Was the law “nailed to the cross”? Are the 10 Commandments obsolete? Or are the 10 Commandments God’s revelation to us how to love Him and love each other? What about “law and grace”? There is a lot of confusion in the “Christian world” about this subject…but the Bible does give us real answers… Please read on!
WHICH JESUS DO YOU WORSHIP?
Roderick C. Meredith
Millions of sincere professing Christians simply do not realize that they believe and are practicing ideas and traditions in total contradiction to what Jesus Christ taught and practiced!
Most of you reading this really want to worship the God of creation. You want to honor Jesus Christ and serve Him in the way He says. But you may have been seriously misled by people who have taught you wrongly how to seek and serve God.
The Bible itself—if you will let the Bible interpret the Bible—makes this very clear. Are you, personally, willing to let the Bible tell you about the condition of this world—even the religious condition of many who claim to follow Jesus Christ? God inspired the Apostle Paul to warn us about Satan the Devil—the "serpent" who deceived Eve and led mankind off from God at the very beginning: "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!" (2 Corinthians 11:3–4).
Today, there are all kinds of approaches to purported "Christianity," ranging all the way from "New Age" thinking, to Roman Catholicism, to hyper-emotional "charismatic" groups. Although all may use the term "Jesus" in their worship, they often have totally different understandings of what Jesus actually stood for and what He taught. Each, in one sense, is worshiping a "different" Jesus Christ. Each is preaching a "different gospel." Each will often follow human traditions and ideas rather than the clear instructions of Almighty God in His inspired word.
Jesus spoke of this situation when He rebuked the Pharisees for their emphasis on human tradition as opposed to the law of God. Describing how their tradition caused them not to honor their father and mother as God commanded, Jesus said: "Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophecy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:6–9).
Most of these Pharisees were presumably sincere. They thought they were worshiping the God of the Old Testament—who actually was standing right in front of them as Jesus Christ, the "Word," now come in the human ﬂesh! But they were worshiping Him "in vain" because of following the traditions and "the commandments of men." Yes, according to Jesus Christ Himself, it is possible to worship Him in vain!
Sincerity Is Not Enough!
Some will object: "But aren't all 'sincere' Christians going to have the same opportunity for eternal life?" What did the Christ of your Bible actually say? "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21–23).
Notice that some people who call Jesus their "Lord" will not be granted entrance into the Kingdom of God because—perhaps misled or deceived—they are practicing "lawlessness"! Many have been misled into focusing only on the Person of Jesus Christ, and not on understanding what He really taught, and on obeying the laws of God as He constantly commanded that all Christians must do!
Believe me, my friends, I understand! I grew up in a "mainstream" Protestant church and was president of my Sunday School class. I regularly worshiped on Sunday, observed Christmas and Easter and enjoyed the "family associations" connected with many of these practices.
Years later, however, I came to realize that the Bible clearly means what it says when it tells us about "the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). I found that the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3–4).
Upon deep reﬂection, and through hours of prayer and study, I came to understand—according to hundreds of clear passages in the Bible—that I had been deceived!
Do these scriptures indicating that the "whole world" is deceived mean "all except you"? Has Satan cleverly misled countless millions—but somehow excluded you and your family from this massive deception?
Please consider this!
It is signiﬁcant that scores of scholars acknowledge that mainstream "Christianity" today has gone completely away from the foundational teachings of Jesus Christ and the early apostles—and established an entirely different way of life that they still call "Christian." Renowned scholars and leading Christian historians acknowledge the profound change that came about. Notice this striking quotation from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire—long recognized as the landmark history of this period. Edward Gibbon writes: "The ﬁrst ﬁfteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the laws of Moses with the doctrine of Christ" (vol. 1, p. 389). This is a truly remarkable statement! For it clearly indicates that many generations passed during which the Apostles and other Christian leaders were guided—by the living Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:20)—to continue observing God's law and emphasizing it as a way of life.
Gibbon continues: "It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms" (Gibbon, p. 389). Again, Gibbon shows that the Jerusalem Church of God was the "parent" and was respected as the "standard" of orthodoxy in early Christianity for a number of generations.
It was not Rome, but Jerusalem, to which the early Christians looked for leadership!
If we are honest, we ought to ask ourselves, who was given authority to change the teachings of Christ, and of the original apostles who were guided by God's Spirit to teach true Christians this way of life?
How The Truth Was Abandoned
Gibbon observes: "The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ" (ibid.). Gibbon explains that as the polytheistic Gentiles took over the "name" of Christianity, it somehow was changed and taken completely away from the foundation that Christ and the original Apostles had established!
In his widely published and highly respected manual on church history, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut tells us: "For ﬁfty years after St. Paul's life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church-fathers, we ﬁnd a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul" (Story of the Christian Church, p. 41).
