Religious Talking Points: “Jesus Told Us to Keep the Commandments.”
On more than one occasion, when Jesus was asked what they must do to inherit eternal life, His answer was to obey the law and commandments. The rich young ruler, and the lawyer who was trying to trap him, are two examples. The result was that they both walked away bewildered, perplexed, and hopeless. Jesus answered the questions in the same way they were asked … “Hey fellas, if ‘doing’ is your choice for obtaining eternal life, here is the requirement: follow the law, keep all the commandments … and let Me know how that works out for you.”
“Do what the law says and you’ll have life.” Jesus said this in Luke 10:28. We’re talking red letters in many Bibles. Therefore, it must have also been meant for us today as well, right? At least, that’s the mindset within the vast majority of Christian church organizations, and those who abide within them. Jesus said this to someone who was trying to trap Him into saying something against the Mosaic law. The passage also reveals the man was seeking to justify himself when he asked what he needed “to do” to inherit eternal life.
Compare that quote from Jesus in the book of Luke (before the cross), with this from the Apostle Paul (after the cross): “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?” (Galatians 4:21). New Covenant writings by the apostles reveal there has never been a doer of the law. It was a hopeless endeavor to try to keep it, but it was the only hope Israel had, even though it couldn’t provide what they were seeking. And the rest of the world was without God entirely, with no hope at all—and then came the cross and resurrection.
Questions we should ask: Was Jesus speaking specifically to those who were still under the law at that time, or were His words also meant to be directed at us today? Does acquiring eternal life require keeping the commandments of the law, or is it a gift received through believing, by grace through faith?
Answers: It can’t be a combination of both works and grace, because they are polar opposites. We find in New Covenant writings from the apostles that salvation came to the world through Christ as a gift, received by faith, apart from the law (see Romans 3:20-24). Why does his seem to contradict some of the things Jesus said? Because during His time on earth as a man, the objective of the ministry of Jesus was directed at those who were under the law—the people of Israel. He was communicating the true purpose of the law to those Jewish people who were under the first covenant. It was given not to justify, but to pronounce guilt and to condemn. His purpose was to show them that keeping the commandments and statutes from the law couldn’t be done to the standard of perfection that the law demanded. That ministry of “death and condemnation” came to an end after the cross, and God ushered in a New Covenant that would be available to Israel, along with the rest of the world (Gentiles). Jesus fulfilled all of those “Old Testament” Scriptures which contained the message of the hidden Christ, now revealed from the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.
Most Christians have the mindset that if we’re making changes with proper lifestyle choices, and “trying our best” to follow the commandments, God will honor and accept our effort. This approach is the complete opposite of the gospel. Lifestyle changes may be a wise and positive thing for us to do for our own good in this world (and for those around us), but it has nothing to do with salvation or sanctification. We’ll be better off allowing the Spirit of Grace to guide and live through us daily, rather than trying to swim in a sea of inconsistency through a written code.
By the way, which commands will you decide to obey? Are you planning on browsing the Bible buffet where you can pick and choose what seems appropriate to follow? Some religious rules will look good to eat, others not so much … and notice how folks will select different portions based upon their own preferences. The all-you-can-eat church buffet is something the military defines as the mess.
Few have understood Paul’s teaching that if you want to apply one commandment from the law, you would be obligated to keep the whole law, a practice known as “falling from grace.” Did you realize all 613 commands and statutes came together in one package, and that if you have broken one (1) rule, you are considered guilty of breaking every single commandment within the law? Are you aware that your good intentions and “trying your best” is unacceptable? Anything less than perfection falls short under that ministry of bondage. That’s why the Jews had to keep spilling blood through a never-ending trail of animal sacrifices that couldn’t remove sins. That was the curse of the law—no wiggle room, no runs, no drips, no errors allowed, and no permanent grace.
Jesus brought complete deliverance and freedom from the curse of that package. And similar to how one man (Adam) brought sin to the entire world through his one unrighteous act, it was one man (Jesus) who brought eternal forgiveness and the removal of sin through His one righteous and completed work at the cross. It is finished! Believe it.
The old law was a perfect, holy, and a humbling reflection of God’s perfect standard, but trying to live by the commandments doesn’t work. God never meant for it to work. It doesn’t bring life or righteousness. That law is contrary to us, and will only cause sin to increase. God knew this when the covenant was established with Israel. He meant for it to be a tutor to bring people to the end of themselves and their feeble attempts which resulted in dead works, and He did it in order to point them to a Savior—Jesus Christ. The old ministry of the letter has ended and no longer has glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11). We now live in the eternal replacement ministry of God’s Spirit, empowered by grace.
For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon