After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (John 19:28-30)
Our Lord and Savior declares fulfillment in all of scripture with one word…“Tetelestai”. The literal Greek translation is “it is finished”, but history tells us “Tetelestai” also means “paid in full”. What does this term mean to Christians? We know that since the fall of man, we are all on a collision course to our final destination of hell, and deservingly so. This course is laid in the moment we are born into a fallen broken suit of flesh into this fallen decaying world. We were all powerless when Christ died for us, meaning we cannot save ourselves. Christ absorbed all the sin of mankind for all time past, present, and future on the cross, but because God is perfect and pure He could no longer dwell within His only begotten Son. This is the only moment in all the gospels Jesus calls His Father…God. He cries out Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Let’s be still and meditate on this for a few minutes. Jesus Christ, the earthly physical expression of God, His birth and life foretold for thousands of years through the word and prophets, can no longer “feel” the presence of His Father. Contemplate how alone He must have felt in this moment. Not only that, but think of the physical pain He endured compounded with the rejection of the world and now the “disconnection” of His Father. This is a profound portion of the sacrifice Christ endured for you and me. We have all felt alone, rejected, and in one time or another we have all felt what seems to be an absence of The Father. Nothing can compare to the suffering our Lord felt on that day. Why am I bringing you to this moment in The Bible? The quick answer…the law. What is it? Why was it given to mankind? Does it even pertain to Christians today? I understand to some the answer might be hard to hear. The answer is yes and no.
Let us take a trip back in time +/- 2000 years from the crucifixion. A Gentile man from a region called Ur of the Chaldeans and his wife encounter God. This man makes an agreement (covenant) with God, and you know the rest of this account. Now I ask you…will Abraham and Sarah be in Heaven when we get there? We all know the answer. A resounding YES! Next question…did Abraham and Sarah have the law? No. So, to begin this commentary we must first understand a basic fundamental about the law…the law was never meant to be the vehicle of salvation. In the Old Testament God never promises salvation by keeping the law. Instead He tells the Israelites to stand firm and be righteous by keeping His statutes. Meaning, be as pure as you can and here are the guidelines and blueprint on how to do so. Salvation, since the beginning, has solely been about faith and faith alone. Consider Enoch, Noah, Lot…just a short list of examples of imperfect people who did not have the law but nonetheless we will encounter in Heaven. Now let’s unravel the purpose of the law. Its purpose was to provide the Israelites a “roadmap to righteousness” if you will. Why the need for such direction? Ask yourself, where were the Israelites being liberated from? They were being freed from 400+ years of slavery in Egypt. Why was there no significant uprising or revolt until Moses? The answer: the Israelites, a mass majority of them, shared the same pagan belief system as the Egyptians. As a result of this shared belief system the Egyptians were able to rule and reign over Gods chosen people. Why did God repeatedly warn the Israelites not to commingle with nations outside of Israel? He knew the Israelites would take on that cultures beliefs and traditions. Does this mean Christians today should only marry or stay within their own culture? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying marrying or staying within your own culture is inherently wrong. Seeing the beauty within one’s own culture is an incredible thing, or for one to attend a church that’s predominantly their own culture so they can understand the gospel I say Amen to that, but for one to think that God’s reasons for warning the Israelites to stay within their own culture applies to you today would be completely misunderstanding the reason why God said this to the Israelites and, in my humble opinion, is “replacement theology” which is an utterly unhealthy road to go down. No, instead it’s clear that Jesus wants us to be open and extend our love to every culture that walks this Earth. Even those cultures that we may, dare I even say, have personal difficulty loving. We will explore this cancer of “replacement theology” invading “The Body” in greater detail in future posts I’m sure, but for now let’s get back to the subject at hand.
The Law is handed down to Moses, and through him it’s given to the Israelites. Why? Think of it in these terms. Let’s look at John Doe. John Doe joins the military. What happens to John Doe in basic training? The military training officers break down and strip everything from John Doe so they can build him back up in their own image to be a warrior for their cause to ultimately fulfill their plan…sound familiar? Why does the military take John Doe to such a low place? He’s full of corrupted programming (the world) that is not compatible with their software. God uses Moses to provide an “update patch” to refashion His chosen people to be compatible with His software so He can place the Israelites in a position to fulfill His promise to Abraham which was to inherit the land of Canaan. The catch…well, according to the apostle Paul, the moment the law entered the world that’s the moment when mankind truly knew sin. Ever heard the term “rules were made to be broken?” In all, there is a total of 613 commandments given to the Israelites. 248 positive precepts to represent all 248 limbs and organs of the human body. “Be whole hearted with God, your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:13). The Hebrew translation for “wholehearted” is “tamim” or “complete” and “whole”. In contrast there are 365 prohibitions to represent every day of the year. Did God expect Israel to keep every single law? No, not at all. He sets up a system of atonement where in exchange for sin blood must be spilt and something must die. God knew Israel would disobey and break the laws continuously because the flesh does not desire God. So God is sovereign and controls everything. He takes His design and shapes and molds it to ultimately conform to His plan. In a sense, “we are but actors on a stage” as William Shakespeare puts it, but our Lord loves us so much He gives us the choice to love Him back.
