Monday, September 4, 2017

Covenant People

23 “But when you heard the voice (LORD God) from the heart of the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all your tribal leaders and elders came to me. 24 They said, ‘Look, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and greatness, and we have heard His voice from the heart of the fire. Today we have seen that God can speak to us humans, and yet we live!’ . . . 29 Oh, that they (Israel) would always have hearts (and minds) like this, that they might (reverently) fear Me and obey all My commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever. . . . 32 So Moses told the people, ‘You must be careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God, following His instructions in every detail. 33 Stay on the path (walk) that the LORD your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.’” Deuteronomy 5:23-24, 29-30, 32-33 (NLT)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 5, the LORD God through His servant Moses gives the people of Israel the heart of His laws. In Deuteronomy chapters 1 through 4, Moses gave a new generation of Israelites a history lesson and a farewell address before they entered God’s Promised Land after 40 years of wilderness wandering (see Deuteronomy 1:1-4:43). Sadly, the first generation of Israelites leaving Egyptian slavery repeatedly rejected God’s love, rebelled against His authority, and ignored His commands for right living (e.g., see Exodus 32:1-35; Numbers 14:9-12; Numbers 21:4-7; Numbers 25:1-9; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:23-24; Deuteronomy 32:8-14; Psalm 106:24-27; Acts 7:39-43). Because of their repeated disobedience and rebellion, the first generation of Israelites wandered the wilderness desert for 40 years and eventually died in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:21-23, 28-30; Deuteronomy 1:35-38; Deuteronomy 32:13; Joshua 5:6). Now, a new generation of Israelites listened to Moses’ farewell address in Deuteronomy as they prepared to enter God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-3, 5, 39-40).

Before given the heart of the laws, Moses once again remained Israel how the living God fought for Israel and defeated King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan, two Amorite kings east of God’s Promised Land (Deuteronomy 4:46-47; see also Deuteronomy 2:24-37; Deuteronomy 3:1-11; Deuteronomy 7:2). God gave this conquered land east of His Promised Land to the tribe of Gad, the tribe of Reuben, and the tribe of Manasseh, a descendant of Joseph (Deuteronomy 4:41-44; see also Deuteronomy 3:12-20). The land east of God’s Promised Land refers to what is now known as the kingdom of Jordan, or traditionally the Transjordan (see Deuteronomy 1:1). Also, Moses instructed the people of Israel to set apart three cities east of the Promised Land for anyone who accidentally killed someone could flee for safety (see Deuteronomy 4:41-43).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 5, Moses issued to Israel the Law of God, also known as the covenant or promise, for Israel to do and obey (see Deuteronomy 5:1-26:19). As a reminder, the living God first gave Israel His righteous commands after His gracious deliverance and redemption from Egyptian slavery (e.g., see Exodus 6:1-14:31; Exodus 13:3; Exodus 20:2; Exodus 29:46; Psalm 81:10). Originally, the LORD God made a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) (Deuteronomy 5:2; see also Exodus 19:5-6). At Mount Sinai, the living God spoke to Israel face to face from the center of the fire (Deuteronomy 5:4; see also Deuteronomy 4:12; Exodus 19:16-19). Moses acted only as an intermediary or mediator between Israel and the living God (Deuteronomy 5:5; see also Exodus 20:18-21). In Deuteronomy, Moses is reaffirming the covenant given to the second generation of Israelites about to enter God’s Promised Land.

The heart of Law is found most famously in the Ten Commandments, also known as the Ten Words or the Decalogue (Deuteronomy 5:6-21; see also Exodus 20:1-17), and most succinctly in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Many biblical scholars liken the Ten Commandments to the United States Constitution. In fact, the rest of the Old Testament builds on what took place at Mount Sinai with the giving of the covenant. Exodus chapters 20 through 23 contain the actual covenant – a treaty or promise between God and Israel (see Exodus 20:1-23:19). The Ten Commandments given in Exodus 20, repeated at Deuteronomy 5, reaffirmed by Joshua at Joshua 24, and explained by Jesus Christ on the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew chapters 5 through 7 summarize the central core of morality, faith, and worship for all generations. All other laws of the Holy Scriptures are interpretations and applications of these primary principles. Jesus Christ our Savior also taught His disciples to obey His Father’s Ten Commandments and the demands of the Shema (see Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 22:37-40) as an expression of love, commitment, and faithfulness to His gracious Father, the living LORD God (see John 14:15-16, 20-21, 23; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-5; 2 John 1:6). The essence of the covenant - the Ten Commandments – is to love, faithfulness, and obey the LORD God which leads to life, salvation, and righteousness (e.g., see Genesis 15:6; Leviticus 18:3-5; Matthew 19:17; Galatians 3:6-9). The covenant given at Mount Sinai is the outgrowth and extension of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (see Genesis 17:9)

