Laying Down the Law
Joseph Herrin (07-01-08)
This post is extracted from a recent correspondence with a brother in Christ. It bears much relevance to the lives of all the saints. If any have questioned whether they are to be subject to the laws of the Old Testament today, this writing is offered to you. I urge all who have embraced a message to return to “Torah Observance” to read this message with deep consideration.
In this writing I have mentioned specific teachings of Stephen Jones. I do not publicly mention another man’s errors lightly. I have written to Stephen on several occasions, inviting him to discuss these issues with me. I did not receive an answer from my last correspondence though it has now been any months. It is not my intent to condemn. As a minister with a charge to guard over the flock and to teach the word of Christ, I find it expedient and necessary on occasion to refute a teaching that another has made public. This is done so that others might escape the snare of the enemy, or be drawn away from a pure devotion to Christ.
Stephen Jones has much truth, and I have been edified and instructed through some of his writings. This makes the danger of his error all the greater, for once one finds truth at a particular source, they may grow careless and fail to “test all things.” I do not suggest that the saints should reject Stephen Jones, or all of his teachings, for he shares many profound things. I merely urge them as I would even as they read my own writings to examine all things closely, and to study as the Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see of these things be true. In a day when much error abounds, the saints in Christ need to be ever vigilant.
Dear Brother D.,
At times I question why the Lord brings me to discuss doctrinal issues with the saints. I do not relish conflict, and I find that its very presence often provides the accuser (Satan) with an opportunity to make charges against me, albeit false. Yet even though his accusations are false, my soul is often troubled by the fact that I am accused of wrongdoing in suggesting that another is entertaining error in their beliefs. The suggestion of wrong in my actions or motives plays against a long present sense of unworthiness that took root when I was just a child.
Last night as I was praying again about whether God would truly have me to seek to address the error of doctrine I see present in other men’s teaching, the Spirit brought to my mind the following verse:
II Timothy 4:2
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
This morning as I prayed again, He brought the same Scripture to my mind. I realize that these opportunities are brought to me that I might develop the fruit of the Spirit, including patience, meekness, self-control, and gentleness. It is an opportunity to be trained as a son of God who will be qualified to reign with Christ in the coming age.
Though I do not seek to make it my business to correct the error present in other’s beliefs, God calls me to this task time and again. In the process He is developing in me characteristics that are highly valued in His sight.
II Timothy 2:24-26
And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth...
It has troubled me some that God should also bring me to discuss doctrinal differences with you, for my heart is always to walk in harmony with a brother. At the same time I realize that there is a greater maturity present in your life than in most with whom I have communicated. Therefore, my expectation of unsanctified words arising from the soul is not as much of an issue as it would be with others. Even so, I always want to guard against any intrusion of the soul, for to do so is prudent.
I know that the Lord has ordered our steps in bringing us to consider this matter of the role of the Law, as well as other doctrinal beliefs that are found in writings you recently sent to me. I enter into this discussion with an acceptance of it being the Father’s will, and a great desire to discourse patiently and ably those things the Spirit has taught me. I do not write in a spirit of lightness, but knowing that as a teacher I will be held to a stricter accounting of my words than other Christians. Having shared these things, I wish to begin again in looking at this matter of the Law and its role today.
I have shared with you that Stephen Jones holds to a view of the Law of Moses that is akin to the Judaisers that Paul condemned in his letter to the Galatians and elsewhere. You have suggested that Stephen Jones does not truly believe this way, and have suggested that the Law he refers to is that symbolized by the living Christ. I wish this were true, but it is not. I have corresponded with Stephen and shared with him my concerns for his view in this matter, and he has not denied that he believes the Law of Moses is to be regarded as a law to be obeyed by the saints in this hour. This stance of Stephen’s is apparent in many of his writings, of which I have about half a dozen in my possession. I will quote from his writing Creation’s Jubilee.
Paul said that “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:20) How could we be expected to know what sin is and do something about it, if we have no knowledge of what sin is? And how could we know what sin is except by the law?
So this new relationship with the law is known to us as learning obedience, or sanctification. It comes AFTER and BECAUSE OF justification. We submit ourselves to the fiery law, and Jesus leads us through the fire of circumstances, a baptism of fire, and God begins to refine us as gold. As we draw near to Him, He speaks to us out of the midst of the fire even as He spoke to Israel of old.
