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What is the point of obeying G-d's commandments? I'm already saved!

Peter gives some instructions to believers that apply after they are saved:

1 Peter 1:15-17

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

 

Here Peter is quoting either Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 19:2, or Leviticus 20:7 (or possibly all three of them) where "it is written" for us to "be holy because [G-d is] holy". These are passages of Scripture where G-d exhorts His people to obey His commandments. We are called to be a reflection of our G-d.  In the beginning man was created "in the image" of his Creator (Genesis 1:26).  I am created to be holy since He is Holy.

  • Leviticus 11 teaches us about being holy in what we eat.
  • Leviticus 19 teaches us about being holy in how we behave (towards G-d and towards others).
  • Leviticus 20 teaches us about being holy in sexual purity. It also teaches us to be holy by not conforming to the standards of the places in which we live.

 

At this point I started thinking "this sounds a lot like 'Old Testament' kinds of things that don't apply to us anymore." So I had to ask...

What did Jesus say we are supposed to do once we are saved?

Didn't he say that his yoke is easy and his burden is light? Following the Law of Moses doesn't sound easy and light to me!

Matthew 11:29-30

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

 

Notice the NASB capitalizes an entire section of verse 29 (and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS). Why is that? Any time the NASB capitalizes a phrase in the New Testament it is pointing out a quotation of something from the Old Testament. So what was Jesus quoting? He was quoting Jeremiah 6:16.

So... let's examine Jeremiah 6:16-19.

Jeremiah 6:16-19

Thus says the LORD, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' And I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But they said, 'We will not listen.' Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law [Hebrew: Torah], they have rejected it also.

 

Jeremiah was calling Israel to repent and return to "the ways [of Moses] and see and ask for the ancient paths" so that they will "find rest for [their] souls". By quoting this verse Jesus equates finding "rest for the soul" with following the ancient paths of Torah. The remainder of the passage shows G-d's displeasure with Israel's disobedience and His revelation to the nations that He is bringing disaster upon Israel because they have rejected His words and His Law [Hebrew: Torah].

Wait, wait, wait!

I thought Jesus was supposed to fulfill the Law and the prophecies so we don't have to?

Here is one of the prophecies Scripture says He fulfilled (note the "all caps" sections in the NASB are quotations):

Matthew 12:17-21

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES. HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT; NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS. A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE."

 

In His Name the gentiles will hope for what?

The quote is from Isaiah 42:1-4... let's see what it says:

Isaiah 42:1-4

"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the countries will wait expectantly [hope] for His law [Hebrew: Torah]."

 

We're supposed to be expectantly waiting for His Torah?!?

What else did Jesus say we are supposed to do?

He said we are to love him and that, if we love him, we are to obey his commands (John 14:15).

OK... so I figured if I want to know what commands to obey I should look up all the things Jesus explicitly told us to do. So I started looking them up and came across this:

Matthew 19:17

And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."

 

"Keep the commandments"? Whoa... there is only one set of "the commandments", right?

Are the commands Jesus gave to his disciples different than the commands the Father gave to Moses?

John 14:21, 23-24

"Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." 
 
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.

 

Wow! John 14:24 quotes Jesus as saying that His words and commands are from the Father.

Would G-d contradict himself by establishing two standards of holiness or two standards of righteousness?

G-d doesn't change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17)!

Hmmm... But I thought we were not saved through our works!?

Why does this sound like I have to do good works in order to be saved?

I am only able to love G-d after I accept Him as my Lord and Savior (1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us).

Obedience is not a matter of GAINING salvation...it is the RESULT of the salvation we have been given.

Paul's letter to the Galatians was a condemnation of trying to gain salvation by following the Law.

Galatians 5:4

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

 

Galatians 5:4 is the summary of Paul's letter to the Galatians. If we seek to be judged as righteous by following the Law then we are no longer depending upon G-d's grace for our salvation and we have severed ourselves from Christ.

Our entrance into the kingdom of G-d (by G-d's grace) is like a child who is born in China but moves to the kingdom of England at a very early age. That child will learn a British accent and British customs. So we, too, should be conformed to the ways of G-d's kingdom in our speech and our deeds once we have been brought into it.

Jesus said regarding "deeds":

Mat 16:26-27

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

 

The quotation in CAPS above is possibly to Psalm 62:12 or Proverbs 24:12.

Quotes from Paul regarding "works" or "deeds":

Romans 2:5-6

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of G-d, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:

Romans 14:12

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to G-d.

1 Corinthians 3:13

...each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Ephesians 6:8

...knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

Colossians 3:25

For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

 

Other notes on "deeds" from Revelation:

Revelation 2:23

'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.

Revelation 20:12

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

Revelation 20:12

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.

Revelation 22:12

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.

 

Yikes! Sounds like our deeds will be pretty important come Judgment Day.

Summary thus far:

Just like our parents, spouses, siblings, or children have ways in which they desire for us to express our love to them so, too, does Jesus. A platinum-coated, laser-etched Craftsman socket and ratchet set clearly communicates to my dad that I love him. If I gave the same set to my wife she will definitely not get the same message of love. The way Jesus has said we should express our love for him is to obey his commands. His commands are not different from the Father's because the commands Jesus spoke are not his "but the Father's who sent" Him.

That actually makes sense. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, He would only give us the commandments G-d put in "the Word."

I struggled with this, however. This didn't fit with my understanding of how things were.

I thought Jesus came and changed everything so that we no longer have to follow the Law?

If we follow that line of thinking essentially what we are saying is that G-d changed. He first gave the Law and then saw that it wasn't working out so well with the Jews so He gave everyone an easier path to follow. Note that I am not saying G-d cannot change his mind. I am saying that G-d, Himself, does not change.

Remember that Scripture is G-d's revelation of Himself to the world. If G-d changed or annulled a part of Scripture (for example the Law) then that is saying that G-d changed or annulled a part of Himself. I cannot believe this to be so because it requires that G-d changed and Scripture tells us that G-d never changes:

James 1:17

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

 

So let's briefly examine salvation a bit closer.

Hebrews 10:4

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

John tells those of us who have faith in Jesus that:

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And yet we also see King David, who lived prior to the time of Jesus, express that same idea:

Psalm 32:5

I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.

 

G-d's forgiveness appears to be consistent throughout all time and is predicated upon His election and our confession. It is not dependent upon the sacrifice of bulls and goats. If the "old way" of salvation was not through the animal sacrifices then it would not have needed to be "done away with".

Still in progress... G-d's not finished with me yet. :)

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Today is

Yom Chamishi, 18 Shevat, 5783

Thursday, February 09, 2023

 

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