From Mount Sinai, the living God proclaimed His covenant – the Ten Commandments – to Israel through His servant Moses that Israel must obey (Deuteronomy 4:13; see also Exodus 20:1-Exodus 23:19). The LORD God’s finger personally wrote the Ten Commandments, which is the essence of God’s covenant with Israel (see Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15-16; Exodus 34:1, 27-28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 9:10; Deuteronomy 10:1-4). Though many of the subsequent laws that were given to Israel at Mount Sinai are no longer relevant, what God’s finger wrote on tablets of stone – the Ten Commandments – are indeed God’s will for all time for all people – Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).

From Mount Sinai, the LORD God declared to Israel the following:

6 “I am the LORD your God; I brought you out of the land of Egypt where you were slaves. 7 You must not have any other gods except Me. 8 You must not make for yourselves any idols or anything to worship that looks like something in the sky above or on the earth below or in the water below the land. 9 You must not worship or serve any idol, because I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. If people sin against Me and hate Me, I will punish their children, even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 10 But I will be very kind for a thousand lifetimes to those who love Me and obey My commands. 11 You must not use the Name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly, because the LORD will punish anyone who uses His Name in this way. 12 Keep the Sabbath as a holy day, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 You may work and get everything done during six days each week, 14 but the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the LORD your God. On that day, no one may do any work: not you, your son or daughter, your male or female slaves, your ox, your donkey, or any of your animals, or the foreigners living in your cities. That way your servants may rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there by His great power and strength. So the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day. 16 Honor your father and your mother as the LORD your God has commanded you. Then you will live a long time, and things will go well for you in the land that the LORD your God is going to give you. 17 You must not murder anyone. 18 You must not be guilty of adultery. 19 You must not steal. 20 You must not tell lies (falsehood) about your neighbor. 21 You must not want to take your neighbor’s wife. You must not want to take your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female slaves, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Deuteronomy 5:6-21 (NCV)

First, the LORD God commanded Israel never to worship any other god but Him (Deuteronomy 5:6-7; see also Exodus 20:2-3; Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Jesus Christ has also commanded the church to worship, love, and serve His Father, the LORD God FIRST (e.g., see Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37). The very essence of the covenant – the Law – is the truth that there is only one God, who is the Father of Jesus, and we must worship Him FIRST and ONLY (e.g., see Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 13; Matthew 4:10; Matthew 6:33; Luke 4:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). The living LORD God and His Son Jesus Christ are One (e.g., see John 10:38; John 14:10-11, 20; John 17:21). The true and living God is reigning, sovereign, omnipotent, and omnipresent (Revelation 4:1-11; Revelation 19:6; see also Exodus 15:11; 2 Chronicles 6:14, 18; Isaiah 6:1-8; Ezekiel 1:26-28; 1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Next, the living God commanded Israel never make and worship any idols, including worshipping any images, whether of birds, animals, or fish (Deuteronomy 5:8-9; see also Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 4:15-18). The Holy Scriptures forbid the making of idols or setting up any images or sacred stones to worship (see also Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-18). The LORD God is a jealous God, and He commands Israel’s wholehearted love, affection, allegiance, and worship first and exclusively (Deuteronomy 5:9; see also Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14). God will not share His worship with another. The living God warned Israel that worshipping other gods, craves images, or idols would lead to His anger, punishment and wrath on them and their descendants (Deuteronomy 5:9; see also Exodus 20:5). At Mount Sinai, the living God entered into a covenant or marriage with Israel, and idolatry was a breach of that marriage covenant and the equivalent of adultery (see Exodus 19:1-6; Jeremiah 31:32). However, the LORD God promised to shower His goodness, mercy, and love on Israel and their descendants to a thousand generations for those who love Him and obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:10; see also Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 7:9). The sins of one generation have aftermaths for generations to come (e.g., see Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7). God does permit the sad consequences of those sins to affect future generations, physically, mentally, and spiritually (see Exodus 34:7). The impact of David’s sins with Bathsheba on his children is a classic example of sins’ consequences (see 2 Samuel 11:1-13:29). The living God forgave David after his sins with Bathsheba, but David paid the penalties! The good news of the Gospel is that through faith and belief in God’s Son Jesus we are grafted and adopted into God’s family line with all His inheritances (e.g., see John 1:12-13; John 3:3-8; Romans 8:14-16, 21; 1 John 5:1-5).

