Monday, February 22, 2021

Distorting the Law of God

"[He destroyed the barrier] by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations" (Ephesians 2:15).

Last Friday we discussed the barrier that God set up between His people and the world and how this was expressed in some of the God-given ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. We saw that in Christ these barriers have been broken down, and now the church is sent to conquer the world.

The barrier between Jew and Gentile that God set up was relatively slight, but in New Testament times, the Jews had cemented this barrier into a wall with steel-reinforced beams, so to speak. The Jewish “oral law tradition” had greatly multiplied the number of barriers between Jew and Gentile. We see in Acts 10 and 11 that Peter was reluctant to enter the house of a Gentile believer, though nothing in the Old Testament hinted at such a scruple. Peter was acting out of a wicked Jewish tradition, not out of the generous law of God.

The work of Christ regarding the law has three dimensions. First, He obeyed the law perfectly, and by doing so, He established and reinforced the importance of the moral law of God for all time. Those who say that Christians are free from God’s Law as a rule of obedience are sadly mistaken and are sadly deluding others.

Second, through His sacrificial work, Jesus removed the ceremonial law by transforming it. The various sacrificial meals and the dietary laws, for instance, were transformed into the Lord’s Supper.

Third, Jesus fought against the Jewish oral law tradition, treating it as a demonic counterfeit of God’s truth. If we look at the teaching of Jesus, we see Him repeatedly citing the authority of the Scriptures by saying, “It is written.” In the Sermon on the Mount, however, Jesus repeatedly says, “You have heard that it was said.” These “sayings” refer to the oral traditions. Sometimes the sayings corresponded to the actual words of the Bible but had been distorted and reinterpreted. Sometimes, as in Matthew 5:43, they added to the Bible and warped its meaning. By destroying these traditions, Jesus knocked down an artificial barrier between Jew and Gentile.

The temptation to add to the Law is still with us. Make a list of some of the rules that have arisen in the evangelical “oral” tradition. Now make a list of rules you have sought to elevate to the level of God’s Law. Commit to purging these “traditions.”