Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is Right Standing with God the Result of Perfect Obedience? (Q&A)

Q:  My name is Troy T.  I am a Black American (non-Jewish) believer in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Holy One anointed by G-D to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  While I lived in Washington, D.C., I attended a Messianic Jewish Congregation because G-D, in a dream, told me to.  Before the dream, I did not even realize that, except for a few exceptions, that Jews existed who believed in Yeshua as the Anointed One.  However, now I come across them all the time.  Well, I loved the congregation but I have also come across many Messianic Jewish groups who teach salvation by faith and observance to the Law given to Moses.  However, I love your website because it is fair, balanced, and Scriptural.

I teach, according to the Scriptures, that right standing before and with G-D is only the result of perfect obedience to the Law of G-D.  In the beginning, G-D gave all humans a conscience that contains the Law of G-D, which is composed of His eternal law (love Him will all your being and love your fellow human) and natural law (do not murder, steal, commit adultery, commit sodomy, rape, lie, etc.).  Yet, due to the transgression of the one man (Adam), all humans acquired a predisposition to do that which G-D said do not do and to not do that which G-D said do.  Even though until the giving of the written Law of G-D, disobeyed G-D like Adam by breaking a direct command of G-D but only by violating the dictates of the conscience.  This predisposition is only inherited through the father (not the mother) since the sins of the father are transferred and Adam is the father of us all.  

This predisposition adversely affected our conscience and, thus, all humans have a faulty conscience and some humans even have a seared conscience.  Because of this, no human can fully obey the Law of G-D in his conscience and, thus, cannot acquire right standing before and with G-D by perfect obedience to the Law of G-D contained in our conscience.  Because of growing disobedience in the world, G-D eventually chose a remnant people (the descendants of Israel) to serve as a positive example to the world of G-D’s fidelity, love, mercy, blessings, etc.  As a result, He gave to Israel’s descendants His written Law via the intermediary Moses that reflect His Eternal Law and Natural Law (though the written law contained also special provisions relating to the situation of the Jews).  This created a people subject to faulty consciences (Gentiles) and a people subject to the perfect written Law of G-D (Jews).  Yet, Jews cannot fully obey the written Law of G-D because they, like all humans, have a predisposition to disobey G-D and, thus, right standing before and with G-D cannot be acquired by perfect obedience to the written Law of G-D.  Therefore, no human can perfectly keep the Law of G-D whether it is contained in the conscience or written and, thus, right standing cannot be acquired by perfectly obeying either because we would just fail.  

As a result, all humans, Gentile or Jew, are guilty before G-D as lawbreakers and are the children of His wrath.  In His mercy, G-D promised One who would deliver all of us from the wrath of G-D and through whom He would fulfill all His promises to Israel (restore land, blessings, spiritual relationship, etc.).  Yeshua of Nazareth is this Promised One Anointed to establish and order the Kingdom of Heaven.  Yet, in order to satisfy G-D’s requirement of perfect obedience that leads to righteousness, the Promised One had to be a son of mankind as a representative of mankind but He also had to be a son of Deity because no man can perfectly obey the Law of G-D.  Therefore, the Word of G-D took on flesh.  

Yeshua of Nazareth inherited His humanity from a mortal human woman but maintained His Deity because He did not have a mortal human father and, thus, could not inherit a predisposition of disobedience but His Father was Elohim and, thus, had a predisposition of obedience.  As a result, Yeshua of Nazareth obeyed all the written Law of G-D and fulfilled the Law and Prophets who foretold of Him and what He would do.  Now, the purpose of the Law of G-D (whether in the conscience or written) was, theoretically, to bring righteousness but, ultimately, to bring us to the revelation that we are breakers of the Law of G-D, need salvation from the wrath of G-D due us, that salvation would not come as a result of our obedience to the Law of G-D since we cannot, and that we need another way to salvation.  

