Did the Grace of God Cancel Biblical Commandments? Part 6: Commandments of Moral Conduct Revealed from the Beginning- B
Sep 12th, 2017
It is a HUGE mistake in interpretation and theology to think that moral commandments were exclusively a part of the Law of Moses. Coming to that misguided conclusion has led many Christians to believe that freedom from the law means that moral commandments are not an obligation in the same way they were in the Hebrew Scripture. I strongly disagree with that misguided conclusion!
We’ve proven repeatedly with NEW Testament Scripture verses, that Christians are responsible to live according to God’s moral commandments, but not the ritual commandments of law given to Israel at Sinai. For you that are reading these articles for the first time, here’s a few of the many references from the New Testament we have already seen about obeying God’s commandments: Matthew 5:17-19; John 14:15, 21-23, 15:10; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Ephesians 6:1-3; 1 John 2:3-5, 5:2, 3; Revelation 12:17, 14:12.
I urge you to read the previous five articles. Much material was covered that was foundational to get this straight in you heart and mind.
Christ the “end” of the law
As we have stated, Christ was the final sacrifice and offering for sin, therefore the reality overtook the ritual and ceremonial commandments observed in the Temple, sacrifices, and the through the priesthood. In that sense, and that sense alone, was Christ the “end” of the law. Look at a few translations to get a better picture of the meaning of the word often translated “end” in Romans 10:4:
For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God (NLT).
Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God (CEV).
[For] Christ ·ended [is the end/culmination/fulfillment of] the law so that everyone who believes in him may ·be right with God [have righteousness] (EXB).
For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts (CJB).
For the Messiah is the culmination of the Law as far as righteousness is concerned for everyone who believes (ISV).
Christ has fulfilled everything the law was meant to do. So now everyone who believes can be right with God (NIRV).
The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe (NTE).
For Messiah is the goal of the Torah as a means to righteousness for everyone who keeps trusting (TLV).
You see, God’s purpose for the law reaches its climax when the Anointed One arrives; now all who trust in Him can have their lives made right with God (Voice).
Christ is the fulfillment of Moses’ Teachings so that everyone who has faith may receive God’s approval (GW).
Are ten versions sufficient for us to get it? What does Romans 10:4 mean?
With the coming of the Messiah, the goal, aim, climax, or purpose of the Torah (the Law of Moses as given at Sinai) was fulfilled. Jesus’ sacrifice provided redemption and righteousness, and the need for ritual and ceremonial commandments passed away into history. They became obsolete and unnecessary!
The shadow overtaken by the reality and fulfillment
The shadow (Temple, sacrifices, priesthood and rituals) was overtaken by the reality and fulfillment, which was Christ Jesus! That is the message of Romans 10:4 and John 1:17 (NET): “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.”
Let’s remind ourselves again of verses that bring this truth to the forefront.
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality (Colossians 2:16, 17 NLT).
That highlights the fact that ritual commandments such as keeping a kosher home, the festivals (feasts) of Israel, new moon celebrations, and Sabbath days were only a shadow of the reality that Jesus provided. They all pointed to Messiah. Once Messiah came, the reality overtook the shadow, and there was no more need for the shadow.
According to Hebrews 8:5, 9:8, 10:1, the Temple and its sacrifices were a symbol and shadow of the reality brought by the eternal sacrifice of Jesus. These verses bring us additional light concerning Colossians 2:16 and 17. The temporary symbolism and the shadow cast by the Temple, feasts, Sabbaths, kosher, blood sacrifices, priesthood, etc., came to an end with the eternal sacrifice of Jesus. Messiah brought the eternal, the reality.
Sandwiched between Hebrews 8 and 10 is this glorious statement in chapter 9:
But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow sprinkled on those who are defiled consecrated them and provided ritual purity, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our consciences from dead works to worship the living God (Hebrews 9:11-14 NET).
This is the absolute truth, but we need to distinguish between ritual-ceremonial commandments that passed away with the coming of Messiah and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., and God’s moral commandments that are still required in the earth. The moral commandments were strongly taught and highlighted in all apostolic writings, from Romans all the way through Revelation.
Paul's use of the word commandments
We saw that Paul used the word law in different ways (see note #1), but he also used the word commandments in at least four ways. Just as the word law has been generalized in much of Christianity, the same has been done with the word commandment. Note the different ways commandments was used in these verses:
- Moral commandments: Mat. 5:17-19; 1st 7:19; Rom. 7:7-13, 13:9; Mark 10:19; Eph. 6:2. These passages refer only to moral commandments based on their context.
- Commandments as ordinances, or the ritual commandments: Eph. 2:19-21, Heb. 7:18, 9:19. What divided Israel permanently from the Gentile world were not moral and judicial commandments, because numerous similar ones were found in the ancient near-eastern law codes that preceded Moses and Sinai by hundreds of years. What truly separated the Gentiles from Israel was their worship of God according ritual-ceremonial commandments to be carried out in the Temple with its blood sacrifices, and its priesthood. Those were the commandments in ordinances, the wall of separation between Israel and the Gentiles. Jesus removed it!
