Bible Topics In The Christian Library
God’s law: Moses to Christ

Just before the Israelites entered their promised land Moses gave them many words of encouragement. Among those words are the following:

Behold, I have taught you statutes and ordinances, even as Jehovah my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the midst of the land whither ye go in to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, that shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Keeping their law, Moses said, would promote righteousness in their land, and make them "a wise and understanding people," for it was the best legal system the world had ever seen. Indeed, God had promised a long list of blessings they would enjoy if they kept it. But in spite of its greatness, it did not bring life to the Israelites, it brought death. For in its detail the law of Moses is a legal system—an elaborate collection of specific statutes and ordinances. And condemnation is the result of every legal system. For Paul said, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (1 Corinthians 15:56). You see, legal systems demand obedience, even as Paul said: "for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (Romans 2:13). And James likewise said, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). Any violation, therefore, makes a man guilty; and guilt brings condemnation. Thus, every soul who obeys God’s law is justified before him, but every soul who violates his law is condemned and rejected, for God is no respecter of persons. Even the apostle Paul confessed that he, too, had been condemned to die for his sin: "For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Romans 7:9-11).

Such is the nature of legal systems. Paul warned the Galatian Christians, who wanted to keep the law of Moses, that relying on it for salvation would bring them under a curse. For just as with Adam, a single violation of the law of God brings the condemnation of death. He therefore said, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Galatians 3:10). Without law we are safe, because unless there are rules (laws) to break, and we know about those rules, we cannot become a violator; for Paul said: "...sin is not imputed where there is no law" (Romans 5:13b). But as soon as we learn about such rules, temptation comes, and deceives us into thinking we can get away with breaking them: "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Romans 7:11). Thus, because there was a rule to break, and temptations always come, the rebellious nature of our flesh revives, and deceives us into thinking sin is something good to do. Thus we sin and come under the curse of death. Hence, the power to commit sin comes from the existence of laws or commandments to violate.

This is true even if there are no written laws or direct commandments; for remember, Paul said, "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law" (Romans 2:12). Therefore, any man who willfully violates any of those universal principles of ethics or morality becomes guilty before God. Hence, like Adam, all men die for their guilt because all men willfully sin, one way or another; as Paul said:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come (Romans 4:15). Thus, indirectly, through sin, law becomes the source of our death. Now, law itself does not cause our death, but it does give the potential to commit sin, and sin does kill. For remember Paul said, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (1 Corinthians 15:56); and, "Apart from the law sin lies dead" (Romans 7:8b). Hence Paul could say, "…the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression" (Romans 4:15).
Why Legal systems fail

Although law brings death instead of life, it is not because law is evil, for Paul said, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid" (Romans 7:7a). And again he said, "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law" (Galatians 3:21). The law failed to promote life because of the nature of man. It is because of our own weakness of character in this earthly body that law (although designed to promote justice and righteousness) eventually condemns us all. And so Paul could say, "Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12). Paul spoke of the weakness of the flesh when he said, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh…" (Romans 8:3a). Consider the following example: Jesus’ faithful apostles fell asleep on watch just before his betrayal. Now, falling asleep on watch is a serious offense. But these were rare circumstances, and Jesus knew they loved him. Therefore, he did not condemn them, for he does not hold his disciples under a legal system. But he did admonished them, saying, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

Like Adam and Eve, we are all vulnerable to temptation. And under strict legal systems all it takes is one violation to make us guilty. Thus, legal systems bring us under a curse because of our failure to keep every law. No man, save the son of God himself, has the strength of character in this sinful world to be perfectly obedient. Therefore, through law we all end being condemned. As Paul said, "...For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3:23), including Paul himself. And again he said, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Some of the Jews who converted to Christianity wanted to keep the law of Moses, and they wanted the new gentile converts to do the same. During a conference about that issue, Peter said, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they" (Acts 15:10-11). Legal systems are yokes upon our necks for several reasons, and one of them is because of our inability to keep from breaking them; for mankind lacks the inner strength needed to resist all of Satan’s temptations.

