Demonstrating the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 4 through Jesus Christ, the hope of glory.
You can listen to the live audio teaching of this sermon, preached Sunday, December 8th, 2019 at the Hickory Street Church of Christ at the following link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A8JrDRukn8
In Colossians chapter 1, verses 25 – 29, the Apostle Paul explains his calling and labor, he asserts he is to minister and to be persecuted for the sake of Christ’s gospel. He speaks of “fully carrying out the preaching of the word of God” and explains it as, “the mystery that had been hidden from past ages and generations”, the mystery “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. He goes on to say, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ”.
This morning I want to demonstrate how “Christ in us” is the fulfillment of Deuteronomy chapter 4. And ultimately what that means for us as His people.
Let’s read Deuteronomy 4:1-6.
“Listen” and “perform” that you may “live” and “possess”. This is an eternal principle. For Old Covenant, flesh and blood Israel this was the command to obey the Law of Moses and if they had listened and obeyed as they took and possessed the land of Canaan, they would find favor with those nations around them, even those whom they were driving out of the land, so much so that these nations would see God’s wisdom and understanding through His people. Israel failed just as much as we do when we strive by our own efforts and energy to attain righteousness. However, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God, finding completion in Christ, we are to be and become those about whom the surrounding world declares, “Surely these are a people of wisdom and understanding”.
Israel’s failure to be that witness before the nations wasn’t accidental. The narrative outlined for us in the Scriptures highlights that natural efforts at demonstrating such wisdom and understanding simply will not do – having the right bloodline, even having the right will and striving toward it, will never be sufficient in displaying God’s Kingdom. Rather, such wisdom and understanding is born of God, through Jesus Christ.
“Why the Law then?” The Apostle Paul responds to such confusion in his letter to the Galatians. Let’s read Galatians 3:19-29.
A simple summary, the Law was given “…so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (v.22) and “to lead us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith (v.24)”.
Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes”. The Greek word, telos, used in the text and translated as “end”, could and probably better should, be translated as “goal”. Christ is the goal of the Law as we saw in the Galatians text we just read.
In Ephesians 3:1-10, the Apostle Paul again explains his part in preaching the Word, the mystery of the ages, however, he also makes it known that the goal was that “…the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church…(v.10)”.
All of that being said and prayerfully understood, I want to make some points.
If the narrative of Law and the Gospel was designed so that the “wisdom and understanding” of God would and should be seen through God’s people, how is it that the Church, the goal of it all, seems so confused? Just the other night I listened to two preachers I highly respect, go back and forth on what exactly the world is seemingly expecting to see in and through the church – a people who truly love their own (or) a people who care for others, outside of their own. We can probably safely agree with both….Loving those of the household of faith, with a authentic love, an encouraging and sometimes reproving love, is surely a demonstration of wisdom and understanding.
Being a people marked by loving those outside of the Church, those whom it might be hard to love because of their lifestyle, their beliefs, their problems, such a love is the love of God, “He loved us while we were yet sinners”, such love is wisdom and understanding.
Unfortunately, the world around us has defined love on it’s own terms, raising up it’s own standard, rather than the standard of Christ and the Scriptures, and not only has this caused much dismay within the church, but confusion as well. What are we, Christ’s Church, to do?
I am visiting southwest Florida because I was attending a reformation based conference focused on this exact issue. One of the main speakers (Tom Ascol), two evenings ago, challenged a room full of pastors, ministry leaders, Bible students, among others, that when anyone says, “ought”, “ought not”, “should”, “should not”, we should immediately think – by what standard? A valid question indeed. Amen? He went on to say that confusion regarding our standard within the Church has occurred because of a failure to appreciate the Law and the Gospel. Just this morning we studied through various misunderstandings regarding the relationship between to the Law and the Gospel that have crept into the Church. Another main speaker (Jared Longshore) at the event stated, “We must preach the TRUE GOSPEL, because it is the TRUE GOSPEL that saves” and then he went on to say, “We must preach God’s Law to the world”.
Well, amen to that. As we read in Deuteronomy chapter 4, obedience to God’s law allows us to be seen as “a people of wisdom and understanding”, a people so designed to “make known the manifold wisdom of God”. However, I would assert that our standard of God’s law, applicable for the church today, has nothing to do with a “spiritually discerned” application of the Law of Moses. Christ fulfilled every jot and tittle, every detail of that Law – so that we can effectively and fruitfully live by faith in and the grace of God, not a return to legalism. As the Apostle questioned in his letter to the church at Galatia, “:…did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Gal. 3:2)”.
The Galatian heresy, being argued against by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Galatians, was based upon trying to mix aspects of the Law of Moses with God’s true grace. Some were trying to “nullify the grace of God” by seeking a righteousness through the Law. The Law came through Moses, grace and truth, or as some have noted, true grace, came through Jesus Christ. It was also men seeking to create a mishmash of the Law and grace that gave rise to the need for the Council at Jerusalem detailed for us in Acts chapter 15.
We are to be dead to the Law, and alive to Christ (cf. Romans 7:1-13).
SO WHAT AM I SAYING….?
I propose to you, it’s not the Law, or some modified rendition of it, but rather true Spiritual discernment that is our standard, or way to attain and live in His righteousness. How do we acquire and maintain His righteousness is indeed a valid and very important question.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, notice this – “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”.
Don’t just look at, or look to Jesus, don’t consider Jesus, fix your eyes on Him. Doing that demonstrates our death to self and His life through us – Christ in us.
Apostolic wisdom given to us regarding our being “in Christ” highlights we are to “examine ourselves”; 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) tells us to “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you-unless, of course, you fail the test?”
In your setting your eyes on Jesus, examining yourself continually, your proving all things, holding fast to that which is good and edifying, abstaining from evil – as the Thessalonians were exhorted in 1 Thess. 5:21, you are accomplishing the “renewing of your mind” of Romans 12:2. Notice this though, notice the standard the Apostle shares as that which enables us to discern the will of God:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, SO THAT YOU MAY PROVE what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect”.
Our standard is not to look to the Law of Moses for morality, or what some refer to as “positive law”. That Law has been completely removed. Transformed minds continually being renewed is the standard for Christian morality.
In what manner are we to examine ourselves, how do we prove what is good, renewal means continued renovation, therefore how do we discern where renovation is necessary in our minds, hearts, and lives?
In his 1st letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says, “The goal of our faith is this, love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith”.
You ought to do things that demonstrate love from a pure heart and ought not to do things that exemplify selfishness, you ought to maintain a good conscience toward God and your neighbor, you ought not to things that might leave you with a bad conscience or influence others in a way that might leave them with a bad conscience, and you ought to build up a sincere faith in God, and move away from fear, doubt, and things that demonstrate a false trust or lack of faith.
The Apostle Peter, speaking to scattered saints, said that if they diligently possessed and increased in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love, they would be effective and fruitful in their use of the knowledge of God.
The things you ought to do should very well highlight your possessing and increase in those attributes, and you ought not to do things that are the antithesis to those attributes.
In my personal life and with the church I preach to, I constant hard on using 2 Peter 1 as a “growth chart”, always discerning which of the attributes need to be found in your life.
It is in this way we become the “people of wisdom and understanding, not by imposing the Law that Christ died to remove as a standard. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (cf. Galatians 5:1)”. Listen and perform that you may live and possess.