Etikettarkiv | commandment

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)

Annonser

Psalm 119 about undefiled believers who obeyed the law of God

law of GodWhen you read the below psalm 119 (also called Alfa-Beta), do you get the impression that the writer feels that he cannot completely obey the law of  God and that he has been unsuccessful in seeking God with all his heart? I get the exact opposite picture; that he is confident of that he has obeyed every single commandment that God has given him. Maybe he doesn’t claim to have done this his entire life but at least for a very long time, and he also appears rather confident of that he can continue to be faithful to God for the rest of his life.  The secret is to be near God (through prayers, songs, Bible reading and testimonies) and to let his law be in our hearts.

This psalm is believed to have been written by King David (starts with Aleph which is the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet), and it’s actually the longest chapter in the whole Bible with 176 verses. The torah is referred to throughout the chapter and also some synonyms for the torah (such as dabar for ”word, promise” and mishpatim for ”rulings”). Those are blessed who are undefiled and who walk in the law of God, and they are not non-existent since the writer speaks about them as a reality.

Psalm 119Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.Blessed are they that keep His testimonies and that seek Him with the whole heart.They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.Thou hast COMMANDED us to keep Thy precepts diligently;.I will keep Thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly!How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee; O let me not wander from Thy commandments!11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.—21 Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, that err from Thy commandments.22 Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept Thy testimonies.—.30 I have chosen the way of truth; Thy judgments have I laid before me.32 I will run in the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart.33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall keep it unto the end.34 Give me understanding and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.35 Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments, for therein do I delight.36 Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness;.44 So shall I keep Thy law continually, for ever and ever.45 And I will walk in liberty, for I seek Thy precepts.—.51 The proud have held me greatly in derision, yet have I not departed from Thy law.53 Horror hath taken hold upon me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law.54 Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.55 I have remembered Thy name, O Lord, in the night and have kept Thy law.56 This I had, because I kept Thy precepts.57 Thou art my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Thy words.58 I entreated Thy favor with my whole heart; be merciful unto me according to Thy word.59 I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.60 I made haste, and delayed not to keep Thy commandments.63 I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept Thy word.68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.69 The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart.73 Thy hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments.—101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep Thy word.—112 I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end.—115 Depart from me, ye evildoers, for I will keep the commandments of my God.—

Also God seems to believe that we can be successful in obeying his commandments.

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. 11For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. —14But the word is VERY NIGH unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, THAT THOU MAYEST DO IT. 15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; 16In 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. 17But IF thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. 19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 

SABBATH DAY on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter

The Sabbath Day was part of the Israeli Covenant, but we are now living under the New Testament, and it’s faith and baptism that are the major signs for a follower of Jesus.

I think the best explanation for the need of a day of rest is found in Exodus 22. God created the heavens and the earth in six days for a reason, and that’s because he wanted to make it as a foundation for us – as a life pattern when it comes to work and rest. We should take the original creation week as an example to follow in our every day lives. If we didn’t have this work-6-days-and-rest-1-day-pattern, there is a risk we would work and struggle all days alike, especially if we would notice that ”everyone else does it so why should I be any different? I don’t want to come across as lazy”.

Exodus 22:Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and the children of Israel in the old testament, and it was very serious to break the law of the Sabbath. The death penalty applied! This might sound harsh for us today, but we must remember that the Israelites were supposed to mirror God’s light also unto the gentiles so if God would look between his fingers when it came to breaking his law all other people would get the message that it’s not a big deal whether to obey the God of Israel or not.

Exodus 12:Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.