God lets us fail (but does not cause it) to defeat pride and prove that he alone is righteous, for Paul said, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9); and, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaks to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law [comes] the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:19-20). And speaking about Jesus he said,

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith (Romans 3:25-27). There are many other reasons why legal systems fail. It is foolish to rely only upon law to promote righteousness. Our American forefathers knew that, but this generation has forgotten. A popular modern proverb says, "Ours is a government of laws, not men." Such faith in laws is misguided. Jesus was often accused of violating the law of the Sabbath day. One answer he gave was: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Likewise, laws are made for man, and not man for laws. Legal systems are aids, not solutions. Reliance upon law alone will defeat justice as often as it will promote it. For example, legal systems have often been used to do evil. Laws have been used to rob, cheat, deceive, corrupt; yes, even to kill innocent men. For example, King David ordered the commander of his army to expose one of his soldiers, Uriah, to the enemy in the hope he would be killed; and so he was. David had the legal right to give such an order. But it was a crafty device designed to conceal the adultery he had committed with the man’s wife. That entire affair was the only time in David’s life that he was ever disobedient to God. It was terrible sin; and David suffered God’s punishment the rest of his life for it. David repented of that sin; and his remorse never left him. But the world is filled with crafty men who manipulate laws to do whatever they want; and they have no conscience for repentance. Moreover, the more laws men create, the easier it is for them to manipulate. That is one reason why wicked men love to have many laws.

I once spoke with a lawyer in an effort to help a man being cheated in a land sale. The old, seasoned lawyer first said there was nothing that could be done to help the man being cheated. His counsel would have ended there if I had not told him the name of the man being cheated. As soon as he heard the man’s name he said, "Oh, I know him. Well, there is a way..." That sort of thing goes on constantly. There are now so many laws in our land, that clever lawyers can pick and choose the ones they need to achieve their goals, whatever those goals are. And unscrupulous men use their cunning (or their money to hire cunning men) to constantly manipulate legalisms to defeat justice. Men like that in our government constantly manipulate the laws and the courts to do whatever they want regardless of the will of the people, or regardless of what the United States Constitution says, or regardless of whether it is just. They justify themselves by saying it is all perfectly legal. I have a friend who was almost cheated (in a moral sense, but not a legal sense) out of his house and property because the bank which held his mortgage demanded immediate payment of all the debt. It seems that buried in the obscure language and fine print of the contract he had signed (the kind lawyers love to create), were words to the effect that the bank had that right.

I remember reading many years ago in a news magazine how modern Jews in Israel who claim to keep the torah have found a clever loophole in one of the laws. You see, the law commands that there be a sabbath year for the land. During every seventh year, crops cannot be grown. The land must lay fallow; a regulation remarkably advanced in its recognition of soil chemistry. I was once told by an expert in agriculture that such things replenish the strength of the land. But with modern techniques, the are other ways to achieve the same result. Now, Jews, like nearly everybody else do not want to lose out on a year’s profit. So, they arrange a legal contract with some Arab farmers who have no such commandment. The Arabs then grow crops on the land, and share the profits with the Jews. Thus, the Jews can boast of "keeping the law" by not growing crops themselves during the sabbath year, but still enjoy profits from its cultivation. Again, such things are done constantly by those with power and cunning.

Consider another example. Traffic and weather conditions vary widely from time to time, and place to place. Such things have a significant effect on what speed is safe. Yet almost always speed signs remain the same, whether it be when the traffic is light on a clear day, or when the traffic is very heavy in a driving rain. As a practical matter, any effort to regulate traffic using a strictly legal, letter-of-the-law approach is virtually impossible, as every experienced policeman knows. They all rely upon their good judgment, not legalities. And thus it must be in every working situation: the principles of righteousness should take precedence over the laws of statutes and ordinances, as Jesus demonstrated in his own life. Insisting that all activity be regulated by legalisms is something that unscrupulous lawyers demand so they can manipulate them for selfish advantage. But the truth is, promoters of such legalism do not themselves adhere strictly to all laws. They are power hungry hypocrites who prey upon the powerless and the unknowing. I groan when I see how such lawyers have gained control of our government. Remember, Paul said, "...if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law" (Galatians 3:21).

The purpose of legal systems

After showing that legal systems cannot bring righteousness, Paul said, " Wherefore then serves the law? It was added because of transgressions…" (Galatians 3:19a). Thus, the need for legal systems is to suppress evil. In another letter Paul elaborated on that point when he said,

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be 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). Very few people know that when God first brought the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage he had no intention of burdening them with all that is now found in the law of Moses, nor did he intend to keep them wandering in the wilderness 40 years. But in spite of the many great signs and wonders God performed in their sight, and in spite of the fact that he himself spoke to them in a mighty voice from Mount Sinai, and in spite of his continual loving attention and care, they frequently complained, and rebelled, and condemned both him and his servant Moses. And so God put the yoke of many laws upon their necks; laws that the Israelites have never fully kept. They did not keep them all in ancient times, and no Jew keeps them now. For example, there were many commands about various kinds of animal sacrifices for many different reasons: daily offerings, special festival periods, atonement for many kinds of sin, at every human birth, etc. Modern Jews, no matter how zealous for the law, make no attempt to perform any of those required sacrifices. Nor do they keep the laws about the priesthood, or the laws about land transactions, or the laws of disease and cleanliness. What they have done is to pick and choose those few of Moses’ laws they want to obey, and then add to them a host of other traditions they have invented through the centuries after Moses. The main reason they do not obey those sacrificial laws of Moses is because (even though God gave them) they are not good laws—they are impractical and inexpedient, especially in modern times. God himself said they were "not good" when he spoke to Ezekiel the prophet, saying, I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 20:23-26). The prophet said that God gave them "...statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live..." For, as I have shown from the Holy Scriptures, legal systems do not bring life, they bring death. Moreover, God said, "...I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate." Every first-born animal in Israel was commanded to be killed and burnt in sacrifice to God—although "unclean" beasts (usually beasts of burden) could be redeemed by some other offering; and first born children were redeemed by killing an animal in their place, for God has never sanctioned human sacrifice. And the commandments were so numerous and so detailed that it was very difficult for even the most dedicated man to keep from breaking any of them with the passage of time. Thus, God "polluted them in their own gifts" because they were unable to keep them to the letter. As Paul said, "…the law entered, that the offence might abound..." (Romans 5:20a). It was punishment from God’s wrath which was kindled by their continual unfaithfulness. Such animal sacrifices are not what God really wants. What he wants from us is humility and righteousness, as the Scriptures say: "For thou delight not in sacrifice; Else would I give it: Thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:16-17); and, "He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8); and, "For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings" (Hosea 6:6). And the letter to the Hebrews says, "Wherefore when he comes into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou would not, But a body did thou prepare for me; In whole burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin thou had no pleasure: Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God" (Hebrews 10:5-7).

Hence, legal systems are imposed upon the faithless and the rebellious, because their evil deeds need punishing, lest they roam free to create more lawlessness. This is another reason why we must support laws of government, as Paul said,

For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And would thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil (Romans 13:3-4). But the righteous need no legal systems. All the righteous need is wisdom, because they already want to do good. They just need to know how. Thus, the law of God they need is not a legal system, but words of truth and wisdom, wherever they may be found—in the Bible or outside of it—for the Bible could not possibly contain all truth. But since this world is a mixture of both good men and bad, legal systems are needed to impose justice upon wrong-doers. Righteous men who have learned God’s truth will impose justice upon themselves, and righteous men who are not yet learned will accept the wise judgment of righteous men who have learned. Thus, their love for justice and righteousness frees them from the need for external control. For their control is within; that is, the knowledge of what is right, and the will to do it. But the unrighteous need external controls. Thus, statutes and ordinances, and the means to enforce them, are necessary as long as there are ungodly men.

Legal systems can also facilitate righteousness by providing information and guidance about right and wrong. But that only succeeds with men who want to be righteous—men who trust God. For Paul said, "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law" (Romans 9:31-32). Righteousness based upon law only works when men have the faith of Abraham. Otherwise "lawfulness" degenerates into a depraved game of legal maneuvers, where the goal is "winning" by the rules, and not the achievement of justice and righteousness. But those who play that diabolical game will lose everything in the end; because Jesus said, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).

Christ’s law of liberty

Paul said that Jesus brought salvation to all those who love righteousness, "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances" (Ephesians 2:15). And again he said, "For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believes" (Romans 10:4). Thus, those who belong to Christ are no longer under a legal system; we are under what James called the law of liberty: "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment" (James 2:12-13). And the apostle John said, "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Both Bible history and secular history bear witness that the Israelites have continually failed to keep their covenant with God. Thus God has rejected both them and the old covenant because they rejected him. Instead, through his own son, God has created a new covenant for all mankind based upon faith and the law of liberty, not a complex legal system. That was his intention from the beginning, for the legal system given through Moses was only temporary, as Moses himself told the Israelites:

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desired of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). That new prophet which God spoke about was Jesus Christ, who came to establish a new covenant between God and his people, and the new ark of the covenant is the hearts of the faithful. Centuries before Jesus came to the earth, the prophet Jeremiah spoke about this new covenant: Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This new covenant is not based upon outward obedience to a legal system, but upon an inner transformation of the heart; for it is a covenant of the spirit, as Paul said: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:5). It is based upon a man's heart, and not his genes. Each Israelite became a part of the old covenant as soon as he was born; and they all had to be taught about God afterward. But no man can become a part of the new covenant until he first knows about it, and accepts it within his heart . Thus the words, "they shall all know me." And this new covenant is not based upon a legal contract which binds God to give us something if we earn it; for no man has the strength of character to earn salvation from God. The salvation we receive is a gift, based upon his merciful kindness—grace. Thus no man has a right to boast about getting it, for our salvation is not something we earn. It is given to us; but not to all men. It is given only to those of us with faith in Jesus Christ. Thus Paul said, But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Romans 3:21-28). So then our relationship with God does not depend upon our obedience to a legal system, but upon his merciful kindness plus our obedient trust in his son. For Paul said, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18). And now, being freed from a legal system, we who are under the new covenant cannot violate legalities because there are no statutes and ordinances to violate. And since legal systems brings death, the absence of them means life from the dead; for Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). And Paul said, "For I was alive without the law once..." (Romans 7:9a). Thus, since there is no longer a legal system over us, then we can no longer become criminals before God, for how can we violate what does not apply to us? John expressed it this way: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9).

You see, although in our fleshly weakness we may offend God, nevertheless, we are unable to commit a crime against him, because we are now his adopted children, and he no longer treats us as criminals when we offend him. For Paul said, "Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Romans 4:6-8, from Psalm 32:1-2). As disciples of Christ, we are now children in his household. Children may, and do offend their parents, but they are not cast out as criminals, because family interactions are not based upon a legal system; they are based upon mutual love. Therefore, because of our new, special relationship with God  he no longer treats us like criminals when we offend him ("the Lord will not impute sin"), any more than an earthly father treats his own children like criminals when they misbehave. For as adopted sons we are no longer in bondage to a legal system. We are sons, not servants, as Paul said: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:14). And again he said, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1-2). And remember Jesus words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).


Now, although, as children of God, we are no longer bound to a legal system, we are not free from law. For notice what Paul said about that. First, he said, " Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28). But then he went right on to say, "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31). Although we are free from a legal system, we are now under God’s royal law (James 2:8), which is the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), sometimes called the law of liberty (James 1:25). And by knowing that, we can now more clearly understand what Paul meant by these words: "For I through the law [the law of Christ] am dead to the law [the written code], that I might live unto God" (Galatians 2:19). Thus, being freed from a legal system does not mean we have no obligations. For Paul said, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law" (1 Corinthians 9:20-21). Paul said he was, "To them that are without law, as without law," but he went on to say that he was "…not without law to God, but under the law to Christ …"

God has abolished the old covenant with its legal system, but he has established a new covenant having the law of Christ. Now remember, a covenant is an agreement or contract made between parties. The old contract was primarily a legal one, with stipulations based upon statutes and ordinances, with little said about the state of mind. In contrast, the new is a spiritual agreement, based upon what is within our hearts: mutual love and loyalty, with only a few strict commandments. When I married my faithful wife, we were required to sign a legal contract with the state witnessed in one of their buildings. But we did not consider ourselves married until we exchanged vows in our church building witnessed by our Christian brothers and sisters. Those vows were very different from the state contract, because our mutual commitment was not based upon a written document, but upon the love and loyalty we have for each other within our hearts. This is the nature of God’s new covenant with mankind. Indeed, that has always been God’s desire. For when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of the law of Moses, he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). And as a servant of Christ, Paul said,

Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loves his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10). Hence, love is the foundation of law and righteousness. But love is more than a feeling. It is a force that energizes righteous living, and the fruits of righteous living are good deeds. And the more we have the spirit of God’s love (Romans 5:5) within us, the more we will be motivated for good deeds. Thus, genuine children of God, energized by his love, and guided by his truth, prove their genuineness by bearing the fruits of righteousness; for all men are known by their fruits. Is it not through God’s love that we enjoy his bountiful blessings? Yes. And it is through love that we do good to others. For John said, "He that does good is of God" (3 John 1:11). Perhaps God’s greatest act of love was when he allowed his own beloved son to suffer and die in order to save us from eternal condemnation. John expressed it so well in this very beautiful and familiar passage: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18). Having proven his love for us, we must now prove our love for him by our faith in Jesus Christ, his only begotten son; but not faith only, for James said, "…faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). For when the word of God says that we must believe in Jesus Christ, it does not mean to simply acknowledge the truth of his divinity; for even the devils do that, as illustrated in Mark 1:23: "And straightway there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God." And James said, "Thou believe that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

