Arkiv

Leighton Flowers, and his misunderstanding about righteousness and the SIN nature

sinThe ordinary misconception about sin and righteousness

I can definitely recommend Dr. Leighton Flowers’ pod channel Soteriology 101 as well as his YouTube channel with the same name, because he has a great ability to humbly describe the downfalls and inconsistencies of Calvinism (although perhaps he is even a bit too humble at times). Especially Dr James White has a lot to learn from Leighton, when it comes to debating and highlighting proper exegesis. Please check out Leighton’s channel and subscribe if you want to learn more about the dark side of Calvinism and why it does not fit the scriptures.

Even though I am in awe about Leighton’s way of dealing with Calvinism and Calvinists, I would also like to point out some doctrines where I disagree with his rather common ”Baptist views”. He has correctly said that Calvinism seems to contain two types of free will, two types of love, two types of calling, etc, (or something to this effect) but he too makes a similar mistake when he claims that there are two types of righteousness in his own belief system. He is convinced that this is the only way to avoid Bible contradictions, but there is a better way without having to resort to two types of righteousness.

I am not making any exact quotes here (unless possible) because I usually listen to his podcasts while out running and not being able to take notes. Nevertheless, I have heard enough to know that he believes that there are saved sinning Christians, and that it is totally natural for Christians to sin – and abnormal if they do not. He has not said it in those exact words but that is the only conclusion one can make from his comments. I am not saying that he actively encourages Christians to sin, nor that God does not care if Christians sin (rather the contrary), but he nevertheless teaches that sinning is normal and unavoidable both for unbelievers and believers.

The issues I am thinking about are the following (I am disagreeing with all of them):

  • No one is righteous
  • We cannot stop sinning
  • We cannot obey the law of God
  • We are saved by faith alone
  • Repenting does not mean leaving all of ”the old sinning man” behind
  • Once saved always saved
  • We can get Jesus righteousness transferred into us (Jesus imputed righteousness)
  • We are born with a sinful nature due to Adam
  • Penal substitution
  • Speaking in tongues – always being understood (and not even in use)

No one is righteous – Romans 3:10

The first verse to mention is Rom. 3:10, because this verse, read in a vacuum, is often used as a proof text for other verses. It is the famous ”no one is righteous” verseThe only way to be labelled righteous in a world where no one can successfully stop sinning, is to have someone else’s righteousness transferred into himself – namely the righteousness of Jesus Christ. However, this is not what the text is saying. First of all, Paul who made this claim called himself righteous along with two of his friends, and this means that Paul believes there are in actual fact people who can call themselves righteous. I suspect that Leighton would not disagree with that, but perhaps he would add that they are only righteous because of the righteous blood of Jesus and not because they are righteous in themselves. Nevertheless, Paul claimed that he indeed lived a righteous life by his own actions (likely referring to his life as a saved believer in Jesus Christ). Paul said that the conduct of him and his friends was holy, righteous and blameless (1 Thess. 2:10) and that he had lived with a perfect conscience before God (Acts 23:1). A person cannot sin and have a perfect conscience. Jesus tells us to be perfect, which means we can.

Matt. 5:48 Be ye therefore PERFECT, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

When making the quote in Rom. 3:10, Paul starts off saying ”as it is written”, and it is of utmost importance to check this quote (see link above) in order to not misunderstand him. Paul is quoting from a couple of psalms where unrighteous people (the fools) are contrasted with righteous people (who do good and seek God). This means that even those quoted psalms claim in context that righteous people are non-existent, nor that it is impossible to seek God. Moreover, psalms are often mirroring the reality by using poetic expressions, which means that we should be careful to not take a verse from Psalms and make a doctrine out of it.

Since we have sinned, we must of course repent and be cleansed in the blood of Jesus. We have no authority to cleanse ourselves from our sins, but after having been born again the idea is that we must not revert back to our old life style but be led by the holy Spirit away from sin. We must DO righteousness! Peter, John, James and Paul say:

Acts 10:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and WORKETH righteousness, is accepted with him.