Exodus 31:13 Speak thou also UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.17 IT IS A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVER: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

The Jewish custom was, and still is today, to observe the Sabbath day on Saturday. There are also many references in the book of Acts about the early Christian church meeting together on a Saturday to pray and study the Scriptures, like in Acts 13:13-14, 16:13 and 17:2. Every mention of the Sabbath in the book of Acts are always in connection with Jewish worship on that day. Paul constantly went to the temple to preach (sometimes he was accepted and sometimes he was thrown out) and it was his strategy to try to reach the Jews in their own community where they were to be found. Peter said:

Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

It’s possible that the first christians continued meeting on Saturdays (the Sabbath) the first few years since this is what they did as jews, but some believe the early church began meeting on Sundays soon after Christ rose from the dead in honor of the Lord’s resurrection – which took place on a Sunday (or the first day of the week). Many other divine events also happened on a Sunday. After Jesus’ resurrection whenever he met with his disciples and where the day is identified, it is never on the Sabbath but always the first day of the week!Others see the change to meet up on Sundays as a gradual progression over the course of history. Christian groups that adhere to a Sunday worship feel that the Lord’s command was not specifically for the seventh day but rather one day out of the seven week days (which would also make it the 7th day after six days of work). By focusing on worship on Sunday (what many refer to as ”the Lord’s Day”) instead of Saturday, could symbolically represent the acceptance of Christ as Messiah and his broadening blessing and redemption from the Jews to the entire world. That’s not really a sinful reason to highlight Sunday instead of Saturday.

In Russian the word for Sunday is Воскресенье (Voskreseniye) which means”Resurrection”. In other Slavic languages the word means ”no work”, for example Polish: Niedziela, Belorussian: Нядзеля, Croatian: Nedjelja, Serbian and Slovenian: Nedelja, Czech: Neděle,Bulgarian: Неделя. The Modern Greek word for Sunday, Κυριακή, derives from Κύριος (Lord) also, due to its liturgical significance as the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e.The Lord’s Day. (Wikipedia)

Acts 2:46 tells us that from the start, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple (that’s also where the jews were) and gathered to break bread together in private homes:

Acts. 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Paul instructs the churches to meet together on the first day of the week (Sunday) to give offerings. Traditionally Sunday has always been considered as the first day of the week. If they met up to make such collections, why not take the chance to worship during the same occasion since they were all gathered together? If Saturday was considered THE day of worship, wouldn’t it make more sense for Paul to make a collection during this day since the christians were already gathered?:

1 Cor. 16: 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

When Paul met with believers in Troas to worship, preach to them and break bread with them, they gathered on the first day of the week:

Acts 20:And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together

Jesus explains that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the sabbath. This could mean that the disciples shouldn’t view the Sabbath day as an obstacle for them but rather arrange their lives in such a way so that they could honor it without having to feel it makes things difficult for them and is a burden in their lives. Today we should approach the day of rest wisely and avoid falling into any ditch. The Apostle John refers to the Lord’s Day (”kuriake hemera”) in Rev. 1:10. ”Kuriake”, meaning ”Lord’s,” later became the Greek word for Sunday.  Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and that day fell on the seventh day. The majority of Christians observe Sunday as the Lord’s day:

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

We are not bound by a certain day

Jesus is the fulfilling of the Old Sabbath and our rest is in Him. We now commit to that rest as we continue in the faith.

Romans 14 shows that there is personal freedom regarding the observance of holy days. Some might suggest that this passage is only about FOOD, but I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Paul starts off warning about ”doubtful disputations” and that seems to be the core of his argument. He provides the subject of food as his first example of where disputations might occur, and his point is that we should not judge each concerning minor issues such as meat or fasting but let God be the judge. Paul says in Rom. 14:3 that those who eat meat are not better or worse than those who do not eat meat (so judging is out-of-place), but in 1 Cor 8 he has a slightly different point because there he explains that our conduct can affect other people’s spiritual safety. So we should still think about our behavior so we won’t cause others to fall:

1 Cor. 8:8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

In Rom. 5 Paul proceeds with his second example when it comes to ”doubtful disputations” and brings up the way we regard ”days”:

Rom. 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

His point is still that we should not judge each other concerning minor issues:

Rom. 14:For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Also in Col. 2 Christians are instructed not to judge each other regarding the Sabbath days. This might suggest the early christians had already been judged for their different observances of Sabbath and festivals.

Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

This covers:

• days (weekly Sabbaths, corresponding to ”Sabbath days”)
• months (new moons, corresponding to ”a new moon”)
• seasons (the 7 feasts, corresponding to ”festivals”)
• and years (the sabbatical year and the 50th year of Jubilee)

In Galatians 4, Paul is concerned about Christians who are turning back like slaves to legalistic observances of special days:

Gal. 4: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.11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

We should be ”fully convinced” that whichever day we choose is the right day for us to set aside as a day of worship, and we should not judge or allow anyone to judge us regarding our choice.

How important is Sabbath TODAY?

A person who is born today (2012) will notice when he grows up that SUNDAY is the day when christians normally meet for worship. That’s the case in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and throughout the whole world – with a few exceptions. So the vast majority of christians. Can we really require that this person must study church history (to find out that we are supposed to celebrate Sabbath on a Saturday) in order to get essential knowledge about Jesus Christ?! This person might not even like to read books, and particularly not about church history and about how jews and christians celebrated the Sabbath 2,000 years ago. One would think that Jesus would have offered us some light in the matter if it was so important to get the days straight, but the main memory we have about Jesus in relation to the Sabbath day is that he broke it. We DO know that it’s important to assemble together with other christians and to live holy! Is it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that we try to make the christian world start worshiping on Saturdays instead of Sundays, and why? Who is the one getting annoyed when we listen to the exact same sermon on a Sunday instead of Saturday? Paul helped us in his letters by providing us instructions for how to behave in church, but he didn’t mention that there is a particular day that we must meet on.

There are many countries and cities where christians are scarce and that means that there are not that many churches to choose between for worship and fellowship. We can only select among the best churches available. If you insist on that Saturday is THE day to celebrate a Sabbath, then you can of course try to contact the pastor in a church and ask him if he would consider persuading the elders to have church services on Saturdays instead of Sundays. I doubt you will succeed though! And if you have not succeeded, and if there are no other churches available, will you stay home alone? And how Biblical is THAT (to stay away from meetings with other christians)?

When we try to find the best church available in our area, is the question of the Sabbath really that important? Isn’t it more important to investigate what the pastors teach in the church (whenever they do teach), and if the pastors highlight repentance, salvation in Jesus Christ, the blood on the cross, the importance to make other disciples, the spiritual gifts, righteousness, etc? It’s also important to avoid churches which don’t have the Bible as their solid foundation but base their teachings on a person. Of course pastors are bound to color Bible texts with their own understanding (this is what preaching entails), but if they use other scriptures or texts apart from the Bible then we must be on our guard. I’m of course not saying it’s wrong to bring up wise words (or entire sermons) from other christians who have gone before them as long as they are Biblical, but I’m only warning about false prophets who bring in heresy into church and possibly also division.

Society looks completely different today than it did 2,000 years ago. Today it’s common for a family to have both parents working full-time and at a good stretch from home, and that means they might very well be away from home about 11 hours/day (including lunch hour and time for commuting). On top of this they might have to pick up their kids from the daycare center before hurrying home to fix dinner (using groceries that perhaps someone else in the family had time to buy after his/her work or school). For most people they have no option to get an alternative life style since the job that are offered are full-time or no time, and they do need to get a salary to get food on the table and to pay taxes. Needless to say, that when Saturday finally arrives they are very tired and prefer to sleep in late, clean the house, wash clothes, visit parents/relatives and spend some time with the kids. Some also take the chance to go shopping on Saturday, believing Sunday is the day of rest and a day which should not be used for shopping. This mean that they are better prepared in all sorts of way for a worship together with other christians on Sunday, and they might even feel like bringing friends home after the church service because the house is in order after a week’s mess. Had the day of special worship been on a Saturday it could tempt weak christians to stay home from church altogether. Again, Sabbath is made for man and not the other way around. If a village that is blessed to have a church (meaning they have a group of christians in this village), and the church has an arrangement that works very well among them and which isn’t against the Bible in any way, then why not keep it that way?

