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Understanding Law

O how I love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.

You, through your commandments have made me wiser

than mine enemies (Psalm 119:97-98).

      The 119th Psalm is revealing, not only because of the psalmist’s love of the law, but because he thought about the law. For a legalist, meditation is not required. The law is the law. If you break it, you are punished. If you are not overtly breaking it, you go free. For the Pharisee, it was enough that he count the leaves from his mint plant and tithe one out of ten. Jesus said this about that:


Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone (Matthew 23:23).

      Finding the tithe in the law is a simple matter. So is justice. But where is the law regulating mercy or faith? Far be it from me to suggest that mercy and faith are absent from the law, but a legalist, who only looks at the letter of the law, may never find them. Rather he may cite: “He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” (Hebrews 10:28). This man might very well miss the idea of faith that is conveyed through the law, as well as the lessons conveyed in the application of the law. Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees was sharp.


You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:24-25 NIV).

      You actually work so hard to get certain technicalities of the law correct, said Jesus, that you never look below the surface of the law, at the deeper undercurrent, at the underlying meaning. There is a law of love, a law of faith, and a law of mercy contained in the law, but you have to think about it to see them.

      It may be surprising to realize that neither Jesus nor the apostles made a distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of God, nor did they distinguish the sacrificial law or the ceremonial law. Generally speaking, they just used the word “law” as though everyone knew what they were talking about. And for the most part, their readers did. They spoke of “the law” and in that law is the love of God, the mercy of God, the compassion, and the faith of God. All these things the Pharisees seemed unable to grasp.

      “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” (v. 25 KJV). I don’t know why the NIV changed “extortion” to “greed” for the Greek word harpage denotes pillage, extortion, ravening, spoiling. Jesus decried the custom of those Pharisees, who would tithe meticulously, while threatening some poor soul with exposure if he didn’t pay up. The practice was detestable, and yet these men, who appeared to be righteous, who were the pillars of the community, who flaunted symbols of righteousness, and with great sweeping gestures of generosity toward their fellow man, would turn and steal, lie, and cheat. They kept the letter of the law, while they shattered the underlying intent and the spirit of the Law of God.

      He went on to say, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean” (v. 27 NIV).

      Everyone knows that biblical prophecy is highly symbolic. What does not seem so widely understood is that the law is also symbolic. It has meaning that reaches beyond mere words. And this is what I have been driving at all along. When I ask, which laws are applicable to Christians today? my answer is (brace yourself), all of them are. But the key lies in understanding that the law is often symbolic. Sometimes, the law cannot be applied for one reason or another, but that does not imply abolition or repeal. Paul’s example of not muzzling the ox is an apt illustration. It is written for our sakes, and it is written so we can apply the principle in our dealings with one another. Many aspects of the law are proverbial. That is, they are used like axioms or aphorisms. If I say, “Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” nearly everyone will know what I mean. It is a figure of speech, a metaphor, and it is applicable whether you have a goose or not.

      For some reason, when faced with a law, people are prone to ask, “Do I have to do this in order to be a Christian?” Or, “Do I have to do this to make it into the kingdom of heaven?” I feel a far better question is, “What does this law mean? What is the intent, the spirit of the law? How might it instruct me in living my life?” When we start reading the law that way, we will be much further along than we were when we thought legalistically—which both law keepers and law rejecters are apt to do. Returning to the Sermon on the Mount, we need to look at what Jesus said one more time:


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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18 NIV).

      Heaven and earth still being there, does that mean I can’t wear wool and Dacron slacks? No it doesn’t and we will explain why presently. Unfortunately when people think of any part of the law being abrogated, they seriously miss the point. But if we acknowledge that not one word of the law has passed away, we come smack up against another question, “What does it mean?” That is where the truth is to be found. Jesus continued:


Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (vv. 19-20 KJV).

      It is not enough to follow the letter of the law, to go through the motions and then say, “I have fulfilled the Law of God, I’m worthy of salvation.” Jesus said that unless your righteousness goes beyond that, you’re not going to see the kingdom of heaven at all.

      What is expected of us is that we look beyond the statement, “you shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn,” and realize that we have an obligation, not merely to animals, but to men. We are required to be honest with workers, to pay them what they are due, to give them what is theirs. It’s an eternal principle, not something that can be abolished simply because times have changed, or even because the relationship between God and man has changed. This has to do with the relationship between man and man. As long as there are two men, there will be a necessity for one man who has another working for him to be honest with his employee.