This is as fearsome to our flesh today as it was to Israel at Sinai. The fire activates our inner fears that always accompany the sin in our hearts. Men today still run from the fiery law that God spoke to men out of the midst of the fire. They are still afraid of it, and out of this fear came the antinomian doctrine (“anti-law”). These are those who justify their sin by saying, “We are no longer under the law, but under grace.” What they really mean is, “We will uphold the laws that we agree with, such as those that define murder, theft, and adultery as sin; but anyone who brings up a law we disagree with or do not want to comply with—well, we are not under the law but under grace.”
Most people misunderstand Paul’s statement in Romans 6:14 where he says, “you are not under law, but under grace.” In the Bible, when a man was convicted of sin by the law of God, he was “under law” until such time as the debt was paid. For instance, if convicted of stealing $1,000, the law would tell him to pay his victim double restitution, or $2,000. If he could not pay the debt, he had to work off the debt until it was paid. The time it took to work off the debt was the time the man was “under the law.” Once the debt was paid, he was “under grace,” because his sin no longer had dominion over him. He was forgiven.
Paul was telling us that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for our sin. Hence, we are not under law, but under grace. Our sin no longer has dominion over us. But does this mean we may now continue in sin? Of course not. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The law tells us what sin is. The law was never meant to justify sinners, nor could it. However, the solution is not to put away the law, thereby legalizing sin. The solution is to apply Jesus’ blood to our sins, believing that He has paid the full penalty for all our sin. This puts us “under grace” so that we are free to be servants of God in obedience to His law. We were justified in order to begin learning obedience to the will of God. The foundational revelation of God's will came through Moses in the divine law.
There are certain parts of the law, particularly the blood sacrifices and rituals relating to the physical temple and Levitical priesthood that have been altered in the New Testament. The principles remain the same, but they have been given a new form in the Age of Pentecost. Yet even these were not really put away; only their outward form changed. We still have a blood sacrifice; Jesus was the true Lamb of God. We still have a temple; we are the temple of God. We still have a priesthood; it is a Melchisedec priesthood. We still have a high priest; He is alive forever.
But let us not think that the moral laws have been put away, lest we become lawless. Theft, murder, and adultery are still sins. Unfortunately, many Christians seldom study the law of God, because they have been told that it was put away. For this reason few understand the judgments of the law. This is most serious when we study the idea of the final judgment of the wicked at the Great White Throne. Without an understanding of the judgments of the law, we will not be able to know the nature of the lake of fire, which is the judgment of the sinners.
God will judge the world by His fiery law, for that is how all sin is judged.
[Creation’s Jubilee: Chapter 2, page 12]
I share this passage because it reveals clearly that the Law Stephen speaks of is indeed the Law of Moses, and he declares that it still has jurisdiction over the life of the believer today. Stephen says that the Law has not been put away, rather the believer has a “new relationship with the Law,” which he equates to “sanctification,” or “learning obedience.”
Because you have twice written to me to share that you do not believe Stephen Jones is referring to the Law of Moses when he teaches that the Law is still in effect, I invite you to look closely at his arguments here. He has said:
Men today still run from the fiery law that God spoke to men out of the midst of the fire.
The Law spoken out of the midst of the fire was the Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Stephen clearly refers to this Law of Moses as “the fiery law,” and he says men (Christian men) still run from it. Stephen continues with the words:
These are those who justify their sin by saying, “We are no longer under the law, but under grace.”
What men today make such a statement? It is Christians. What Law are they saying they are no longer under? It is the Law of Moses. Yet Stephen declares that those who make such a statement are in error. He further states the following:
There are certain parts of the law, particularly the blood sacrifices and rituals relating to the physical temple and Levitical priesthood that have been altered in the New Testament... Yet even these were not really put away; only their outward form changed.
What Law contained ordinances relating to “blood sacrifices and rituals relating to the physical temple and the Levitical priesthood”? It was the Law of Moses. Of this Law Stephen declares, “Yet even these were not really put away.” His inference is that neither has the rest of the Law of Moses been put away. This he states very clearly in his following words.
But let us not think that the moral laws have been put away, lest we become lawless.