Can we blame Constantine for that we worship on Sundays?

Constantine is oft blamed for various things, such as the idea that we believe in the trinity due to him, but the change of day was not instituted by him or the pope centuries after the apostles nor was it made to replace the Sabbath day. Some Sabbatarians particularly have the council of Laodicea in mind, held in 364 A.D.  There is much historical evidence to show Sunday worship was a universal practice of all the churches outside the land of Israel by the beginning of the 2nd century. What did take place at that Council was an anti-semitic move to make it illegal for christians to worship on Saturday. There were thousands of christians already worshiping on Sundays. 

”Anti-Judaism played its part in second-century Christian polemic against Jewish Sabbath observance, but it does not follow that it motivated the introduction of Christian Sunday worship. For we have already argued that Sunday worship dates back to the first century, while few second-century writers compare and contrast the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday. Derogatory discussions of the Jewish Sabbath do not usually refer to the Christian Sunday. If Sunday were a recent substitute for the Jewish Sabbath, we should expect far more discussion of the superiority of Sunday to the Sabbath.” R. J. Bauckham, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, p. 271, edited by D.A. Carson.

The old church fathers also promoted worship on a Sunday

Philip Schaff (a noted historian) writes in the Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia of religious knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 Article on Sunday.

”Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lords day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the new testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal.

In other words these meetings were not to replace the Sabbath but held as a whole new day. There is a view that the Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest and the first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work. The Sabbath is then a day of rest and quiet and the first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday.The New Testament Church saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath.  Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning.

The epistle of Ignatius, AD 107

”Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace….If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and By His death.”

Barnabas, 120 AD

”Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus rose again from the dead”

The writings of Justin Martyr, AD 145-150 Justin’s ‘Apology’ was written at Rome about the year 140, only 44 years after the apostle John received the vision of The Revelation at Patmos. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says this about Justin’s works:

”In these works Justin professes to present the system of doctrine held by all Christians and seeks to be orthodox on all points. The only difference he knows of as existing between Christians concerned the millennium. Thus Justin is an incontrovertible witness for the unity of the faith in the Church of his day, and the fact that the Gentile type of Christianity prevailed.” Quoted by Canright in The Compete Testimony of the Early Fathers, Fleming H. Revell, 1916, pp. 24-25.

NOTE: At this early date, AD 140, the only major difference among Christians was concerning the millennium. At that time they had no disagreement in keeping Sunday, and as you will see, Justin says that was the day on which all Christians worshipped.

In chapter 67 of his first Apology, entitled, ”Weekly Worship of the Christians” writing to the pagan emperor, Justin states:

”…we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought the change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 185-186 (emphasis added).

Didache, AD 80-90

”And on the day of our lords resurrection, which is the Lord’s day meet more diligently.”

Irenaeus, AD 155-202

”The Mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, and on this alone should we observe the breaking off of the Paschal Feast.”

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Church life in the 2nd Century:

”On the day of the resurrection of the Lord–that is, the Lord’s Day–assemble yourself together without fail, giving thanks to God and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ.”

Dionysius, AD 170 Dionysius was Bishop of Corinth, the Church which Paul raised up and to which he gave the command about Sunday collections, in I Corinthians 16:1-2:

We passed this holy Lord’s Day, in which we read your letter, from the constant reading of which we shall be able to draw admonition.Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, Chapt. 23 

Clement of Alexandria, AD 194

”He, in fulfillment of the precept, keeps the Lord’s day when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself” Book 7, Chapter 12

Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, AD 108:

”If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him…Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for ”he that does not work, let him not eat.”…let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]” ”Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 62-63

Tertullian of Africa, AD 200: In his Apology, Chapter 16:

”We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath, and devote it to ease and eating, deviating from the old Jewish customs, which they are now very ignorant of.”

Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christian, because it is a well- known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 123).