      Jesus continued: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment’” (v. 21 NIV). Here is something fundamental. A man might say, “I have never killed a man. I couldn’t do that.” Does that mean that the commandment “thou shalt not kill” poses no issue for him? Hardly, because Jesus said that if you hate a man without a cause, you are guilty of a violation of the underlying spirit and intent of that commandment. He went on to say, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (v. 22 NIV). Both of these exclamations were violent epithets.

      This simple teaching of Jesus was given as a subheading under the commandment, “You shall not murder.” It is an elaboration of the principle, of the spirit of that law. It is a part of what the Sixth Commandment is saying to mankind. It won’t work in the judgment to say that we haven’t broken the commandment, when in truth, we all have.

      When we get down to what the Ten Commandments are all about, when we get below the superficial, the mere letter of the law, we see something more. When we grasp what is really involved in not bearing false witness, in honoring our father and mother, in being honest and generous, all of us will have to confess that we are guilty. We will come to realize that we have indeed broken the law and become sinners, dependent upon the grace of Christ.

      The Sermon on the Mount is rich with illustrations of this principle, so much so that it is hard to understand how anyone could miss it. Because of the temptations of the flesh, we tend to remember longer a statement like Jesus’ teaching on adultery:


You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (vv. 27-28 NIV).

      It makes it much harder to stand in judgment and say you haven’t broken the Seventh Commandment. Christ came, in the words of Isaiah, to “magnify the law and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21 KJV). The statement is better rendered, to “exalt the law and make it glorious.” It is a far cry from dismissing it entirely.

      When we really get down to brass tacks, which of us will be able to say to God, “I am clean”? Which of us can say, “I have not sinned”? The truth of the matter is that the commandments of God reach so much deeper into us than we imagine. Jesus made that clear as he continued the Sermon on the Mount. Most Christians are very familiar with what Jesus taught in that sermon. But now we need to take a look at the underlying laws which are not so familiar. Take the law of lost animals:


If you see your brother's ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him. If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him. Do the same if you find your brother's donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it (Deuteronomy 22:1-3 NIV).

      Could anything be more Christian? But there is no statement of that law in the New Testament. Is it therefore no longer applicable to a Christian? Imagine yourself walking along a road in the country when a strange dog joins you on your walk. He is wearing a collar, so he is somebody’s pal; but today, he has decided to join your walk. This actually happened to my wife and me one day. The dog followed us all the way home and started acting as if he were our dog. So we gave the big fellow some water, put him in the back yard, and began calling neighbors. Finally, we located the dog sitter who was supposed to have been caring for the dog while the owners were on a cruise. The dog had gotten out due to the sitter’s carelessness and might well have been lost to the owner.

      Now, if we had just ignored the dog, if I had said, “Oh, I’m in a hurry. I haven’t got time. The owner will find him sooner or later. I’m not going to let on that I even saw it,” would I have obeyed the law? After all, the law didn’t say anything about a dog.

      We thought about this after the fact and pondered what it was that motivated us to take care of this fellow and restore him to his owner. We didn’t even think about it at the time. Part of the motivation was empathy. How would we feel if our dog was lost? (We knew well how that felt.) But part of it was the law applied in a Christian sense. It had become internalized. We felt responsible for our neighbor’s animal.

      This law in principle has an application to every man. I am responsible for trying to help protect my neighbor’s property and to keep it secure for him. I should do this even if I don’t know who the owner is. I should bring the animal home, water him and feed him, and when the owner is located, I should give it back to him. The dog we found, by the way, turned out to be a valuable bird dog, and was barely a year old.

      The law goes further than that. “You shall not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again(Deuteronomy 22:4). Here is a fellow in trouble, with a hurt animal, trying to get the critter up again. You can’t pretend you didn’t see. You can’t dodge behind the hedge and avoid the issue. No, you are supposed to walk right up to him and then stop and help.

      “Well,” I can hear someone say, “no one around here has farm animals, so the law has no application for me.” Really? Suppose your neighbor is trying to put a tarp on a wind-damaged roof all by himself. Should you help?

      Now of course, all this is covered by the golden rule. We should do to others what we would want them to do for us. But the law explains and illustrates the golden rule for us. It does not limit the law to these literal examples.

      When I thought about this, it occurred to me that this law is never reiterated in the New Testament. Instead, it is illustrated in a way that underlines what Paul said about not muzzling the ox. The illustration is the familiar parable of the good Samaritan. Footnote

      It seems a man was on his way to Jericho when he was set on by a gang of thieves. They stole his clothes and everything he had, wounded him, and left him half dead. While he lay there, two religious men came along, saw him, and avoided him. In the words of Jesus, they “passed by him on the other side.” So, what did they do that was so wrong? It wasn’t any of their business.

      Then along came another man. A Samaritan. He felt sorry for the man, tended to his wounds, helped him up on his own animal, and took him to an inn to recover. Not only that, the Samaritan paid his expenses and left money to see to it that the man was cared for until he was well. Why would the Samaritan do that? What is not often noticed is that the Samaritans also had the law—the Samaritan Penteteuch. Footnote The Samaritan’s conscience was informed by the law in Deuteronomy. The Priest and the Levite who left the man there may have been within the letter of the law, but the Samaritan understood the meaning of the law—our obligation to help our fellow man. Odd, isn’t it, that the despised Samaritan understood the law better than the legalistic Pharisee?

      There is another issue that arises from this same chapter in Deuteronomy. “The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deuteronomy 22:5). Years ago, I answered a letter from a lady who was worried about whether she could wear her husband’s parka while milking her cows. This kind of question arises because we tend to think too literally when it comes to law. If she had thought about the underlying principle, she would never have needed to ask. And yet, there are still some absurd situations that arise in churches about this issue. I heard of one church that was planning a skating party and some ladies wondered if it would be okay for them to wear slacks or jeans. The deacons got together to talk this over. There was the obvious problem with skirts if a woman should fall. And yet, in their view, women should not wear pants. So they had a conflict between rules about modesty and rules about women wearing pants.

      So what is the law trying to tell us? It seems simple enough. The law suggests we be attentive to gender identity. And it is not a matter of skirts or slacks. Women’s slacks and men’s trousers are easily distinguished. And there are parts of the world where a man might wear a kilt. Social custom determines what clothing men and women wear, and their clothing should be different. When you encounter a law like this, it is perfectly okay to stop and think it through before you try to apply it. And it is okay to use common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is an early casualty when it comes to making rules in church.

      Does God really care if the parka a woman puts on to go out and milk the cows is her’s or her husband’s? Or does God mind, if her feet get cold, if she pulls out her husband’s socks and puts them on because he’s got some wooly ones and hers aren’t so warm? Is God really going to say “Aha, now I have her. She has put on the wrong socks”?

      I start this process with the assumption that God is not arbitrary, that God is not unkind, that God is love, that he is not trivial or petty, that he never gave man a law that was bad for him. If you can disprove that premise, you’ve got me. But I’m going to proceed on that and live by it. I believe it as an article of faith. I think that the law is simple enough to understand as to God’s intent. Take the next verse as an example:


If you come across a bird's nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NIV).

      I suppose that there are some people who feel that God in heaven is counting these little birds (which, according to Jesus, he really is) and that if you don’t handle this right, he will deliberately shorten your days. Hardly. If you think about it, God is saying that the days of man upon the land are dependent upon his attention to ecology. It is important to conserve wildlife, to not destroy species. Is this law still binding? Of course it is, but it is binding because it arises from the nature of things, not because it is enforced by some entity. Is the law meaningful in the 21st century? Ask any environmentalist. And it is the meaning that is important. We are supposed to think about the environment, to take reasonable steps to preserve species. The law reaches far beyond nesting birds.

      It isn’t that easy to show the meaning of all the laws in the Old Testament, but that doesn’t mean the meaning isn’t there. It may mean nothing more than that we have not been paying attention.

      Consider this one, for example: “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together” (Deuteronomy 22:10). Now I am no authority on agriculture, and I didn’t immediately see the problem. I did hear one fellow opine that the fertilizer which fell from the two animals differed in some important way, and it would be bad for the ground to mix them. I fear I was rather rude in my response to that theory. Another gentleman pointed out the obvious, the animals were of such disparate sizes that it simply wouldn’t work. No one would ever think of doing that. I could see that, but all that did was raise another question. Couldn’t man have figured that out for himself? If you simply can’t make that combination work, why would it be necessary to hand down a law? The answer to that came out of the blue.

      Years ago, when I was Dean of Students at a college in England, a fellow member of the faculty and I were discussing a young man who was, as young men are wont to do, pursuing one of the female students. I told my friend, “I know that relationship doesn’t look right, I have a feeling it’s not going to work. Why do I feel that way?” My friend replied: “It’s simple—‘you shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.’” Since the young man’s behavior somewhat resembled one of the named animals, we were both vastly amused.