A Different Church
The professing Christian church—under the guidance of the early "Catholic Fathers" during the Dark Ages—became very different because it completely forsook the foundational teachings of Jesus and the original Apostles. It forsook the clear emphasis on obeying the Ten Commandments as a way of life. Then the Protestant reformers came along and, perhaps unwittingly, followed this same approach of abandoning the authority of the Ten Commandments in our Christian lives. History shows that a great deal of anti-Semitism arose, and that the very laws given by the hand of God came to be regarded as "Jewish" and "unnecessary" for Christians to follow.
With this perspective, notice carefully one of the foundational passages of the entire Bible in the "Sermon on the Mount." Jesus said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulﬁll. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulﬁlled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17–19). Even the "least" of the Commandments must be obeyed—according to Jesus Christ—for one to be considered great in God's eyes!
It is clear that Jesus was talking here about the Ten Commandments. For throughout the rest of this passage, Jesus is discussing the great spiritual law of God, the Ten Commandments. He refers to murder—prohibited in the sixth commandment. Then, He discusses "hate" which often leads to murder. And in verses 27–28, Jesus refers directly to the seventh commandment: "Thou shall not commit adultery." In verses 28–32, He describes how Christians must avoid breaking even the spirit of the law by lusting after someone.
When we allow the "Bible to interpret the Bible," it is clear that Jesus Christ is making the Ten Commandments even more binding on New Testament Christians than they had been in the past. For Christians are to fully surrender their lives to Christ so that He will live within us through the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20). When a young man asked Jesus, "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Jesus replied: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:16–17). Then Jesus proceeded to name some of the Ten Commandments!
God's Spiritual Law
Contrary to the theological arguments and convoluted reasoning of so many Bible commentaries, Jesus was not talking about the "ceremonial" or "ritual" laws of Moses. He was talking about His true followers obeying the great spiritual law of God, the Ten Commandments. This was the law—and the only law—that God spoke with His own voice from the top of Mount Sinai. "These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly, in the mountain from the midst of the ﬁre, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and He added no more. And He wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me" (Deuteronomy 5:22).
God even directed that those tablets be placed inside the Ark of the Covenant—the very representation of His glorious throne in heaven, the "holy of holies." No other law or instruction was placed in this sacred context! The Ten Commandments are not merely "moral" law, as some misguided scholars teach. They are the direct, "handwritten" spiritual law of the great Creator of heaven and earth!
Why, then, do so many professing Christian ministers and writers insist that they are somehow "done away" or no longer necessary? If you read the typical commentaries or theological treatises, you will quickly discover that most professing Christian scholars try to equate the Ten Commandments with the ceremonial laws of ancient Israel—or perhaps even the civil laws of that nation.
How blind these "scholars" are! For the Ten Commandments were a totally separate spiritual law given by the very hand of God. The other laws of ancient Israel were generally referred to as statutes, judgments or ordinances. These additional laws—given to the physical nation of ancient Israel—were never placed inside the ark. They were never considered on the same plane as the Ten Commandments. These statutes, judgments and ordinances were plainly not the commandments to which Jesus referred when He told the earnest young man: "if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
"But," many of you will wonder, "don't all the churches teach that we should obey the Ten Commandments?" That is another false assumption!
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of churches and professing Christian ministers teach that the Ten Commandments are not required as a standard of behavior for Christians to follow, although they may be a good "moral guide." If you doubt this, just ask your minister. And the comparatively few churches that really claim to teach and follow the Ten Commandments have an extremely difficult time explaining how they can do so while "watering down" the ﬁrst, second, seventh and tenth commandments—and completely abrogating the fourth.
By contrast, if you were able to "look in on" the worship and practice of Christ Himself and the original Christian church, you would ﬁnd a group of dedicated people who really tried to follow Jesus' command: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). Instead of keeping the "Day of the Sun," Jesus and His followers would be keeping the true Sabbath, which God gave for all mankind. For this day points to God as the Creator, setting Him apart from all the "gods" men have imagined through the ages. Jesus and His followers kept, and keep, the biblical Holy Days that picture the great Plan of God. These days were continually observed not only by Christ but also by all of the apostles. We ﬁnd references to this in Jesus' observance of the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1–14), and in His observance of the Passover (Mark 14:14). Remember that the Holy Spirit itself was given to the early Christians on another of God's Holy Days, the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which the Christian Church and the Apostle Paul himself observed regularly (Acts 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8).
The "Test" Commandment
God's inspired word reveals that Jesus is the "light" of the world: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Over and over, we are told to follow Christ's example (1 Peter 2:21). Near the end of the New Testament Era, His disciple, the beloved Apostle John, wrote that "whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:5–6).