“Climb to the top of Mount Pisgah and look north, south, east, and west. Take a good look, but you are not going to cross the Jordan River.” (Deuteronomy 3:27) In Moses’ final moments of earthly life God shows him the reason why He used him to free His people from oppression, and why He delivered the law to Israel through him. He shows Moses the land flowing with milk and honey…the land of Canaan. The Bible then tells us that God ends Moses’ life even though he is still strong and healthy, and secretly takes his body to bury it in an undisclosed location. Why? Possibly it’s because the flesh is weak, and the Israelites would have worshipped or idolized Moses’ burial site. We’re even also made privy to the fact that the devil wanted Moses’ body. Is there some future plan God has in store for the body of Moses? More on that to come in future posts but let’s not get side tracked. God doesn’t allow Moses to take Israel into the promised land. Instead He chooses a man named Joshua to guide His people across the Jordan and into Canaan. Our timeless God chooses a man who’s name translated to Hebrew is Yahshua. Once translated from the Greek to English we end up at Jesus. God foreshadows to us, the reader, that He is not bound by time like you and me. He says to us… “remember this name, remember the name that takes you into the promised land. It’s not the law that gets you there, it’s faith in Jesus.”
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11) Many Christians today will attest that this passage strictly applies only to the New Testament, but the apostle Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4. A minor prophet of the Old Testament. The Savior of the world fulfills all the law with his life and crucifixion. It is extremely important to understand this aspect of the Christian faith. Without this understanding I might run the risk of being misled and backsliding. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) At Jesus’ sermon on the mount He simply tells us that He knows what is in our hearts so we are actually held to a higher standard than just outwardly conforming to a set of commandments. Have a heart that follows God. Don’t just go through the motions because that’s dishonest and He will see through your counterfeit Christianity. It is true if we are to be disobedient and actively defy Gods laws than we deserve His wrath. This is the purpose of our Savior. As a result of Jesus living a sinless life and then becoming all sin on the cross, He fulfilled all of the Laws of Moses and blinded His Father to our sinful existence. Christ imputes His purity onto us so when God looks at us He doesn’t see something defiled. He sees His son. We now have the “freedom” to choose to sin or not to sin instead of being a slave to sin. This is the removal of bondage Jesus freely gives us if we choose to walk in his ways. Are we perfect? No, which is one of the reasons why some Christians will feel a conviction over something while another Christian may not share the same conviction. We as brothers and sisters in Christ ought not to enforce this conviction on a fellow Christian if it’s a “grey” area of The Way. Something of which there is no definitive answer on the subject. A great example would be the consumption of alcohol. Christian “A” might enjoy a glass of wine everyday with dinner while Christian “B” chooses to abstain completely. Paul’s message in Romans 14 is simply this, when arguing over a “grey” area of scripture (The Bible tells us not to be drunk, but it does not say to abstain from alcohol) and Christian “B” attempts to enforce their conviction onto Christian “A” then Christian “B” is actually the weaker portion of the body of Christ, because they don’t fully understand the freedom and liberty Jesus has graciously given. The enforcing Christian on this type of matter might often believe that they are somehow a “better” Christian, or even worse, more favored by God. Paul then in Romans 14 takes a step back and says, even still, if your fellow Christian has that type of conviction don’t go “parading” your freedom in front of them. In other words, don’t drink that glass of wine in their presence while pointing your finger at the Christian enforcer. We are not to be potential stumbling blocks. We don’t know the reasons why Christian “B” abstains from alcohol, but one of them might be because they know deep down inside that they cannot drink without it leading to eventual drunkenness. We should all pray for one another to gain a deeper understanding of our Lord’s mercy and grace. The fact of the matter is, in situations such as this, we take on a form of lordship whenever we feel the compulsion to “straighten out” a fellow Christian or insist on correcting them on every little thing in their life that doesn’t necessarily match up with our own life. In the end both Christians are honoring The Lord. So the question is to you Christian. Are you too worried about other Christian’s faith that it’s taking time away from you gaining a deeper understanding to strengthen your own faith? I have to ask myself this question every single day of my life.
Last I end with this, the law is pure, it’s perfect. It’s not the ark of the covenant itself that cannot be touched or looked upon by the Israelites. It’s what is kept inside the ark that cannot be touched or even looked upon without being destroyed by God’s wrath. Man cannot be in the presence of the Lord without a vehicle or a “key” which is The Father’s son Jesus Christ. He is the ark of the covenant that encases and encompasses God’s laws. “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:23-25) Are Christians under the Mosaic Law? No, to believe this would be to imply that Christ’s finished work on the cross is, in fact, unfinished. Does the law even exist then today? Yes, because through our faith in Christ the law is written on our hearts, but the genesis of this is first having a heart of repentance. We as Christians need not worry about what we did, what we didn’t do, what we are doing or not doing, what we will do or not do in the future. All we need to do is ask for Jesus to come into our hearts to lead us through this pilgrimage. To trust in Him that He knows what is good for us and that He will protect and provide. To live in confidence and find rest in our Lord’s good work on the cross. For that, there is no continual atonement for sin because the debt has been paid in full. That, my friend, is faith. “Tetelestai”