DID PAUL CONTRADICT HIMSELF ?: An honest reading of the…
DID PAUL CONTRADICT HIMSELF ?:
An honest reading of the Bible reveals that God is a God of law and grace…and both are often described as blessings in the Scriptures. Does anybody really want to live in a lawless society? Plain and simple, if God didn’t still have a law, there would be no need of grace. Everyone could just be lawless and be right with God.
In discussing the law, Paul made a few statements where he seemed to contradict himself. On the one hand he made statements like this,
“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” (Romans 7:12)
“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
He even affirms the law this way,
“For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)
On the other hand, he made some “law-ending” statements. In my next post we will look at those. And we will see that they do not contradict his clarifying statements above. First, we need to be clear on what Jesus taught about the law.
LAW AND GRACE:
If we study the Bible thoroughly, we see the roles of law and grace, and how they function in relation to each other.
As we saw in the post “The Gospel is Beautifully Simple” no one ever earned their way to heaven by law-keeping. Most Christians agree we are saved 100 % by grace. It does seem however, that there is some misinformation about God’s law circulating in the church. Almost to the point where grace gives you an open door to law-breaking.
THE TWO ARE NOT NEW:
Let’s take a closer look at this foundational teaching of Jesus. Known as the Two Great Commandments of Christ,
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:35-39)
In the parable of the good Samaritan Jesus explained that your “neighbor” is really anyone you come in contact with.
So, Great Commandment # 1…Love God, and number # 2…Love people. There is nothing complicated here.
Now some suggest that Jesus invented these two commandments while He walked on this earth. And along with this, it is commonly taught that these Two “great commandments” essentially replaced the “Ten Commandments”.
The idea is that the Ten Commandments were for the Jews, or the Old Testament, and the Two Commandments are for Christians and the New Testament. You might hear a Christian say, “I follow the two commandments of Christ, I am not under the law.”
But is it even possible to follow the “Two” without following the “Ten”?
Luke records an encounter that Jesus had with a certain man here,
And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying,
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
(The Bible at this time consisted only of the Old Testament. Jesus asked him what he read there.)
So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
Notice the man answered with the same Two Commandments that Jesus taught. However, it is clear that he read these from the Old Testament. This has some amazing implications! First, let’s read them for ourselves as this lawyer did.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5)
The # 1 Commandment of Jesus to “Love God” is clear here. This verse also corrects another misconception widely held in the church today. It is suggested that true commandment keeping “from the heart” was the new twist Jesus put on it. But here in Deuteronomy it clearly says to love God with “all your heart”.
And it even continues,
“And these words which I command you today shall be IN YOUR HEART.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
Now let’s read great Commandment # 2 from Leviticus. It begins,
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart.
(Notice again, even in the Old Testament, true commandment keeping begins in the heart.)
You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Leviticus 19:17,18)
Now here is the amazing implication of the Two Commandments of Christ being Old Testament commandments. If they are not new it means that they were taught alongside the Ten Commandments. (However, they were “new” in the sense that Jesus had now demonstrated them in His life.)
Therefore, it is impossible that the Two could replace the Ten as is often suggested.
Let me suggest that the Two summarized the Ten instead of replacing them. This is an important distinction. The Two did not “replace” the Ten, they “summarized” the Ten.
First consider this. How many tablets of stone did God use to write the Ten Commandments on? The Bible says,
“And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses TWO tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” (Exodus 31:18)
Now as you read through the Ten Commandments it becomes clear that they are grouped into two categories. The first four describe love for God…while the last six are about interpersonal relationships, or how to love your neighbor.
Therefore, since the Two summarize the Ten they can also be seen as titles or headings for the two tablets of stone.
Now let’s confirm all this by adding the next thing Jesus said after teaching the Two. He said,
“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Did you notice that important word “hang”?
That connects the Ten and the Two as we have been saying all along in this post.
Now if we back up to Matthew 19 Jesus makes this point clear,
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ AND, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is something fascinating here. Here Jesus just blends, or mixes together the Ten Commandments and the Two Commandments. We can see He first lists many of the Ten Commandments, and then adds # 2 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” to sum it all up.
And so the obvious conclusion is that if you say that you follow the Two Great Commandments of Christ…as you should…by default this encompasses and includes the Ten Commandments. Biblically there is no way to separate them.
And as we read earlier, true commandment keeping stems from the heart…a heart that has been renewed by the power of God’s grace.
There are also two different gospels being taught today…a powerless gospel, and a victorious gospel. The powerless gospel is always telling people that there is not enough power in God’s grace to change your life, and overcome sin here and now. The victorious gospel focuses on the work of Jesus, not our own works,
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)
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