Next, the LORD God commanded Israel never to misuse His Name to make a promise they do not intend to keep and never to use His Name thoughtless, profanely, and vulgarly nor as a magic charm (Deuteronomy 5:11; see also Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12). The LORD God’s Name must be kept holy and respected. Using God’s Name under oath to defend a dishonest or false statement, as well as cursing and swearing, are ways of dishonoring the LORD God’s Name. Jesus Christ also extended His Father’s command on the Sermon on the Mount regarding oaths (see Matthew 5:33-37). However, we can always use the LORD God’s Name in praise and worship because the LORD God is our praise and our song (see Exodus 15:2; Deuteronomy 10:21). The LORD God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, and His Name must always be honored and respected (see Deuteronomy 10:17, 20-21).

The LORD God’s Name represents His character, nature, and very goodness (see Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5). Truly, the living God is patient, forgiving, good, and full of compassion and mercy (see Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:17-18; Psalm 145:8-9; Nahum 1:3; James 5:11). The living God does not stay angry forever but delights to show His mercy and compassion (see Micah 7:18). Moreover, the Name of the LORD is a strong tower, and everyone finds safety and salvation in the LORD’s Name (see Proverbs 18:10). Everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD shall be saved and adopted into God’s family (see Joel 2:32; John 1:12-13; Acts 2:21; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 10:43; Romans 10:12-13). The LORD God richly blesses all who call on Him (see Romans 10:12).

In the Fourth Commandment, the LORD God commanded Israel to observe the Sabbath and keep the Sabbath day holy (Deuteronomy 5:12-16; see also Exodus 20:8-11). The Sabbath day celebrated God’s rested after the work of creation (see Genesis 2:1-3). The living God wanted Israel to work the other six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath dedicated to the LORD God, and everyone – men, women, Jews, aliens, servants, employees, and animals – must rest (Deuteronomy 5:13-15; see also Exodus 16:23-30; Exodus 20:9-11; Exodus 31:13-17). The living God made Sabbath for all His creation to rest (see Genesis 2:2; Exodus 23:12; Jeremiah 17:21-24; Mark 2:27-28). The Sabbath is Saturday, the seventh day of the week.

For centuries, some scholars debate whether the Sabbath applies to the church to obey. Nine of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament for the church to obey except the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated after the day of Pentecost. However, the Sabbath day is part of God’s covenant that equally applies to all people – Jews and non-Jews (see Matthew 5:17-20). Even more, all faithful believers of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, has rest in Jesus (see Matthew 11:28-30). Today, many faithful believers of Jesus honor the Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the week (e.g., see Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25). Sunday is called the “Lord’s Day” (see Revelation 1:10). On the first day of the week, God the Father through His Holy Spirit resurrected His Son Jesus Christ from complete death (see Mark 16:9; Luke 24:13-15; John 20:19; 1 Corinthians 16:2). Every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from complete death for all believers’ salvation and redemption. Whether you rest on Saturday or Sunday, the Fourth Commandment of God emphasizes the importance of devoting one day in seven to the living God in worship and service. Every day belongs to the LORD God!  

The Fifth Commandment of God moves us from our relationship to the LORD God to living out that relationship with other people, beginning in the home (Deuteronomy 5:16; see also Exodus 20:12). The LORD God commanded Israel to honor their father and mother and that honoring their parents would lead to a long and prosperous life (see also Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Galatians 6:1-4). Jesus Christ specifically judged the religious leaders for disregarding the Fifth Commandment of God to obey their many man-made rules not from His Father (see Matthew 15:3-4; Mark 7:10). As God’s Son Jesus Christ stated, the LORD God commanded everyone to love Him FIRST and also equally love our neighbors (see Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). True religion begins at home with loving, caring, obeying, honoring, and respecting one’s father and mother (e.g., see also; Exodus 21:15, 17; Leviticus 19:3, 32; Deuteronomy 27:16; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 23:22; Proverbs 30:17; Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 Timothy 5:1-2).

