Reflections for September 2, 2018 Fifteenth after Pentecost

Gospel: Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23. A commission from the Pharisees condemns Jesus’ disciples for violating the ceremonial law of purity. These rules were not part of the Mosaic law, but were ‘traditions of the elders’ ––i.e., man made rules. Jesus said to them it is not what goes into a man from outside that makes him impure, but what comes out of him. The Pharisees suggested that man is naturally pure (sinless) which was the rabbinical view, but Jesus knew men were born sinners (Ps 51). Even more interesting is the role of the Mosaic law itself at Jesus’ time. Gal 3.23-4.7 teaches that the Mosaic law (Torah) was temporary until Jesus came, at which time He replaced the law. Part of the reason for this is that the Mosaic law was to separate Israel from her pagan, polytheistic neighbors. But after Jesus, the Gentiles were to turn to Christ, and the Mosaic law with  its dietary and ceremonial restrictions and circumcision would act as obstacles to the Gentiles coming to Christ. So Christ Himself replaces the law––as He said in Mt 5.17, He fulfills it. The ceremonial features, including circumcision, lose their significance, but the fundamental moral law––to love God above all things, and to love one’s neighbors––are maintained (R 13.8-10). And Christ administers the law with mercy and forgiveness and is applied with love to those who have believed in Him and His resurrection (Rm 10.9). The law is seen really to be two laws: the law of sin and death (Rm 8.2b) that applies to those who have not been justified by faith in Jesus the Messiah, and the law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus (Rm 8.2a). The former condemns sin in those who are not justified, but those who are justified are said to have died to sin (Rm 6.2,6,7,8,10,11) and have died to the law (Rm 7.4,6) so that they are no longer under the law but are under grace (Rm 6.18). They have been set free from sin (Rm 6.18), and there is thereof now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rm 8.1). The law of sin and death condemns unbelievers (unbelief is sin), but all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rm 8.28). Saul, the Pharisee under the law of Rm 7, cries out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”, and immediately answers as Paul, the Christian, “…Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Rm 7.25). In Romans 7 Saul, like Israel, is under the Mosaic law which condemns him for failing to keep the law perfectly, but in Christ he is set free from ‘the curse of the law’ (Gal 3,13) by Christ. Those who have faith in Christ are justified in Him as adopted children of God (Gal 4.6; Rm 8.15) whose sins have been remitted and forgiven––past, present, and future––through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for believers. Their status is now based on being ‘in Christ’ rather than behavior. We have all sinned (Jn 1.8) but if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1.9). After resurrection and the ascension, on Pentecost, the risen and ascended Lord poured out His Spirit on all flesh and it  is the Spirit in believers that changes Christians from sinners who live by their fallen, Adamic nature to resurrection people whose nature has been changed to a nature renewed and restored by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. This is the meaning of justification, remission of sins, and regeneration all of which take place when Christians come to believe in Jesus and His work.

Memory Verse: And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him (1 Jn 3.5,6).  

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