Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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June 15, 2013
Last Updated :
June 20, 2013
God Removes Stony Hearts Of Israelites And Gives Them Hearts Of Flesh, A Heart Of Stone Symbolizes Stubbornness Rebellion Spiritual Blindness And Unbelief, Religious Jews Fell Under The Deception That They Could Save Themselves By Keeping The Mosaic Law, Anyone Who Believes They Can Be Justified By The Laws Of Moses Has Fallen From Grace, Jews Will Die In Their Sins Without Christ, Jesus Died In Vain If Salvation Can Be Obtained By Mosaic Law, No One Can Keep Entire Mosaic Law, Real Truth, Christ Came To Save Us And Not To Condemn Us, Jesus' Difficult "But I Say Unto You" Teachings, A Hopeless Situation, We Are All Born In Sin And No One Is Righteous, Biblical Definition Of Being Perfect, We Must Be Complete, God Is The Abounding Spirit Of Love, Filled With God's Love, Harsh Mosaic Law Versus Indwelling Of God's Spirit Of Love, Love Forgives And Covers All Sins, Led By The Spirit In Our Understanding Of God's Word, Islam's Cruel Legalism, Stoning
Continuing our discussion regarding the tables of stone and tables of flesh, it is interesting to note, however, that we are also informed that before God can write His Laws upon the hearts -- or the tables of flesh -- of the Israelites, He has to remove their hearts of stone and actually give them hearts of flesh; as we see by these verses which were written by the Prophet Ezekiel:
"Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Ezekiel 36:22-27, KJV
Why does the Lord say through the Prophet Ezekiel that He will take away their heart of stone, and give them a heart of flesh? As you may already understand, a heart of stone symbolizes a stubborn, rebellious heart. It represents a heart that is hardened against the Lord, against His Will, and full of unbelief. This affliction has in fact been the core problem with the Jews for literally millennia, as is evidenced by the following sample verses:
"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."
Isaiah 1:4-6, KJV
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."
Isaiah 6:8-10, KJV
"Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid."
Isaiah 29:13-14, KJV
"For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
Matthew 13:15, KJV
"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Matthew 15:7-9, KJV
"For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened."
Mark 6:52, KJV
"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."
Mark 7:6, KJV
"And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?"
Mark 8:17, KJV
"And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept."
Mark 10:4-5, KJV
"Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen."
Mark 16:14, KJV
"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?"
Luke 24:25-26, KJV
"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him."
John 12:37-41, KJV
"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."
Acts 7:51, KJV
"And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
Acts 28:25-27, KJV
"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;"
Romans 2:5-9, KJV
"But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart."
2 Corinthians 3:14-15, KJV
"Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years . . . Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God . . . While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation."
Hebrews 3:7-9, 12, 15, KJV
As I mentioned in part two, it was precisely because of the hardness of their own hearts, that even during Jesus' time, the proud, self-righteous religious leaders fell under the deception that they could save themselves through their own works, and supposed adherence to the Laws of Moses. That is why they rejected Christ. They knew full well that a Messiah had been promised to Israel, but when He finally arrived, in their pride they chose to reject the Prince of Life, because they were convinced that they could be justified by the Law. However, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, by so doing, those foolish religionists fell from God's Grace, as we see by this verse:
"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace."
