January 2014


In our previous blogpost, we talked about the difference between Law and Grace.

We shared about the how the Law killed 3000 Israelites on the very first day of implementation and how 3000 souls were added to the church on the first day where grace arrived.

We compared the treatment of the rebellious son under the curse of the Law and its treatment under the grace of God

Lets continue to consider one more difference.

Sabbath Keeping Under The Law and Under Grace

Under the law, if a man forgets the Sabbath and work, what would  happen to him?   Num 15:32-35 tells us of a case like this

“The man must surely be put to death;
  all the congregation shall stone him
  with stones outside the camp.” – YHWH (Num 15:35)

The bible did not explain why the man was gathering wood on that Sabbath. But  under the law he was killed regardless of his intention.

This was a contrary to the teaching of Jesus with regards to Sabbath keeping

Matt 12:1-8 : Records of a time where the disciples were hungry and the pluck the head of grains and eat. When the Pharisees accused them of violating the Sabbath

Jesus defended them saying

“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry,
  he and those who were with him:  how he entered the
  house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful 
  for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only
  for the priests?  Or have you not read in the law that on 
  the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath,
  and are blameless?” Jesus (Matt 12:3-5)

He concluded saying “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

In Matt 12:9-14 he was asked a question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

Jesus replied saying

“What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it
  falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift
  it out?   Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? 
  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Jesus (Matt 12:11-12)

Similarly, both law and grace emphasized the importance of Sabbath, but they took a different approach to keeping the Sabbath, the law emphasized on punishment for sin, but grace considered

The Spirit Of Slavery Vs The Spirit Of Sonship

Despite its blessing found in the Mosaic Law, the curse of the law is also terrifying. But under grace, God poured out his spirit as a counselor and we are comforted by it. When Jesus was nailed on the cross, he took away the curse of the law. In fact the teaching of Jesus in the new testament made the law deeper and harder to keep. For in the New Testament, Adultery and murder begins with thoughts (Matt 5). During the time of Moses, punishment is accorded only when the physical actions is performed.

Christians today must adhere to the same standard of Morality given in the Old and New Testament. For the definition  of sins and morality had not change between the testaments. It was in fact deepened and made harder to keep.

God did not give us grace to “facilitate” sinning, but instead, it is given so that man could come to him for forgiveness. Therefore,grace is given so that we could uphold the law of God without the fear of the curse of the Law.

This is why the main difference in keeping the law under grace lies in the spirit in which we keep the law of God.  Just like what Paul says

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage 
  again to fear, but you received the Spirit of
  adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” – Paul Rom 8:15

Paul reminds us that we do not receive a spirit of slavery and we received a spirit of adoption as sons. The spirit of a slave is different from the spirit of sonship,

The spirit of slavery enslaves us, even though we work, we would not be free. A spirit of sonship is one that receive freedom. Even though we are free, we choose to do a slave work as our choice.

This concept can be seen in the customary foot washing during the time of the Law. This culture can be seen in Gen 18:4.

During that time, Abraham welcome a group of travellers and in those days, washing of feet is a work that is done for the guest of the house. This work is done by the slave. Other form of foot washing could be done from a disciple for his master.

At that time, when the guest comes in, it is the job of the slave to wash the feet of the guest and the master. The slave had no right to refuse, and he could only do the work.

But under grace, the situation is completely different.

Jn 13 records the time before Jesus was betrayed, and he washed his disciples feet. After he washed the feet, he said

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well,
  for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have
  washed your feet, you also ought to wash one
  another’s feet.” – Jesus (Jn 13-14)

Under the law of grace, the higher status must serve the lower, and this is not done in the spirit of slavery, but rather in a spirit of sonship. If we were to consider this from the perspective of love, we will know that grace was build on a foundation of love.

On the contrary the focus of the law was to punish the sin.

Conclusion

In the law of Moses, the lamb was sacrificed for the sin of the master. If one sins and he need to put his hands on the lamb, and kill it, Offered it up as a burnt offering so that sin can be atoned.

But under grace the master died for his lambs, Jesus is our Lord, and he became an offering for sins, and through his blood, he forgives us of our sin. This is the biggest contrast between law and grace and the most important thing we ought to understand.

I hope that at the end of the exercise, we would reach a conclusion to understand that the standard of morality between right and wrong remain constant in the old testament and the new testament.

The law was given to define sin and prevent people from sinning against God. It uses the festivals and sacrifices to remind the people about God’s morality standards and their sin.  The law is given by God to Moses to teach man his standards, and to prevent man from sinning against him.  When man went against Gods standard, he would be judged immediately and death reigned in that law.

This law doesn’t justify man before God, sacrifices can can only atone for the sins and trespasses committed by the individual but it does not reconcile God and man. Sacrifices only serves as a reminder of sins, but it does not forgive sins thus man continues to stand guilty before God as a sinner.

Throughout the period of the Law, sin continues to hold dominion over man. Man was unable to adhere  to the standards of God.  The entire old testament is a testimony of man’s repeated failure in  trying to match the basic standards of God.

But all the sacrifices, feasts and festivals prophesied about Jesus. When Jesus was born into the world, he fulfilled all the sacrificial requirement of the law. As the result, we have grace today, Jesus came give grace to man.

It is because of this grace, now man could stand justified before God, as baptism washes away sins. The blood of Jesus continually washes away sin as long as one is willing to repent before God. Man could now use this grace in their daily lives and to keep the standards of God written in the Law without the curses of the Law.

Let us not mistake grace as a “free pass” given by God to allow man to continually sin against God. But let us understand it as a  help given by God to help man to adhere to Gods standards.

I would be taking some time to study into the Mosaic law to better understand how the law relates to Christians of today. But as it would be a long study. I am not sure when I could write more regarding this topic.

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Once I was having a discussion with a close family members, and the topic of Old Testament and its role in the New Testament became a point of contention. In his opinion, the beliefs of my church and my brethren is one based on the New Testament and we  failed to consider the Old Testament.

To deal with this mis-conception I wanted to highlight the difference between the Old and The New Testament. This difference was actually pointed out by Apostle John in the gospel of John.

For the law was given through Moses,
  but grace and truth came through
  Jesus Christ.”  – John (Jn 1:17)

The main difference between our time in the last days and the time of Abraham , David, Prophet Malachi  is this, we are no longer under the law, but we are under grace. Just like how Paul tells us us

For sin shall not have dominion over you,
for you are not under law but under grace.” Paul (Rom 6:14)

Since the time of Abraham to Prophet Malachi sin have had dominion over everyone, including the saints of the Lord. When God gave the law through Moses, his purpose was meant to teach the world what sin is (Rom 7:7). The law today serves to teach the Christians the definition of sin. The purpose of the law is to punish sin, and the method of remission of sin is through sacrifice and burnt offerings.

By sinning here I refer to falling short of the standards of God. Since the time of Moses until now, the basic standard of morality given by God was inscribed with the finger of God onto the the stone tablets containing the 10 commandments. 

Those who lived under the law  lived in fear. Due to sins dominion over the people of God there is this constant fear as one would sin against God. In order to remind the Israelites of the law , a constant system of feast and festivals was given. On that day, sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins, and the law would be read to the people. The sacrificial system of the old testament serves as a constant reminder of sin (Heb 10:3-4).

When one keeps the law, there would be blessings from God given to him, but those who failed to keep the law falls under the curse of the law. They died in their sins 

Paul describes it like this

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse;
  for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in
  all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”” –Paul (Gal 3:10)

This is the reason why the law is not a blessing, but a good chain that teaches what is sin. Those who lived under it will never be free, they will be trapped by those law, like a bird trap in a cage. Interesting, when the apostles describes the law they called it “yoke  the neck that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10)

In the new testament, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law by sacrificing himself as the sacrifice of sin. By doing so Christ had released us from this curse of the law.

As Paul describes 3 verses later

“ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law,
   having become a curse for us (for it is written,
  “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)” – Paul (Gal 3:13)

At this point of time, most people would have a very negative impression of the Law of God. Now the question is, why then a good God created such a law that appears bad?

