CAN PEOPLE TODAY KEEP THE WHOLE LAW? The question, at least on the surface, looks like it would provoke some interesting biblical conversation; however, many Christians who ask this question use it with the intent of dissuading obedience to God’s commandments. But those who ask this question are not aware that their interpretation of the law, as well as this question, is based on three erroneous assumptions. Although I believe in their minds, they are sincere in what they believe – based on their denominational interpretation of Scripture – but this does not change the fact that the assumptions they are using in their argument are erroneous or false.
In this part of this blog article, we will examine the first two false assumptions that this argument is based upon, and then in the second half of the article, we will examine the last assumption, which is derived from James 2:10.
FALSE ASSUMPTION #1 – THE QUESTION ITSELF
The very question they ask, “Can people today obey the whole law?” is based on a false assumption: that God intended an individual to keep the whole law. When one goes back and actually reads “the Law,” or more accurately, the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, one realizes the error of the assumption. God never intended for anyone to actually keep all of the commandments given. And the reason people can’t keep it is not because people are morally corrupt, as most Christians often teach, but simply because one would have to be a man and a woman at the same time, as well as a farmer, a priest, a high priest, and a king at the same time too.
For example, in the book of Leviticus, there are a series of commandments in the first 6 chapters, where God gives instructions to the Levitical priests on how the animal sacrifices were to be performed. Now did God intend for every person to walk into the Temple and to cut up their own sacrifices and offer them on the altar? No, He didn’t. There’s also commandments regarding a future king. Did God intend for everyone in the nation to rule and reign as king, so they would have to do these commandments? No, He didn’t. Thirdly, in Numbers 6, God gives instructions for what one should do who takes upon himself the vow of a Nazarite. Now did God intend or require every male to take the Nazarite vow? No, He didn’t. It was only for those who wanted to do this. We could also look at the laws regarding the High Priest, women or farmers. My point is that although there are commandments that apply to everyone, there are commandments, such as the ones mentioned (plus others) that were not intended for everyone to follow. Therefore, to even ask the question is to imply an assumption that simply is not true.
Let’s consider the United States Constitution. There are laws in the Constitution that do not apply to me as an American citizen, but even though those laws do not apply to me directly, I am still required to obey the Constitution. For example, there are laws that regulate the office of the U.S. President. I am not the President, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me. Also, there are laws regarding Congress. I am not a congressman, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me. And finally, there are laws regarding the Judiciary [Judges], but I am not a judge, so therefore, those laws do not apply to me. But even though there are laws that do not apply to me, there are laws that do, and therefore, I am only required to obey those laws.
In much the same way, not all of God’s laws apply to me as a citizen of His Kingdom. Now why don’t most Christians see this? Because they have been taught to view God’s commandments through the “eye-glasses” or “lens” of a RELIGION, rather than through the “eye-glasses” or “lens” of a KINGDOM. Unlike a RELIGION, a KINGDOM is a political, social, cultural, historical, and also, in this case, a religious entity, and based on everything that I’ve studied and the revelations that God has given to my wife and I, God NEVER intended His Word to be viewed as a RELIGIOUS TEXT, but as a KINGDOM MANUAL.
In other words, the commandments of God comprise God’s Constitution for His KINGDOM. Israel was the first NATION to come into His KINGDOM, so as a result, God instructed them on what was expected of any NATION who would become a part of His KINGDOM. The commandments, therefore, were given to teach them who God is, what He is like, and how they were to conduct themselves in relationship to God, how various elements of their NATION were to conduct themselves, as well as how individuals within that NATION were to also relate to God and to one another.
Just as an architect and builder would build a model home to draw people into that area and to buy homes from them, so God created His own model NATION, so other NATIONS would see Israel [His model nation], and would want for themselves the same thing. For example, look at what Moses tells the people of Israel, who are ready now to go into the Promised Land to occupy it:
Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land wherever you go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is YOUR WISDOM and YOUR UNDERSTANDING in the SIGHT OF THE NATIONS, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this GREAT NATION is a WISE and UNDERSTANDING people. For what NATION is there so great, who has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon Him for? And what NATION is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Did you notice that the focus is on Israel as “A NATION,” and not upon them as individuals? Also, did you notice that their obedience to these commandments would be their “WISDOM” and “UNDERSTANDING” – NOT their SALVATION? Nor did God intend for Israel alone to be the only NATION in His KINGDOM. Look what God reveals to the prophet Daniel:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS, AND LANGUAGES, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
Did you notice that although there is ONE KINGDOM, it is made up of “ALL PEOPLE, NATIONS (not just one), AND LANGUAGES (also not just one).” The KINGDOM is MULTI-NATIONAL, and therefore, the Law (Heb. Torah) is likewise meant for people of ALL NATIONS, not just for the Jewish people.