Galatians 5:4, KJV
Stated another way, having fallen from Grace, this meant that in order to achieve justification and righteousness, any Jew who rejected Christ would be required to observe every single mandate of the Laws of Moses to absolute perfection. In fact, this same truth applies to unbelieving Jews today as well. If Jews honestly believe that they can achieve justification and righteousness by the works of the Law; if they believe that observing the Sabbath and other Jewish feast days, following Jewish dietary laws, and doing everything else that the six hundred and thirteen "mitzvot" -- or commandments -- of Torah and Halakha demand of them will make them acceptable in God's sight, they are not only dead wrong, but they are fallen from Grace. Furthermore, as I noted in part two, if they continue to reject Christ, they will not only die in their sins, but they will be judged by the full weight of the Law, if they insist on being under the Law. Jesus told His Jewish enemies of the First Century the very same thing, as we see by the following verses:
"Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come . . . I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
John 8:21, 24, KJV
As I mention in other articles, in reality, the Mosaic Law cannot save one single person. After all, if it could, then there would have been no need for Jesus to forfeit His life on the Cross for our sins, and He died in vain. This is in fact what the Apostle Paul told the Galatian brethren in his Epistle to them, as we see by the following verse:
"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
Galatians 2:21, KJV
Furthermore, even endeavoring to save oneself by observing the Mosaic Law -- if it were acceptable to God, which it is not -- is a total exercise in futility, because as we have already seen, it consists of literally hundreds of statutes which are listed in the Torah of the Old Testament. Contrary to some popular Bible-oriented movies, the Ten Commandments are not the only Laws which were given to the Israelites by way of Moses on the summit of Mount Horeb, or Sinai. At any rate, concerning vain endeavors to achieve one's Salvation by observing the strict mandates of the Mosaic Law, the Apostle James laid all the cards on the table when he included the following resounding statement in his Epistle:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
James 2:10, KJV
Wow! What more needs to be said than that? I am reminded of a short comment that I sometimes see on Facebook timelines. I don't know who invented it or popularized it, but it says "Real truth". People often type it in all uppercase letters. Well, my friends, that verse is in fact real truth, whether some legalists want to hear it or not, and whether they can accept it or not. This verse particularly applies to modern Jews who still adamantly reject Jesus Christ, and who place their hope in Halakha observance.
In other words, what the Apostle James is basically saying to his readers is "Forget it. You can't do it. You will never be able to keep them all. Resign yourself to the fact that you are a sinner, that you were born in sin, that you are simply not perfect in the flesh, and that you never will be. As a result, you need to abandon any self-righteous intentions you may have and accept Jesus Christ; because He is the only one who can truly save you from your sins."
As we saw in part two of this series, this is the very same direct approach that Jesus would sometimes employ in His sermons and teachings. He would purposely say certain things which would force His audience to realize that no matter how hard they tried, they could not in any way achieve personal righteousness and save themselves. As I shared with you in that same section, Jesus' goal in coming to this planet was not to condemn the world; rather, it was to save the world. However, before anyone can truly be saved, they first need to acknowledge their sinful condition, and recognize their need for a Savior. Thus, Jesus made certain statements which would demonstrate the futility of the situation, and reveal exactly how utterly hopeless the Jews were without Him. He was forced to operate in this fashion, because His listeners were a very proud, stubborn, rebellious, self-righteous people.
That Jesus used this tactic is particularly evident in some of His difficult "But I say unto you" teachings. While Jesus' Jewish listeners no doubt thought that the moral bar was high enough already, Jesus placed it even higher -- in fact, in a few cases even beyond their reach -- for the reasons which I have already explained to you. The Jews simply had to see how lost they were without Him. Consider the following "But I say unto you" verses, and ask yourself where you personally stand in each case, and I think that you will get the point. I have purposely divided these sayings into separate verse sets in order to emphasize each one, even though they all follow each other in the same chapter. As you read each set, please pause and apply each one to your own life:
"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
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Matthew 5:27-28, KJV
"And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."
Matthew 5:29-30, KJV
"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."
Matthew 5:31-32, KJV
"Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."
Matthew 5:33-37, KJV
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
Matthew 5:38-42, KJV
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
Matthew 5:43-48, KJV
So did you just pass that grueling test with flying colors? I know that you didn't, and neither did I, and neither did the Jews who were listening to Jesus that day. To reiterate, that was Jesus' point. It was not to condemn, it was to reveal the futility of endeavoring to establish our own righteousness, as the self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees endeavored to do.
So have you ever become angry with someone and called them a fool? If so, you clearly deserve hell fire. During the course of your life, have you ever looked at a man or a woman who is not your spouse and lusted after that person? Uh-oh! You are fried! Are you really prepared to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand if it causes you to sin? I didn't think so. If you are of marrying age, have you ever divorced a spouse for any other reason than marital infidelity, and then married someone else? Oops . . . you are an adulterer or adulteress. Have you ever swore or said more than what really needed to be said? This is not looking too good for you, is it? How often have you been willing to turn the other cheek instead of striking back in revenge? How many times have you given more than is required to give and expected nothing in return? It is very easy to love people who return your love, but how many times have you truly loved difficult, unlovable people? Instead of hating your enemies, how many times have you loved them, forgiven them, and even prayed for them?
