“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”
This article was meant to be an addendum to one of my previous articles entitled “Law and Grace”. You may find it in the menu and I recommend it but I will let this article stand alone.
My articles are not about accusing people of believing in salvation by works. My articles are about post-salvation living and post-salvation obligations. That is the debate. My articles assume that everyone who names the name of Christ is saved by grace through faith, so everything is not about salvation but post-salvation. I say this because arguments can run in circles trying to presume what someone’s motive may be when it comes to salvation. Justification in the Bible is not necessarily limited to an initial view of salvation. When Paul dealt with the Galatians, the term “justification” had more to do with their post-salvation views and this is what I am continually trying to address. We all come to Christ the same way, but we do not all continue with Christ the same way. I don’t challenge the Hebrew Roots Movement on salvation; I challenge them on sanctification so keep that in mind as we go through this.
HERE WE GO AGAIN-
There is a reoccurring debate with the HRM when it comes to grace and justification in the OT, so I want to address what role the Law, grace, and justification play in the OT.
The HRM or similar adherents try and make these or similar claims about the OT:
1)No one was ever saved by works in the OT
(One attempt to support this is done by applying Romans 3:20 to the OT period: “…Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…”).
2)Grace existed in the OT for those under the Law so grace does not negate living under or being obligated to the Law in the New Testament.
Ok, so how were people saved in the OT, and does Romans 3:20 have any application to the OT?
If we continue reading from Romans 3:21-26, it tells us plainly.
Romans 3:20 does not apply to OT life because Romans 3:20 has only come into effect now that the righteousness of God has been revealed differently and separately. Let’s read:
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being WITNESSED by the Law and the Prophets…”
As we continue to read this passage, it informs us that those in the OT period are justified by the forbearance of God because of Christ. Let’s read:
“…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were PREVIOUSLY committed, to demonstrate at the PRESENT TIME His righteousness…”
So what does this mean?
It means that all the sins for those in the previous revelations of righteousness have now been forgiven in a past tense application because of Christ, but this
in no way, places OT justification apart from the Law.
The problem with applying Romans 3:20 to the OT is that those people did not live under the demonstration of the righteousness of God in Christ. They lived under a WITNESS to that revelation, but not the revelation itself.
This witness which the OT period lived under included the Law and its penalties. If a person did not adhere to the Law, then they were rejecting that witness which foreshadowed Christ.
Salvation was according to the Law because that was the only substance of Christ that was made available to them.
I don’t take the dispensational position of saying that people were saved by works, but in a sense, they were saved according to the Law which included works and penalties. You can’t get around this. Every one has simply been saved by adhering to the format and structure of righteousness which is presented to them at that time, but it just so happened to be that the Law was one of those formats, and it contained works and penalties.
Yes, faith was always required because the Law was not an end in itself. It pointed to a greater righteousness which God expected them to see. However, the works of the Law were the only way of remaining within the covenant. It WAS a covenant of works. It was NOT a covenant of faith.
God applied the future work of Christ to those whose stayed in the covenant of works by faith, or to those who stayed in the covenant because they valued what was seen through it.
So what does this have to do with grace?
Once the righteousness of God was revealed through Christ, the Law has become the revelation of sin. Do you understand this? Lets look at Romans 3:20 in its full context to see:
“…Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, FOR BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN.”
The Law was once a witness and knowledge of God but Christ has fulfilled that witness and knowledge through Himself. The Law now offers no hope of remaining in the covenant because it has become a witness to our sin rather than the chief witness of God and His righteousness.
Now that a person has no hope through the witness of the Law (“…for all have sinned…” vs 23), all hope now rests in God through Christ.
This hope has become a provision or a provisional means of justification. Grace is a preceding, provisional means of justification. This means that it comes before us, not after us.
God delivered Israel from Egypt by His Grace, but the people were not given a provisional means to remain in that covenant apart from the works of it, and apart from themselves.
All of our works in Christ come from a provisional means apart from ourselves. They come before us through Christ.
Let’s read again in Romans 3:
“…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith…”(vs 24-25)
The same goes for Ephesians 2:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works, which God prepared BEFOREHAND that we should walk in them.”