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that DOETH righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Ja. 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?—24 Ye see then how that BY WORKS a man is justified, and NOT by faith only.25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Rom. 6:6 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. — 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? — 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.

Jesus himself believes there are people who are righteous, and that those individuals therefore have no need to repent (unless they sin of course) because they have already done so. (Repentance is a requirement for salvation.) He did not come to call the righteous to repentance but the sinners.

Luke. 5:32 – I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 

Luke 15:7 – I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Jesus contrasts the righteous with the sinners, where the aforementioned are saved and the latter ones are not. This is far from the idea of ”sinning saints”.

1 Pet. 4:18 – And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

1 Cor. 6:9-10 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

works of the lawWe cannot stop sinning? Yes, people could obey the law also in the Old Testament

Leighton and others seem to take for granted that God’s law can never be fully obeyed, and especially not when it comes to the Old Testament. The idea is often that ”this is the reason that Jesus died for us, because of our inability to obey the law!”. The Bible, however, does not say that God’s commandments are too hard for us to follow, or that we are created too weak to follow them. If we do not even have an ability to fully obey God, and God is aware of this, would it really be our fault if we sinned? If we can obey and does not do so, we are guilty. If we cannot obey of no fault of our own and therefore sin out of necessity, we are not guilty.

But if we could obey, why did Jesus die? Because we have sinned. Bad choice. We are guilty sinners precisely because we could have obeyed but chose not to.

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.

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

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.

Is. 55:6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Deut. 30:10 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; 

The Bible says we are NOT saved by faith alone

A lot of Christians should take the practice to repeat the following verse a few times a day:

Ja. 2:24 Ye see then how that BY WORKS a man is justified, and NOT by faith only.

Lots of people do not even believe this verse is in the Bible, but the fact is that faith without works is dead. Also demons have faith. It is true that Paul spends a lot of time trying to get the Jews to understand that they are not saved only because they are born Jews and because of any need to follow the 613 Jewish laws (including circumcision) but that is often labelled as ”works of the law” (the law of Moses). Paul makes a clear distinction between the law of Moses and the always existing Godly laws which have always applied throughout history:

1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.  

We are not saved by faith alone.

Ja 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?—25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Repenting – a requirement for salvation

Repenting requires turning away from sin (Acts 3:19; 26:20), and the Bible promises wrath for the impenitent (no matter their faith) and not mercy. Repenting is not one and the same as confessing sins, because also agnostics and atheists might choose to confess their sins. Spending your days sinning and confessing will not save you.

If the case is that Leighton believes that no one can confess their sins without the holy Spirit working in them first, there are Bible verses which speak against it. Sure, we are created to seek God and find him (Acts. 17:27) so in this way we are all ”drawn” to him and divinely created to come to him (if we so desire), but the Bible says that we get the holy Spirit after that we confess and repent (see verses below). Having the holy Spirit does not mean we will automatically obey him.

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

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.  

Act 26:20 – But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should REPENT and turn to God, and do WORKS meet for repentance.

Mar 6:12 – And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Mat 4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  

Gal. 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.— 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.

Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

osas 10Once saved always saved – the devil’s lie

It is not God’s responsibility to make sure that we endure to the end and do not fall back into sins. If anyone chooses to sin, perhaps by getting involved in adultery and lies, it is always and only his/her own fault and therefore not possible to blame God for not holding him tight enough or for not completing the salvation process all the way into eternity. It is very common to say that the person ”was not saved to begin with” if he gets involved in heavy sin, but the Bible (and real life) is full of examples with people who have died spiritually due to sin (like the prodigal son). Sure, some of them chose to repent and returned back to life, but it is not certain that everyone will choose to do this.

Leighton says: ”— God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. ” and ”We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.”

It is the devil who taught ”Ye shall not surely die” to the God-believing Eve, but he lied. Sinning always has and always will cause spiritual death – unless the person repents. (Repenting means turning away from sin.) A branch in the vine (Jesus) can be cut off due to lack of fruit.

