The Resurrection of the Lord

(Luke 24:1-12).

The most fundamental teaching of the new covenant and the core principle of Christianity is the resurrection of the dead. Without the resurrection the rest of the christian covenant does not hold together. It is through the resurrection of Jesus that man receives release from his sins and the freedom from law so that he can come and stand before God. And it is in this section of the scripture that we see Jesus resurrected and the commencement of the new covenant age.

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Till Death Us Do Part

(Luke 20:27-40)

When people are married at some point in the relationship they often give or exchange eternity rings. This is often on the first anniversary of the marriage. I am certain this is a process developed and marketed by the jewellery industry to increase sales, because it certainly has no basis in scripture. In this section of Luke we find the Lord explaining exactly this issue, and Paul also speaks of marriage as an example to teach us one of the key underlying principles of the New Covenant.marriage

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Its Not About The Law

(Luke 14:1-6)

Today we often see lawyers and judges, whether in real life or in depictions in books, TV or movies, who are seeking the truth. However we also see those same people twist the law to suit their own ends and to seek a result that was not really what the law was saying. They look at loopholes and ways to wrangle an outcome that benefits a client rather than seeking the truth. Jesus often sat with Pharisees and lawyers and showed them that the truth is not about the law, and in this section of scripture we gavelsee that there is a more important set of principles than those embodied in the law.

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Jesus Fulfilled the Law

(Luke 6:17-19)

After appointing the twelve we see Jesus comes down from the mountain and is greeted by a great crowd of people. His fame had spread considerably and his ministry was well into stride at this time.

At this point he is about to commence what has become known as the sermon on the mount. As we often see, God confirmed the message by the miracles and the signs that were performed. Here in this section of scripture all the people sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed all who were ill with diseases or possessed by unclean spirits.

Once this cleansing work was done Jesus settled down to teach the people the truth of God and the message of the New Covenant. His message was a remarkable message for it was so different to that taught by the scribes and Pharisees. I was considering this earlier today and it struck me that the difference between what the Pharisees and scribes taught and what Jesus taught can be seen in the scripture in Matthew 5:17, which is part of that writer’s version of the sermon on the mount. Matthew wrote, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” I had never before today recognised how profound this statement is and my mind began to reel with the understanding of this scripture, which I will attempt to explain.

Jesus said to the people that, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23:2-3) So he is saying that the scribes and Pharisees were teaching the law, but not very good at keeping it. Why? Because they approached the law as if it were based upon works. They were KEEPERS of the law, that is, they were COMPLIANT to what the law taught by doing what is required, that is by doing the works of the law.

But in Jesus we see a man who did not come to just keep the law, but to FULFIL the law. Think about the word “fulfil” for a moment. To fulfil something is to be completely and totally immersed in it; to live it or to be filled fully in it. The Lord asked the Pharisees at another time which is the greatest of the laws and we found that it was to love God and to love your neighbour. Paul also said, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) So when Jesus fulfilled the law he did so by living a life of love, which is to be in the nature of God for God is love.

But the Pharisees, indeed Israel in total, failed because they did not approach the law from the perspective of faith but as if it were based upon works, as Paul wrote in Romans 9:31-32. Now this is important for Jesus certainly approached the law from the basis of faith, but how does this work? Well first you must believe that the law is the right thing to do and it is what God wants. If you don’t do that, then you are like a Pharisee and just a keeper of the law. But when you BELIEVE it is right, not just because it was written on tablets of stone but because it is the right thing to do, then you internalise the law and live “in it” and FULFIL it rather than living “by it” and UNDER it. You do what is right no longer because the law says, “Thou shalt…” but because you say to yourself, “I shalt…” because it is the nature of God. And when that transformation takes place you no longer need the law for you do by nature what the law requires. You become committed rather than compliant and so prove the truth of the love that is in the laws of God. For the law is based also upon love. God gave the law to his people because he loved them and wanted them to live the best life possible. The law gave them boundaries so that they would not hurt themselves or others and this was based on God’s love. He did not give them the law as a stick or a set of manacles to bind them, albeit there is an element of bondage under law, but instead he gave them the law to protect and free them from sin by defining sin so they could escape it and do right. Most could not see this.

But who needs to be told by a law to do right when you do by nature what is right? Does God need a law to tell him right from wrong? No, because the law was laid down for the unjust and ungodly; for sinners and not for the righteous. It was laid down so that sin would be revealed for sin and could be dealt with and also so that God’s wisdom and knowledge between right and wrong could be taught to the people for their growth and protection. But when Jesus came he released those people from law who come to him so that they can learn to “live” what is right and not just “do” what is right.

