About 2600 years ago there was a young King who set his mind and heart to serve God in a clean and honest way. The trouble was that, through the corrupt way of life of his fathers, his people had grown used to idolatry and all manner of unclean and disgusting practices. But the King was not without friends and advisers, especially the High Priest and the Chief Scribe. And these three, together with a number of other ordinary folk, had heard the still small voice of their God speaking within their hearts, saying, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And to their limited ability, they sought to do just that.
One of the ways the King devised to serve his God was to commission a Public Works Programme to repair the Temple of God. Over the years this Temple had fallen into disrepair, and it now needed the services of skilled craftsmen and many labourers to put it right. The King provided adequate funds to meet the costs of new materials as well as all the labour charges. And soon the work was under way. The High Priest and Chief Scribe were the overseers, and ensured that the whole operation was performed to the glory of God.
On a certain day while all this work was in progress, the Chief Scribe came into the King’s presence in great excitement. “I have found the Ancient Scroll of God’s Laws!” he said, handing it carefully to the King. And the young monarch was equally affected by this find, and ordered the Scribe to sit down and read it to him. Now the Scroll was quite long, and the Scribe was fearful that the King might tire of listening. But no. The more the King heard, the more he wanted to hear, and he insisted that the Scribe read the whole of it. Glancing up as he read, the Scribe noticed that the King was deeply affected by what he heard, and several times was seen to be drying his eyes.
As soon as the Scroll was closed, the King arose and tore his outer garment and wept bitterly. “The anger of God is upon this place,” he wailed. “We are near to destruction and I had not known it. The sins of my fathers are piled up to heaven.” Turning to the Scribe he said, “Go and find a Prophet. I must know God’s mind on this present situation. This is a time of great crisis.”
The Chief Scribe made haste and eventually found a Prophetess, before whom he placed the King’s request. “Go and tell him that judgment and destruction are irrevocably determined upon this City and the People.” The Scribe looked pained, but after a moment she continued, “But because the King has humbled himself in the sight of God, these disasters will tarry till after his death.” A more cheerful Scribe then brought word back to the King. And so it was that during the remaining 13 years of this King’s reign, the land and the people knew peace, and the King ruled them wisely, and true worship was restored in the repaired and beautified Temple in the City.
(This will readily be recognised as the story of King Josiah of Judah, which may be read in 2 Kings 22-23, and 2 Chronicles 34-35.)
There is good reason for us to quote the above story. It provides the backcloth to this present article.
In recent years the Lord has greatly exercised the minds and hearts of our fellowship over the subject of His laws. In earlier days, I was brought up to understand that “the law” had no relevance to a Christian’s life today. I was told that “we are not under law but under grace”, and I found this to be the prevalent attitude in the Christian church. Whenever this kind of remark is made, the outcome is expected, in other words one tends not to think about the subject, discuss it, or study it, but rather to dismiss it from the mind. I virtually ignored the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy (except from the historical point of view) and concentrated my Biblical studies on “more important things.”
But quite recently there has been a gentle but relentless pressure from the Spirit of God, requiring us to think about, to read, to study, and to understand His ancient laws. But this is one thing. What is altogether quite a different thing is the RELEVANCE of these laws to our lives TODAY as God’s people. To cut a long story short, we are feeling increasingly like young King Josiah, for we now believe that we have, as God’s Church, ignored (or even rejected) His Laws to our peril. Furthermore, we sense that the prophesied judgment on the House of God may be largely due to this attitude.
But there is one big difference, and this difference makes us MORE guilty than Josiah. For hundreds of years we have had the word of God to read, not just in our Churches, but in our homes, a privilege never accorded to the people of Josiah’s day. And we have read our Bibles, studied them, learned portions by heart, and yet somehow been blinded to some of its most important truths. It goes without saying that Powers of Darkness have been responsible for this “Vail”, but should we not accept the responsibility for what has happened? Do we sense that our attitude has been a gross offence to the God in whom we trust? If we repent, will the Lord perhaps give us a season of refreshment and a time of restitution before His judgments fall?
This is the theme of this paper, and I should like to take this opportunity to review some of our recent publications, because many of them reflect the way in which this process of enlightenment has been (and is still) taking place. May we ask our readers to take this matter seriously, for we have all been guilty of neglect.
Our first attempt to redress the balance, as far as the Law is concerned, was in August 1986, and the article was entitled “Of Sabbath Days and Sausage Meats” [no longer available] in this we urged our readers to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy” whether we thought of the Sabbath as Sunday, as Saturday or any other convenient day. (At that stage, the Lord had not revealed to us the truths of the 7th day.) In addition, the subject of the Food Laws was investigated. We saw that the New Testament by no means removed these laws. Nothing had been repealed. All had been retained from the O.T. We received flak from some readers who felt that a “kosher diet” was an unwarranted restriction for Christians.
