Unlike what is commonly claimed, God appears to believe it has not only been possible for us to obey his commandments throughout history, but it is even required for us to always be faithful to him based on the commandments given. This does not mean that he only provides one single chance for us to do so, but serving two masters nevertheless leads to spiritual death. It is not logical to believe that God would give us laws he knew all along we could never obey. It would be equally illogical to view people as guilty transgressors of his laws, if the same people were incapable of obeying him in the first place. Did God really create mankind too weak to obey him? If we instead prefer to blame Adam because we have inherited his sins, would this really be our fault or something we could do anything about? (Read more about the false doctrine of original sin on my Blog.) If we on the other hand have always been capable of obeying our Lord but chosen not to, then we cannot put the blame on anyone else but ourselves. We are guilty transgressors precisely because we could have obeyed God but chosen not to. One sin is enough to be a sinner and in need to be cleansed and forgiven by someone with proper authority.
It is still possible to say that the Law was never intended to justify, and also that it “cannot” save. Not because God gave us commandments too grievous for us to obey, but rather because he knew that man would eventually choose at least one sin (most of us many more and repeatedly) which would make him in need of God’s mercy rather than being saved for having obeyed the Mosaic Law perfectly. Moreover, babies cannot sin since they are not able to transgress the law, and sinning is transgression of the law.
1 John 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
The purpose of the law of Moses
A great deal of flexibility is found in the use of the term “law” in the New Testament. Sometimes it refers not only to the five first book in the Torah but to the entire Old Testament, including Psalms and Isaiah (compare for instance John 10:34 and 1 Cor. 14:21). It could also mean the ten commandments as compared with Ex. 20:3-17. The Law could also be a principle or influence for a holy life style (Rom. 7:21-25). In the New Testament we find Paul quite often talking about circumcision (a ceremonial law included in the Mosaic Law) which confused many Jews who had come to Christ. For this reason Paul had a great focus on uplifting the law of Christ rather than the former Mosaic Law. See how Paul is differentiating between the two laws while still not claiming that ALL laws are done away with:
1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, BUT KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.
It is clear that Paul was not of the view that we are no longer bound by ANY law just because we are not bound by the law of Moses. We are not living in lawlessness and there are still divine commandments to follow. We are slaves to the one we obey, so if we obey sin we are slaves to sin and not free. Sin continues to cause spiritual death just like it always has.
Paul does not believe that being faithful to the Lord – by avoiding murder, theft, lies, adultery, etc – is called “bondage”. When Paul is talking about “turning back”, and “bondage” in Galatians, he has the Mosaic Law in mind and particularly the ceremonial laws such as circumcision. There is no way Paul would be upset with the Galatians if they “turned back” to “silly old laws” such as “Do not murder, steal, lie, commit adultery”, etc. Those type of activities are still sins in the ever existing moral law of God, and they will never be outdated.
Gal. 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. —21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
One reason for the implementation of the Mosaic law was to keep the Jews as a distinct people:
Lev. 7:6 For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.7 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:8 But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.9 Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations
It was also given due to our transgressions, to keep us in place by detailed rules. The law was the Jews’ schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, and when Christ came this schoolmaster was no longer needed. Now our guide is rather the holy Spirit.
Gal. 3:19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.—23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Rom. 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not knownsin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
The law is not made for the righteous man (who comes to the light and acts righteously out of a pure heart), but to the ungodly disobedient man. Paul explains that it is possible to live with a good conscience, but also that it is possible to shipwreck our faith if we for instance blaspheme God.
1 Tim. 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a PURE HEART, and of a GOOD CONSCIENCE, and of faith unfeigned:6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;—9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,— 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
Rom. 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are PAST, through the forbearance of God;26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Ja. 2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
Prior to the time of Moses there were no stone plates with any commandments written on them, but there were nevertheless commandments to obey . other than not eating of the forbidden tree. From the very beginning it has always been considered a sin to murder, steal, lie, commit adultery, etc. God says early on that we should rule over sin. If we do not well, sin lieth at the door…
Gen. 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, SIN lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and THOU SHALT RULE OVER HIM.
Gen. 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
God required from the Israelites that they must keep his commandments, and as well as emphasizing that they shall live in them and by them. God even gives a curse on those who do not obey the words of his covenant. He makes clear that “THE WORD is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and IN THY HEART, THAT THOU MAYEST DO IT“, showing that he does not find it impossible for us to obey him at all. He repeatedly says “I COMMAND THEE this day to love the Lord thy God, TO WALK IN HIS WAYS, AND TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and his statutes and his judgments.”
Deut. 30:8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the Lord, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.9 And the Lord thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou TURN UNTO THE LORD thy God WITH ALL THINE HEART, and with all thy soul.11 For THIS COMMANDMENT which I COMMAND thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, NEITHER IS IT FAR OFF.—14 But THE WORD is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and IN THY HEART, THAT THOU MAYEST DO IT.15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;16 In that I COMMAND THEE this day to love the Lord thy God, TO WALK IN HIS WAYS, AND TO KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
Lev. 18:4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God.5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.