- Commandments of men: Titus 1:14, Mark 7:8, 9. Religious traditions taught as commandments that took the place of God's commandments and made them of none effect.
- Apostolic commandments that came from the Lord: 1st Cor. 14:37; Col. 4:10; 1st Thes. 4:2, 2nd Peter 3:2.
The fact is that when the children of Israel came out of Egypt, moral commandments were reemphasized and clarified for all future generations. God did not introduce moral commandments at Sinai. That’s a shocker for many Christians. We began seeing that in the previous study. Moral commandments were God’s revelation to human beings from the beginning, but let’s prove it.
Again, what we see at Sinai was the reemphasizing and amplification of God’s moral commandments, not the introduction of them for the first time.
A covenant addendum
What was a completely new revelation at Sinai? God introduces for the first time a covenant addendum that only the physical seed of Israel would have the responsibility to carry it out. These were the ritual-ceremonial commandments, ordinances, and statutes.
Hebrews 9:19-22 taught us about that covenant addendum of priesthood, Temple, blood sacrifices, and so on:
“For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
The question is; why did God add covenantal provisions to Abraham’s promises and covenant? Galatians 3:19 said that these ritual laws were added because of the transgressions of Israel. Israel was a rebellious mess after they came out of Egypt. The evil ways of the Egyptians had permeated their ideas and practices.
Israel rebelled at the Red Sea (Ex. 14:10-12), Marah (Ex. 15:22-24), with the manna and meat (Exodus 16:1-21), during the first Sabbath observance commanded Israel (Ex. 16:22-30), at Massah and Meribah (Ex. 17:1-7), with the golden calf (Exodus 32), and transgressions were breaching God’s covenant and promises. (See Psalms 116:23-26 (NKJV).
Read Psalms 78:8-53 and the straightforward commentary of Israel’s rebellious ways:
And not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God (v.8) …How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! Again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel (vs. 40-41 NASB).
Israel was to be a nation of priests and a holy nation to God (Ex. 19:6). Israel was commanded cultic rituals that were exclusively to be carried out by a God designated priesthood, offering sacrificial offerings, at specifically ordained times, in a God designated place- first in the Tabernacle, then in the Temple. Together with these ritual ceremonies were the food laws, Sabbath days, and the feasts and festivals of Israel that were intimately connected with God’s order of worship given to Israel at Sinai.
Why all these rituals, ordinances, and ceremonies? They had to be introduced and implemented to protect the covenant from a permanent breach. Rituals of forgiveness and cleansing with the blood of innocent animals were installed. The animals were killed in the place of, as substitutes for, people that sinned. This protected the covenant and the people from complete annihilation. Even with all these covenant protections in place, the covenant was stretched to the max often and its complete destruction was barely averted. See Jeremiah 11:10, 31:31, 32; Ezekiel 44:5-13; Hosea 8:1: Deuteronomy 31:16, 20;
They did not keep the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law (Psalms 78:10 NASB).
For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant (Psalms 78:37 NKJV).
The Messiah was to come through these descendants of Abraham. If the covenant could not be protected, and if the Israelite nation would be destroyed because of their sin, then Messiah could not come. Think about that! Once Messiah Jesus came, died as the final and perfect sacrifice, and was raised from the dead, the provisional parts of the covenant with Israel were rescinded and laid aside. See again Galatians 3:19-24!
The Book of Genesis- Beginnings
Our minds need to be renewed to the fact that moral commandments existed from the beginning of God’s creation. They were not only as part of what God gave to Moses at Sinai.
In the book of Genesis, we see moral commandments observed and sometimes disobeyed. Those occasions took place centuries (and many were millennia) before the giving of the law at Sinai.
If I gave you no other verse but the following, it would be enough to prove the point. Notice WHO is doing the speaking in this verse. It wasn't Moses or one of the patriarchs, but God was speaking personally to Isaac about his father Abraham and how he lived.
"All this will come to pass because Abraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Genesis 26:5).
That Scripture verse was about Abraham's covenant life many generations before God spoke to Moses on Sinai. This verse alone proves that commandments, statutes, and laws of God (specifically moral and judicial commandments) existed in the earth and were the revelation of God from the beginning.
If you read the commentaries on this verse, you will see scholars sputter and get flaky out over it. They don't know what to do about it! Some dare to suggest that Moses added in retrospect these “out of time and place” references to commandments, statutes, and laws. If Moses did add these, then he added to the Word of God and was a false prophet. Why should we believe anything he said? It would mean that Moses injected his own thinking and lied when he was quoting what God said. Be very careful. Don't make the same mistake a whole slew of folks by accusing Moses of transmitting his own ideas and not the Word of God in Genesis 26:5! NO! Genesis 26:5 is a revelation from God of the truth of commandments, statutes, and laws existing from the beginning. Abraham was aware of them long before Moses was born!