Grace did not exist in the OT as this preceding, provisional means which supplies our works beforehand in Christ, freely by faith, apart from ourselves.
God always acts with grace but the Law was more of a contingent than it was provisional.
When Christ is in us, and we are in Christ, we do not live under contingencies but rather, we live under provision, or providence that comes beforehand.
If you want to apply Romans 3:20 to the OT, then you have to dismiss the stipulations of the Law for ancient Israel, and somehow make the stipulations of the Law as being in effect for the NT. This is really pitiful yet this claim is made openly. OT people were not born of the Spirit, they were outside the temple veil, and Jesus Christ had not yet been crucified. God may have imputed righteousness retroactively, but all people in the OT were dependant on the Law for righteousness. We are not dependent on the Law for righteousness in the NT.
There is really no way to explain the ludicrous mindset of people who think that because God’s forbearance and retroactive imputation of righteousness was not subject to time and space, that therefore, the stipulations of the covenants were not subject to time and space. God’s view of people has not changed but man’s view of God has INDEED changed. Our current understanding of God’s willingness to impute righteousness through forbearance does not negate the conditions of man and the terms of the covenant Moses. All mankind was under the lineage and corruption of Adam a d that is the bigger picture of the Law. People who apply Romans 3:20 to the OT do not realize that faith is mandatory now that the lineage and heredity of Adam has been replaced by Christ.
There is no non-messianic Jewish person today that is going to tell you that ancient Israel entered and remained in the Mosaic covenant apart from the deeds of the covenant, but somehow many of these HRM folks think that the Mosaic covenant was by grace through faith in Christ apart from the deeds of the Law.
I believe that many in the HRM camp see salvation by grace through faith as a luxury rather than a mandate. Along with their idea of trying to bring the NT under the Law, I believe there exists some sort of envy of the idea that OT people were not afforded this luxury of faith, but they did have faith and it was accounted to them but they were under the Law because they were under Adam. We should rejoice in this progression of Redemption from Law to grace rather than dismiss it because of some sort of OT bias. It wasn’t just the OT that was under the Law, but every man who has not yielded to Christ is under the Law. The progression from Law to grace in the Bible is not just something about ancient Israel; it is a portrait of our lives as well. We should rejoice that God was even willing to choose someone such as Israel to carry the plan of Redemption, rather than trying to mourn their bondage to the Law or bring everyone else under it. It doesn’t seem that anyone in the HRM even cares about Abraham or else they would see that there was bigger picture to all this in which all the nations would be blessed. The Law and Prophets were the two witnesses of how that promise to Abraham would be fulfilled and the context therein.
OBLIGATIONS OF GRACE-
With all that said, the concept of contingencies and provision move us into a completely different debate.
The question for this debate would be:
“Is there a contingency for those that live in the provisions of grace?”
This is the real debate. This is what it all comes down to.
According to the HRM, the contingency for a believer in grace is to keep the Law and its contingencies…………….or else.
They believe that the person who receives God’s justification by grace through faith is under the contingency to live according to what was the previous witness to Christ, but Paul tells us that this previous witness now has no justifying attributes whether it be for the initial state, or perpetual state and function of justification or sanctification. This previous witness has now become the basis for guilt, and the knowledge of guilt and sin. Let’s read again from the same passage in Romans 3:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This witness that once testified to God’s righteousness and righteousness through our cooperation, now speaks against us, our flesh, and our sins. This witness does not testify to one good thing about us and our cooperation with it.
Do you hope that the Law will be a testimony in your favor on judgment day?
If the witness and testimony of the Law is now against mankind in every way, what will be the witness that testifies in favor of mankind?
What contingency is there for those in grace that will yield a favorable testimony and witness?
The main theory of the HRM assumes that the law testifies against us at salvation, but testifies for us, after salvation.
This is what Paul describes as beginning in the Spirit, but continuing in the flesh:
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Paul never mentions the Law as being the contingency or obligation of the believer in grace. Many in the HRM deny this by pointing to James who says “faith without works is dead”, but even James does not specify the Law as the contingency.
Many will also deny this by pointing to the Book of Revelation where it says we will be judged by our works, but Paul specifies something different than the Law:
“because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.”
