Friday, January 21, 2011

Laying Down the Law - The Deficiency of the Law

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It offends some who revere the Law to see it described as deficient. Yet this is the testimony of the Scriptures. The Law was a shadow. Shadows lack substance. The Law could make nothing perfect. The Law could not impart divine life. The Law could not permanently take away sins through it sacrifices and offerings. The Law could make no man righteous. The Law could point to the perfect work of Christ through its types and shadows of the Tabernacle, the offerings, feast days, and washings, but it was not the very substance and realization of these things. Christ in every way has surpassed the Law and brought His people to something better.

Hebrews 10:1
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

Hebrews 7:18-19
For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

Acts 13:39-40
By Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Romans 8:3
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son...

Galatians 4:9-10
But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years.

Hebrews 8:7-8
 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant...”

Hebrews 9:9-10
It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience - concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

What is the accumulated message of all these passages? It is that the Law was a weak and deficient work instituted until that which is perfect should come.

Let us look at the specific deficiencies of the Law. Many who are espousing the continuance of the Law today like to divide the Law into various parts that they might declare that one part has ended, while another part continues. Although this distinction is never made by the apostles when they speak of the Law, I think it may be of benefit to address the Law by its various parts in order to demonstrate that whether one is speaking of the ceremonial Law, the Laws of sacrifices and offerings, or the moral Law, all are weak and deficient. All have been supplanted by something far superior.

Consider again the Father’s wider plan for mankind as we begin this examination. Yahweh desires sons in His own image, who are partakers of His own nature. When the Law was given, mankind lacked this inner spiritual life. It would be another 1500 years until a Savior would come who would accomplish the will of Yahweh. Sin would be atoned for. The certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us would be nailed to the cross of Christ. The way would be opened for union with the Father. The Spirit would be given to indwell mankind. Men would receive a new spirit and a new heart. Until that time arrived, it seemed good to the Father to provide man a testimony of the things that lay ahead, and a means to show mankind their sinful condition and need of a Savior.

Galatians 3:24-25
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

In the ceremonial parts of the Law, including Feast days and Sabbaths, washings and offerings, the manifold plan of God for the reformation of man was revealed. In the sacrifices of the Law we see the principle of atonement, of the soul of one creature serving as a substitute for the life of another. The Scriptures declare, “The soul that sins must die,” but Yahweh permitted another soul to die in our place. Bulls, goats and other animals were a type and shadow of that perfect sacrifice to be realized in Christ. In the moral Law we see a shadow of the righteousness, justice, holiness, and will of Yahweh. Yet it too is imperfect, and something much fuller is to be found in Christ.

The Ceremonial Law and Offerings

Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Most Christians perceive that the ceremonial parts of the Law served as shadows of things to come. For example, Yahweh delivered through Moses instructions for the children of Israel to annually observe three major feasts, which in their several parts break down to seven individual events. The first of these feasts is Passover.

The first Passover was observed just prior to Israel’s departure from slavery in Egypt. For a period of five days each family was to take a spotless lamb into their homes (from the 10th to the 14th of the first month). On the 14th day of the month they were all to slay the lamb, and place some of the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their homes. They were commanded to roast and eat the lamb, leaving nothing over until the next day. There were other associated rituals such as removing all leaven from the home for a period of seven days leading up to the night of Passover, eating the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, and standing dressed and fully ready with staff in hand to depart (Exodus 12). Every detail is symbolic, and points to some work fulfilled in Christ.

When Christ was born of a virgin, lived among mankind, and completed the work the Father gave Him to do, the substance of Passover was realized. For a period of time all Israel had the Lamb of God to dwell among them. They beheld His form and observed Him to be spotless and without blemish. Pilate examined Him and testified, “I find no fault in Him.”

On the Passover the Jews crucified the Son of God, and spoke the words, “Let His blood be upon us and upon our children.” It was a bitter experience as the Bread of Life was broken. Yet those who receive His sacrifice in faith as an atonement for sin are passed over by death. They are invited to eat the Lamb of God, for His flesh is true meat, and His blood is true drink. These words are Spirit and they are life, indicating that we are to receive every part of Christ, not just that which is attractive to the appetites of man. We are to receive Him into our being. We are then to be ready to immediately depart from a worldly life of slavery to sin and follow Yahweh as He leads us through wilderness experiences on the way to the land of our inheritance.

There may be some groups who profess to be Christian who slay a lamb every Passover and eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. (Most who observe Passover buy their lamb at the grocery store.) Some may even take some of the blood and put it on their doorways. However, such re-enactments of the shadow of Christ’s atoning work are no longer required. The substance has surpassed the shadow contained in the Law. Yahweh will no longer have regard for the blood of a lamb, for He has accepted the perfect offering of the blood of His Son. The blood is never to be offered again.