The above passage tells us that a follower of Christ "ought himself also to walk just as He walked." What, then, was Christ's example? What was it about the basic way of life Jesus Christ taught that ought to capture our special attention?
Jesus plainly lived by all of God's Ten Commandments, including regular observance of the seventh- day Sabbath. Jesus Christ and all the original Apostles always kept the Sabbath and never taught that it was done away! As George Price Fisher, professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale University, wrote: "The Jewish Christians at ﬁrst frequented the synagogues. They continued to observe the festivals appointed in the law, and only by degrees connected with them Christian ideas and facts. They kept the Sabbath on Saturday" (History of the Christian Church, p. 40).
Jesus said: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27–28). The Bible clearly reveals that the Sabbath was made holy long before there was a Jew to keep it! For the Creator sanctiﬁed the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship for all mankind. It was created immediately after the creation of man: "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were ﬁnished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctiﬁed it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Genesis 2:1–3).
Note that God blessed and sanctiﬁed "the seventh day" not just any day in seven! Today's "mainstream" churches admit this, even while "keeping" Sunday. As prominent Roman Catholic prelate James Cardinal Gibbon wrote: "You may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not ﬁnd a single line authorizing the sanctiﬁcation of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify" (in Faith of Our Fathers, 1876).
Many sincere Christians forget that God made the observance of the true Sabbath a special identifying "sign" between Him and His people. Any church or any nation that—knowingly or unknowingly—rejects this identifying "sign" will lose its understanding of who the true God is, and lose sight of the authority, the power and the reality of the eternal God who created and now sustains the heavens and the earth!
God told our spiritual ancestors, the children of Israel: "Surely my Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctiﬁes you" (Exodus 31:13). When polytheistic Gentiles all over the world were observing the venerable "Day of the Sun"—Sunday—God told His people to observe the seventh day as a memorial of creation. It became a "sign" between God and His people. It identiﬁes the true God as Creator. It identiﬁes those who keep this "sign" as His people—a people separate from the world.
God's word tells us that even the Gentiles were to be blessed if they kept God's holy Sabbath. "Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from deﬁling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacriﬁces will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:6–7). Isaiah was inspired to tell us that during the soon-coming 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth, everyone will be keeping God's Sabbath: "'And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all ﬂesh shall come to worship before Me', says the Lord" (Isaiah 66:23).
Sadly, in our modern, paganized society, the Sabbath is usually looked on as difficult to keep. It has become a test of one's willingness to truly surrender oneself to live by every word of God. So it is that only a few million Jews and Christian Sabbath keepers even attempt to keep the biblical Sabbath in our modern society. But Jesus—the "light of the world"—set us the example in observing the Sabbath, as did all His apostles and followers for many decades after His death. Who gave others the authority to change this divine command?
Every Word of God
Clearly, the early Christians based their lives on following the great spiritual law of God—the Ten Commandments. They tried to "live by every word of God." They did not just talk sentimentally about Jesus Christ's Person; they also revered His message. When they said, "The Lord Jesus Christ," they recognized that the word "Lord" means "Boss"—the One you should obey! Jesus reminded them of this vital relationship in many passages including Luke 6:46: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?"
Magnifying God's law in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). Today, however, millions of professing Christians divorce for almost any reason! Millions of churchgoers regularly lie, cheat, commit adultery and are integral parts of our modern society with its hedonism, violence and lust, and its acceptance of almost every perverted form of behavior known to man!
Yet the real Christianity of Christ is a way of life! It consists of one's total surrender to God, of accepting the Jesus Christ of the Bible as Savior and as Master—and of yielding oneself to Him to live His life within us through the power of the Holy Spirit. God's word tells us: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). So Jesus will live within us today the same kind of obedient life He lived in the human ﬂesh 2,000 years ago.
The Apostle Paul wrote: "I am cruciﬁed with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the ﬂesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV). The true Christ of the Bible will live within us if we truly surrender and accept Him as both Savior and Lord. Then, it is not the physical person who is keeping God's commandments in his own strength; it is the living Jesus Christ within us! As Paul wrote: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
Probably within this generation, the Christ of the Bible will return as King (Revelation 11:15). His true saints are described in this way: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
Having been genuinely obedient to God's laws in this present deceived world, these "overcomers" will then join Christ in ruling over the nations here on earth (Revelation 5:10). And: "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:3–4).
The veil of spiritual blindness will be stripped away from all peoples and all nations at last: "And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 25:7–8).
This is the Christianity that the true Jesus Christ will teach and put into practice on this earth when He returns as King of kings. Will you now begin to seek and to obey this Jesus Christ—the Jesus Christ of your Bible? May God grant you the understanding and the courage to do just that!
Adapted from “Which Jesus Do You Worship?” from www.TomorrowsWorld.org.