Monday, September 4, 2017
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.” (James 2:10-11 (NIV).
Seeking to be justified by law keeping applies to any law. When that statement is made, some deny the law of Christ is included. The book of Hebrews, as well as Paul’s epistles, affirm the statement. Neither James, Paul, nor I discount obedience. Justification by keeping law is based upon keeping it unbroken! Is it possible to be successful in keeping that demand?
God gave the Law of Moses to teach a lesson. First, one could not keep the Law without breaking it. Even James 2:11 and Galatians 3:10 brings that out. One may puff up with pride because he is not an adulterer. But, if he is a murderer, he is just as bad because both are law breakers! One sin under a law system deserves death or separation from God because law requires punishment! Second: reality sets in. Israel realized they could not do perfection. Learning they could not be perfect and sustain it, they needed to turn for salvation to the one who is perfect. Sometimes, the lesson taught is not always learned! No one has ever been successful in gaining perfection. Therefore, one must turn 100% to God for his justification through Jesus’ perfection. This is done through faith! Yet, this “justification by law keeping” was carried over by the sect of Pharisees in the first century church. It has been successfully restored in the one today (Acts 15:1,5).
If one believes the New Testament is just God giving us a new set of laws that we are to keep flawlessly to save ourselves, he misunderstands. If we are justified by keeping New Testament law, where is Mr. or Mrs. Perfection? Only the arrogant believe they have reached and maintained that impossible dream. If the law of Christ is parallel to the Law of Moses, then perfection is demanded by both. That means justification is pointless if we cannot reach and maintain that perfection. According to James and Paul, if we break one requirement or fail in doing one, we are guilty of all. Let’s say a person is involved in doctrinal error concerning worship. Another tells a “white” lie. The “white lie” sinner believes he is faithful but he disfellowships the other. He believes that his infraction of law keeping is not as bad as the one he is no longer in fellowship with! What is the fault of both? If perfection is demanded by law keeping, both have failed in keeping that demand. Both are guilty of breaking the law! How? “Justification by law keeping” demands perfection. Break one and one is guilty of breaking all! The adulterer is just as condemned as the murderer and vise-versa. Therefore, the liar is back in the kingdom of darkness, standing side by side with the one who is guilty of doctrinal error! According to that view, if the liar dies before he can ask for forgiveness, but the one in doctrinal error confesses, the liar dies unjustified. Law is his accuser! He is a law breaker and punishment is death or eternal separation from God (John 8:21, 24)!
Justification by law keeping creates people who believe their salvation is based upon their ability to keep that law without fault. Since there are multiple ways of breaking it, their salvation is more like the movement of a windshield wiper. Saved. Lost. Saved. Lost. This creates doubts, fears, concerns, discouragement, and loss of joy. Under that system, one can never know if death will overtake him before he can correctly identify his actions as lawlessness and correct it. He must constantly be concerned, not only about himself, but of the congregation he attends. Any infraction of one or both will condemn him! Perfection in doctrine and practice is expected of both individual and congregation. To cover all the bases, such an individual will often pray, “Lord, forgive me for any transgressions I may have which I am unaware of.” Fear of the unknown only adds to his stress. Any change in his traditional practices generates fear that he is breaking law and again experiencing fellowship with Satan!
The law of Christ teaches that justification is by faith not an impossible perfection that we are to reach and maintain (Ephesians 2:8-10). That faith is in Jesus as our Savior whether that faith is like the eunuch’s, the Samaritans’, or those on Pentecost. Jesus paid it all. We die to sin and are buried with him to receive a new life (Romans 6:1-6). Jesus took all, not part of our sins, and in return bestowed upon us his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Included in his righteousness is his continually cleansing blood (1 John 1:7-10). We may stumble in our imperfections, but Jesus’ blood is sufficient in its coverage. Deny his blood and lose its cleansing. Some did (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29). However, we are not in that group. We believe to the saving of our souls (Hebrew 10:38-39). Our faith is in Jesus’ perfection. Therefore, we do not put our faith in our ability to achieve our own perfection. Our obedience is not meritorious. Obedience is not our “gold” offered to be applied as payment for our sins. We don’t pay for our sins! Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe! Do we still sing that song? If so, do we believe what we are singing?
Israel was given the opportunity to learn that one is not justified by the works of the law, but many did not accept that truth. Some who are believers today assume that they are justified by keeping law. Yet their “perfection” is only an illusion gifted by Satan. I pray that reality will sink in and believers will put their trust in Jesus to save and abandon the idea that they are their own justifier. Satan’s lie that we are to be equal with Jesus as our Savior, because we can keep law like he did, is the biggest deception fostered upon mankind today!