      As it happened, my friend had put his finger on what this law was really about. There can be such differences between two elements, be it the size or pulling power of two animals, the personalities of two individuals, the abilities of two business partners, or even the religions of two persons, that the relationship is unworkable. It is obvious that Paul draws on this law when he uses the word “yoke” as he did: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

      This raises an interesting distinction. I have heard people ask of this or that passage: “Is it a law, or is it a principle?” I decided to look it up. Here’s what I found:


Principle: A comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption, the laws or facts of nature underlying the working of an artificial device, a primary source, an underlying faculty or endowment.

      There’s more, but this will serve our needs. As the question was asked, a law was inflexible, while a principle was optional. But as we become more familiar with biblical law, the roles are reversed. It is the underlying principle that is inflexible. It is the principle that is the fundamental thing. The enforceable stuff is built on the principle. But these are just words. What can we take away from this that means anything in life?

      Laws like those I have cited create axioms, aphorisms that imply a universal, underlying truth. In this case, it is a law that there can be such great differences between two people that they should not attempt to be tied together in any way that does not give them the freedom to walk. That law makes as much sense today as it did when Moses wrote it down.

      So, what happens if you break it? A loss of salvation? A denial of heaven? No, what breaking this law gives you is heartache, financial loss, and if you are plowing, some busted up harness. As it happens, that is what most of the law is about. It is about life, not salvation. It is optional only in the sense that you can decide to break it and bear the consequences. There will be consequences, and they may not go away just because you are sorry.

      As it happens, the verse about plowing immediately precedes the law I cited earlier about wearing a garment of mixed fabric. It suggests that both laws are saying the same thing in different words. What the law is about is recognizing diversity (a good, modern term), and realizing that there are some diversities that just cannot be bridged.

      We know that Christ spoke in parables. We know that the parables were not to be taken literally, but were intended to convey a deeper meaning. It was a meaning that was conveyed to some and hidden to others. It seems that God did much the same thing with the law.

      Years ago, I heard a Christian teacher suggest the law of mixed fabrics might have been intended to demonstrate that the practice of interracial marriage was wrong. At the time, I thought he was stretching things a bit. But if you take the premise and think it through, you may notice that there is no law in the Bible prohibiting marriage between races, per se. There is a prohibition of marrying into other cultures for religious reasons. I think there is very good reason for that.

      But I traveled to South Africa many times in the days of apartheid and had ample opportunity to observe the absurdity of attempts to define and enforce racial separation. So many humiliating and debasing decisions were made in that era. They drew a difference between black and colored, for example. They even had to have court decisions on how black is black. Then there were the people from India who lived in South Africa (Ghandi lived there for a while). So they had to have a separate racial category for Asians. Chinese people were allowed to marry Indians, but not blacks. People were found to be colored, black, or white, based on a court decision. That is what happens when you try to enforce racial divisions.

      Nevertheless, cross-cultural marriages are headed for rough sailing. Perhaps God, in his love, knowing what man was like, knowing that all men had a common ancestry and therefore could mate, yet knowing how many heartaches were in store for cross-cultural marriages, had to find a way of expressing the principle in way that did not require or admit to enforcement. Making a prohibition against interracial marriage in the law would have created an untenable position. So what he did was to convey to those who were willing to hear it, that there are some mixtures that just aren’t going to work. Not merely in marriage, but in business, in agriculture, even in fabrics. It left the final decision in the hands of those who would have to suffer the consequences, and thereby denied enforcement rights to the government (or to the church).

      On the other hand, interreligious marriage was a different matter altogether. Defining religious differences was a simple matter, and it was not merely the individual who would suffer from bringing another religion into Israel, but the entire social structure.

      Now I don’t believe that any of these laws were “abolished,” not even the ceremonial laws. After all, they are a part of the written law which Jesus said could not pass away as long as the creation endures. In ceremony, perhaps more than anywhere, symbolism becomes extremely important. And while it is possible to change the ceremony, the underlying meaning remains intact. Consider the Passover lamb as a case in point. The original Passover lamb was symbolic of the Messiah who would suffer and die. What Jesus did at the Last Supper (which was a Passover supper) was to change the symbols. He did not change the law. He still had to die, to be sacrificed. He still had to pay the penalty for our sins and, at that supper, he instituted new symbols. Instead of a lamb, it would henceforth be unleavened bread and wine.

      I think every Christian church, even those who believe the ceremonial law was abolished, maintains one central rite. Call it communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, it is still a rite, and it still has its roots in the Passover. We can believe that Jesus changed the symbols of the Passover, but we aren’t allowed to think that he abolished the law of the Passover. After all, it is written down with jots and tittles intact.

      It is hard to argue that the ceremonial law was abolished while retaining the spiritual concept of washing in the waters of baptism. Whether your church sprinkles, pours, or immerses, it has a rite of baptism. The underlying meaning of washing and baptism is the same—the purification from sin. Only the symbols have been changed.