Rom. 6:21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is DEATH.— 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive AGAIN; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Rom. 11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Also in the Old Testament we can read that a righteous person (someone who does righteousness) will not be aided by his previous righteousness if he sins again. He will rather die in his sins if he lives in sin.

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,— 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.14 Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like,—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.

Imputed righteousnessimputed righteousness

You will never read in the Bible that we can get Jesus righteousness imputed into us. Not even in Rom. 4. Yes, we can read about ”imputed” righteousness, but not from Jesus Christ. The word ”imputed” comes from the Greek word ”logizomai” (Strong’s 3049)  and does not mean ”transfer”, but rather ”reckoned” or ”counted as”. If we have repented from our sins, and become totally cleansed, we are reckoned as righteous because we are. This will last as long as we keep ourselves righteous and do not become dirty again. Remember that WE must do righteousness, and we are told to not be deceived about this. Do not let anyone tell you that you can be regarded as righteous in God’s eyes while still living in sin, or that you can combine righteousness with sin and still be ok.

But wait a minute – does not the Bible warn us from thinking we can trust in our own righteousness? (Rom. 10:3; Phil 3.9) Yes, but what does this really mean? It means that we should not believe that we can be saved because of a permanent good standing with God which can never be changed no matter what we do. We should not do as the Jews, who believed they were always acceptable in God’s eyes because they were born as Jews, were sons of Abraham, etc. If a righteous person trusts in his own righteousness and commits sin, he must forget about being right with God due to that sin. This is the message we can read in Ez. 33:13, and it is still applicable.

Ez. 33:13 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.

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that DOETH righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Read more about ”imputed” righteousness here.

The sinful nature

It is good news that Leighton does not believe that people are responsible for having inherited a nature inclined towards sin (which means they are without guilt), but I do not even believe we have inherited a sinful nature in the first place. If we have inherited a nature inclined towards sin, what is the huge difference between the disposition of Adam and Eve? Why did they sin? Did they too have a nature inclined towards sin since they in fact did sin? Apparently they could choose to sin just as easily as their descendants, and this is evidence of that our nature did not change, which explains why the Bible does not claim it. If our nature would have changed due to our forefathers’ sin, why does the Bible not say so considering that this is rather significant information? Romans 5 and Ephesians 2 do not say it, nor any psalms.

Leigthon says: ”— because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.  — We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty (?) before he has personally sinned.”

Penal substitution theory (originally from Anselm)

I believe that Jesus Christ died to REMOVE our sins, which is a big price to pay (his own life). I do not believe that Jesus paid for our sins, or that our sins somehow ended up in his body before they were eventually removed. Nor do I believe that Jesus took the penalty that we should have, on himself and instead of us. The punishment due to us is destruction and hell, which Jesus did not take on himself. Jesus did not die as a substitution in penalty but a substitution for penalty, under certain conditions. The atonement is a substitute for our penalty so that our penalty itself can be remitted in forgiveness by the mercy of God. If Jesus had paid for our sins, then our sins would be forgiven before we sinned and even long before were even born. Paid is paid. A breach of God’s law is either paid or forgiven – not both.

John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Speaking in tongues – ”no man understandeth him” (1 Cor. 14:2)

I am not exactly sure what Leighton’s view is about speaking in tongues or the spiritual gifts in general, but I have listened to a podcast which makes me suspect that he has the common ”baptist” view of the spiritual gifts – which means that he believes that spiritual tongues are always understood, and actually not even in use. A preacher such as Benny Hinn is unfortunately often used by non-charismatic preachers to represent churches which make use of the spiritual gifts.