In the Sixth Commandment, the LORD God commanded Israel not to murder (Deuteronomy 5:17; see also Exodus 20:13; Matthew 19:19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). All human life must be honored because God made all humans in His image (see Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6). The LORD God is the Giver of life (e.g., see Genesis 2:7; Zechariah 12:1; Acts 14:15; Acts 17:24-25). Jesus Christ also explained that hateful anger against anyone breaks this commandment, even if someone has mistreated you (see Matthew 5:21-22). Anger is the moral equivalent of murder because murder often begins with hateful anger in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-26; see also 1 John 3:14-15). The Holy Scripture speaks against taking revenge or bearing a grudge against anyone (see Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 20:22; Romans 12:17-19; Hebrews 10:30). All sin usually starts from a wrong desire or thought within the heart (see James 1:13-15). Instead of anger, Jesus teaches that we must continually seek love, peace, and forgiveness from our hearts with all people, even our enemies (see Matthew 5:23-23; 43-48; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 6:27-36; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13). Moreover, God differentiated accidental killing from deliberate murder. If someone accidentally killed someone, the living God provided the people of Israel three cities east of the Jordan River, where they could flee for safety (see Deuteronomy 4:41-43). However, intentional and deliberate murder required death because God made all humans in His image (see Genesis 1:27; Genesis 9:6; see Exodus 21:12-14; Leviticus 24:17).  

Also, the LORD God commanded Israel not commit adultery the Seventh Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:18; see also Exodus 20:14; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). The living God places a high priority on the holiness of marriage between a man and woman, and He wanted to protect the marriage covenant (e.g., see Leviticus 18:20, 22-23; Deuteronomy 22:22; Malachi 2:15; Hebrews 13:4). The LORD God hates divorce because of the destructive nature divorces cause on the family household (see Malachi 2:16). Even more, sexual sins also bring God’s judgment, destruction, and devastation on oneself (see Proverbs 6:32). The living God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral (e.g., see Leviticus 20:10-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 22:15). As with all sins, LORD God can graciously forgive sexual sins (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), but He does not promise to interfere with sin’s painful consequences (e.g., 2 Samuel 12:13-14; Proverbs 6:20-35; Galatians 6:7-8). Even more, Jesus Christ also warned that anyone who looks at another person lustfully has already committed adultery with one’s heart (see Matthew 5:27-30).  

Moreover, the living God commanded Israel not to steal from others in His Eighth Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:19; see also Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9). The LORD God wanted His people not to steal, take away, or defraud one another (see also Leviticus 19:11, 13). Instead of stealing, the living God wants everyone to work, doing something useful with one’s own hands, so to share with those in need (see Ephesians 4:28).

In the Ninth Commandment, the living God commanded His people not to tell lies and falsehoods (Deuteronomy 5:20; see also Exodus 20:16; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9). The LORD God places a high priority on truth and honesty (e.g., see Exodus 23:1, 7; Leviticus 19:11-13), and He forbids all forms of lying, deception, falsehood, slander, and trickery (e.g. see Deuteronomy 19:16-20; Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 12:17; Proverbs 19:9; Proverbs 24:28; Titus 3:1-2; James 4:11; 1 Peter 2:1). In essence and action, the living God – the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit – is Truth (e.g., see Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 65:16; John 4:24; John 14:6, 17). God wants His people to also be known by truth (see Zechariah 8:16; Ephesians 4:15, 25; Colossians 3:9, 15). However, the devil and his evil cohorts are all liars, murderers, and deceivers, and there is no truth in the devil and his evil followers (e.g., see Genesis 3:4; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3). The LORD God will bring His wrath and punishment on those who practice falsehood and tell lies (e.g., see Proverbs 19:5, 9; Proverbs 21:28; also Revelation 21:8, 27; Revelation 22:15).

