Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
March 24, 1998
Last Updated :
March 8, 2012
The Mosaic Law, The Death Of Stephen And Jesus, Cities Of Refuge, Jesus' Hard Sayings, Our Sinful Condition, The East Gate And Eye Of A Needle, Spiritual Nourishment And Hearing From God, The Price Of Discipleship, Jesus' Transfiguration
It is very significant that the Lord chose Moses and Elijah for this particular event. If you are familiar with their Earthly ministries, then you will realize that collectively, they represented the Law and the Prophets. This term "the Law and the Prophets" holds a lot of importance within Judaism, as well as within our Christian heritage. In fact, Jesus used it several times in His teachings. Consider the following instances in which it is used in the New Testament:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets."
Matthew 7:12, KJV
In other words, Jesus is basically saying, you reap what you sow. If you want people to treat you with love and respect, then you must do the same with them. This is what the message of Moses and the Prophets was all about. Here is another one:
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Matthew 22:36-40, KJV
Here Jesus makes the message even clearer. He is saying, "Look, instead of trying to remember every little aspect of the Mosaic Law, all you have to do is to remember this: It is all summed up in a few simple words; love the Lord, and love your neighbor." By doing this, you will be sure to fulfill everything taught by Moses and the Prophets. After all, if you really love someone, you are not going to steal from them, or take their wife, or kill them, etc. Here is another interesting verse:
"The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it."
Luke 16:16, KJV
That is a very interesting verse because it shows a definite time division, and a change of events which some people still fail to understand. We will look into this more fully in a moment. Another verse from the Gospel of Luke is the following:
"And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."
Luke 24:44, KJV
Chronologically speaking, this verse occurred after Jesus' Death and Resurrection. Do you understand the full meaning of what Jesus is saying here to His Disciples? Not only is He saying that everything He accomplished was prophesied in the Law of Moses, in the writings of the Prophets, and in the Psalms of David; but He is also saying that with His Crucifixion and Resurrection, they have now been fulfilled. With His Blood Sacrifice, Jesus has met and satisfied the requirements of the Law. He has brought an end to our dependence on it for our Salvation. Following is another verse which clearly shows that Israel was ripe for her Saviour. Everyone was fully expecting the arrival of the Messiah, exactly as they had read in the Law of Moses, and in the writings of the Prophets:
"Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
John 1:45, KJV
In the following verse, we see the importance that the rulers of the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia placed upon the Law and the Prophets. This was in Asia Minor, what is today a part of the nation of Turkey:
"And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on."
Acts 13:15, KJV
If you read the above chapter in its entirety, you will see that Paul and Barnabas took advantage of this opportunity and delivered a powerful message to the Jews and the Gentiles who had come to hear them preach. Paul concluded his discourse with the following words which confirm exactly what Jesus said to His Disciples following His Resurrection; and that is that we cannot be justified by the Law, but only by the Sacrifice of Love of Jesus Christ:
"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."
Acts 13:38-41, KJV
While the Gentiles gladly received the words of Paul and Barnabas, the Jews soon became jealous of the crowds they were drawing to themselves. In fact, we are told that the very next Sabbath, almost the entire city went to hear them preach, so that the envious Jews began to stir up trouble against Paul and Barnabas:
"And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."
Acts 13:44-45, KJV
It was at that point that Paul issued his famous statement which you can also see in the excellent cinematographic work, "Peter and Paul":
"Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles."
Acts 13:46, KJV
Following Jesus' own wise counsel, once the Jews had stirred up persecution against them so that they threw Paul and Barnabas out of the entire area, these brave missionaries simply shook the dust off of their feet and continued on to Iconium which today is modern Konieh, located at the foot of Mount Taurus, about one hundred and twenty miles from the Mediterranean coast:
"But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium."
