Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Great Grace: Greater Liberty

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33 NKJV

 We've been in a study of the great Grace of Almighty God, our good Father. We began last week looking at our great freedom from the Law. The legalistic Judaizers often reject the concept clearly detailed in the New Covenant that the Law and Old Covenant is fulfilled in Christ. The Old has been abolished, has come to an end in light of the activation of the New Covenant.

 Now let's establish something that is true that is not contrary to the New Covenant. You see the legalists often look for ways to ensnare us and claim New Covenant Grace is a false teaching. Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for all who believe. That is the clear New Covenant truth. In the Law, though we can clearly see the perfect righteous moral standard of God. 

 What I mean by this, is that the moral aspects of the Ten Commandments such as not committing adultery or murder are a standard seen in the New. Let me say it as clear as possible to not confuse you. The Love of God abiding in our hearts, and the Spirit directing our paths would never lead us into any sexual immorality. It wouldn't ever lead us into lying or cheating or taking advantage knowingly of anyone. 

 That said we still can't say rightly that we abide by the "moral" components of the Mosaic Law. Because some of the 613 commands have nothing to do with any ceremony or sacrificial procedure and are not listed in the "big ten" but have a seemingly "moral" aspect to them.  For instance, the commands that men must not trim the sides of their temple or clip the edges of their beards is a moral command given so as to not appear as the Gentiles. So is it a sin today if Christian men don't have properly shaped facial hair?

Rightly dividing the Word of God would end so much of the debate and confusion in the Body of Christ. When Paul in his Epistles references behavior he is not saying anything unusual or what we haven't seen recorded in Scripture since Genesis. It's pretty basic and is summed up by the royal law of love. If we love people we won't betray them or take advantage of them. That should settle the debate about the place of the Law in the life of the believer. 

 Sadly, this is insufficient for the legalists and Judaizers. These Legalists want to take the Church backward. They are steadily teaching that Christians would grow more and experience a deeper spiritual walk with God if they just followed the Mosaic Law and observed Sabbath days and Feasts days. Let's establish once again the truth, we as Christians aren't anti-semitic. As Christians, we believe the whole Bible. I affirm Israel is the land God gave the Jews. We stand with them and support them. God made a Covenant with Abraham and will ultimately fulfill all the promises to Israel when Jesus returns.

Sabbath observance and celebration of Feast days?

 As for New Covenant believers, what then has the manners and customs and practices of the Old Covenant to do with the Church? They do have significance. They are shadows and types that point us to something. The shadows pointed to the Substance. The Substance is the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 This truth doesn't seem to penetrate the thinking of the legalistic Judaizers. The plain truth is that the Feast days and Sabbath and Passover and Seder meal have significant educational value to the Believer. They point to and illustrate Jesus perfect redemptive work. The problem is that the legalists teach that there exist a deeper spiritual intimacy and understanding with God when we actually observe and celebrate these things.

 Some even go a step further and teach that if we don't keep Sabbath we are disobeying the Commandment of God. This is dangerous deception creeping into the Church. The legalists point to Paul and his life often to prove their stance.

 They point to Acts 21, that Paul entered the temple and supposedly took part in a Jewish ceremonial practice. They also reference Paul looking to go to Jerusalem in time for Pentecost in Acts 20. They also note Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 16 that he wanted to abide in one place until Pentecost. In Acts 18  Paul noted he desired to be in Jerusalem for the feast or festival. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about keeping the Feast.

 The Judaizers also share other common themes, that observing the Sabbath or Feast holy days aren't burdensome. They say how burdensome is taking a day off? How burdensome is it to celebrate a feast? They also proclaim on all their web pages and sermons that the Sabbath and Feast days aren't for Israel under the Old. They proclaim that these Feast days and the Sabbath is the Lord's Sabbath and the Feasts are the Feast's of the Lord. They are to be observed forever.

 I have basically summed up the arguments for observing the Old Covenant practices. Now, are these points valid? Not a single one. This is because the Judaizers fail to rightly divide the Word and keep the passages in Context.

 When you have time study the passages about the Feast's of the Lord in Leviticus 23. Now, what you will see is a common theme spread throughout each feast. Offering a sacrifice and the command to not work, but to rest. What does this prove? What does this point to? All of these Sabbath and Feast days point to the Finished Work of Jesus. That in Christ we rest because the work is complete and Jesus has done it all and we can do nothing to earn, achieve, or merit His love, redemption or provision.

Answering the legalist's objections to Grace

Let me very briefly answer the objections about Paul's life. First, Luke, writing the book of Acts used the Hebrew calendar as an indication of time and documenting events on Paul's journey. Paul was using Jewish feast days as an indication of dating and time. As for going into the temple in Acts 21, Paul was fulfilling James' request in order to keep the peace between Jew and Gentile. This principle is the true motive and answer for why Paul did what he did. 

 In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul is making a referencing to the Passover feast, in order to encourage the church at Corinth to remove the leaven or serious sexual immorality they'd allowed to fester in their midst. As for the objection that keeping these customs aren't burdensome, look back again at Peter's words in Acts 15. 
10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? Acts 15:10 NLT
 Peter's words decimate the claim that observing Feast days and keeping Sabbath are not burdensome. The problem is the legalistic Judaizers are doing exactly what the Pharisee and Sadducee had done when Jesus walked the Earth. They had diluted the Law into a standard that man could keep. Teaching today that we should keep Feasts days is to dilute the perfect, impossible standard of the Law.
 As for the objection that these are the Lord's Feasts and Sabbath and they are forever, God was talking directly to Israel. They were forever in their generations. When Jesus came these customs found their fulfillment in Christ. To celebrate them today is to take the glory away from the Finished Work. For us to observe these customs is for us to celebrate something that was designed to look forward to an event to come. It is actually dishonoring Christ to keep Sabbath days and observe Feast days.
10 You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. Galatians 4:10 NLT
16 So don’t let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating Jewish holidays and feasts or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths.  17 For these were only temporary rules that ended when Christ came. They were only shadows of the real thing—of Christ himself. Colossians 2:16-17 TLB
Those looking to keep Sabbath days and Celebrate the feast days are walking by sight and not faith. They are saying the shadow is more real and relevant than the substance which is Christ and His Finished Work. That the shadow offers more Revelation and in-depth intimacy than the substance who is Jesus. They say they are just honoring Israel and the Old Covenant words. 

 If they want to show honor then honor God's New Covenant, which is a Covenant of faith not sight. To embrace shadows and not the substance is to walk in unbelief. Under the Old, you could "see" your righteousness by how you kept the holy days, honored the Sabbath, and abstained from forbidden foods. It is not a light thing to God to try to mix the Covenants and to teach the Saints that keeping or honoring or observing holy days, feasts, manners and customs is honoring God and His Word when the substance has already appeared and fulfilled all the shadows by His redemptive Work. We are to honor the Finished Work and His New Covenant and keep it free from mixture and error.  

 Under Grace, there exist no form of greater spiritual blessings or intimacy or growth achieved for keeping Sabbath days or observing or participating in Feast day celebrations. We honor Christ. We honor His triumphant resurrection. We honor His defeat of the enemy satan. We honor the Finished Work, mixture free! This is great Grace, great liberty in Christ.
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at 

No comments: