We’ve spent the last three programs dealing with why the Law of God was given. Much of what God required of His people has to do with perpetual and eternal remembrance and conduct throughout all generations of the Jewish people. It’s part of their election and calling as a nation before God to be a light to the nations of the world.
But the primary reason for the giving of the Law is to reveal what sin is, to make us aware of how utterly sinful we are, how perfect and holy God is and how far away we are from Him.
If we don’t know that lying is a sin, we’re still guilty of sinning if we tell a lie, we just aren’t aware of it. If our toddler picks up a marker pen and writes on the wall, they’re just having fun. They’ve still done the ‘wrong’ thing, they were just unaware that they were doing the wrong thing. However, after correction and instruction, they know they’re not allowed to draw on the wall, the next time they do it, they know they’re doing the wrong thing.
The Law reveals our sinful state and God’s perfect state and the huge divide between us.
We finished off by looking at the Jerusalem council that had to deal with the influx of Gentile believers to the church and whether or not they needed to convert and become Jews in order to gain salvation. After discussion and the testimony by several Apostles it was agreed that this wasn’t necessary and a letter was written that we briefly mentioned. It the remaining portion of the letter that we’re going to focus on now.
The Gentile believers were not required to become Jews or observe the Law of Moses, but they were given some restrictions though, and the restrictions they were given had to do with food and morals.
Acts 15:27-31, this is the last part of the letter written to the Gentile believers. “Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” So when they were sent away, they went down to Antioch and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.’
Basically, this is what Gentile believers are required to live by according to the ‘essentials’ listed out in the New Testament. These are not suggestions or preferences, they’re essentials according to the leadership and Apostles of the very first church:
When you read through the rest of the New Covenant Scriptures, it goes even further in how to unpack all these particular restrictions. The whole council of God is essential to understand what God wants from His children. I want to stress again that this is not related in any way to the issue of salvation, the things we as believers are required to do, the ‘do’s and don’ts’, have nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is a free gift that we can’t earn or pay back, but the way we conduct ourselves in our Christian walk tells a very real story of how we love and obey our Messiah and how we express our love for Him and His Word.
We are not to eat foods that have been dedicated to false gods, and the restrictions listed in the letter from the Jerusalem council had everything to do with animal sacrifices and rituals, and the restrictions on sexual sin are just the ongoing standards that are contained in God’s moral law.
What about the Ten Commandments? Do they remain?
Paul gives a lot of instruction in the New Covenant about human relationships and how we’re to treat individuals within those relationships be they between husbands, wives, children, widows and orphans. So the commandment about honouring your mother and father is still in play and will continue to be throughout each generation. The New Covenant Scriptures given even more details about how to treat others in all kinds of relationships.
Don’t commit adultery, is that still current? Well, Jesus said you only have to look with lust at someone and you’re guilty of adultery. Paul spoke about avoiding sexual sin as well in all its various forms.
What about lying? Is that still a no-no?
Rather than go through each of the commandments given to Moses in the Old Covenant, let’s look at one last passage in the New Covenant.
1 Timothy 1:8-14, ‘We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realising the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.’
If you look at all the sins listed in this particular passage, you’ll see that all the Ten Commandments are covered.
Being lawless and rebellious toward God and rejecting Him covers idolatry, rejecting His Sabbath and worshiping Him supremely above all else. Murder is covered, dishonouring mother and father, sexual sin and immorality, lying, perjuring and ‘whatever else is contrary to sound teaching’…covers everything in God’s moral standards and Law. So we can see really clearly that His Law, other than the ceremonial/sacrificial law, has not been done away with.
Paul however gives us the greatest news of all. The answer to our rebellious, lawbreaking sinful state is found in Jesus Christ, first for salvation which is a free and glorious gift, and secondly in strengthening and equipping us to live the life He wants us to live.
The purpose of the Law is to show us we’re sinners, to reveal how sinful sin actually is, and to drive us to the Messiah for salvation and transformation. The Law is good, holy and perfect and Jesus provides us with the equipping we need to live honourably before God.