Sundayword BY PROSPER TINGINI
I have written and steadfastly ruled in favour of the law. Someone who strongly supported the observance of the law made a post to me, which I felt I should share. Isaiah 42:21 reads: “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.”
Jesus had not dwelt on the specifications of the law, but He did not leave His audience to conclude that He had come to set aside its requirements. He knew that spies stood ready to seize upon every word that might be wrested to serve their purpose.
He knew the prejudice that existed in the minds of many of His hearers, and He said nothing to unsettle their faith in the religion and institutions that had been committed to them through Moses.
Christ Himself had given both the moral and the ceremonial law. He did not come to destroy confidence in His own instruction.
It was because of His great reverence for the law and the prophets that He sought to break through the wall of traditional requirements which hemmed in the Jews.
While He set aside their false interpretations of the law, He carefully guided His disciples against yielding up the vital truths committed to the Hebrews.
The Pharisees prided themselves on their obedience to the law; yet they knew so little of its principles through everyday practice, that to them the Saviour’s words sounded like heresy. As He swept away the rubbish under which the truth had been buried, they thought He was sweeping away the truth itself.
They whispered to one another that He was making light of the law. He read their thoughts, and answered them, saying: “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) Here Jesus refutes the charge of the Pharisees. His mission to the world is to vindicate the sacred claims of that law, which they charge Him with breaking.
If the law of God could have been changed or abrogated, then Christ need not have suffered the consequences of our transgressions. He came to explain the relation of the law to man, and to illustrate its precepts by His own life of obedience.
God has given us His holy precepts, because He loves mankind. To shield us from the results of transgression, He reveals the principles of righteousness. The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought.
It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law, that in obeying them we might have joy.
When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need for a Saviour.
It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. In the life of Christ, the principles of the law are made plain, and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ’s reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.
“The law of the Lord is perfected, converting the soul.” (Psalm 19:7)
“Till heaven and earth pass”, said Jesus, “one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18) The sun shining in the heavens, the solid earth upon which you dwell, are God’s witnesses that His law is changeless and eternal. Though they may pass away, the divine precepts shall endure. “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”
(Luke 16:17) The system of the types that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God was to be abolished at His death: but the precepts of the Decalogue (10 Commandments) are as immutable as the throne of God.
Since “the law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 19:17), every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ. The Saviour’s life of obedience maintained the claims of the law; it proved that the law could be kept in humanity, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did are likewise declaring that the law is “holy, and just, and good.”
(Romans 7:12) On the other hand, all who break God’s commandments are sustaining Satan’s claim that the law is unjust, and cannot be obeyed. Thus they second the deceptions of the great adversary, and cast dishonour upon God. They are children of the wicked one, who was the first rebel against God’s law. To admit them into heaven would again bring in elements of discord and rebellion, and endanger the well-being of the universe. Beware! No man who wilfully disregards one principle of the law shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The rabbis counted their righteousness as a passport to heaven; but Jesus declared it to be insufficient and unworthy. External ceremonies and a theoretical knowledge of truth constituted Pharisaical righteousness. The rabbis claimed to be holy through their own efforts in keeping the law, but their works had divorced righteousness from religion. While they were excessive in ritual observances, their lives were immoral and debased. Their so-called righteousness could never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ’s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience, a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard of what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists.
The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory. The same dangers still exist.
Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological doctrines. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it (the truth), therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth, but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, then it is a curse to its possessors and through their influence, it is a curse to the world.
The righteousness which Christ taught is the conformity of heart and life to the revealed will of God. Sinful men can become righteous only if they have faith in God and maintain a vital connection with Him. Then the ceremonies required in the service of God are not meaningless rites, like those of the hypocritical Pharisees. Amen.
Prosper Tingini can be contacted on 0771260195 or email-ptingini@ gmail.com