NOTE: The early church explained why they prayed toward the east. It was because, ”as the lightning which lighteneth from the east and is seen even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be:” that by this we might know and understand that He will appear from the east suddenly” Ancient Syriac Documents, The Ante- Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, p. 668.

Pliny’s letter, AD 107 Pliny was governor of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, from AD 106-108. He wrote in AD 107 to Trajan, the emperor, concerning the Christians:

”They were wont to meet together, on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as God….When these things were performed, it was their custom to separate and then to come together again to a meal which they ate in common without any disorder.”

All these quotes prove the Church held Sunday as a significant day long before any edict in the 300’s.

Does the Bible really teach that we should worship on Saturdays?

The day of the week to assemble should be the church’s choice, and many churches today have Saturday services as well as Sunday. The NT has no legislation for which day we are to assemble and history shows the early church chose Sunday because of its significance and not because they hated the Sabbath.

We can find 9 of the commandments from Ex.20:3-4 repeated in the New Testament but the 4thone is not. Maybe there is a reason for this. The Bible offers no command that we must assemble on the Sabbath (Saturday) for worship and there was absolutely no warning against Sunday worship.

At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, dealing with how the Gentiles are to practice their Christianity, it does not mention the Sabbath. Paul states ”for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he isa debtor to the whole law. (Gal.5:3) This can be substituted with any part of the Mosaic law; diet, clothing or the Sabbath.  James and Hebrews were written to the dispersed Israel, but they never refer to continue keeping the Sabbath day because even Jewish believers were not obligated. Peter exhorts the leadership of the Church not to place the Gentiles under the Law:

Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they

What some have done is use fear and devious manipulation to prove one is under the wrath of God by simply worshipping on a day apart from the Covenant given to Moses!

Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Note that the Holy Spirit told them NOT to lay upon the Gentiles any greater burden than those essentials. It seems like the Holy Spirit didn’t think Sabbath keeping was essential thing any more. If we are to believe that we need to keep the Sabbath  on Saturdays – just like they did in the OT – then the question is why we should pick and choose among the rules related to this special day, and why we should not also keep these instructions in mind:

-It was to be kept from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32)
-No burden was to be carried (Jer. 17:21)
-No fire kindled (Ex. 35:3)
-No Cooking done (Ex. 16:23)
-The penalty for doing any of these things during the Sabbath was DEATH (Numbers 15).

In the New Testament we are provided with lists of SINS that separate us from God and prevent us from entering his kingdom. These lists are often repeated. Nowhere is breaking the Sabbath listed as a sin that causes spiritual death.

If the Sabbath keeping is so important for a disciple of Christ, why didn’t Jesus or his apostles command Sabbath keeping?

We are often asked to find one verse in the Bible that shows the day of worship has been changed from Saturday to Sunday, but this is a moot point because it doesn’t matter what day you worship on.

PHARAOH is told to have hardened his own heart – Bible verses

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth (Rom 9:17) 

God’s had not YET destroyed Pharaoh in order to further demonstrate His power. God spared Pharaoh for a while, instead of destroying Egypt more quickly. Rom. 9:17-18 is a reference to this verse:

Exodus:9:15 For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. 16And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.17AS YET EXALTEST THOU THYSELF AGAINST MY PEOPLE; THAT THOU WILT NOT LET THEM GO? (KJV)

Notice in this reference, that Pharaoh is suggested to have exalted himself against God’s people by refusing to let his people go. This was an idea coming from Pharaoh himself and not from God. Another translation is:

Exodus 9:15-16 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up [or have spared you, NIV mg.] for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  

The word hardened consists of three different Hebrew words used to describe Pharaoh’s heart condition. Kabed which has the idea of to be heavy, insensible, or dull, qasah which conveys the sense of being hard, severe, or fierce, hazaq, meaning to be or grow firm, strong. The plagues are called ”judgments” (7.4), because God judged Egypt in its treatment of Israel. We can read in the Bible that people ”perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2:10) and that would have been an option also for Pharaoh. Instead he ended up much like the rebellious people spoken about in Romans 1, who God gave up to a depraved mind because of their wickedness.