Thus, true faith is dynamic, and alive with love, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14); for Jesus gave command saying, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). For Jesus said unless we are fruitful we cannot remain in him: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:1-2). You see, although the children of God are saved by grace through faith and not works (Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8), nevertheless, it is according to their works that all men will be rewarded on that last day, and not according to their faith. For Paul said, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). And John said,

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13). And at the end of John’s great vision of Heaven, Jesus said to him, "And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). And good works include obedience to all of Jesus’ commands, for he said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). For a greater explanation of what that entails, read my essay The Second Mile.

Now just because we are God's children, and he does not reject us when we sin against him , does not mean we that we cannot be lost. We can still fall from his grace and lose our eternal inheritance. When Gentile Christians in Galatia wanted to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses, Paul warned them, saying, "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:3-4). Also consider Esau who was Isaac's first born son. He belittled the value of his birthright, and thus lost it; for the Bible says that Esau, "...for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" (Hebrews 12: 16-17). 

There are many ways we can loose our Christian birthright. Judas was one of Jesus' twelve specially chosen apostles, yet he betrayed him and was lost. Jesus spoke a parable about a man sowing seed which fell on four different kinds of soil. The seed represents the word of God, and the soil represents the hearts of men. Regarding one kind, Jesus said, "Those on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (Luke 8:13). In other words they were faithful for a while, but then fell away and perished. Jesus told another parable about five foolish virgins who came to a wedding. They were invited, and they accepted the invitation; but because they were careless in their preparation causing them to be late for the event, they were excluded. Like Esau, they, "found no place of repentance"; for Jesus said, "Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes" (Matthew 25:11-13). 

There are many warnings given in the New Testament about the danger of Christians falling away. In one epistle Peter gave a list of virtues that we should keep; after which he said, "...give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:10b-11). The writer of the letter to the Hebrews warned his fellow Christians against going back to a sinful life, when he said, "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27). Paul also warned the Christians in Rome when he was speaking about how God's former chosen people, Israel, had been rejected. He used the example of a tree when he urged them to be steadfast, saying,

Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off (Romans 11:20-22). Indeed, Paul wrote that he too could still be lost, when he said, "I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Jesus even warned that many who did mighty works in his name would still be lost because they were unrighteous: Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23). Indeed, there were some Christians during New Testament times who had received miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit; and yet they still fell away. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said that such traitorous men could never be restored: For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:4-6). And so, even though we are children of God, and not under the condemnation of law, nevertheless we can still be rejected if we turn away from God, and fall from grace. We would be like the man whose hugh debt was forgiven, but then brought back against him again.  If we live as rebellious children, then our condemnation will return. God chastens his children when they sin against him; but if they remain rebellious he will eventually destroy them with the rest of the world. For Solomon said, "He that being often reproved hardens his neck shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). Therefore, it behooves us all to keep these words of Paul always in mind: "Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

Note: Most scriptures are from the KJV, the rest are from the ASV. For the sake of readability I took the liberty to convert most of the "eth" and " est" endings of some words to their more familiar spelling.


1.For example, see Deuteronomy 28:1-13. 

2.See Acts 10:34. 

3.See Matthew 18:17. 

4.See Romans 7:14-25. 

5.This was the only time that Peter ever denied him. 

6.This point is covered in more detail further on in the essay. 

7.See 2 Samuel 11. 

8.See 1 Kings 15:5. 

9.I am not saying he was a wicked man. I do not know his heart, nor have I learned anything of his manner of living. 

10.The law of Moses. 

11.See for examples, Matthew 12, Matthew 15, Mark 3. 

12.See Exodus 20. 

13.Just as so many do today. 

14.Only once did God ever command human sacrifice (Genesis 22). But God never allowed it to occur, for it was commanded only as a severe test of Abraham's faith. 

15.Often unfairly contrived. 

16.Baptizing infants does not make them Christians. 

17.Although we are not yet in his heavenly world. 

18.because of our redemption, which is explained more fully in my essay Jesus our Redeemer. 

19.Although he still punishes us when we sin (see Hebrews 12:5-17). 

20.See Matthew 18:23-34 

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

Top of Page