What moral laws are in view? It is the Laws given to Moses. Stephen says, “Let us not think...” they “have been put away, lest we become lawless.”
I could provide other evidences of Stephen’s belief concerning the Law of Moses having jurisdiction over the saint today, but let this be sufficient for his words are very clear. D., we should anticipate that there is a great subtlety and enticement present in the deception that would lead men back under the dominion of the Law. This error is very powerful in its subtlety, for we see that even men as familiar with the Lord as Peter and Barnabas were carried away into hypocrisy. These were men who were partakers of the Spirit of Christ and who had been used to manifest the powers of the age to come, yet they became ensnared in error.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
D., there is a large contingent of people today who are seeking to compel the Gentiles to live like Jews. They are seeking to lead them back to Torah observance, bringing them under the dominion of the Law. It is merely a deceit of the enemy that would suggest that their actions are somehow different from those Paul confronted because those today are being led by the Spirit of Christ in the way in which they apply the Law of Moses. Did not Peter and Barnabas have the Spirit of Christ? The error is that men come under the dominion of the Law at all.
The Law served a purpose for a specified period of time. It has not now been given a new relationship among the Christians by becoming the means to produce sanctification and to train them in obedience. These are roles belonging exclusively to Christ Yahshua.
I Corinthians 1:30-31
But by His doing you are in Christ Yahshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."
If a Christian submits himself to the Law to become sanctified, then he has somewhat to boast in. Yet those who are sanctified “in Christ” boast only in the Lord. Our sanctification is by faith in the indwelling presence of Christ. It is not brought about by works of the Law. It is as we submit to the indwelling Spirit of Christ that we are sanctified (set apart) unto the will and pleasure of God the Father.
I Thessalonians 4:7-8
For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. Consequently, he who rejects this (sanctification) is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
Notice that the apostle does not say that he who rejects the sanctification of their being rejects the Law of Moses. No, they reject the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit has been given to produce this sanctification in the lives of the sons of God.
The Law was given only for a specified period of time to accomplish a very specific purpose. Stephen Jones asserts that the purpose of the Law is to define sin. This is not so. The purpose of the Law was to lead men to Christ. Identifying sin was merely the process employed, but leading men to Christ was the Law’s grand purpose.
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
In many ways the apostle Paul has declared that the Law has no more jurisdiction over those who have been joined to Christ. The Law is dead to them, and they are dead to the Law.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.
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...
For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.
How can the Law still have application to our lives if we have died to it? The Law has no jurisdiction over a dead man? Many stumble, as Stephen Jones has done, because they see Laws that they understand must clearly still have relevance to the day we live in. They see that the Law of Moses said, “You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not commit adultery.” They say, surely these things are true today as well, for God’s holy character has not changed.
It is not that the Law was in error then, or in error now, in declaring such things. The problem with the Law was that it was weak and imperfect in its ability to reveal the awesome holiness of God. The Law merely held a shadow of God’s justice and character. This weakness of the Law is expressed in many places.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was...
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness...
There were many ways in which the Law was deficient. It was only a temporary measure until that which was full should come. One way in which it was weak and imperfect was in its ability to truly define the righteousness of God.
“You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell...”
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart...”
"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King...”
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two...”
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven...”
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
With every “you have heard” Yahshua quoted from the Law of Moses. With every “But I say” He made known the essence of true perfection, true conformity to the character of God. He then concludes this lengthy passage by saying, “Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The Law could not fully declare the perfection of the Father. Only in Christ is God fully declared.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near.
No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].
The Law contained only a shadow of the good things to come. When the full expression of God was made known, then the ministry of the in-part, the imperfect, the weak, was ended and done away. Stephen Jones asks repeatedly, “How could we know what sin is apart from the Law?” The answer is clear, through Christ, and through the Spirit He has sent into the world.
And when He (the Holy Spirit) comes, He will convict and convince the world and bring demonstration to it about sin and about righteousness (uprightness of heart and right standing with God) and about judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me [trust in, rely on, and adhere to Me]; About righteousness (uprightness of heart and right standing with God), because I go to My Father, and you will see Me no longer...