There were to be ten wonders in all, each time a sign judgment would be delivered for the purpose of freeing Israel. These become more severe as the months go by (approximately 6 months). The magicians finally acknowledged; ”This is the finger of God” (8:19) so the judgements were apparently effective. Pharaoh admitted this off and on through the ordeal (9.27; 10.17), the officials did likewise (9.20; 10.17), the Israelites (14.31) and many Egyptians (12.38) went with the Israelites (and were saved during the Passover judgment/plague–12.48-49), and the Philistines in Canaan honored Israel’s God and knew all about Pharaoh’s folly (I Sam 4.8; 6.5-6).

Pharaoh hardened his own heart numerous times before God did. If Pharaoh started out to harden his heart first (even though the Bible says the opposite) wouldn’t this mean that Pharaoh’s heart was NOT hard/hardened BEFORE this occurred? This is usually not what reformed believers believe could be the case with ”non-elect”, but rather that wicked people have hardened hearts all the time. When is a person’s heart in risk to be hardened?

Hebr. 3:7 Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness

This means that it’s our responsibility to not harden our hearts, and we can see that we get hardened hearts when hearing the voice of God and refusing to hearken to him. This could explain why we can read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart at the same time as we read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Before the first contact with Moses and his God, Pharaoh’s heart was not hard/hardened because he had never faced any options about adhering to God’s requests or not. (I’m not saying Pharaoh was necessarily ”saved” during that time, because he could still have lived in sin and against his own conscience.) Some might experience hardening of their own hearts and lives if they know that God is calling them to come to him – maybe through another person who evangelizes for them – but due to fear, peer pressure, or similar, they decide to reject the calling even though they believe it’s divine. They have then hardened their hearts, or we could say it’s the evangelist who hardened their hearts since he is the one who ”caused” the hardening to happen by evangelizing to them. Had he not done so, they would remain in their ignorance. So both alternatives are valid depending on how we look at it. The same evangelist might approach the same people yet again, and once again ”harden” them when he reminds them of that God wants them to repent for their sins and accept him as their Savior. If they once again reject the calling, they have once again hardened their hearts (or the evangelist did). I believe street preachers constantly ”harden people’s hearts” when they preach to them about repentance and that God is calling them to come to him to get life. Even though some of them realize that they do live in sin and really should turn their lives around, they still choose to reject the offer.

Pharaoh is said to have hardened his heart in the below verses

Ex 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Ex 8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Ex 9:34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. (Here we can read that Pharao SINNED by hardening his heart, so if we want to believe God is the one hardening it, then GOD is the one who forced Pharao to sin.)

1 Sam 6:6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? (Here the pagan kings understood the root cause of Pharaoh’s problem was HIS OWN hardening.)

Verses in Exodus with no source of agent mentioned

7:13 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard (and the heart of Pharaoh is strong, and he hath not hearkened unto them, as Jehovah hath spoken” / Young’s Literal)
7:14 ”Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding
7:22 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard
8:19 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard”
9:7 ”Pharaoh’s heart was unyielding”
9:35 ”Pharaoh’s heart was hard”

God is said to have done the hardening in the below verses in Exodus:

4:21 ”I will harden his heart” (future – a prophesy)
7:3 ”I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (future – prophesy)
9:12 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
10:1 ”I have hardened his heart”
10:20 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
10:27 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
11:10 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
14:4 ”I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”
14:8 ”God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
14:17 ”I will harden the Egyptians’ hearts”  

This means, that the first mention of someone hardening Pharaoh’s heart is in Ex. 8:15, where Pharaoh is said to have done it. Not that it matters, considering what I’ve written above. This is what might have happened to Pharaoh:

Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:—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;—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.

Examples of hardening of a heart

2 Chron 36:11 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

Ps 95:7For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

Pro 28:13He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.14 Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.

Pro_21:29 A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way. 

Isaiah 63: 17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.18 The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. (Notice that one could be aware of this condition and ask God to change it. Pharaoh could have done the same thing.)