Why Did a Good God Created A Law That Curse People?

In fact, the law was given by God during the time where sin holds a dominion in the world.  The curses of the Mosaic law was given because God knows that man are stubborn and prone to sin. If there is no law to restraint man, law and order will be in disarray.

Imagine a world where there is no law to keep criminals at bay and everyone could do what they want. What would most people choose to do?

Every race and countries had rules and regulation set so that there are law and order. For example, in order to protect road users, we set up traffic lights, speed limits and highway codes. If one abides by the law, there will be road safety.

Similarly God created laws that are good, for when human are allowed to do what they want, they will often choose sin and be in conflict with God . This is why mankind needs to receive the law of God as a way of life, for without it  there will be be nor fairness, law and order.

The Beginning Of Law And The Beginning Of Grace

Yet, whenever I think about the day in which the law was instituted verses the day Gods grace began. I cant help noticing a big contrast.

When Moses took the stone tablet down with him, the Israelites had already began sinning, they created a golden calf, calling it “The Lord Whom Brought You Out Of Egypt”. At that point Moses gave a command to the Levites.

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” – Moses (Ex 32:27)

On that day, the Levites killed 3000 of the Israelites (Ex 32:28) and those people died because of their sin against God .

On the contrary, when grace came on the day of Pentecost, a contrast can be seen 

After Peter spoke the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, he  exhorted the people saying “Be saved from this perverse generation.”. Luke the Physicians describe it like this

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” – Luke (Acts 2:41)

From here the curse of the law and the benefit of grace can be seen clearly.

Treatment Of A Rebellious Son

The approaches to sin and the treatment of sin is different under the law and under grace. Lets take for example, a rebellious son. The law of Moses Deut 21:18-21 stated

If a man had a stubborn and rebellious son, who disobey them even when chastened, he will be brought to the elders of the city, and they will stone him to death with stones. This is done so they will put away evil from among you and for all to hear and fear

The law of Moses does not leave compromise, whenever a person sins, he will be punished accordingly.

This is a big contrast when we compare to the parable of the prodigal son spoken by Jesus in Lk 15:11-31

The prodigal son demanded his inheritance from his father, and squandered it all.  It was difficult for him to return to his father. But in that parable, when he return home,  his father was there to welcome him back.  The fathers reaction is different from the Law.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring
  
out the best robe and put it on him, and put 
  a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and
  let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead
  and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And
  they began to be merry.” – Jesus (Lk 15:23-24 )

This story doesn’t change the fact that both the law and grace regarded the rebellious son as a sinner, but its treatment to the problem is very different. Under the curse of the law, the rebellious son would have been killed long before he can repent.

The Conclusion So Far

So far we have merely scratched the surface of contrasting between the law of God and the grace of God.  On the next post entry, we would talk about even more contrast between law and grace.

Year 2014 have finally came, and 14 days have passed since the new year day. So have we made our resolutions?

2 Chron 29:3-8 Records the things King Hezekiah did during his new year. Although the Jewish new year is of a different day than our calendar, but what he did is worthy of our consideration.

Then he opened the doors of the temple and to clean the temple. They took out the debris that are within the temple, and the process took around 16-17 days to complete. From here we can see that the Israelites had closed the temple for a long time, they have stopped offering sacrifices and they no longer served the LORD.

Hezekiah understood the reasons for all the trouble that Judah encountered was due to their disobedience with God, for the Jews no longer offered incense or burnt offerings to the God of Israel. In the end the Wrath of the Lord fell upon them.

Therefore King Hezekiah exhorted them saying

“ Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, 
  but
yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His
  sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and
  serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His
  wrath may turn away from you. 

  For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and 
your children will be treated with compassion by those 
who lead them captive, so that they may come back to 
this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful,
and will not turn His face from you if you 
return to Him.” – King Hezekiah (2 Chon 30:8-9)

Sometimes, when we sin against God, we find it hard to face him. We often feel embarrassed to return, but King Hezekiah tells us that God is gracious and merciful.  He will never turn his back to whomever who comes to him for mercy.