However, I know people will say, “But God gave the Torah to only the Jewish people,” but that is biblically not true. The Jewish people were not the only ones who came out of Egypt with Moses, but there was non-Jews in that group as well:
And a MIXED MULTITUDE went up along with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. (Exodus 12:38)
How can the Law (Torah) be only for the Jewish people, when it was given to a population that consisted of both Jews AND Non-Jews? The reason most Christians do not see this blatant contradiction in what they think the Law is about, and who it was given to vs. what it says about itself is two-fold:
- They have not been taught to view them in this way. An error in perspective that goes back many, many centuries; and
- They don’t read their Bible, particularly the commandments, since many of them don’t believe they pertain to them, so they think, “Why read it?” They rely on the minister to tell them what they need to know, and what is often given is the denominational view of things, rather than what the Bible actually teaches. This is not an assumption on my part, but based upon surveys and studies which indicate this.
I’m not trying to be offensive here, but the fact is that in general, most Christians do not read their Bible. They revere it, and they think it is important, but they don’t take the time to actually read and study it. Also, most Christians have been taught to read their Bible backwards. They start with the New Testament before they get to the Old Testament. This means that they’re understanding the Old Testament in light of what their denomination believes the New Testament teaches – this is clearly seen in the different interpretations of the New Testament by the various 34, 000 Christian denominations – rather than understanding the New Testament in light of what the Old Testament teaches, which is the order and framework in which God intended for us to use.
FALSE ASSUMPTION #2 – THE ABSENCE OF THE TEMPLE, PRIESTHOOD, AND SACRIFICES
Christians who don’t believe that all the law can be kept also are quick to point out that several of the commandments involve a Temple, a priesthood, and animal sacrifices. However, they are also quick to point out that since these things do not exist, we cannot obey these commandments; therefore, the effort to obey God’s commandments is a waste of time. However, their assumption is again in error.
When ancient Babylon conquered Israel in 586 B.C.E., they destroyed the first Temple that had been built by King Solomon. The Jews were then taken as captives to Babylon for seventy years. While in Babylon, the Jews did not have a Temple, active priesthood or animal sacrifices. Did God then tell them, “Sorry guys, no Temple, priesthood or sacrifices, so I guess we’ll just have to forget this whole commandment thing”? No, He didn’t. Instead, He expected them to keep what commandments they could. For example, in the book of Daniel, which was written by Daniel while the Jews were in Babylon, Daniel maintained his obedience to God by praying three times a day (Daniel 6:10) and by keeping the dietary laws (Daniel 1:8, 12-17). Prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Jews, like David, prayed three times a day (Psalm 55:17), and now in Babylon, Daniel is continuing this practice as well.
Did God reject Daniel’s, as well as Hananiah’s (renamed “Shadrach”), Mishael’s (renamed “Meshach”), and Azariah’s (renamed “Abed-nego”) obedience to what commandments he and his friends were able to keep since they could not keep them all? No, instead, God blessed their obedience to Him. Even though they could not keep them all, He still blessed them for the commandments they did keep. For example, Daniel 1:17 says, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” When we obey God and His commandments from our hearts, He blesses us in this life, He does not condemn us because we cannot keep them all, as Christians suggest from this question.
And when the Jews returned from Babylon, they eventually did rebuild the Temple, and re-instituted the Levitical priesthood and the animal sacrificial system. And then those commandments which they were not able to do before could now be done. And likewise today, there’s not been a Temple since 70 A.D., when the Romans, under Titus, destroyed it, but now in Jerusalem, the Temple Institute has recreated all of the elements for the Temple, and it has been training the Levitical priests on how to do all their duties, like how to perform the animal sacrifices. The only thing that’s missing is the building. So my question to those Christians who ask this question is, “What will you say when there is a Temple, a functioning priesthood and animal sacrifices? What will happen to your argument then?”
CONCLUSION OF PART 1
Consequently, from these first two erroneous assumptions, we can see that the basis on which this concept is based is not logically, or biblically, valid. And even in part two, as we examine the Christian understanding and use of James 2:10, we will continue to see the same problem: the discrepancies between what Christians believe and teach from what the Bible itself teaches.