This is a teaching sermon where we pull apart some of the ideas around a doctrine to see how it works but never forget it needs to be put back together again & actually applied to your life.
Last time we spoke we talked about what Jesus meant, & what His disciples understood Him to mean, when He invited them to Follow Me.
I am going to recap quickly.
Firstly Follow Me, are the traditional Jewish words used by a rabbi to call a disciple. The first disciples understood they were being asked to come under the Yoke of Torah & learn what the Torah meant & how to apply it in their daily lives according to Jesus.
We have Jesus words in Matthew 5:7 to consider: "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.
If Jesus did not abolish the Torah what does Paul mean when he teaches that we are not under the law? Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14/15
What was the purpose that Jesus came to accomplish & how did He do that?
To answer both questions you need to understand that besides the 10 commandments most people know of there are 613 commandments in the Torah; 248 Positive Commandments (do's) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not's). The Jews were [& are] required to keep all of them. They covered 3 areas: civil law, ritual law, & moral law.
When we look at what Jesus understood by the law He condensed the entire torah & all the prophets into just 2 things: Jesus replied, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37~39
We have 2 other questions that need to be addressed:
· By whose authority did Jesus teach?
· What did Paul mean by Grace?
I will try & keep it simple. The Jews were, & are, judged & condemned under the law of Moses.
Here are 2 different translations of Romans 2:12 :
Romans 2:12 (CJB) All who have sinned outside the framework of Torah will die outside the framework of Torah; and all who have sinned within the framework of Torah will be judged by Torah.
Romans 2:12 (GNTA) The Gentiles do not have the Law of Moses; they sin and are lost apart from the Law. The Jews have the Law; they sin and are judged by the Law.
Romans 7:12~13 says But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God's good commands for its own evil purposes.
It sounds complicated but all it is saying is you won’t be judged by what you don’t know ~ but don’t let that make you complacent in sin because Romans 2:4 says it is possible to instinctively know right from wrong! Even Gentiles, who do not have God's written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.
You see the giving of the law was a gift meant to help people. Firstly the law reveals our sin. The simplest definition of sin is that it is anything contrary to the revealed will of God.
The root word of toreh is yareh. Yareh is an archery term meaning to hit the mark, so torah is instruction on how to hit the mark in our relationship with God & others. To miss the mark is sin.
If you just consider the 10 commandments you quickly realise why Jesus broke the entire Torah down into just 2 commandments. The first 4 commandments deal with our relationship with God, the next 6 with our relationships with each other.
As the law reveals man’s sin so it reveals God’s glory ~ & how far short man falls from the glory of God. We are a people broken by sin: by envy, lust, quarrelling, bitterness, brawling….& we can’t fix ourselves. All the AA programs, the drug rehabilitation clinics, the jails full of recidivists, the shelters for the homeless & the victims of domestic violence, the dead children, the violence & wars, the large corporations destroying the very air & water we need to survive, testify to our brokenness. They testify to sin but we are mistaken if we think of the law only in terms of condemnation.
The law reveals God’s grace to us: Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
The law is God’s standard ~ yet it is impossible for anyone to keep the law because we are a broken & fallen people. Try, just for ½ an hour, to keep yourself from complaining or criticising anything or anyone. It is like the elephant in the room. The more you try not to think about it the more you do! That is how sin works in us ~ & because of it God sent one who could keep the law. That’s grace; the unmerited favoured of God poured out for us simply because the nature of God is to love, even when His love is unwanted, rejected, spat upon & nailed to a cross.
There is yet another blessing the law imparts but I will come back to that because it is a resurrection blessing.
Now we have said that Jesus disciples understood that He was calling them to the yoke of torah yet a cursory read through the scriptures shows Jesus apparently breaking the torah left, right & centre. The scribes & Pharisees certainly thought so. However Jesus was imparting a new revelation of torah.
Jesus said :"The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD's favour has come." Luke 4:18/19
You see Jesus understood & imparted the heart of the torah, the heart of God. He said in John 14:9 Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!
He could say this because He had the spirit of God without measure [John 3:34] & thus Jesus explained, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing…
That is an enormous claim. No wonder the Pharisees were up in arms: They demanded, "By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?" Matthew 11:28 & Luke 20:2
Remember we said that the authority to teach a new understanding of torah had to be given by 2 or 3 Rabbis because 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses [Matthew 18:16] '& it was an honour given to very, very few. The apostle Paul sat under one of them, a man named Gamaliel, considered one of the greatest teachers of all time. So who were Jesus 2 witnesses?
The synoptic gospels [Matthew, Luke, Mark] all mention Jesus baptism & the 2 things that happened: a voice spoke from heaven confirming who Jesus was & the Spirit of God was seen to descend upon Him.…As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and resting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy."
This is reinforced at the Transfiguration on the mount: Then a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him." Luke 9:35
God the Father & the Holy Spirit themselves are Jesus witnesses & it is from them He derives His authority. What’s more, as we have already seen, Jesus only ever did or said what He got directly from the Father.
If Jesus got His teaching directly from the Father & if He only did & said that which came directly from the Father then it was impossible for Him to do anything other than keep the Law perfectly. He fulfilled not only the outward commands but it’s intent & purpose & because of that Paul can say unequivocally that we are under grace, not law.
What does that mean? It means that the Jews relied on the law to make themselves right with God & so there were continual sacrifices for sin. The Christian relies on Christ to make them right with God because He is the only perfect offering for all sin. The law has not been abolished but the resurrection blessing was the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is He who gives us the new heart, who makes us the new creation, who writes God’s law on our hearts ~ a law not of outward things but of a relationship of the heart.
Remember Luke 6:40~ Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.
The Holy Spirit has been given to be our teacher & helper as well as our comforter but even the best of teachers can do little if a student will not listen & obey.
It is distressing when Christians do not know how to hear from God because as Jesus’ disciples we are meant to become more & more like our teacher, Jesus, through the empowerment of His Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says: So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
There are 2 parts to becoming more like Jesus: learning how to hear from God as Jesus did & doing what Jesus did, thus keeping the law of love & grace.
The first is tied to the second. You will experience little power in the doing until you learn how to hear.
Now I will give you some pointers on how to hear & the first is glaringly obvious & exceedingly simple but so little practised most people overlook it: shut up. That’s all. If you are so busy doing all the talking & doing the doing you are not paying attention to anything God may want to say to you. You will not learn to hear until you learn how to be quiet in God’s presence.
How do I know it’s God & not just me? Firstly God’s voice will never disagree with His revealed word in the bible & it will never disagree with His character so the second way to hear God is to know what He has already said & who He has said He is.
This is also how you know you have been given the power & authority for the doing things.
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark16:17~20
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” John 14:12
All of this is expressed most clearly in2 Peter 1:3~4
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvellous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires.
We have been given everything we need to keep all of the law & to do all of the law through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. The law we obey is not a law of dos & don’ts, which cannot save anyone, only bring condemnation. Rather it is the law of love & grace which is Christ in us, For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' Acts17:28 If we abide in Him & He in us, then all of this, & more, is not only possible, it is everything.