1 Cor.12:13 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed:and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. —9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: — 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?31 But COVET EARNESTLY the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

1 Cor. 14:1 Follow after charity, and DESIRE SPIRITUAL GIFTS, but rather that ye may prophesy.2 For he that speaketh in an UNKNOWN tongue speaketh not unto men, but UNTO GOD for NO MAN UNDERSTANDETH HIM; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. — 4 He that speaketh in an UNKNOWN TONGUE edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5 I WOULD THAT YE ALL SPAKE WITH TONGUES but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. — 12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are ZEALOUS of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.14 For if I pray in an UNKNOWN TONGUE, my spirit prayeth, but MY UNDERSTANDING IS UNFRUITFUL.15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding ALSO: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. — 18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. — 28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

SO we should not forbid anyone to speak in tongues (so not discourage it), but we should DESIRE, COVET EARNESTLY and be ZEALOUS to speak in tongues – and even better; to do so when it comes to even better gifts like prophesying and healing (in order to edify even more people). The question is: Do we all obey this? Are we eager to get the gifts? Do we encourage others to get the gifts and explain to them what wonderful gifts which are awaiting them? If not, why not obeying Paul’s advice?

Some things we can learn from the above:

  • Paul explains the different parts of the body of the church, where prophesies, tongues, healing, etc, are some of the parts. He does not say that this body would  cease to exist within a few years.
  • There is such a thing called ”an unknown tongue”, which we are requested to eagerly seek. It means: no one understands.
  • We should desire the spiritual gifts (that is all of them, but especially those who can benefit the most people).
  • No one understands the tongues (unless they are interpreted).
  • Interpretation of the tongues is a separate gift, indicating that the original tongues must be interpreted if they are intended to be understood. 1 Cor. 14:13 is just one verse proving that it is not certain that a person who is able to speak in tongues automatically also has the gift of interpretation and able to know his/her own tongues.
  • Edification of oneself is a good thing (or else you must not pray for your own health, strength, wisdom, etc). Being able to edify even more people is of course even better.
  • Paul wished that all of the Christian Corinthians (and likely therefore all Christians) spoke in tongues, and he never added that this wish only applied for a certain time/generation.
  • If there is no interpreter available in church (which might be the case), then the person should pray in tongues to himself and to God. He is never told to forget about speaking in tongues because people are able to fake them.
  • We are asked to pray in two ways, we should pray/sing with the spirit (not understanding the words), or the opposite way which is praying/singing with our understanding and spirit. It depends on if you pray for yourself to God, or if you pray/speak edify other people.
  • Paul spends 3 chapter talking about speaking in tongues and other spiritual gifts, and he does not discourage it anywhere. He does the exact opposite and he wishes that everyone would speak in tongues.

Finally, a film by Torben Söndergaard. A Danish preacher who highlights both the importance of repentance and the fact that Christians should go out and preach the gospel, heal the sick, etc.

 

 

The parable of the TWO SONS – who said one thing and did the opposite – Matt. 21:28-32

repent2”He repented and WENT” (Matt. 21:29)

We are supposed to ”walk the talk” instead of just paying lip-service to God’s request of being obedient. The first idiom means ”performing actions consistent with one’s claims” and the second one means ”giving approval or support insincerely”. There are numerous parables in the Bible and while they might each convey different principles, most of them also show that we are justified by works and not only by faith (Ja. 2:24). This is normally the opposite story of what you might hear in church due to the teachings of men like John Calvin and Martin Luther.

1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. (NKJV)

Matt. 5:20 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.

Here is the parable (KJV) about the two sons who said one thing and did the opposite:

Matt. 21:28 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.29 He answered and said, I WILL NOT: but afterward he REPENTED, and WENT.30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I GO, SIR: and WENT NOT.31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, REPENTED NOT afterward, that ye might believe him.

These sons can represent anyone of us, but they might also represent two distinct  groups. The first son might represent those pharisees/Jews who claim to obey God but do not, and the other son might represent the publicans/harlots (or gentiles) who choose to obey God after having repented of their deep sins. During the time of Jesus, there were Jewish leaders who claimed to be obedient to God but did not show it with their life style. They might automatically have thought that they were the never-ceasing obedient ones since they viewed themselves as the chosen ones, the first-born, the sons of Abraham, the group of privilege, etc.

The Jewish leaders likely identified themselves with the first son who obeyed God, but Jesus disagreed (Matt. 21:32). They forgot that the this son repented of his thoughts and turned around (unlike themselves). Also, when Jesus says publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you”, he does not promise that sinners can enter heaven without the need to change their lives. The reason why they were stronger candidates for God’s kingdom than the pharisees, is because they were more likely to confess their sins and repent – which the pharisees felt they had no need for.

