
“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
This encounter with the rich young ruler is recorded in three of the gospels. Mark presents these last words of Christ to the ruler in this manner.
Then Yahshua, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
In each telling of this encounter, the writer reveals that Christ told the young man who had kept the Law that he still was lacking. Christ said, “IF YOU WANT TO BE PERFECT” there is something further you must do. The word translated as “perfect” here is the Greek word “teleios.” It means, “perfect, entire, lacking in nothing.” To become “teleios” Christ told the young man that he must go beyond the Law, and “take up the cross and follow Me.”
How does one follow Christ? They receive the Spirit of Christ and surrender to be guided by it in all things in the same way that Yahshua did. The Spirit will lead all men to a cross. Those who are guided by the Law are able to make a good showing in the flesh while avoiding the cross.
Those of you who read this writing, I declare to you that if you cling to the Law as your guide for living, you will be able to make a good showing in the flesh. Men will applaud you for your righteous appearance, but you will fall short of becoming “perfect, entire and lacking in nothing.” If you surrender to be led of the Spirit in all things, you too may be required to sell all that you have, and distribute it to the poor.”
Men will not applaud you for this. Family members will tell you that you are misguided. Religious people, and lovers of money, will tell you that you need to hold onto your possessions that the world might see that obedience to God results in prosperity. Yet, Christ, speaking through the inspiration of the Spirit of His Father revealed this to be the will of God for this young man. If he would be perfect, he must go beyond the Law to a life fully surrendered to the Spirit.
Christ declares that this is a cost that ALL disciples must accept. Everything you possess must be yielded to the Spirit to be used as He directs.
Consider now why the Law is so attractive to men and women today. Embracing the Law delivers them from suffering while permitting them to make a good showing in the flesh.
Those who are concerned that my teaching in this series will lead to lawlessness, now know the truth. It is an adherence to the Law that leads one away from full submission to the will of God and prevents men from coming to spiritual maturity.
I ask you to consider this matter in your own life. Is it not easier for you to give Yahweh a tithe of your increase than to submit all you possess to Him for His disposal? Does it not strike fear into your heart to consider what a full surrender to the Spirit in this realm might result in?
If you have embraced the Law as your guide, you can console yourself with the thought that you have done well in giving to God a tithe. You can avoid asking God if He would have you to give everything. If this is your experience, the Law has severed you from the Spirit of Christ. The Law has usurped the role of the Spirit as Yahweh’s voice to disclose His full and perfect will to you.
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law…
Is not the fear of suffering a powerful motivator? Many, not discerning the dynamics of the attraction of the Law to the soul of man are finding themselves staunchly defending the Law’s continuance. They declare that they are defending righteousness and fighting on behalf of Yahweh, but in truth they are falling short of entering into a full submission to His will. The consequences in their lives will be tragic. They will fall short of attaining the full stature of Christ. Perfection is not found in the Law.