Jesus is the standard and witness because it is His works that please the Father. It is His works in us and through us that meet any contingency. The Law was a witness to the coming of Christ who would be a witness of the Father. Post salvation-righteousness does not revert back to the witness and testimony of the Law. The Law was the witness or schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we might be justified faith and this justification is not perpetuated by a reverse dependency on justification through the schoolmaster. Let’s read:
“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
The obligation for the believer is this:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
“Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
There are a great deal of obligations in the New Testament and we can’t deny this. The problem however, is that groups like the HRM, SDA, and Moral Government theologians fail to see that God does not honor any works through the heredity of Adam in cooperation with the Law.
The Law is good and holy, and it remains, but the basis of the Law is that it was the means of justification and sanctification for those who were of the lineage of Adam.
The Law was the only hope for Adam and his offspring.
We however, are from the lineage of Christ. Our hope is not in our cooperation with the Law, but our hope is our elder brother-Jesus Christ, who is blessed of the Father.
Many gentiles in the HRM believe that their hope is in the lineage of Ephraim. This is called the “Two House Theory”.
My understanding of this theory is that those who put their hope in the Law will counted as, or will be proven to be of the lineage of Ephraim and thereby, be counted as Hebrews.*
Whenever there is an obligation or contingency in the New Testament, it is never on the basis of our Adam. It is on the basis of Christ and the manifestation of His life in us, but it doesn’t cut it just to say: “we do good not to be saved, but because we are saved”. This is a poor theology that doesn’t address the Biblical construct of the New Testament. Although this phrase may be true, it is not conclusive because it only addresses motive. This phrase is used by many who are scrambling to come up with some kind of justification to their ignorance of what the context and structure of the Christian life should be.
As of yet, I have not met anyone in the HRM, SDA or Moral Government camp that can lay out the structure and context of Romans 3-8 that fits the rest of the Bible. They hold to the sentiments of righteousness and holiness but completely stumble when trying to identify the provisions and methods thereof. This is who Jesus describes as lawless in Matthew 7. Jesus does not witness or testify to their good deeds.
We can argue about obligations, contingencies, and standards all day long but the difference comes down to who people trust as a witness to testify of them.
The issue of witnesses and testimonies is a very serious issue to the Bible that I would like to devote more time to in the future. I am surprised that groups like the HRM, with all their “Hebrew” knowledge have not seemed to follow this point.
It would seem that they believe:
-The Law remains as the testimony of the Father, and
-Jesus came to serve the Law, and
-the Law will be the testimony in favor of those who supposedly adhere to it.
But you won’t find this in the Bible, and this misunderstanding is the basis for misunderstanding the transfer from law to grace, and the function and purpose of this transfer.
This is definitely a time in our world that we should take the matters of repentance, holiness and works very seriously but we have a great deal of “theological” chickens running around with their heads cut off trying to salvage the people of God. These people are not John the Baptists; they are lawless. God will bless their motives of repentance and obedience but these are not teachers.
I say that because, what I present in this article is simple, but those who are running around, jumping on end times bandwagons and pointing fingers will not take a deep breath and just follow the Bible. The HRM tries to tell us that God doesn’t change but the HRM, SDA, and MGT groups are the main culprits of Biblical revisionism in our world today. Im always open to new inspirational views of God and the Bible, but not when it requires the abolition of the rest of the Bible. I can do whatever the HRM, SDA and MGT groups want me to do, that is easy, but it still doesn’t change the fact, that things have changed because of Christ and the prescription for holiness and righteousness is not the same as it was in the OT. I will continue to prove this.
The Biblical prescription is the manifestation of the life of Christ, who is the manifestation of the Father.
Jesus was never a manifestation of the Law, and Jesus claims in John 14:10, that the works He did were the works of the Father within Him. To keep His commandments, is equally related to our abiding in Him, because without Him, we can do nothing.
In the next article, which I hope to have finished by 11/26/14, we will take a look at some prophecy that deals with the changes and transfers of the New Testament in order to see why God doesn’t change because of them. I left out a number of scriptures in this article because I believe they will have a better application in this upcoming article.
* Additional sources need to be referenced to clarify the Two House theory.