I am often shocked at how little most Christians understand about salvation. In particular, it is alarming the disconnect many have between Old Testament teaching and New Testament teaching and the lack of understanding of the important role of the former in the story of salvation. Many are content to simply parrot off a few basic things about being saved and accepting Christ without fully understanding the meaning of what they have in Christ.
Such a superficial understanding of God’s word not only limits your understanding of salvation but also your knowledge of God’s character. In order to live in full victory as a Christian it is important to understand the relationship you have with God and the role Jesus Christ played in securing that relationship for you.
In the following I give a brief overview of the Bible, the story of salvation.
God created man and gave him dominion and authority over the earth through the first Adam in The Garden of Eden. God had a direct relationship with Adam and walked and talked with him. Adam knew God first hand. When Adam disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit he lost this direct relationship with God because sin came into the world through that disobedience. Secondly, he lost his dominion and authority and gave it over to Satan, who had tricked him into eating the forbidden fruit. Now man no longer knew God in a close and personal way. Man’s sin separated him from God.
God had to find a way to get himself into that close relationship with man again. But he could not do so because man’s sin was a barrier. So God chose a special group of people as his means of getting man to know him and his ways again and re-establishing that relationship. Through the separation of Abraham from his people, God established the nation of Israel as his chosen people. They were the people God would reveal himself to in order to re-establish an intimate relationship with man.
God said to Abraham in establishing this agreement or covenant:
“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Genesis 17:7 (KJV)
Thus, God started revealing himself to Israel. One key aspect of this revelation and getting man to understand God and his ways was to reveal to man where he had gone wrong. It was to reveal to man what was acceptable before God and what was not. It was the revelation of sin. Man had to understand what sin was. Hence, God instituted the Law of Moses. The law was an indication to man of what sin was.
Consider your own laws in your country. If the law says it is illegal to smoke marijuana then smoking it is a crime or sin. But if the law says it is ok to smoke it then it is no longer a crime or sin. Thus the law is said to have revealed what sin was before God by showing man in clear terms what God considered acceptable or not. So the knowledge of sin came through the law.
“…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
But the law served a second purpose and that was to enable man to perform certain rituals that made it possible for man to be “right” before God and thus able to approach God to a certain degree, though not as perfectly as in the Garden of Eden. So all the rituals of sacrifices, offerings, repentance and so on served to create an environment in which man could have a relationship with God and to know God more intimately. God could dwell with man as long as man satisfied the requirements of the law.
But this was not a perfect way as there was still a barrier between man and God. Only the priests could approach God and even then not all of them. The ultimate solution was the second Adam, Jesus the Christ, a Jew. The first Adam broke our relationship with God, but the second Adam re-established it. Jesus fulfilled the law by being sinless before God and taking the place of our sin offering, according to the law. But unlike the annual sacrifice that had to be made under the law, Jesus sacrifice only had to be made once for all. In doing so, he gave each one of us as Christian’s direct access to God. We could once again have that close and intimate relationship with God without having to go through an earthly priest as Christ is now our high-priest.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
One big requirement for us to have this relationship is faith. Thus the Law of Faith was brought by Jesus to replace the Law of Moses. It entails that if we have faith in Christ and believe that he was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (what separated us from God) and the fulfilment of the Law of Moses, then we can have access to God. We can have right-standing or righteousness before God.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28 (KJV)
In short, Israel was the nation God chose as a means of getting man to know him again and to understand his ways after the fall in the Garden of Eden. Through them, this close relationship with God is now possible for all.
But it is not complete yet because Christ is yet to return and destroy all his enemies and all the works of Satan. Secondly, he will return to give us spiritual bodies that are without the sinful nature we inherited from the first Adam.
“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body…And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” 1 Corinthians 15:44 and 49 (KJV)
This will usher in a new era in which we will now be back to a Garden of Eden scenario where God will no longer be hidden from us and sin will be forgotten totally. Our initial relationship with God will be fully re-established.
Thus, you cannot separate Christianity from Judaism because without the latter and the Law of Moses, Christianity through the Law if Faith is not possible.
As a Christian, I often say to people that I am a Jew. Most laugh, but to God that is what we are because Christianity is a continuation or build-up from Judaism. Judaism is not only the foundation, but the walls upon which Christianity stands. Without it there would be no Christianity. If you doubt this consider that the Bible is over two-thirds Old Testament (Judaism) and only the rest is New Testament. Thus, you cannot be a complete and powerful Christian without understanding your foundation.
Consider what Paul says about who a Jew is:
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28-29 (KJV)
He is saying, you are a Jew if you have repented (circumcision of the heart) and not by following the law (letter). He is referring to repentance and accepting Christ.