This parable might make us think about the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18. Many misunderstand this parable and believe that the main teaching is that you should at all costs avoid thinking that righteousness has anything to do with salvation (it does), but rather that you should trust the idea that the sinners can be labelled righteous despite their sins, and righteous people can be labelled awful sinners just because of their conviction that they are righteous. This is not what the parable is saying. Just like in the parable of the two sons, repentance is still required for forgiveness and salvation. The point in the parable of Luke 18 is rather that the pharisees/Jews should not trust in their salvation just because they are born as Jews as though this would automatically make them righteous and accepted. They should rather confess their sins, repent and walk in the steps of that faith of Abraham (Rom. 4:12). The Pharisee in the parable did not even feel that he even needed to be saved from sin due to being convinced of that he lacked it. The publican on the other hand confessed his sins from a humble heart (he wanted to be freed from sin), and since repentance is a requirement for salvation, this confession must be viewed as part of this repentance. Righteousness (your own and not someone else’s) is not the same as self-righteousness.

This is what the publican did:

1 John 3:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 3:If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

John 8:11 (Jesus)— go, and sin no more 

In the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, it is the oldest son who is usually regarded as the one representing the Pharisees/Jews (but the parable applies to anyone where the shoe fits). The great principle in that parable is that the Father always stands ready with open arms to welcome back his disobedient son, but he does not go out and force him back. It is the son who finally admits his sins, repents and chooses to return back to his Father. The son went from life, to death, to life again. Too many people are eager to get the forgiveness part of the story, without the ceasing from sin part.

Peter understood the mission of Jesus:

Acts 10:35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25) tells the same story. Some virgins took action by bringing extra oil to their lamps, and this enabled them to join the bride groom in the wedding – not the others. The parable of the talents shows that obedient servants will enter into the joy of the Lord: ”Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” The parable of the sheep and the goats also shows the same principle. The sheep were called the righteous ones, and the reason for this is because they provided food, drink, shelter, clothes and visits (good deeds) to their fellow-man, and they therefore also inherited the kingdom of God – not the others.  

The other parable in Matt. 21:33 (apart from the one about the two sons), concerns at least two main teachings. One concerns the importance of accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the son of God and the corner-stone. The other concerns the importance of being a good servant and render him (God) the fruits in their seasons”.

Matt. 21:33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.46 But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

dove 2Matt. 21 also contains this marvellos promise:

Matt. 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Something else to think about if someone claims that it is a sin to be too righteous (because of the weird idea that it would make you a self-righteous Pharisee who clings to works-based salvation):

2 Tim. 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. —3 — false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Is. 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

”For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law”, Rom 2:12

works of the lawPeople can perform righteousness without having heard about the Bible content

The common question about the inhabitants in the jungle ”What about those who live in the jungle and who have never heard about the gospel?”

People are certainly not doomed due to the unfortunate circumstances of having been born in the jungle with no chance to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Romans 2 tells us:

Rom. 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;

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: 

Apparently people are able to naturally do the things contained in the law even though they do not have it written down for them. In this case it does not mean all the 613 Jewish laws containing many ceremonial aspects, but it does mean the law of love, or the law of God that has existed ever since the days of Adam and Eve. It has always been against nature to murder, steal, lie and commit adultery. On the question (from a young man) what one must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus did not say ”Just believe in me”, but he said:

Mark. 10:19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Other versions of the same story:

Matt. 19:17 — if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

Luke 10:26 — What is written in the law? how readest thou?27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

If you love God with all your heart, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself, then you automatically also follow the other detailed commandments, to not murder, steal, lie, commit adultery and dishonor your parents. Adam and Eve were not only expected to not eat of the tree of knowledge, but both prior to their sin and afterwards they were expected to stand with their Creator and by doing so obey the basic commandments. The promise for us today is ”Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If we truly walk with God, we automatically obey his commandments. If we truly love God, we naturally obey him.