Acts 13:51, KJV
Turning to Paul's Epistle to the Romans, we find the final verse where the Law and the Prophets are mentioned together. As in the Book of Acts, Paul clearly states that both the Law of Moses, and the writings of the Prophets prophesied the coming of Jesus Christ, whose Sacrifice would manifest the righteousness which comes by faith alone, and not by the works of the Law:
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;"
Romans 3:21, KJV
Thus we see that both the writings of Moses, as well as the writings of the Old Testament Prophets spoke of the coming of Jesus Christ, who would not only fulfill everything they had written about Him, but who would also abolish our dependence upon the Law for our Salvation; for as Jesus Himself said:
"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, KJV
This is precisely what Jesus did; He fulfilled or met the requirements of the Law to become the Perfect Sacrifice for sin, which is something which we cannot possibly ever do; for as the Apostle James wrote:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
James 2:10, KJV
No matter how hard we try, we will never ever be able to keep the entire Mosaic Law. This is the main point that Jesus was trying to get across to the self-righteous religious rulers of His day. This is why He constantly threw the Law right back in their faces. No matter how many laws they thought they could keep, or try to force others to keep, they would continue to fall short of perfection; because they could not possibly keep them all, even if they had deceived the common people into believing that they did. This is why when they brought to Him the woman taken in adultery, Jesus' response was simply:
". . . He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
John 8:7b, KJV
Thus, just like the common people whom they self-righteously judged, they were guilty, guilty, guilty. The Apostle Paul expressed this fundamental point quite well when he wrote:
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Romans 3:23, KJV
It is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul also tells us that we are no longer to place our faith in the Law to save us, but rather in the Blood of Jesus Christ, because He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves; He met the full requirements of the Law:
"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Romans 7:4, KJV
In his first Epistle, Peter referred to Jesus as a lamb without blemish, showing the link with the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. Notice that Peter also clearly exposes the vanity of trying to save oneself by adhering to the Law and the Oral Tradition of the fathers. In the following verses, the word "conversation" is derived from the Greek word "anastrophe" and actually means one's way or manner of life, conduct or behaviour:
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God."
1 Peter 1:18-21, KJV
If the Pharisees were not as righteous as everyone believed them to be, why then would Jesus say ". . . except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."? If they didn't stand a chance of gaining Eternal Life, then how could the common people possibly surpass them in righteousness? As I have already shown, Jesus was using a bit of rhetoric here. He knew that this was an unobtainable goal. He knew that He was placing a stumbling block in front of them; but it was for the very specific purpose of forcing them to realize that there must be another way, a way which was impossible for mortal men. This is why when His Disciples asked Him with extreme amazement "Who then can be saved?", Jesus straightforwardly answered "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."
Do you understand what the Lord meant by this? It is really quite simple. He was basically saying, "You cannot save yourself. It is impossible. If you really think that you can save yourself by your own self-righteous works of keeping the Law, you might as well forget it, because it simply will not work. You and I both know that you cannot possibly keep every single aspect of the Mosaic Law. As such, you are guilty of death." In fact, when Jesus lambasted the Scribes and the Pharisees, He said something very profound which is directly related to another verse I will share in a moment. Here is what the Lord said:
"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. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 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
Do you realize how serious that is? Do you realize how serious it is for a person to die in their sins because of their pride in rejecting Jesus Christ, or because they thought they could save themselves through the works of the Law? If your sins are not covered by the Blood of Jesus when you die, you will die in your sins; and what did the Apostle Paul say regarding this?:
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Romans 6:23, KJV
Notice exactly what Paul is talking about here. He is not just referring to our Earthly death; that is, the decay of our mortal bodies; he is talking about something much more important. He is making a contrast between Eternal Death and Eternal Life. He is talking about the Second Death from which there is absolutely no return! That is it! Your body and your spirit are destroyed for Eternity! Consider what John wrote in the Book of Revelation:
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
Revelation 2:11, KJV
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years . . . And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Revelation 20:6, 14-15, KJV
"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8, KJV
That is how serious it is to reject Jesus Christ, or to think that you can save yourself by keeping the Mosaic Law. You only get one chance; but you have your whole life to do it; for as the Apostle Paul also wrote in his Epistle to the Hebrews:
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Hebrews 9:27, KJV
The next question might then be, "Well, exactly what is meant by sin?" The Apostle John spelled it out for us quite clearly in his first Epistle when he wrote:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
1 John 3:4, KJV
Simply put, when you break the Mosaic Law in any way, no matter how small, you are sinning. The Mosaic Law is the standard which makes us aware of our sinful condition. Because of its severity, the Mosaic Law also shows us that, unless we place our faith in the Blood of Jesus Christ, we are without hope of Salvation. We are lost. We are doomed to die eternally. As the Apostle Paul wrote, the Mosaic Law served as a schoolmaster to bring us to the Salvation which is found in Jesus Christ. Once we have come to Christ, there is no longer any need to rely upon the Law for our Salvation because it could never save us to begin with:
"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
Galatians 3:24-25, KJV
Paul couldn't have said it any clearer than that. Once you come to Jesus, you are no longer under the Mosaic Law. Despite this fact, we still have Christians today who are trying to mix faith with works; and it just won't work. So again, through His many hard sayings concerning the Law, Jesus was trying to show everyone that they must not look to themselves or to their ability to fulfill the Law for their Salvation in any way, because it cannot save them. They must find another way. Of course, that was the Plan all along, which is why Jesus later said:
". . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6b, KJV
The Lord wanted everyone to know that the only way they could ever exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees was by accepting the righteousness which He freely offers through His Death on the Cross. That is the only righteousness there is. Being the sinners that we are, we must depend solely upon the grace of God by placing our faith in the Sacrifice of His Son. This is the only way we will ever achieve any form of righteousness. Only by believing in Jesus Christ will we ever obtain Salvation. This is precisely what John the Baptist meant when he said at the beginning of the Gospel of John:
"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
John 1:17, KJV
As I explain in the three-part series "Elijah: Where are the True Prophets?", the whole purpose of John the Baptist's ministry was to hammer away at people's pride by using the Mosaic Law as a tool to show them how sinful they really were. John knew that none of them could keep the Law anymore than he could himself, but that wasn't the purpose of his ministry. It was to soften their hardened hearts so that they would be in a state of humility and repentance, and in a receptive mood to accept the One who really could save them from their sins; and that was the man Jesus Christ.