Indeed the Bible says we as Christians are part of the “commonwealth” of Israel.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13 (KJV)
Therefore, Christians ought to embrace Old Testament reading as much as New Testament. More so given that unveiling and understanding prophecy that is relevant to these end times as we prepare for Christ’s triumphant return requires a delicate marriage of Old and New Testament scripture.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is one of the most challenging and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. The full sermon is outlined well in Mathew, chapter 5. It is challenging because it says things like if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if you even look at a woman lustfully you have already sinned without having to commit adultery.
These are hard teachings and an ideal that no man can ever attain. So the question that arises is “why would Jesus give such a hard teaching that he knows very well no man can adhere to?”
The answer lies in the passage itself. Let us look at it in some detail. After giving the attitudes that we as believers should aspire to such as meekness, poverty of spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness, purity of heart, peace-seeking and so forth and their attached blessings, or the “beatitudes” as they are often called, Jesus says something very revealing:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matthew 5:17 (KJV)
That is the key to understanding the passage. Jesus came to fulfil the law. What follows is examples of him fulfilling the law. He goes on to say that we need to aim for a righteousness that goes beyond what was the accepted standard at the time of the Pharisees and scribes, who probably followed the law most diligently at the time, though not perfectly:
“For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20 (KJV)
In other words, unless our righteousness is beyond the law, we cannot be righteousness enough for the Kingdom of Heaven. But how can one be righteous beyond what the law prescribed? What follows is Jesus explaining exactly that:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matthew 5:21-22 (KJV)
Pay attention to how Jesus describes what is the prevailing situation versus what he thinks should be:
YE HAVE HEARD IT WAS SAID BY THEM OF OLD TIME (i.e. according to the law or according to the legal standard)…BUT I SAY UNTO YOU (i.e. according to me or according to my standard)
Jesus is saying that the law says this, but I say that, the law has a certain standard but I have an even tougher standard. What Jesus was saying whenever he said “I say unto you” was tougher than what the law prescribed. It was an ideal that was beyond what the law required.
First we have to ask: what authority did Jesus have to say the law was not enough or to bring up things that go beyond the law. The Jews treasured the law as passed down by Moses and any man that questions it was questioning God and Moses. It was thus unfathomable to question it. It is recorded in Acts the word of Moses himself saying of Jesus:
“This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. Acts 7:37 (KJV)
The people that were present to hear the words of Jesus on the mount were astonished at his teaching “For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Mathew 7:29).”
Thus, Jesus had the authority to declare these things about the law, as it had been given him of God. He had the authority to show a better way than the law. But he did not have the authority to break the law. He himself was still subject to the law.
Secondly, who could achieve things beyond what the law required, who could be so pure as to never think a lustful thought and never sin? Well, the only man who lived a pure life before God and satisfied God enough to be a sacrificial lamb without blemish – JESUS HIMSELF.
Jesus was saying the law demands this, but I have gone beyond that. Yet, he was not saying so to be boastful but rather to illustrate an important point; which is that there is a more perfect way than the law, a better way than the law. This way was illustrated by Jesus’ own pure life.
This point is emphasised by Paul in Romans:
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” Romans 8:3 (KJV)
The law could never destroy or get rid of sin, but Jesus did. What Jesus was saying then was that “This is the law and I have fulfilled it, not only by doing everything the law requires of me, but by going beyond it and showing you a more perfect way.”
In Hebrews, Paul goes on to say that the law was but a shadow of the things to come:
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” Hebrews 10:1 (KJV)
So the law was the shadow, and Jesus was the image, or the “real deal”. That is why he was the fulfilment of the law.
Hence he could even say in ending that passage “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
We know that of ourselves, perfection is impossible in our current “body of sin”. But in him, through Christ’s righteousness and free gift of salvation, we are perfect, because when we accept him as our Lord and Saviour the father does not see us with our flaws, but sees Christ in his perfection in us.
In due time, when all shall be revealed, we shall put on perfection, when our bodies will be made anew and the sinful nature permanently removed from us.
Someone sent me a question that is very important and I thought to share my response with everyone.
HIS QUESTION WAS:
“Salvation: I want to learn from you how will the believers be saved,
they will saved through faith plus observing laws or just faith alone?”
MY RESPONSE FOLLOWS:
In a nut shell, we are not required to keep the law for salvation after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He was the fulfilment or completion of the law… hence he said ”it is finished”. Because he fulfilled the law we are not required to keep it for salvation and righteousness. We need only have faith in order to access God’s grace for our salvation. See these scriptures:
Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: itis the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availed anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worked by love.
Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.