      In the information age, we have all become familiar with computers, and the word “icon” has returned to our language. It is a Greek word, eikon, which means “a usually pictorial image.” In computer usage, it has come to refer to a graphic symbol on a computer screen that suggests the availability of a given function—even a set of instructions which can be carried out with one click of a button. It is not hard to imagine that the icon can be altered without changing the function it implies.

      One of the most striking illustrations of this principle is found in the laws of the Sabbath day, and the holydays. Once a person commits to the Fourth Commandment, and the admonition to not do any work, it is only natural to start asking questions about what constitutes work. It is too easy to focus on the letter of the law and never come to understand the underlying meaning of the law. The Pharisees who challenged Jesus and his disciples on an issue of Sabbath observance didn’t understand this. They saw the disciples, walking through a field of grain, plucking grain and eating it. “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:2). They were, by the legal definition of the Pharisees, harvesting grain. Jesus replied:


Have ye not read what David did, when he was hungry, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? (vv. 3-5).

      This is an important issue. Jesus did not argue that the law was no longer in effect, nor did he argue that David did not break it. He implied that human need, in this case hunger, could override the written law. Yet what David did was unlawful. Two things happen when you break a law. One is consequences, the other is punishment. Jesus implied that there would be no punishment for David’s decision. But there were serious consequences arising from that decision. Several good men lost their lives. Footnote

      Then Jesus added the statement about the priests. No one could argue with the fact that their duties on the Sabbath involved work and were therefore, technically, unlawful. Yet they were blameless, having been commanded to do these services every day. It is possible for two laws to come into conflict and leave you with a decision. The letter of the law won’t help you very much. The meaning of the law will serve you better.

      Concerning the holydays, there are those who will say, “Well, I think the holydays are nice and all that, but I don’t necessarily think they have to be kept.” Yet I ponder how much of the truth about God’s plan I would understand today had I not kept them. The holydays provide a framework of sorts, like a line of seven pegs along a wall, upon which you can hang the things you learn. They create a relationship between the things that God is doing and give meaning to the events of history. Footnote

      And so I have to understand that the Law of God is profoundly symbolic and pregnant with meaning. So much of the time we are asking the wrong questions about the law. Rather than asking, “Is it binding upon me today?” we should ask “What does it mean for me today?” Much of the time, you will not know the answer. It is tempting to call someone and ask for a ruling. If you called me, I would likely reply, “I really don’t know. Your explanation sounds as good as any.” But the study of the law can provide a fascinating topic for conversation with others who are doing the same. If we are looking for the meaning rather than a ruling, we will be a long way down the road.

      When you grasp these things, you will find yourself understanding the psalmist when he cries, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me (Psalms 119:97-98 KJV). There would never be a time when the psalmist would not have enemies. But he grasps the truth that the law made him smarter than his enemies. He thought about it all the time. Every time he came up against a problem, he started thinking about how the law might clarify the issues. The result was: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (vv. 99-100).

      Jesus said that many prophets and righteous men had, in the past, wanted to know the things that the disciples were only then learning. Some things take more time than others. Sometimes we have to grow to the place where we can understand. Other times, we have to gain enough experience for things to make total sense to us. We learn through facing situations, making decisions, and observing the results. Later, we may have the chance to share that experience with others who will combine our experience with theirs. Sometimes it can take a generation before issues become entirely clear.

      I think I understand far more of God and his plan than I did 40 years ago, and much of the increase in understanding came from giving attention to the Law of God. It did not come from slavish obedience to the letter of the law, though I traveled for a while down that road. It came rather from an understanding of the law, how it applied, and what it meant. So much came from simply learning to ask the right questions.

      There is a logic in asking seriously, “What did God mean by that law? I can’t believe he cares whether my new suit is Dacron and wool. So why did he say that?” We are servants of God and more. We are his friends, and he is not interested in causing us hurt. When we learn that, and learn to respect his judgments, we will gain an enormous edge in life.


I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalms 119:101-105 NIV).

      Looking back over my life, I feel I was making my way down the road in the dark, like a man on his hands and knees feeling his way. Now that I am asking better questions about the law and looking for God’s intent, it is like someone turned on a light and dispelled the darkness. Now I can see where I am going. I can stand up and walk.

      One of the most important ideas to emerge from this study is what the New Testament writers really meant when they spoke of the Law of God, the Law of Moses, and the traditions of the Jews. Here we find the primary reason why Paul is so commonly misunderstood.

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