The Law only presented an imperfect revelation of sin and righteousness. Yahshua’s testimony was perfect, for He always did what was pleasing to the Father. As long as Yahshua was in the world, the world beheld the righteousness of God, perfectly and maturely presented. When He went away Yahshua sent His Spirit into the world to convict and convince of sin and to demonstrate righteousness. The saints of God have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith. They have that which is perfect, and no longer require that which is imperfect. The saints have died to the Law that they might be joined to another, even the Spirit of Christ.
Furthermore, the Law was weak in that it could only reveal sin and death, but it could not impart righteousness and life.
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
The Spirit can both reveal the fulness of the righteousness of God, and it can impart life that we might walk in it.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yahshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Paul uses the expression “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yahshua” as a contrast to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was a minister of death.
II Corinthians 3:7-9
But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.
The Law’s ministry was one of condemnation and death in order that men might look for that more perfect ministry of life in Christ Yahshua. The Law of Moses was able to show all men that they fell short of the righteousness of God. It could not produce the life of God in men that alone results in righteousness. What the Law of Moses was unable to do, Christ has accomplished by fulfilling all the righteous requirements of God and then sending forth His Spirit to produce divine life in the hearts of men.
We see then that the Law of Moses was deficient in producing righteous men. It is still deficient today. The Law is not the means to sanctification. The Spirit of Christ dwelling in the heart of man is the only means. Christ must be fully formed in us, and this is the work of the Spirit, not the Law.
When Paul speaks of the saints being subject to a new law, the Law of life, he is in no way indicating that this is a mere copy of the Law of Moses. It is vastly different.
"Behold, days are coming," declares Yahweh, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, "declares Yahweh.
The new covenant is “not like” the old covenant made with the fathers, delivered by the hand of Moses at Mount Sinai. This is a totally new covenant, a new law. God did not merely take the Law of Moses and write it upon the hearts of men. The heart is a symbol of the inner man. The law is a symbol of the rule of God, a revelation of His holiness. What is the fulfillment of this promise recorded by Jeremiah?
The Law of Moses was given at Pentecost. On that first Pentecost when Moses descended the mountain with the Law engraved on tablets of stone, three thousand men died. On the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit descended upon man and three thousand were made alive. The Law was a minister of death. The Spirit makes alive.
So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
We see in this clear parallel that the Spirit has replaced the Law of Moses. What the Law of Moses was as a type and shadow, the Spirit of Christ is now the anti-type and substance. Great is the error of those who would lead Christians back to the yoke of the Law when they have the indwelling presence of the Spirit. To do so results in a turning away from a focus upon Christ in them, to a dead body of commands external to man.
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
The new law in the Spirit is a law of liberty. The new law reveals God’s will and pleasure and animates a man with the life and power to do God’s will. It is a constant open door into freedom in the life of Christ. The Law of the Spirit brings freedom, but in contrast the Law of Moses leads to bondage. The Law of Moses is focused upon “Thou shalt not.” The Law of the Spirit of Christ is focused upon “Now you may.”
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, " You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The Law of the Spirit of Life says “Love” and then it produces within us the desire and the power to love. The Spirit produces in the life of the saint all the fruits that are part of the nature and character of God. Neither is there any prohibition against them.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
What is expressed here is that the new law is not like the old law. The new law is one of liberty. A man is free to do all that comes into his soul through the channel of the Spirit. The Law of Moses in contrast forbid man to do those things that entered the soul through the channel of the flesh.
Is it not obvious that if a Christian returns to the dominion of the Law that his focus will be turned back to the flesh and away from the Spirit of Christ? This is why Paul spoke so fervently against this error. He said that returning to the Law would sever a man from Christ. Our focus must be upon “Christ in man” not “sin which dwells in my flesh.” We overcome the flesh only as we give ourselves to the life of Christ. It is there that our focus must be put.
D., I hope these words will help to reveal the error of those teaching the saints to observe the Law of Moses. Many of these are very sincere men and women, but they are sincerely wrong. Let those who would be true ministers of the gospel point men and women to a focus upon the Spirit of Christ that indwells them, rather than to a Law whose purpose has been fulfilled and which is ready to pass away.
The Law of Moses can still serve a function in the lives of those who have not yet come to Christ, for this was its intent, to lead men to Christ. But once these men have come to Christ they are made to die to the Law that they might be joined to another who is better, stronger, and more complete in every way. Let us leave off with shadows and embrace the substance that has now appeared.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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