As we have already seen, fulfilling the Law basically comes down to three key words, "Thou shalt love"; and this is something which is severely lacking in the world today, just as it was lacking two thousand years ago when the words were first spoken. While some people may not realize it, mercy is a form of love; and if there was one thing in which the Scribes and the Pharisees were lacking, it was in mercy. This is why Jesus accused them of using the Mosaic Law to lay burdens upon men which were grievous to be borne:
"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
Matthew 23:1-4, KJV
As a former Pharisee himself, the Apostle Paul fully understand the challenge Jesus faced in dealing with these legalistic vipers. The Scribes and the Pharisees were so caught up in enforcing the tiniest aspect, or letter, of the Mosaic Law, that they completely overlooked the true spirit and intention of the commandments first given to Moses; and that was to teach people to love God, and to love and respect their neighbor. The Mosaic Law was meant to serve as a framework for decent behavior, and was never meant to become a snare as it did in later years when men began to measure their goodness by how well they adhered to it.
Instead of being content in their hearts with knowing that they were pleasing the Lord, the Scribes and the Pharisees fell into the dangerous practice of comparing themselves with others. Likewise, they began to boast of their supposed goodness and holiness, and of their self-righteous works, such as circumcision, in order to receive the praise of men. It is for this reason that the Apostel Paul wrote the following stinging rebukes concerning those who fall into such practices:
"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
"For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."
2 Corinthians 10:12, KJV
Jesus likewise had some stern words to offer to the robed hypocrites who continually sought the praise of the common people as in the following examples:
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:1-6, KJV
"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Matthew 6:16-18, KJV
"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi."
Matthew 23:5-7, KJV
"Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;"
Luke 20:46, KJV
The Apostle John also commented on the hypocrisy of the chief rulers, and exposed their sin of being more interested in pleasing the Scribes and the Pharisees than in pleasing God. What is truly sad is that all of these verses can be equally applied to some religious leaders today, as well as to some political leaders who bow to their pressure in order to win the votes of their congregations:
"Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
John 12:42-43, KJV
By the time Jesus arrived in the First Century, the Mosaic Law and Oral Tradition had become so exalted, and had become such a weapon of bondage in the hands of the Scribes and Pharisees, that Jesus had no choice but to expose their legalism and their lack of love and mercy as in the following incident where they self-righteously pointed the finger at Him for keeping company with sinners:
"And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Matthew 9:10-13, KJV
In another incident, Jesus clearly told them that their perspective concerning the Law had become totally reversed from the way the Lord had originally intended for it to be understood when it was first given to Moses. Rather than serving as a guide or schoolmaster for good behavior as mentioned by Paul, the Scribes and Pharisees had converted it into a driving slave master for the common people who knew no better than to follow their spiritual elders:
"And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:"
Mark 2:23-27, KJV
Notice Jesus' final words in the previous verses. Even today there are those who would have us compromise our faith in Jesus Christ alone, by telling us that we still need to observe certain parts of the Mosaic Law in order to "supplement" our Salvation. As if the Blood of Jesus Christ is not enough to keep us saved! Lord help them! Unlike the Scribes and Pharisees of yesteryear and the self-righteous religionists of today who continue to strive to keep people under bondage by heaving upon them the burdens of the Mosaic Law, Jesus offered to lift our burdens, and to place them upon His own shoulders. This He gladly did when He bore our sins on the Cross. The only burden He left for us to bear is to believe in the Atonement which He freely offers to all men:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30, KJV
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed."
1 Peter 2:24, KJV
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
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