Finally, the living God commanded Israel not to envy, desire, or covet another person’s spouse, nor envy another person’s home, land, servants, oxen, donkeys, nor anything else another person owns (Deuteronomy 5:21; see also Exodus 20:17; Matthew 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Romans 13:9; James 2:11). Not only can such jealous and envy make us miserable, they can also lead us to other sins such as adultery and stealing. Thus, the Apostle Paul encouraged the church to be content of God’s blessings He has given us (see Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:6, 8). The living God promises to provide all our needs, and He will never leave us and never forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5). Notably, the other Commandments concerned actions, but the final Commandment deals with one’s thought life. As mentioned earlier, all sin usually starts from a wrong desire or thought (see James 1:13-15).

The question many New Testament believers of Jesus ask is whether the covenant given to Israel still applies to today. The answer is YES (see Matthew 5:17-20). As New Testament believers, Jesus taught His disciples to practice keeping God’s direct commandments and to teach them to our children (e.g., see Matthew 5:19; Matthew 15:3; Matthew 19:18-19; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20). Jesus taught that the greatest and first commandment of the Law and the Prophets is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (see Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27-28; quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-6). Then, Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39; quoting Leviticus 19:18; see also Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36; Romans 13:9). All the Old Testament –the Law and the Prophets – hang on these two great commandments from Jesus – to love God and love one another (Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:40; Luke 6:31; John 13:34-35; John 15:17; see also Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). Love does not harm to its neighbor, but good (see Romans 13:10). Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the covenant – the Ten Commandments (see Romans 13:8, 10; Colossians 3:14; James 2:8)! If you love the LORD God and love you neighbor as yourself, you are doing right and perfect (see Matthew 5:43; James 2:8).

In his New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul repeatedly taught the church to be imitators of God and live a life of full allegiance to God and love and goodness with others (e.g., see Romans 13:8-10; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 5:1-2; Titus 2:14; quoting Leviticus 19:18). Moreover, the Apostle Paul encouraged the church to stay free of all adultery, sexual immorality, murder, lying, falsehood, theft, greed, jealousy, drunkenness, anger, covetousness, and envy because these actions are improper for God's holy people (e.g., see Romans 13:9, 13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5, 8-9; see also Exodus 20:13-17; Deuteronomy 5:17-21). According to the Apostle Paul, no such evildoers will have any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:6; see also Revelation 21:8, 27; Revelation 22:15).

The living God gives all believers in His Son Jesus the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to obey His commandments (John 3:3-8; see also Joel 2:28). Through faith in Jesus, God now writes His covenant on our hearts – this is the new covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; Hebrews 10:16). In other words, the God’s transforming Spirit gives believers new hearts to obey God and His good Law through our faith in His Son Christ Jesus (e.g., see Acts 1:4-5; Acts 11:16; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:30-31; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-13). Under God’s new covenant, God’s covenant is now engraved inwardly onto believers’ hearts and minds, and it is no longer on stone tablets (2 Corinthians 3:3-4; e.g., see also Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:37-41; Ezekiel 11:19-21; Ezekiel 36:24-27). The Holy Spirit works inside believer to activate our consciences, influence our motives and desires, and make us want to obey God (see Romans 8:2, 5). Now doing God’s will is something believers genuinely desire with all our heart and mind (see Romans 8:1-17; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 2:12-13). Through faith in God’s Son Jesus, believers are born again into God’s family and receive God’s divine nature within which enabled believers by the Spirit to obey God’s commandments and live godly lives (see 1 John 3:1-9).

The living LORD God spoke His Ten Commandments from the heart of the fire, surrounded by the clouds and thick darkness that engulfed Mount Sinai (see Deuteronomy 5:22-24, 26). These Ten Commandments were directly and personally spoken and written by the living God on two stone tablets and then given them to Moses to give to the people to obey continually from their whole hearts (Deuteronomy 5:22, 28-29, 32-33; see also Exodus 32:15-16). On Mount Sinai, the living God revealed His glory and greatness to Israel when giving His Ten Commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:24). Obedience to God’s Ten Commandments would lead to a long and prosperous life and God’s blessings (see Deuteronomy 5:32-33). The Ten Commandments were God's standards for right living. The rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament reveals the tragic consequences and punishment that occurred because of violating God’s Ten Commandments.