5 You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai. (Complete Jewish Bible)
Ez. 20:11 And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.—13 But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.—19 I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;—21 Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.
Neh. 9:29 And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
Deut. 15:4 Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it:5 Only IF THOU CAREFULLY HEARKEN UNTO THE VOICE OF THE LORD THY GOD, TO OBSERVE TO DO ALL THESE COMMANDMENTS which I COMMAND thee this day.
Deut. 27:1 And Moses with the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day.— 10 Thou shalt therefore obey the voice of the Lord thy God, and do his commandments and his statutes, which I command thee this day.—26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.
Jer. 11:2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and DO THEM, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:—6 Then the Lord said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.
Deut. 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:—13 And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:—45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:—-58 If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The Lord Thy God;
Deut. 5:12:28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord thy God.—32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
We cannot hide behind another person’s righteousness (like Jesus), but we are responsible to live righteous lives. Only the righteous will be saved.
Ez. 18:18 When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby
1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
Living righteously = LIFE, living in sin = DEATH. Here is the Old Testament verification for that, and Ezekiel explains it best:
Ez. 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: THE SOUL THAT SINNETH, IT SHALL DIE.5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,— 8 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man,9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, HE SHALL SURELY LIVE, saith the Lord God.—13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.—17 That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity.19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.25 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?26 When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.27 Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.28 Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.29 Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?32 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
Ez. 33:5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. —-8 When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.9 Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.10 Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?12 Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.13 When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.14 Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;15 If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.16 None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.17 Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.18 When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.20 Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
Jesus repeats the most important commandment in the Old Testament: to love God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, as well as Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. He does not seem to believe it is impossible to obey these commandments, nor that they are no longer valid. These commandments sum up the major part of the ten commandments.
Mark 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.
Jesus says about the commandments “whosoever shall do and teach them…”, indicating that there are people who indeed practice obedience to the commandments, or else he would not have phrased himself quite like that:
Matt. 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:22 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.
- Who will be great in heaven? – Those who DO the commandments and teach others to do the same.
- Who will be least in heaven? – Those who break one of the least commandments and teach others to do the same.
Note that there is also a risk that some believers will not even make it into the kingdom of God due to their behavior! It is possible that it is particularly breaking of the greater commandments which prevents a person from entering the kingdom of heaven, unless he/she repents of course. Then again one sin – big or small – makes a person a sinner and in need of cleansing and forgiveness. It is best to take interest in walking with God and be led by the Spirit. We should avoid criticizing those who claim we can be successfully faithful to Jesus here and now (Titus 2:11-12) and who live holy lives. After all, Jesus says they are the ones who will be great in heaven (if they “walk the talk” that is). Naturally we have a right to criticize them if they are hypocrites like the pharisees – which means they are not being obedient after all.
We are supposed to be sanctified of the holy Spirit unto obedience, which means we have been given the power to successfully obey. If we are being led by the Spirit we will walk on the road to obedience. If we fail we cannot blame God but ourselves:
1 Pet. 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
Peter says that we have purified our souls by being obedient, and also suggests that there will be righteous people who will be “scarcely saved” (perhaps due to scarce good fruit in the person’s life). It is the ungodly sinner who is in deep trouble:
1 Pet. 1: 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
1 Pet. 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?18 And if the righteous man is scarcely saved, the ungodly and sinner — where shall he appear?19 so that also those suffering according to the will of god, as to a stedfast Creator, let them commit their own souls in good doing.
1 Tim. 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
1 Tim. 6:13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Tim. 2:21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Acts 8:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
Hebr. 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
Matt. 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
John seems to be saying that we can obey the truth and that is why we come to the light – because we have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. Some translations say that “he that obeys not the son shall not see life…”.
John 3:20 For every one that DOETH evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.—36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Luke says that the holy Spirit is given to those who obey him.
Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
Below in Romans follows Paul’s clarification that we will get eternal life by well-doing and that those who do not obey the truth will be affected by the wrath of God. It is possible to “by nature” do the law because the law can be written in our hearts. We will be judged accordingly and depending on our thoughts and our conscience. Paul explains that a true Jew is actually one who has a circumcised heart rather than circumcised flesh. Paul spends a lot of time in the book of Romans to get the christian Jews to understand their new position in Jesus Christ – in whom the Mosaic Law is fulfilled – and that followers are saved by faith rather than being a Jew under the former law.
Rom. 2:5 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;6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) — 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:29 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.
Paul tells us that “henceforth we should not serve sin”, indicating that we have the ability to do so. He also explains what this means when he says that we should not obey the lust of our mortal body (using our body to sin with), and we are reminded that we are servants to the one we obey – sin unto DEATH or obedience unto righteousness and life. The NKJV explains it with an easier language “12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you—“. If we obey sin, we die and if we obey the holy Spirit (towards righteousness) we will live. Satan is still wrong with his claim that sinning will not cause death. We have an awesome power to overcome sin thanks to the holy Spirit!
