In Gospel of Matthew Jesus said:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 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.
This scripture is so often used to support the observance of the portions of the law, Saturday Sabbath, Circumcision, Tithing, Dietary Laws, and such. To support their own theories they snip a word here, a phrase there, another word somewhere else. It is almost like the notes kidnappers in movies send to the family. They take a magazine and cut it up to make a message that is nothing like the one in the article. Brethern (and sisters), these things should not be.
I find it interesting that Jesus never said any of these were to continue, just that the law would not pass away. And one of the key things here is this. What does it mean to fulfill the law? Other New Testament writers shed light on this.
In Corinthians Paul says:
1 Cor 7:17-20
17 But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Paul, a Jew circumcised on the eighth day says circumcision, the symbol of the law, is meaningless. The only thing that matters is keeping the commandments of God. Apparently, circumcision is not one of them. If that basic item of the law is not one of these commandments of God, them what is? James and the elders charged that the believing Gentiles were to keep the following items.
25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
So some of the items were to be kept but those were not participating in the sacrifice to idols, from meat that was strangled and fornication. It was a call to maintain purity in worship and sexual matters. And James goes further to define the law.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
James here makes it clear, by our own righteousness will no flesh be saved. We aren’t good enough and we can’t do good enough.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 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?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Here is a scripture that shows clearly that this issue came up repeatedly. Why? Because one of the most subtle and effective ways the devil has of attacking the work of Christ on the Cross is to make us try to be holy and go back to the law. Satan failed to stop Jesus. But if he can get us to go back to the law and not appropriate the grace of the Cross, he can negate the impact of it and Jesus died for nothing. This is why activities of the Judizers of Paul’s day and the Judizers of our day are not different and they are so reprehensible. If they can get each of us to try to keep the law they make Christ’s sacrifice of no effect.
So what parts of the law do we follow? Or do we discard all of it?
Let me answer that from the scripture. Jesus had an exchange with the teachers of the law. In it he told them what were the most important commandments. In fact he said that all of the law and the prophets hung on these two commandments. If Jesus said these are the most important then would it not follow that they must be at the core of whatever commandments of God we keep?
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
So what would be at the core of our teaching from this? Certainly loving God is there without any reservation. I doubt there would be any question there. Loving our neighbor is there. And these are supported through the New Testament. Personal purity is also there in many scriptures. But the items that often are majored on fail to be that significant.
Using the KJV the word Sabbath appears 50 times in the gospels, 9 in Acts and once in the remainder of the New Testament. That one reference is an interesting scripture.
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Let no man judge you according to what days you keep, what you eat, what you drink. Is it possible that Paul didn’t know about the importance of the Sabbath under the law and said that in ignorance? It is not possible. Let me rephrase this for you. We who go to church on Sunday have no right to judge those who desire to keep Saturday as the Sabbath. And they have no right to judge us in that matter either. I believe Paul gave us direction on how to deal with those who did not walk after the faith he taught.
II Th 3:6
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
As an aside, all of the references in Acts use the Sabbath as a time reference rather than as a commandment on keeping it. If we look at the ones in the gospels we find the Matthew 12 stands out. Jesus debunks the strict keeping of the Sabbath and draws the ire of the Pharisees in doing so. Jesus clearly did not set the importance of keeping the observance of the Sabbath as high as the religious leaders of His day.
As an aside, the word tithing only appears in the gospels and Hebrews as a historical reference. Neither Jesus or any New Testament writer teaches it. I do not believe that giving was done away with but the legalistic tenth is hard to prove using the New Testament.
Let me close with this scripture.
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Let each of us live for God according to the call on his or her life. It is not the rules and regulations we follow. It is the life we live through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.