Since the first of the year, our Sunday school class has been knee deep in the books of the Bible that outline the Old Abrahamic Covenant with all of it’s commands and laws, of which there are, according to one Hebrew scholar, at least 613.
The non-Jews of the world think of the 10 Commandments as being the law of God. But there was more to His judicial system than we generally think about.
But the bottom line is this, all laws are good if they are used lawfully, and by that I mean that those who are imposing the laws do so with honesty, integrity and prudence.
In Romans 7:12, the Apostle Paul said, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.”
But all laws have inabilities. Even good laws.
The law of God will show us what we need to be in order to be acceptable to God. But the law can’t make us acceptable.
The law of God can pinpoint that place in our hearts where rebellion still reigns. But it can’t end the rebellion.
And the laws of our own judicial system can show us the lawbreakers but can’t make an honest person out of a criminal.
For those unbelievers in the world, this can pose a serious problem. So often we hear folks say something like, ‘well, I believe in God and I’ve never killed anyone or done anything really bad. . . “
And if they look around long enough, they will find a book, a church, even a preacher that will give support to the idea that a person can grow in godliness by their best attempts at living up to the law.
But the truth is, no amount of ‘godly’ behavior, self control or religious rituals can make a person holy. And God said that holiness is what is necessary to place us in right standing with Him.
In 1 Peter 1:15-16, Peter said, “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” Peter was quoting Leviticus 19:2 where God spoke to Moses and told him, “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” And that word ‘holy’ means pure, clean, free from defilement of crimes, idolatry and all profane things.
All throughout the Scriptures, the law of God reveals the attributes and the very character of God.
And just as the laws of our own judicial system define our society, the laws of God define God.
But God’s law didn’t ask that we be forgiving, loving, merciful or kind. God Himself said, be holy because I am holy.
And holiness is not something that we can create within our selves by our own efforts.
There is no law that can make a bad person good or an evil thing holy.
And a good illustration of this fact is Matthew 19. In the first 15 verses Jesus is being asked about divorce. But then in vs. 16, Jesus is confronted by a young man who asks, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” In Luke 18:18 this young man is identified as a ruler, perhaps even an officer presiding over the synagogue.
But regardless of his station in life, this Q makes it crystal clear from his first words to the Lord that he recognizes Jesus as having the authority of a teacher and is submitting himself to that authority and it also shows that he has total faith in eternal life.
In Vs. 17 Jesus responds by asking a Q of His own.
“Why do you ask Me about what is good?” “There is only One Who is good.”
In these words Jesus graciously wants to lead the man to either know Him as God or not submit to Him at all. In other words, if you want to know what is good, you must go to the One Who is good. And without missing a beat, Jesus puts a halt to any dispute over what He had just said by saying, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man had asked about ‘eternal life’ but Jesus makes it clear that this present life does not deserve the name of life, for in the midst of this stream we call life, unless we have accepted Christ, Who is our life, we are actually in the midst of death.
Now the young man asks which of the commands must he keep, and Jesus gives him the short list, “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself”
The young man’s quick reply is, “I have kept all of these”. . . Remember what I said a few moments ago about some folks saying something like, ‘well, I believe in God and I’ve never killed anyone or done anything really bad. . .’
That is exactly what that young man was saying. And his pride and the conceit of his own merit was to be his downfall.
Oh how wonderful it would have been for him and so pleasing to the Lord if he had said with deep sorrow and shame, “oh no, I have kept none of those, all of them I have broken, what must I do to obtain a pardon from God?”. . . But he didn’t.
And here’s a good place for a Q, have you ever laid all of your sin out before God and asked, what must I do to obtain a pardon?
In the final moments of this confrontation, Jesus had saved the kicker for last when He said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
In truth, Jesus didn’t care whether the man had great possessions of not. What He did want was for the young man to regard his own covetousness as something that would have been in that list of things not to do that Jesus had given him.
God deals with believers through their strongest graces, and He deals with those who do not believe through their strongest corruptions.
This young man may have been accurate when he said that he had kept the commands that Jesus has listed, and he certainly believed in heaven, in eternal life, but his mistake was that he thought that he could earn entrance by being a good person.
He failed to see that by resisting what Jesus had told him to do, sell all that you have and “follow Me”, that he was telling Jesus that he did not believe that Jesus was Who He said He was, nor did he have God in that first and foremost place in his own heart.
The purging of a lawless spirit begins when we accept that the price, penalty, the full payment of the fine that had been imposed on us because of our own sin was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
As we continue to walk with Him, remember that Jesus paid a debt that He did not owe, for the sin He did not commit.