This is also why Paul wrote “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31) Jesus set us free from the law through his death and baptism so that we could be transformed into his image by the Holy Spirit. But even though we are not under law we do not throw it away. Rather we become immersed in God’s love as we learn and grow, and through the transformation of the Spirit we find the place where we stand as Jesus stood; in fulfilment of the law. When we walk in Spirit we are applying the love of God to the weaknesses in our nature to overcome those problems in us that lead to failure and sin, so that we can be made perfect as Christ is perfect. But God has done this beforehand so that we first receive this righteousness by faith, and in time we will receive it by fact.

There is much more I am discovering about this matter and it is a great revelation. I hope you find value in this too and as the Lord unfolds this to me I will share it with you for your thoughts and comments as you see appropriate.

Healing on the Sabbath

(Mark 3:1-6)

Jesus continued to show the inflexibility of the Pharisees, especially over matters of their poor interpretation of the law. The Pharisees took an extreme legalistic approach to the law which left no room for compassion. They said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath as the law stated, but took that to extremes as well as excluding healing on the Sabbath which they defined as work.

In this scripture we see a man with a withered hand come to Jesus for healing. The approach that the Pharisees took in another version of this event, was to say that there are six other days of the week and he should come back on one of those days. Such strictness in the adoption of the law has the appearance of great piety, but in fact showed disrespect and disregard for the man who was suffering.  However Jesus showed that even the Pharisees would work on the Sabbath if it was necessary. He said that a child is circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, but this too is work and thus they break one law to keep another. (John 7:23) He also showed that if any of them had a beast that had fallen in a pit they would get it out on the Sabbath so that it would not suffer. Thus in like manner this man with the withered hand who was suffering should be permitted to be healed on the Sabbath to ease his suffering. The approach of the Pharisees was all about outward appearances, not about compassion.

Besides, who was it doing this work? Was it the Pharisees? No, this healing was the work of God. Jesus also had said in relation to the Sabbath that, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17) As a result of this the Pharisees sought to have him killed because they believed he not only broke the Sabbath, but in this statement made himself equal to God. Despite the miracle that he performed and the many others both before and after, they would not recognise him as the Son of God.

One of the challenges for Christianity today is around the keeping of the law. In most churches today it is still taught that Christians are bound to keep the law of God, or at least the ten commandments. But Jesus came so that we could be set free from the law and receive life. He set us free from sin and the law in his death, not so that we could sin, but so that we may receive righteousness by faith. It is clear in these sections where he teaches about the Sabbath that there was something greater than the Sabbath and indeed greater than the law at work.

The truth is that if a person is seeking righteousness by faith and finds it, they do not need the law. The law was not laid down for the righteous but for the sinners. (1 Timothy 1:9) It is those who sin who need the instruction and discipline of the law, not those who do right. If a person is doing the right thing, who will condemn them? God does not condemn us for doing what is right and the law does not condemn those who are doing what is right. But what does it mean to be doing what is right? It means to be obedient to God, and his requirement of us was not about law, but about faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us that the works of God were not about the law but about faith. He said, “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29) This is the work of God, to have faith and believe in Jesus Christ whom he sent to be the expiation for our sins and to release us from the bondages of sin and the law.

Jesus showed in the healing on the Sabbath that it is always right to do the right thing. Which is more right, to keep the letter of the law of the Sabbath when someone is suffering or to relieve the person who is suffering? Surely it is the latter, because it is based upon love for a fellow man, and this is exactly what Jesus showed. The very essence of the call of God is for us to come into a relationship with him and with each other in a way that is based upon God’s love. The letter of the law though, as the Pharisees interpreted it, was not about relationships built on love but about punishment for failure.

This was not the teaching of Jesus and he showed the difference in the approach sought by God as compared to that taught by man. He said elsewhere, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.” (Hebrews 10:5-6) It was not the letter of the law that God was interested in but in the change in the heart of a man, as instructed under the law, so that they would choose to do right. The will of God was that through the law man would learn the difference between right and wrong and use the law to build up rather than condemn. But the Pharisees used it as a means of power holding the people in subjugation through the threat of condemnation and being cast out of the synagogues. Jesus came to put this right and offer us salvation based on faith and not through works of law, for the law cannot make anyone righteous.

The Great Commission Part 3

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The third element of the Great Commission given by Jesus to his disciples was, “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) He told the disciples to teach the people what he had taught them. These are the teachings of the New Covenant, which he instructed the disciples to teach to those who came to them.