Sometimes we feel that God doesn’t care about us and he said that he turned his back at us. But in fact, it is we who had turn our backs towards God. We cannot see him because our backs are facing him, if we turn around and look, we will always find God looking at our direction, waiting for his child to turn back.

Considering The Example Of Jacob and Hagar

Let us consider the story of Jacob, we knew that he used deception to trick Isaac to bless him. As the result , Esau wanted to kill him and he must flee from his house alone.

We can imagine how he felt as he lay down at Bethel, lonely, unsure of his future. He must have lots of thoughts and fears, he must have regretted much.

For he feels that he is no longer pleasing to God, and he would imagine God had ignored him. But yet God was there, telling him that HE is with Jacob, no matter where he goes. When Jacob woke up he exclaimed

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  – Jacob (Gen 28:16)

Therefore, he made a vow to return to Bethel and worship the Lord if he returns safely. He wasn’t aware that God was taking care of him even as he escape.

Let us consider Hagar, when she angered Sarai her mistress. As the result of her pride, she was chased out of the house, and she was unsure of her future, as she had lost her only reliance. As she regretted and cried, God appeared to her, telling her to go home, be subjected to Sarai. Hagar exclaimed

“Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” – Hagar (Gen 16:13)

These two stories reminds us that our God is a God of grace, if we turn back to him, he will never ignore us. Very often it is we who turn our backs towards God. If we are willing to return to him, his grace will be with us.

The Need For Resolve To Return To The Lord

When Hezekiah led the people to return to God, he led them to make a resolve. I am sure we follow the yearly tradition to make resolutions to ourselves (though I seriously wonder if we ever achieved all of them)

I am sure everyone would have set targets with regards to career, life and ideals. But have we made a resolve to turn back and receive blessings from the Lord?

It would be sad if we do not, for our lives are constantly changing, and only the promise of the Lord is steadfast, if we are able to receive his blessing, we would be able to weather through all obstacles in life.

Perhaps we may have a easy year ahead, perhaps we may face tribulation. But with Gods guidance we could sail through the problems in life. We know the global outlook is usually bleak, and the divide between the rich and the poor gets larger and larger.

As life grows harder, we need God to be with us even more.

When Jacob is younger, he used all his means and deception to grab on to everything his hands could gather. But eventually he realized that only by holding on to God he could receive security.

Therefore as he wrestled with God , he held on to him shouting

“I will not let You go unless You bless me!” –Jacob (Gen 32:26)

As the result, God blessed him and change his name, he was no longer Jacob, but he became Israel. Likewise, this same change need to happen in our life, we need to change from being Jacob to Israel

Jacob mean “Supplanter”. Very often in life, we too supplanted and held on to many things in the world. But yet we must learn to hold on to God, for he is worthy of our grasp.

In life, we do encounter failures, we do have our fears and sometimes we murmur against God. But if we are able to hold on to him, we will have peace and hope in him.

When the peace of God rules in us, we can be like Hezekiah, so let us make a resolve to cleanse the temple. Only by so doing can we  receive the blessing of the Lord.

Where is the Temple of God today?

“Do you not know that you are the temple of
  God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will 
destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, 
which temple you are.” Paul (1 Cor 3:16-17)

Over here Paul tells us that our bodies is the temple of God. We are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit Of God dwells within us. If we regard our bodies as a temple, our attitude in life would be different.

We would not choose to destroy or defile it for we know it is a glorious temple. For we know that our God is holy and we are his temple. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this point, and the church of Corinth is one example.

The church in Corinth regarded their body as a tool to satisfy their lust and their heart desires. They take care of their bodies, simply because if it is not done, they will not be able to enjoy their lust. They do not regard their bodies and the temple of the Holy Spirit nor do they consider God who dwells together with the.

Indeed, the church in Corinth failed at that time, but what about us today? Do we still regard our bodies as the body of God? Do we still preserve our holiness and purity within us? Do we allow evil to exist in our hearts?

Since we have the understanding that our bodies is the temple of God, I would share with everyone how does one cleanse his own temple in the next post.