Rom. 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that HENCEFORTH WE SHOULD NOT SERVE SIN. — 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, THAT YE SHOULD OBEY IT IN THE LUSTS THEREOF.13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.—16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of SIN UNTO DEATH, or of obedience unto righteousness?17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for THE END OF THOSE THINGS IS DEATH. 22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end EVERLASTING LIFE 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read this article about Paul’s expressions in Rom. 7 where he is not talking about his new christian life even though he uses present tense. Below Paul continues to assure us that there is no condemnation for those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit He offers no such assurances for those who do NOT walk after the Spirit, and Christians are not exempted from any risks. To be carnally minded is death, according to Paul, so if he would have lived in sin – as some Christians claim he did as per Rom. 7) then Paul would be spiritually dead when he wrote all those letters to us in the New Testament! He would also have been the biggest hypocrite in the New Testament. “If you live after the flesh, you shall die”, is his serious message, but the wonderful promise is that if we are led by the Spirit we are the sons of God and we have tickets to an eternal life in God’s kingdom!
Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but AFTER THE SPIRIT.—4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, WHO WALK NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is DEATH; but to be spiritually minded is LIFE and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of RIGHTEOUSNESS.—12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For IF YE LIVE AFTER THE FLESH, YE SHALL DIE: but IF YE THROUGH THE SPIRIT DO MORTIFY THE DEEDS OF THE BODY, YE SHALL LIVE. 14 For as many as are LED BY THE SPIRIT of God, they are the sons of God.
Eph. 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
Hebr. 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY HIM
Rev. 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
As I stated above, Paul is not criticizing the Galatians because they reverted back to laws such as “Do not murder, steal, lie or commit adultery”. There would not be any reason at all for Paul to be mightily upset with the Galatians if they were convinced they needed to avoid such sins for salvation’s sake in order to show their true love for God. It was rather the topic of circumcision that Paul was talking about. The Galatians were in liberty from the ceremonial laws, but none of us are in liberty to sin against God. Again, we are slaves to the one we obey, so if we obey sin we are slaves to sin and not free. The “yoke of bondage” that Paul is talking about is not concerning the eternal moral law but the 613 Mosaic laws. If the Galatians wanted to stick with circumcision as requirement for salvation, then picking and choosing among the Mosaic laws would not be satisfactory. If they wanted to stick with circumcision requirement, they had to obey the rest of the laws as well, and Christ would have died for them in vain.
Paul compares their stance with the new testament where we are rather saved by faith (apart from the Mosaic law). Being saved by faith does not mean that we are now able to sin without consequences, because we are never free if we are slaves to sin. “Faith which works by love”, means that we are expected to love God out of a pure heart when we are led by the holy Spirit, rather than multiple written instructions. The Spirit leads us away from a life of sin. Paul does ask the Galatians who hinders them to obey the truth, meaning they are still required to obey, and “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (one sin is enough). Paul says “all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”. We are expected to continue loving God with all of our of our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. Paul promises us “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”, and “if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”. We are not on the right track unless we are being led by the Spirit. Paul continues by giving examples of the works of the flesh, and assures the christian Galatians that they will not inherit the kingdom of God if they do such things.
Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.—13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
“If you love me, keep my commandments”. That is a rather clear command. Jesus died for all of us due to his love for the whole world (and wanting no one to perish), but in a way God’s love is also conditional. “IF A MAN LOVE ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS: and my Father will love him”. If we truly love our spouse we stay faithful to him/her, and it is the same thing with our love for God.
John 14:15 IF YE LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. —21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.—23 Jesus answered and said unto him, IF A MAN LOVE ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORDS: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.24 He that loveth me not KEEPETH NOT my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
God’s commandments are not grievous. The solution to the sin problem is to repent from our sins and start being led by the Spirit in holiness. The solution is not to hide behind Jesus and pretend that God doesn’t see our sins. He does. How do we know that we love God? If we keep his commandments. All unrighteousness is a sin, and sin continues to separate us from God. We can overcome sin thanks to our Helper!
1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.3 For THIS IS THE LOVE OF GOD, THAT WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS: AND HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT GRIEVOUS. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?6 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.—17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
Some Christians use this verse as support for the idea that we are free to sin without serious consequences:
Rom. 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
However, Paul is still focusing on circumcision and the many ceremonial laws in the Mosaic Law, which is clear if we read the verses before and after. We must never forget Paul’s reason for this emphasis when he tried to reason with some of the christian Jews:
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, EXCEPT YE BE CIRCUMCISED AFTER THE MANNER OF MOSES; YE CANNOT BE SAVED. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
It was never about a disputation about Jews claiming it is still necessary to be faithful to God and avoid murder, theft, lies and adultery, but about the Mosaic Law. It is still not a sin for a Jew to circumcise his flesh, but it is wrong to teach that this is required for salvation – since it is an unnecessary yoke for Jewish believers.