He did not instruct them to teach the law and prophets or the Ten Commandments or anything that pertained to the Law of Moses. As we saw in the last post, baptism is meant to set us free from law so why would that form part of the New Covenant? There are many sections in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles taught or had disputes about the teaching of the law to the new disciples. The law is not part of the New Covenant and in fact it can have a damaging effect on those who are under the New Covenant.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not preaching to oppose the law nor do I oppose the law. There is great wisdom contained in the law for it was the words of God given to Israel to show them right from wrong. We can learn much from the law about how to live a life that is in harmony with God and those about us. But within the law comes the knowledge of sin and the law cannot set a person free from sin. That is only possible by faith in the grace of God and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to take away the sins of the world and this cannot be achieved under the law since it is the law that condemns man as a sinner. If sin is to be removed, then the law must go too.

The commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples under the Great Commission was to teach the people to observe all the “HE” had commanded them. There is a conflict between the teachings of Jesus under the New Covenant and the Mosaic Law under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant law was about bondage and sin, but the New Covenant is about freedom, release from sin and life. These two cannot exist together. You cannot be in bondage and freedom at the same time. As oil and water do not mix, neither can freedom and bondage.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:1-6 that to try to live under both covenants at the same time was like living in adultery. It cannot and should not be done. Again I have discussed this in much more detail in my free eBook, “The Foundations of Christianity” which you can download and review if you choose and I refer you there for a more detailed study of these matters.

Is it then any wonder that so many Christians are confused and suffering needlessly? If they are trying to live under the two covenants at the same time, and thus trying to live a life of freedom while under the bondage of the law, they have no chance of progressing in Christ. They will live as good a life as they can and will be accepted for what they have rather than what they do not have, but they will suffer needlessly under condemnation because it is only when the law is removed that the Holy Spirit can begin the work of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

And all of this occurs because the teachers and the churches (not all mind you) have not heeded the words of the Great Commission to teach the people, “…to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) They are being taught things that were NOT commanded by Jesus. Thus we see the confusion in the church. If it were only the teachings of the Old Covenant that were clouding the minds of Christians it would be hard enough, but they also bring in many other teachings and lies that have no basis in scripture whatsoever. So it is important for all of us as individuals to seek out the truth for ourselves. In the final judgement we will all have to stand before God and give account and there will be no one to act as intercessory on our behalf. It is our responsibility to find the truth.

And at the end of this final section of Matthew 28 Jesus gives us a great promise. He says to all of his disciples, then and now, “I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Verse 20) Jesus has never left us. He is always here if we will seek him out. He said for us to seek and we would find him. This was not “maybe” you will find him, but a definite, “you WILL find me.” (Matthew 7:7) It is up to us to seek the Lord for he is there to be found when we search for him diligently. Jesus will come to us to teach, guide, strengthen, protect and comfort us. In due course as we listen to his commandments and follow his ways he will transform us into his image through the Holy Spirit and will give us eternal life if we will walk in his ways.

Jesus is with us now and forever until the close of the age. His return is drawing near, so we must also be diligent and prepare for his return. Give him praise and thanks for the opportunity to know and be known by him.

This now ends my commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and I shall move on to the Gospel of Mark in the next post.

The Great Commission Part 2

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The second element of the Great Commission after telling the eleven to go and make disciples was, “…baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Verse 19) Some churches have either ignored this element of the Great Commission or given it only lip service. They do not understand the importance and significance of baptism, especially water baptism.

Given that these words from the Lord to his disciples were probably the last words he spoke to them on earth, you would expect they would be extremely meaningful and important. Nothing that Jesus said in teaching his disciples was ever without meaning and valuable as a lesson. So in these last words of his you could naturally expect Jesus to emphasise the very important matters that they were to recall and do under the Great Commission.

This baptism in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit was incredibly important both then and now. The fact that this message was given in the last words of the Lord makes it incomprehensible that some churches today do not take these words seriously. They either do not observe this command of the Lord at all, or treat baptism as a kind of initiation into the church and a naming ceremony for babies. It was never intended as such. They fail to see and understand the truth and ramifications of water baptism. Since Jesus made a point of telling his disciples to do this specific thing as they made disciples, especially as Jesus himself was baptised before he began his ministry by John the Baptist, then it is evident that the Lord placed great importance on baptism. When we learn and understand the truth about baptism we begin to see why the Lord emphasised this requirement for all his disciples in his final words.