This scene taken from the Passion Of Christ left a deep impression in me. It is taken from Jn 18:37-39 .

Jesus was brought from the house of the high priest to meet Pilate,

Pilate : “Are You a king then?”

Jesus : “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, 
                and for this cause I have come into the world, that I 
                should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of
                the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate : “What is truth?”

( He went out and face the Jews)

Pilate : “I find no fault in Him at all.But you have a custom that I 
                should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you
                therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

It was Judas who brought soldiers to capture Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. We knew from the record of John that he was brought to Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas the high priest. Then they were handed over to Pontius Pilate the governor. Pilate did not want to judge the case so he sent Jesus to King Herod, who later push him back to Pilate.

That is when the conversation between Jesus and Pilate took place. Whenever I try to picture Pilate asking the question “What is the truth?” I would often picture him asking that in a tone of mockery. For now the Jesus who claims to be a king is at  his mercy. He could execute him anytime.

Of course Pilate never got an answer for Jesus did not explain to him what is the truth.

Similarly in our present world, there are many people asking “What Is the Truth?” just like Pilate. Although many claims to believe in Jesus, but when we examine the content of their faith,  one would notice that they believe in something not found in the bible, nor was it spoken by Jesus. Indeed, many believe in the teaching of man and not the truth from God.

Who can know the Truth?

A true believer is  given the grace to know the truth.  With the knowledge of truth, they will be able to grow in the Lord, into the salvation grace of Jesus. This truth can only be received by people blessed by God. The Truth is received by those whom are blessed by God

For Jesus once said

“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
  desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you
  hear, and did not hear it.” – Jesus (Matt 13:16-17)

We know that Jesus often uses Parables as illustration, although they are simple stories, but within them contains the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus once explained why he uses parables

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries 
  of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

Indeed, many will hear the word of God and cannot understand. Have we ever wonder what’s the reason behind it? On one hand there are great religious leaders and scribes who studied the scriptures and yet cannot understand it. Whiles on the other hands we have the disciples.  They are not highly educated and are not deserving of the truth, However God allow them to hear and understand.

They can see the fact that Jesus was the Christ. while Pilate in all his high standing, never got to know the truth.

Therefore everyone who received the grace of God, must know the truth. Within our hearts and soul we must speak this truth of  GOd. It concern salvation and eternal life in heaven.

There are 3 points that I would like to share concerning truth.

The Word of God Is The Truth

Jesus once said this

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” – Jesus (Jn 17:17)

He was praying to the father, to sanctify his disciples. He said that the word of God is truth, and the world Jesus was referring to was the Old testament that was written before the birth of Christ. It was given so that Jesus could fulfill them in the New Testament. Indeed as Jesus was living  on earth, he taught the truth to his disciples so that they could  understand the power of his Word and how it could bring us to salvation.

The Psalmist describes the power of the Word of God in his psalms

“For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
……
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
…..
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.” – Psalmist (Ps 33:4,6,8)

In fact when God has spoken, it was done, by his word the heavens are made. That is how powerful his words really are, yet we have people who claimed that the 6 days in Genesis are 6000 years. They failed to see how powerful his words really are.

We can see his wonderful creation , our planet is suspended in vacuum with 365 1/4 turns in a year, and 24 hours in a day. We have the right amount of oxygen to survive, any higher would have clause fire. All these happened by the word of God.

The word of God also teaches us salvation, how we could be forgiven of sin and to inherit heaven. Those who believe in it will receive this grace. There are many who were skeptical of it in the beginning, but when they come to church and receive his word, their doubts are removed. Therefore, those who believe, will be saved.

The fact is, Christians who received the grace of Christ were born of the word, and that is the truth. Elder James describes it so

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” –James (Jas 1:18)

In fact God wanted Christians to be the first fruit of his creations, but to achieve that we need to be brought forth in the truth. We need to search for the truth in the bible, receive them in our hearts. We need to live a life according to it, only then it can be a seed of life within us. Christians who does that becomes the first fruit of his creation

I would continue sharing more in the next post