An interesting side note is that the Jews understood what this verse meant the torah was revealed from the beginning. In the ancient Mishnah of Judaism there is found an interpretation (midrash) on Genesis 26:5:
And it is also said of our father Abraham, And Abraham was old... And the Lord blessed Abraham with everything (Genesis 24:1). We find that Abraham our father observed the whole Torah before it was given, for it is said, Because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws (Genesis 26:5) (M. Kiddushin 4:14).
When it says the whole torah or teaching and instruction of God (not “law” in the sense of western jurisprudence), arguably, it cannot refer to ritual commandments of temple, priesthood, sacrifice, and feasts and festivals. That part of the law had not yet been enacted. It cannot refer to the entire spectrum of law or there would be big issues with that interpretation, issues that I will not get into here. It can only refer to those moral and judicial commandments revealed from the beginning of time.
There is much more . We see moral commandments obeyed and disobeyed in the stories of Cain, the generation of Noah, Joseph, and more.
When Cain did evil with his offering, God warned him of sin.
“If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7a).
If God warned Cain of sin crouching at the door, then there were commandments meant to restrain evil! There must have been a revelation on the earth from the beginning. Cain is about as close to the beginning of the human race as you can get! Any closer and you have to talk about Adam, Eve, and Eden.
How could Cain’s evil action be called a sin?
Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect—being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will) (1 John 3:4 AMPC).
God could warn Cain of sin ONLY if there was a moral law already established forbidding jealousy, covetousness, and murder. If not, on what basis did God warn Cain of sin? Why were these sins? Based on what could God judge him? If there were no moral commandments, there would was no basis to call anything a sin. This points to the fact that moral commandments existed as far back as Eden. We know God gave commandments to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:16, 17).
God has to be righteous in His dealing with human beings as the Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25). Abram said that about God in connection with His intended destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is the righteous Judge that never perverts justice in His dealings with human beings (Job 34:12, 17; Romans 1:32, 2:2). The reason for His judgments has always been based on His moral commandments.
Sodom and Gomorrah could be judged based on an obvious revelation against sexual immorality that existed on the earth. Those two cities rebelled and perverted the moral laws of God to such a degree that judgment fell on them, and they were destroyed with fire and brimstone (Gen. 19).
What about the world and its inhabitants as they were during the days of Noah?
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5) ...the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen 6:11-13).
God saw that evil, violence, and corruption filled all the earth, He judged it, and the flood was unleashed. How could God judge the earth for its evil, violence, and the corruption that had spread to every human being (except Noah), if there existed no moral commandments that were violated without the possibility of repair?
What about the stories of Pharaoh and Abimelech in Genesis chapters 12, 20, and 26? These pagan kings knew it was a sin to commit adultery. How could they possibly know that adultery was a sin unless there was already a revelation in the earth of God’s moral commandments long before Moses received moral laws at Sinai?
Joseph rejected the invitation of Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery. Joseph knew that having sexual relations with the wife of another man was a sin against God (Gen. 39:9). How did Joseph know that committing adultery was a sin against God unless there was already a commandment in place that forbade it?
Come on! Think about this.
In 2015, I wrote the 260-page book, A CALL TO RETURN: Restoring the Roots of Our Relationship with Jesus. There is more explanation of these pre-existing moral commandments in chapter 6: The Preexistence of God’s Commandments. Get it today!
Link: http://asambleavencedores.podbean.com/p/published-books/. If you haven’t read this book, you do not know what you are missing in this day where permissiveness and many perversions are popping up in churches and ministries. This book, in essence, is a call back to holiness in Christian conduct according to God’s moral commandments. Here are some powerful passages in this regard: 1st Peter 1:14-16, and 1st Thessalonians 4:1-10.
 As mentioned in the previous article, in the New Testament we find at least five ways in which the word “law” was used: first 5 books of the Bible, law and prophets- the entire compendium of Scripture, law of Moses as given at Sinai, ceremonial-ritual law, and moral-judicial law. Scholars have discussed this to varying degrees. NET notes on Romans 2:12 states: “This is the first occurrence of law (nomos) in Romans. Exactly what Paul means by the term has been the subject of much scholarly debate. According to J. A. Fitzmyer (Romans [AB], 131-35; 305-6) there are at least four different senses: (1) figurative, as a "principle"; (2) generic, meaning "a law"; (3) as a reference to the OT or some part of the OT; and (4) as a reference to the Mosaic law.” Other scholars have discussed law as separated into moral and ritual commandments. This is not a new interpretation on understanding Paul’s usage of the word “law.”