Also the people in the jungle know that there is a Creator (his divine attributes can clearly be seen in nature) and that it is wrong to treat others in a way that we would not like to be treated ourselves. To take another person’s life, or to steal, lie and cause someone to be jealous and sad, are things that our conscience will tell us are wrong. It is true that we can learn to make our conscience more flexible with time, but this does not change the fact that we are deviating from the law of love. Our upbringing, traditions and culture can affect our understanding and reasoning, but in the end we have all been given a conscience and God will judge us based on our thoughts and actions.

Rom. 1:18-32 makes it very clear that we have no excuse if we do not seek our Creator and do good:

Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  —28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Romans 2 and sinning without the lawfree will 2

It says in Rom. 2:1-3 that God will pay attention to how we judge others, and he will judge us accordingly – and most of all righteously. God can see the whole truth about our hearts. v. 5-8 continues to explain how God will judge us. If we want to escape his wrath on the day judgment (or the day of wrath), we must obey the truth and patiently do good. If we harden our hearts and do not obey the truth, we will be in big trouble unless we repent. This is about a spiritual life or death:

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. 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

Paul continues to explain that it is actually the doers of the law who will be justified. Also gentiles can ”do” the law (without having the law) and this includes also people in the jungle:

Rom. 2:12 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;)16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

The NKJV renders v. 15: ”who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)”. 

Paul made a clear distinction between the Jewish law and the law of love (which has always been in force):

1 Cor. 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, BUT KEEPING OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.

Rom. 2 ends with Paul explaining to the Jews (who are the ones in focus in his letter since they are confused about the law) that gentiles can indeed fulfill the law – people who might not be circumcised but who do what the law says. It is the heart that counts (the inside) and not an outwardly circumcision.

Rom. 2:25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?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.

Jesus said (of course without suggesting that circumcision is a sin):

Matt. 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

So do we not need Jesus since we could be saved without him? Yes of course we do. There is no forgiveness without the blood, and Jesus shed his blood for us as a final sacrifice once and for all (more in Hebrews). We have no authority to forgive ourselves for our own sins. The gospel about Jesus Christ urges people to repent from their sin and live in the light. People need to hear about Jesus and what he did for humanity. They need to understand the love that God has for us. Jesus is the living bread!

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Naturally we cannot believe in Jesus Christ if we have not heard about him:

Rom. 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

The law was the Jews’ schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, and when Christ came this detailed 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. 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled 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

1 mos. 3Being saved prior to Jesus, in the Old Testament

People who lived prior to Jesus Christ made an entrance to earth as God in flesh could of course be saved without having heard about him. Naturally the people of Israel had heard about God their Creator, but Paul’s explanation in Romans 1-2 applies both for them and for the gentiles. Moreover, people who lived prior to Moses could of course be saved as well without having heard about the son of God. They too had laws to obey, despite the absence of commandments written on stone tablets. God said early about sin:

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.

In Ezekiel we can find a good explanation how we can be saved. By believing in God and do good (just like in the New Testament):

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.

You can see the same story in Ez. 33.

Which laws / commandments must we obey according to Jesus / New Testament?

law

We are not supposed to live in lawlessness

There have always been commandments to obey:

  • Between the time – from Adam and Moses
  • Between the time – from Moses to Jesus (the Jewish law)
  • Between the time – from Jesus to present

The moral laws which applied from the very beginning still apply – maybe apart from the commandment to not eat of the forbidden fruit, something we cannot even do due to no access. Nevertheless, numerous Christians tend to believe we are somehow free from the burden of having to obey God because Jesus died on the cross and resurrected, and because of the idea that he ”took our sins on himself” and died instead of us. The Bible however tells us that we are slaves to the one we obey, so if we obey sin we are slaves to sin and not free at all. We are still risking God’s wrath.

What does Jesus say?