It is through baptism that we die with Christ as we go down into the water. And then as we are raised out of the water we are symbolically resurrected with Christ. By faith in believing that we enter into the death and resurrection of Christ as we go through baptism we then gain entry into the kingdom of God. It is by this faith in entering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through baptism that we are set free from past sins and set free from the bondage to the law. In baptism we take on the death of Jesus Christ as if it were our own death, and that is what we believe. And if we believe that we have died through the body of Christ by proxy, God says that he accepts us as having died to our old life and being reborn as new creations in Jesus Christ.

Now when a person dies they are no longer under the power of sin and the law. Paul showed this in Romans 7:4 saying, “Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ.” And if we are dead to the law we are no longer under it. And if we are no longer under the law we can no longer break the law and so we are set free from sin. And if we are set free from sin we can stand righteous before God, but only by faith. We still have all the weaknesses and failures of humanity and we still fall down and make mistakes, but as new creations in Christ we come to the place where God can and will work with us to transform us into the image of Christ. He will slowly work with us and take away all those human weaknesses and failures until we can stand righteous not just by faith, but in the way we live. We may not achieve that place in this lifetime, but the work will commence immediately once we are baptised and hold on to these elements of faith.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit to do the transformation within us as Paul wrote, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) The veil that covers a persons face referred to here is the law. When the law is removed, then the Holy Spirit is able to do the work of transformation.

All of this commences and is based upon being baptised in water into the death and resurrection of Christ and understanding through faith what that baptism is all about. This is why it is so important and why Jesus took pains to emphasise the need for baptism in his last words to the disciples.

There is a great deal of scripture that discusses the purpose and power of baptism throughout the New Testament and space here does not permit a full discussion. If you would like to look at this in more depth and check the scriptures that deal with baptism, I recommend to you to look at my free eBook on the “Foundations of Christianity” which is located elsewhere on my website.

I will look at the last element of the Great Commission in the next post.

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

(Matthew 12:1-8)

At the end of chapter 11 we saw Jesus state that his “yoke was easy and his burden light.” (Matthew 11:30) Now we see him begin to teach things that have reduced that burden of the Old Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant men were required to keep the Sabbath day holy. This was one of the Ten Commandments. On the Sabbath they were not to travel, nor work, nor prepare food. All food preparation was to be done the day before so they could rest and worship the Lord on the Sabbath day.

Now as Jesus and his disciples walked through some grain fields, the disciples plucked some of the grain and began to eat it. The Pharisees, who were sticklers for the smallest points of law took any opportunity to find fault and brought this to Jesus’ attention saying, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” (Vs. 2) The Pharisees expected Jesus would upbraid and condemn his disciples for breaking the law, but instead Jesus responded by showing other instances of where men did what was unlawful and yet were not condemned. David the king entered the temple and took the bread of the Presence, which no one but the priests were allowed to eat, and ate and gave it to those with him and yet he remained guiltless (1 Samuel 21-16). This was clearly a more significant issue than the disciples rubbing a few heads of grain to eat for the bread of the Presence was part of the offering and was consecrated as holy to the Lord. Then too Jesus said of the priests who offer the lamb and cereal sacrifices in the temple on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9-10), which technically is breaking the Sabbath, also remain guiltless.

Jesus then showed that this new teaching under the New Covenant was greater than the old teachings under the law. At the end of this section he says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” (Verses 6-8)

Under the New Covenant those who come to Christ are guiltless for Jesus has taken away their sin. In the Old Covenant men had to seek forgiveness of sin by sacrifices and offerings, but the forgiveness in the New Covenant is not based on offering sacrifices. The one perfect sacrifice has already been offered and we have been set free from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. His sacrifice is the only one that can not merely give us forgiveness of sin, but completely remove and take our sin away. John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) This is why Jesus came to offer his own blood on our behalf. So that our sins would be taken away, not simply forgiven.

Expanding on this we see in Hebrews 10:5-6, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.” God does not want constant offerings for sin. He wants us to not sin at all. He wants us to be merciful toward each other for our weaknesses and not judgmental over minor points of law, which is what the Pharisees were doing. In the constant sin offerings there was also the constant reminder of sin. But when Jesus took away our sins, he also took away the law so that we would not need to continue to make the offerings and would not be bound by sin.

This is too lengthy a subject to go into here, but if you wish to see more on this matter there is a free eBook on you can download here that looks at the Foundation Teachings of Christianity There is much more detail in this booklet covering this message about freedom from sin and freedom from the law through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we are set free from the law through Christ Jesus, we are also set free from the law concerning the Sabbath. This is why the disciples could be considered guiltless for the law applies only to those under the law. In Christ we are set free from the law and no longer under it and thus guiltless.