Additionally, the Jews had an advantage in this revelation in that (1) they had the written Law of G-D which is not subject to defilement like the conscience since it is external to the person and thus knew the perfect will of G-D and (2) the written Law of G-D pointed to the other way to salvation via prophecies of the Anointed One whereas the conscience does not.  Those of us who follow the other Way are subject to the Eternal Law of G-D, Natural Law, and the Law of Messiah (which reflects these anyway).  The Law of Messiah is a new covenant separate from the Law given to Moses though they both may contain some same provisions but they also contain similar provisions and different provisions.  Yet, because the Law of G-D given to Moses does reflect His Eternal Law and Natural Law and contains special provisions relating to the Jewish situation, Jewish followers of the Way may still choose to observe the Law of G-D given to Moses but this Law does not save nor binds them.  Similarly, the Law of Messiah does not save but it does bind all followers of the Way.  It is the followers of the Way who are the true Jews and the true children of Abraham.

What do you think?

A:  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  It sounds like we are in agreement about quite a lot of what you have mentioned.  Thanks, too, for your encouraging feedback on our website.  May God bless you as you seek him and share his word.

I have the following initial thoughts to share about your teaching, and only wish that I had more time to go into more depth: 

1)  Natural Law.  It's interesting that you chose the term Natural Law to describe the requirements that I usually refer to on my website as the Laws of Noah.  Gentile Christians in the early years of Christianity often used this same name ("Natural Law") for the same set of laws that you do.  It's true that Paul does mention our conscience in mediating the law written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15), but Biblically this inner awareness is ultimately based on the commandments of God in the early chapters of Genesis.  That's why I have chosen to refer to them as the Laws of Noah to emphasize their connection with the Old Testament as well as with the Jewish people.  But Natural Law is another valid name for them.  This Natural Law, which preceded the time of Moses, is also included in the Law of Moses and in the Law of the Messiah (the New Testament).    

2)  Predisposition to sin inherited from the father.  Theologically, I have a problem with this position, since both men and women are equally prone to sin, not to mention that this belief (of inheriting a predisposition to sin from the father) is taught nowhere in the Bible.  The idea that sin is inherited from the father has been used to try to explain how Jesus could be without sin.  But the simple fact is that Jesus was without sin because he was (and is) God the Son.  The way in which divinity and ordinary humanity were joined in him is a model and a picture of God's will for all of us: to be joined together with God in an intimate unity.  But this union cannot be achieved by our own perfect obedience, since we are not able to perfectly fulfill the greater demands of the Law ot the Messiah.  This unity can only be established through the ministry of Jesus himself and his crucifixion and resurrection.  But in that unity, we are growing into greater and greater obedience to God's will through the presence of God in our lives. 

3)  No human can fully obey the Law of Moses.  This common Christian idea is directly contradicted by the New Testament itself.  See for example Luke 1:6, which says that Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were "both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord."  The apostle Paul, in Phil. 3:6, also claims that he was "as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."  The common Christian teaching that perfect obedience to the Law of Moses is impossible is therefore false.  

However, perfect obedience to the Law of Moses cannot and never could bring salvation (Gal. 3:11,21; Heb. 10:1,4).  Nor could it bring about perfect obedience to the fullness of God's will (as revealed in the New Covenant), but only a partial or limited obedience.  Man still continued to have a disposition to sin and continued to sin in ways not covered in the Law of Moses.  Rather, spiritual salvation is available only through faith in Messiah Jesus.  This was true both in Old and New Testament times: 1 Peter 1:11 mentions the "Spirit of Messiah" operating within the Old Testament prophets.  Right standing with God has only therefore ever been possible by faith, and by faith in the Messiah.  One who is in a faith relationship with God will sin less and less because of the power and presence of God's Spirit in their lives, bringing us into obedience to the Law of Messiah (1 John 3:9, the "Law of the Spirit" in Rom. 8:2, the Law written in the heart by the Holy Spirit in Heb. 10:15,16).  

So why was the Law of Moses given?  The Law was originally given to Israel to limit sin in Israel in preparation for the coming of the Messiah (Gal. 3:19,24; Heb. 10:3).  And it still continues to function today as a signpost pointing to Messiah for those who do not yet know him.  But the Law was never a means of spiritual salvation.  God's desire from the very beginning was for man to be in an intimate faith relationship with him.  Messiah is both the model and means for that faith relationship to come about.

(For more on this topic, see the Index category Laws of Noah.)

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