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus lists the following things which we must do to get eternal life:

  1. not murder
  2. not commit adultery
  3. not steal
  4. not bear false witness 
  5. honour your father and mother
  6. love your neighbour as yourself

Matt. 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

In the gospel of Mark he has a slightly different order, and he adds ”defraud not”, and skips ”love your neighbour as yourself”.  This of course does not mean that the authors are in disagreement even if they highlight different things. To love God and our neighbor as ourselves is self-evident and the foundation of the Jewish faith. In the gospel of Luke, we can again see the same five commandments (similar as in Matthew and Mark), but also Luke seems to assume that loving God and our neighbor is self-evident for a Jew and this foundation does not even need to be mentioned.

We also know from the rest of the story that the young man continued talking to Jesus, and claimed he had kept all those commandments from youth (true or false?). What else did he lack? Well, Jesus said that if he wanted to be ”perfect”, then he should sell all that he had and give to the poor, which would give him a treasure in heaven. He also said to the young man to follow him. We cannot be sure what sort of ”perfect” Jesus is talking about here. In Matt. 5:48 we are requested to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, but it is also possible to be perfect in other ways, such as physically perfect (which evidently Matt. 5:48 does not refer to). If the young ruler would accomplish the perfection that Jesus was talking about here, he could expect ”a treasure in heaven”. Is obeying the mentioned commandments necessary to ”get eternal life” while getting rid of the other obstacle (selling possessions which distract from God) necessary if we want to be perfect and get an extra treasure in heaven? Jesus does indicate that it is very hard for rich people to enter the kingdom of God, so if possessions hinder us to focus on God then they might also hinder us to get eternal life. It is safe to assume that Jesus could not have meant that the young man must get rid of 100% of all his belongings, because not even Jesus and his disciples accomplished that. We know of great many people in the Bible who also had many possessions, but who were also fully committed to God. Jesus probably sensed that this young man had many possessions enticing him, and therefore phrased himself the way he did. For this man the many possessions seemed to be holding him back, and he likely placed his possessions before God.

In the gospel of Mark the story is similar, but it adds the information that Jesus loved this young man. Jesus felt that this young man lacked one thing, and again it was the many possessions which were in the way. Jesus did not say it was impossible for the young man to be saved, but for many rich people it seems a lot harder.

Mark. 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

According to Luke (assuming it is the same young man), we get the information that he is a ruler (ἄρχων, Strong’s 758)

Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Some might say Jesus mentioned the above commandments while the Mosaic law (as per the old testament) still applied since he had not yet died on the cross and resurrected, but again the moral laws still apply. Sin will continue to separate us from God, and Satan will always be wrong for suggesting the opposite (that sin will not lead to death).

One commandment covers all of the commandments

Jesus of course mentions other examples of things we must ”do” to get eternal life, but those things can all be wrapped up in ”Love God before everything else, and love one another”. If we obey this one commandment, we automatically obey all the rest.

Luke 10:25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Matt. 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?37 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.38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Mark. 12:28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?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.

Rom. 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled 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

Jesus specifically tells his disciples (and all of us) to go out and teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded them. 

Matt. 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

James advice about which laws gentiles should obeylaw of God

Below we can read that James does not feel that they should trouble the gentiles when it comes to which laws which should apply for them when it comes to the Jewish law, except that they should abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. ”Immorality” (πορνείας/porneias, Strong’s 4202) can also have the meaning of ”fornication”. (According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon πορνεία can be used metaphorically referring to the worship of idols and/or the defilement of idolatry as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols).

Clearly James, Paul and the other disciples did not claim that gentiles are exempted from obeying any commandments at all. They are specifically talking about the Jewish law in relation to new gentile Christians. Apart from the moral law (the commandments which have always applied ever since Adam, and which Jesus repeats above), James proposes that the only Mosaic laws which they should also obey are to abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication (probably with the meaning as per the Greek lexicon above). They do not list murder, adultery, theft, etc, because they are included in the moral commandments and it is self-evident that Jews and gentiles alike must continue to avoid such things until the end of times.

Acts 15:13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: 14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:16 ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;I will rebuild its ruins,And I will set it up;17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.’18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.19 Therefore I judge that we should NOT TROUBLE those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality*, from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (NKJV)

Acts 21:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. — 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.—   24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, EXCEPT that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” (NKJV)