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Building up believers and the New Testament church

The Righteousness of Faith

THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW

Does the law still have any value? Here is what Paul said: "But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

The law is for the unrighteous man. The law condemns the sinner, and shows him that he is far from God. It has use in judging the man or woman who enters into sin. But it has no value to the Christian. We are now under a higher law, the law of life in Christ Jesus. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:2-4).

Notice that Paul says the "righteous requirements of the law" are fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit. Most men would agree that applies to murdering and stealing and so on. But how does that apply to the Sabbath? Consider this: that natural men (separate from God) do not know when to rest. Greed consumes them, and they know no limit within themselves in following after the things of this world. They must be given legal limits to know when to stop. So God gave them a legal limit (just as in every other area) to keep them from destroying themselves. The law did not stop a man from lusting in his heart after a woman, but it did stop (or judge) the outward act of adultery or fornication. It could not stop the heart from hating, but it could stop (or judge) the outward act of murder.

But now by the Spirit we do not rest on just one day. Our rest is continuous as we abide in Christ. We cease from our labors, and know the working of God in and through us. There is no more value to God if we physically rest on Saturday rather than Tuesday. But in Christ (in union with Him) we are not just physically resting on a certain day, but resting in our heart in all things. We are not just reading the Bible and singing songs and reminding each other to "know the Lord," but we are living in His rest, having ceased from own labors, and He is working in us both to will and to do His good pleasure in all things at all times. This is much greater than the Old Testament Sabbath.

"Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: 'So I swore in My wrath, "They shall not enter My rest,"' although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'; and again in this place: 'They shall not enter My rest.' Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, 'Today,' after such a long time, as it has been said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.' For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day" (Hebrews 4:1-8).

Everything in the New Covenant is greater than the Old. The demands are greater, the provision is greater, and the promises are greater. Those in the Old could not enter into the presence of God. They had to stand outside the curtain. God demanded righteousness, because He does not change, but they could not meet the demands. Paul says that the ministry of the Old Covenant (and law) was a ministry of condemnation and death (see 2 Cor. 3). The law brought men to see their own inability to meet the righteous demands of God. The law was a "schoolmaster" to bring Israel to the time of faith (Christ). Paul says that now "faith has come" so we are no longer under the law written in stone, but under a higher law, the law of life in Christ Jesus.

Does that mean that now we can "get away with something"? Far from that. As has already been stated, every requirement under the law of faith is higher than the Old Covenant (including the Sabbath). Those who say they are now enjoying God and pleasing God more because they are keeping the Sabbath are deceived. They have not entered into the rest of God, spoken of in Hebrews 4, and they will be rejected on the final day just as Israel was. How can resting on a certain day of the week possibly add to what Christ has done in those who have partaken of His divine nature and are walking in His life?

In the religious world, the Muslim keeps Friday as a holy day, the Jew keeps Saturday, and the Christian keeps Sunday. Who is right? My answer is that none of them is right. Sunday is not the Christian Sabbath. Christ did not die just to shift a day in the week--He died that we might have life! Is a Christian living in a Muslim country sinning because he rests on Friday and works on Saturday? By whose calendar will we decide? How low can our thinking go? 

"Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:21-24).