Hebrews 10:1-9
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.... For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come - in the volume of the book it is written of Me - to do Your will, O God.'" Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them"(which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

There are a number of ways in which to understand these words, “He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” Certainly they imply that the offering of Christ has replaced the sacrifices and offerings of the Law. On another level these words reveal the desire of the Father that was accomplished through Christ. Yahweh has desired obedience from man, and not sacrifice.

I Samuel 15:22
So Samuel said: “Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”

Look at the repetition of the words of Christ in the above passage from Hebrews. “Behold, I have come... to do Your will, O God.” This is what Christ accomplished for the Father. Before man received the indwelling Spirit of Christ they could not attain to the righteousness of God. The will might be present, but the power to accomplish it was not. The result was disobedience followed by sacrifices and offerings for sin. Christ came to bring an end to sacrifices, and to establish obedience in the lives of God’s people. He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Yahweh was never satisfied by the offerings and sacrifices of men. He permitted them UNTIL the one perfect sacrifice should be offered on behalf of men, and obedience established in those who had received a new nature.

Amos 5:21-24
I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.  But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Yahweh has always desired righteousness and obedience. Sacrifices and festivals are not an acceptable substitute for these. Christ takes away one to establish the other.

I receive correspondence from people who tell me with great excitement that the Temple in Jerusalem is about to be rebuilt, the priesthood and Sanhedrin restored, and sacrifices once more offered. It is folly to believe any of these things are being accomplished by the will of Yahweh. He abolished these things when He sent His Son. The shadows have been replaced with the substance found in Christ.

If some are inclined to continue to commemorate Feast Days, and Sabbaths, I do not condemn them. It is error, however, to declare that such things are required of Yahweh for Christians today. They are not. This the apostle Paul made clear in the passage already cited.

Colossians 2:16-17
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

If I have entered into the substance of the will of the Father, then none are able to accuse me as a transgressor. The truth is that a great many are keeping the shadows of these things, but they have yet to enter into the substance. These are the ones who will incur condemnation.

Many are the saints who observe the Sabbath day by ceasing from physical labor, yet they have not entered into the spiritual substance that this shadow pointed to. Paul defines Sabbath rest in the following manner:

Hebrews 4:10
For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

The substance of Sabbath rest is entered when a man ceases from works that arise from his own soul and begins to live a life submitted to the Spirit of God. It is that which Christ declared of Himself when He stated, “I never do anything of My own initiative. I only do the will of the Father.”

You may observe Sabbath days, but if your life is still under the direction of your own soul, you have not entered into Sabbath rest and you are not yet pleasing to the Father. Christ came that men might enter into the fulness of the desire of Yahweh for them. The shadow had men ceasing from their labors one day a week. The substance directs and empowers men to cease from their self-directed labors every day that they might live to do the will of the Father.

(To gain a fuller understanding of the substance of Sabbath rest, I recommend to you the book Sabbath.)

Some have written to me over the years concerning the Scripture in Zechariah that speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles being continued during the millennial rule of Christ.

Zechariah 14:16-17
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, on them there will be no rain.

A principle is found throughout the New Testament revealing that when the substance has come, the shadow is done away. The earth has seen the fulfillment of the first two major feasts of Yahweh, Passover and Pentecost. Tabernacles is yet to be fulfilled. Christ fulfilled Passover when He was crucified as the Lamb of God. Pentecost was fulfilled fifty days later when the Holy Spirit was given to the body of Christ. Tabernacles has not yet been fulfilled. Therefore, it is the only feast mentioned in this passage from Zechariah.

Tabernacles symbolizes God and man dwelling together in fulness. At this time we have been sealed with the Spirit of promise, but we have not yet received the Spirit without measure.

Ephesians 1:13-14
In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Just prior to the Millennial reign of Christ a group of firstfruit sons will be resurrected to glory. These will rule and reign with Christ for the thousand years. These will be the first to experience the substance of Tabernacles.

Revelation 20:5-6
This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

All those who were passed over, being judged as unready, having failed to have come to maturity at this first harvest of men, will have to await the thousand years end before the next resurrection.

Revelation 20:5
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.

Those who rule with Christ during this period will have experienced Tabernacles, while those nations they rule over have not. To ever keep in mind the will of Yahweh for the nations, they will be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles annually. The nations are not required to observe Passover and Pentecost, for these have already been fulfilled in Messiah.

In the next chapter we will examine the deficiency of the moral Law delivered to Moses.

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