Sadly, during Jesus’ years on earth and even today, many religious leaders are guilty of taking away from God’s Law – the Ten Commandments – by replacing God’s Law with their own traditions and rituals that were not given by God (e.g., see Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:1-13). Such rules and regulations may seem holy, but they are legalism. Jesus rebuked these religious leaders for adding to God’s laws (see Matthew 23:1-4).

However, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament based on the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of blood has been fulfilled in Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary’s Cross (see Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death became our final and perfect sacrifice for human sins through faith in Him — past, present, and future (see Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 10:1-10; Hebrews 13:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2).

In Romans 10:4, the Apostle Paul states, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, NIV). This statement is simply but ambiguous. How is Jesus Christ the end of the Law? The Greek word for end is “telos”.

So some scholars argue that Apostle Paul means that in Jesus Christ we see the perfect fulfillment of the Law because Jesus Christ lived up to the purpose and goal of the Law perfectly (see Matthew 5:17). In this respect, this interpretation would mean that the Law was aimed at bringing us to Jesus Christ and that He came to fulfill the Law and thus gives the Law validity. At Matthew 5:17, Jesus Christ said, “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” (Matthew 5:17, NIV). Yet other scholars argue that while the Jews tried to earn their righteous by keeping the Law they failed; Jesus Christ obeyed the Law completely by the Spirit and the letter. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the end of the Law in the sense He has fulfilled the Law and the Law is powerless to save.  On the other hand, some scholars argue that Jesus Christ brought an end to the Law because Jesus Christ’s advent or arrival brought the Law to humans and the Law has no more validity after Jesus Christ arrived. Yet, this interpretation is not likely because the Apostle Paul continued to follow the Law of God even after his Damascus Road experience with the risen Christ. So, it is highly unlikely that the Apostle Paul interpreted Romans 10:4 that the Law was shut down after Jesus Christ’s arrival to earth in human form.

The Greek word “telos” can mean either (1) “termination,” “cessation,” or (2) “goal,” culmination,” “fulfillment.” Most scholars believe that Jesus Christ is the goal, culmination, and fulfillment of the Law. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (see Matthew 5:17) in the sense that He brought the Law to completion by obeying perfectly the Laws’ demands and by fulfilling the Laws’ types and prophecies.  Even more, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in the sense that He gave the Law its full meaning. Jesus Christ emphasized the Spirit of the Law and not the mere external acknowledgment and obedience. 

Based upon the entire teaching of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul probably means that with the coming of Jesus Christ, people do not have to make oneself righteous with by the Law (see Romans 6:14; Romans 7:4, 6; Ephesians 2:15). With the coming (advent) of Jesus Christ, the Law no longer justifies or declares one righteous before God because the saving work of Jesus Christ has brought to a close any attempt to attain righteousness by way of the Law. The Apostle Paul probably did not mean at Romans 10:4 that Jesus Christ’s arrival abolished or shut down the Law (e.g., see Romans 7:7).

Throughout the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul states that he is establishing the Law and that the Law has value for all people (e.g., see Romans 5:20-21; Romans 8:3-4; Romans 13:9-10; see also Galatians 3:24-29; 1 Timothy 1:8). The Law reveals the mind of God and the intentions of God. Besides, the Apostle Paul never preached in the book of Romans that there is no validity to the Law. Instead, the Apostle Paul reveals that justification or righteous comes to EVERYONE WHO BELIEVE in Jesus Christ and this statement of Apostle Paul is repeated throughout Romans (e.g., see Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-4:25).

According to the Apostle Paul, faith in God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection obtains righteousness. The kind of righteousness God requires is wholeheartedly seeking Him as the true and living God (Romans 10:13; see also Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). Sadly, some Jews had established many rituals, customs, and traditions in addition to God’s Law to try to make themselves righteous in God's sight. But, human work such a trying to obey the Law, no matter how sincere, can never be a substitute for the righteousness God freely gives to EVERYONE by faith. Through the power of the Holy Spirit living within a believer’s life, the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled (Romans 8:4). According to Apostle Paul, through our faith in Jesus Christ God sends true believers His Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2, 5). The moment one believes from the heart that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ); one also receives the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the unmistakable evidence of salvation (see Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 3:16; I Corinthians 6:19–20). God’s Holy Spirit gives believers the power and strength to live and obey God (see Romans 1:16-17).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
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Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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