Dan 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: 19And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. 20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him (Note the means of self-hardening was pride. In this case, God punished the ruler with deposition rather than additional and prolonging hardening)

Deut 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

Deut. 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked. 17For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward

Jer. 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Deut 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Notice that God will circumcise their hearts AFTER they return to Him which is a condition.)

Ps 119: 17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word. 18Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (Notice that the writer can see well enough to know he needs ‘more visibility)

1 King. 8:58 That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.59 And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:60That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day. (Notice that one can ask God to turn our hearts)

2 Chron. 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.

1 Chron. 29:18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee: 19 And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision. (Notice that these things can be prayed for)

Mark 9:23Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. (This person expressed faith and asked to be given more faith. We know when we need ”unhardening” or renewal)

Can the leopard change his spots? Not if it has no desire to change

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:23)

Jeremiah 2::32 asks ”Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Well, no – what bride would forget her wedding attire? That is simply out of the question, so the answer should then be ”NO WAY” and yet we read on:

”—yet my people have forgotten me days without number”.

So the answer is YES after all. Jeremiah 13:23 is a question and not a statement, and it’s like God wants to show Israel how difficult it is for people who are accustomed to do evil and who have hardened their hearts, to change their behavior. But we can be delivered from our sins and spots. We must choose to come to God so he can change us and help us to change our bad habits. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. What else does Jeremiah 13 tell us? We can read about a group of evil people who refuses to obey God, which is very disturbing to him. Due to their rebellion and their refusal to listen and obey, God will punish them. We can read about a people who have forgotten about God and trusted in FALSEHOOD. Does God want his chosen people to trust in falsehood? Clearly not. We can read that it’s due to their wickedness that God will put them to open shame. It’s due to their own actions which they themselves are responsible for, because God certainly didn’t cause them to perform adulteries, neighings, lewdness of whoredom and other abominations that we can read about. God is mighty upset with his peoole for constantly acting against his will. See for yourself:

10This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.11For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

16Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. 17But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock is carried away captive.

22And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.

23Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

24Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness. 25This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood. 26Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear27I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be? 

We are told we can keep ourselves unspotted from the world

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

1 Timothy 6:14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Peter 3:14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.

Why would God take the time and give so many warning to Israel in Jeremiah (and elsewhere) not to do evil if He knew they were destined to do evil because their nature was evil? A change requires serious effort because of being accustomed to do evil. Jeremiah tells the people to correct their behavior. How can man correct his behavior if he can’t change it and doesn’t have a choice? Man defiles himself by sinning.

Mark 7:20And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Rom. 2:13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14For 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: 15Which 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 1:19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For 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 excuse21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

We are no longer under the Law (torah) but we are still under the moral law

The Early Church had a controversy with a group called ”the Judaizers” who were teaching justification by works of the law.

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, except ye be circumcised after themanner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1)

In other words, they taught that Gentiles need to obey the law (the Torah) and perform the works of the law (circumcision) in order to be justified. Since Paul’s ministry was to the Gentiles, he dedicated a large portion of his writings in Romans and Galatians, which were to Gentile Churches, to write against the Judaizers.

You will notice that Paul continually mentioned circumcision when discussing justification by works of the law in both Romans and Galatians.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? (Those who had the Torah) Is he not also of the Gentiles? (Those who did not have the Torah) Yes, of the Gentiles also. Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. (Rom. 3:28-30)

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in the circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (Rom. 4:9-10)

Paul is arguing that Abraham was justified before circumcision, before the law of circumcision was given, and therefore the Gentiles too can be justified by faith without the work of the law of circumcision.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. (Gal. 6:15)

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Gal. 5:6)

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

Paul continually and repeated referred to circumcision when discussing justification ”by works of the law” and said that circumcision does not ”availeth anything” and is ”nothing” but what matters is ”a new creature” ”faith which worketh by love” and ”keeping of the commandments”.