The way that you are feeling right now is no doubt the same way that Jesus' listeners felt as He shared these lessons with them. But Jesus still was not done yet. He still hadn't pulled out the last card in the deck. That is when the Lord said "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect". Oh how their hearts must have sunk as they realized the true depth of their imperfection and sin. What an utterly hopeless situation they found themselves in. Through important lessons such as these, we learn that we are all born in sin, and that we will die in our sins, if we refuse to accept Jesus' Atonement for our sins. This truth is made rather evident by verses such as the following:
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Psalms 51:5, KJV
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one . . . For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Romans 3:10, 23, KJV
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"
Romans 5:12, KJV
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 6:23, KJV
"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"
Ephesians 2:5, KJV
While Jesus clearly admonished His listeners to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, as I explain in a number of other articles, many modern Christians do not understand what He means by that, because the Biblical definition of the word "perfect" has been altered -- and to some degree corrupted -- in our modern day. You may recall that in part two we discussed the three Greek words "pleroo", "teleo" and "telos". These words have a common meaning of making a thing full or complete, or terminating something and bringing it to an end, finish or close. The overall meaning of the words then is a sense of completeness and fullness as in "fulfill".
It will interest you to know that in the previous verse, the word "perfect" is derived from the Greek word "teleios". As you may surmise, it too is a derivative of "telos", and thus means to bring something to an end, to finish it, and bring it to a condition of completeness. Thus, in reality, what the Lord is saying in that verse is that we must be complete, as our Heavenly Father is complete. We need to be perfected, we need to be completed, but how? If you are shaking your head in confusion, please read on, because the answer is so very clear in the Scriptures of the New Testament.
Let me ask you two simple questions which will assist you in solving this Word riddle. What is God, and what are the Great Commandments? As we learned in parts two and three, God is the great Spirit of Love, and the two Great Commandments are to love Him, and to love others as we love ourselves. Are you starting to understand yet? God is the perfect, complete and full Spirit of Love. He is the never-ending, overflowing and abounding Spirit of Love. Thus, what Jesus is really telling His listeners in the previous verse, is that the only way in which they will ever be able to achieve God's high standard, is by being completely full of the Father's love. This is what it means to be perfect, or complete.
It is evident from the Gospels that this kind of love can't be achieved by adhering to the cold, harsh Mosaic Law. The self-righteous, judgmental, holier-than-thou Scribes and Pharisees were clear proof of that. It is when we are truly and completely full of this kind of love -- that is, Divine Love -- that we are capable of unselfishly loving others, and forgiving others regardless of what they may do to us. It is only when we are full of this kind of love -- through the indwelling of God's Spirit -- that we are capable of fulfilling the Royal Law; because as Peter, Paul and King Solomon all wrote:
"Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins."
Proverbs 10:12, KJV
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8, KJV
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Romans 13:10, KJV
If you still have any doubts regarding this word "perfect" meaning to be full of and complete in God's Love, please carefully consider the following Scriptures where the words "perfect" and "love" are used together, and where "perfect" likewise refers to a condition of fullness or completeness:
"Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
2 Corinthians 13:11, KJV
"And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
Ephesians 3:19, KJV
"But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
1 John 2:5, KJV
"No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. . . . Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:12, 17-18, KJV
Returning to the previous verses that are found in the Book of Matthew, sadly, when legalists read such sayings by the Lord, because they are in bondage to and blinded by the Laws of Moses, and are not truly led by the Spirit of God in their understanding, they have a propensity for taking such teachings in a very literal sense. In other words, they only see the letter of the Law and not the real Spirit and intent behind the words, exactly as we see in the following verses:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 14:26, KJV
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
John 16:13, KJV
"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
"But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."
Romans 7:6, KJV
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
Romans 8:14, KJV
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
1 Corinthians 2:14, KJV
"And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
2 Corinthians 3:4-6, KJV
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
James 1:5, KJV
While we are discussing our Law-bound legalistic brethren, at the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that if we want to see an example of extreme legalism when it comes to the Laws of Moses, all we have to do is look at the false religion of Islam. There are plenty of sad people in the world today who lack hands, feet, eyes and who have scarred faces due to the extremely cruel legalism of the Islamic faith. The Scribes and the Pharisees of old were not that much different. Let us not forget their propensity for stoning people due to their infractions of the Mosaic Law, not to mention the sentence of death which they pronounced on Jesus as well, because they accused Him of being a blasphemer and a child of the Devil.
Please go to part five for the continuation of this series.
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