It needs to be understood that Paul was not coming against the preaching of repentance in his epistles when he discussed justification by works of the law. In Galatia the Judaizers came and convinced the Gentile Church there that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians to correct this error of the Judaizers. It was not that the Galatians were repenting of their sins and Paul thought, ”I better put a stop to this”. Paul certainly would not have any problem with Gentiles repenting of their sins since his God given ministry was to bring the Gentiles to repentance (Acts 26:20). When Paul preached to the Gentiles in Athens, he told them that God was calling all of them to repent (Acts 17:30). Paul said that we needed to be circumcised, not in our flesh, but in our hearts (Rom. 2:28-29). The circumcision of the heart is putting off your sins (Col. 2:11). Paul bemoaned those Gentiles in Corinth who had not repented of their uncleanness and fornication (2 Cor. 12:21). Paul explicitly said that we should not continue in our sins (Rom. 6:1-2) but that we should awake to righteousness and stop sinning (1 Cor. 15:34). Paul even warned the Galatians that if they lived sinful lives, they would not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). It was the Apostle Paul who said ”after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath” (Rom. 2:5), and that ”repentance” leads ”to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10). Clearly Paul would not have had any problems with Gentiles repenting of their sins. Rather, Paul was upset that the Gentile Church in Galatia started to believe falsehoods from the Judaizers about how to be saved.

A good example of how Gentiles find the forgiveness of sins is the story of Nineveh. The narrative records that the people believed God (Jonah 3:5) and turned from their sins (Jonah 3:8). When God saw this, He changed His plans and decided not to destroy them as He said He would (Jonah 3:10). These Gentiles did not need to adopt the Jewish customs, obey the Torah, or be circumcised in order to be pardoned. They were saved, or found the mercy of God, through simple repentance from sin and faith in God. Jesus even said that sinners will be condemned if they do not repent the way Nineveh did (Matt. 12:41). Therefore the way that Gentiles were saved through repentance and faith in the Old Testament is the same way that they are saved in the New Testament, according to Jesus. Repenting of sin is required in both the Old and New Testament as Jesus said and therefore repentance is not the works of the law Paul preached against.

We know that Jesus Christ taught repentance (Lk. 13:3) and Paul certainly would not have contradicted Jesus Christ since Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1). Paul explicitly said that men ought to listen to the wholesome words of Jesus (1 Tim. 6:3). Paul was by no means attacking the preaching of repentance when he wrote against justification by works of the law. Paul was attacking the Judaizers and their false gospel that Gentiles must convert to Judaism, be circumcised, and obey the Torah.

Thanks to Jesse Morell

The moral law is still valid today and is NOT optional to obey

We are no longer under the Jewish ceremonial law concerning clothes, food, etc BUT the moral law has always been valid ever since Adam and Eve and it’s still applicable for us today. It has ALWAYS been prohibited to murder, steal, lie and commit adultery.  These laws did not start with Moses even if he wrote down also these very foundational laws on stone tables. We can never EARN our salvation by keeping the law and be good (because then we must keep it to 100% which no one has chosen to do) but this does NOT mean that it’s ok to continue to break the law and believe that grace will always cover our sins. If we are cleansed from our sins in the blood of Jesus, it does NOT make sense to return back to breaking the law and become filthy once again. Sins will ALWAYS separate us from God. Obeying the law won’t save you but breaking it will send you to hell. Repentance is the only cure, but if we sin, repent, sin, repent, then we have not truly repented. 

Here are some verses which show that the moral law is still in force:

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

Gal.5:18BUT IF YE BE LED OF THE SPIRIT , YE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW. 19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, 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.

Matt. 22:37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.38This is the first and great commandment.39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Rom.3:30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, We ESTABLISH THE LAW.

Matt.5:17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am NOT come to destroy, but to fulfil18For 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. 19Whosoever 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.

Hebr.10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord,I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR HEARTS, and in their minds will I write them;

Romans 2:12For 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.14For 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:15Which 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;)