The following month we published a lengthy paper entitled “The Gods of the Market Place,” [PT 6] in which we tried to show that Powers of Darkness were responsible for breaking down the Laws God had given to Moses for the people. This was followed in May 1987 by “The Fence Breakers”, [PT 15] which depicted the absolute security that exists within the Mosaic legislation, the erection of defined boundaries for man’s own good AND as a display of God’s character. A number of constructive comments were received on these papers, but we sensed all the same that many were willing to adhere to 9 out of the 10 commandments, but felt the Sabbath Law had been changed or abolished in Christ. There was also some anti-reaction to the Food Laws and other things.
One of these “other things” was discussed the following month under the title “The Biblical Foundations and Divine Orders of WORSHIP.” [PT 8] A cross section of replies was received from this. Some showed distinct pleasure. One reader asked for a batch of further copies to distribute. Others showed equal displeasure for what they thought was an attempt to shackle the freedom of the Spirit in Worship. We answered this by saying that the Holy Spirit could not be party to any expression of “freedom” in worship that did not comply with Divine Regulations.
Later in the year we engaged in a more comprehensive study of the Sabbath in both Testaments. This was a clear directive of the Holy Spirit. The result was quite shattering to us. As with the Food Laws, we began to see that the New Testament showed NO EVIDENCE of a change from Saturday to Sunday. And since writing the paper entitled “The Return of the Sabbath”, [no longer available, but replaced by a series of PTs Nos. 82-84] we have observed from reading the Christian Fathers that although the early church met “on the first day of the week” to break bread together, in fact they met on Saturday evening. Often we fail to recognise the difference in the starting point of the day in Bible times, being so used to midnight in our own times. But what is of greater importance is that the early church used to keep the Sabbath Day AS IT ALWAYS HAD BEEN KEPT, as a day of rest. Some expositors would have us believe that the early church swept aside the Saturday Sabbath almost as soon as Jesus had risen from the dead on a Sunday. But there is no evidence of this, even though some have tried to wrest the Greek language to prove their point.
With a matter as important as one of the Ten Commandments, any change would have to be authorised by Divine Command. No such Command can be found anywhere in Scripture. The Church has decided that the expression “The Lord’s Day” found in Revelation 1:10 means Sunday. But throughout the Old Testament “The Lord’s Day” could only be connected with His special day, the seventh day of the week, Saturday. And we believe that this is what John meant when he was writing the Revelation. Furthermore, the 7th day typified the time of Millennial Rest, known by the Prophets as “The Day of the Lord.”
The Roman Edict of Constantine, dated March 7th AD 321, making Sunday the rest day, must be understood within its context. At that time Constantine had made no profession of conversion to Christianity. The reason for the Edict is clear from written records. He was a Sun-worshipper, and decided to enforce this upon his empire. There is no mention of’ it being a new “Sabbath” for that word was connected with the Jews, and he hated the Jews. It may come as a surprise to some of our readers to learn that Sunday was never called the Sabbath until about 1100 AD. The Christianisation of the Roman Empire under Constantine, eulogised by Eusebius, was nothing short of a scandal. The Emperor’s life style after his ‘conversion’ was tragically different to that of a true believer in Christ.
Bearing all these things in mind, why is it that the Christian Church today says lip-service to the Edict of Constantine, thereby rejecting the clear statement of the 4th Commandment from Sinai? We found this quite a shattering experience when we had to face the facts. We now pass on to our readers what we have discovered, and ask that they also should investigate the evidences, and adjust their life style in accordance with the truth rediscovered.
We had several responses to the paper on the Sabbath, (of Dec. 1987) For the most part they were contrary to our conclusions. It seemed to make little difference that the Lord had granted us a most remarkable “sign” to accompany the study and the conclusion. And this Sign pointed conclusively to the 7th day being the Sabbath. The main reason for rejecting our findings was based on the practical difficulties of having a Saturday Sabbath in this day and age. In reply, we agreed wholeheartedly. But we also pointed out that it was very dangerous to disregard any clearly understood command of God, just because it is “inconvenient”. John said in his letter, “If we love Him we will keep his commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.”
At first we found it very strange observing Saturday as our Sabbath. But after a few weeks our minds began to get “normalised” to the new way, and now it would seem very wrong not to have a Rest Day on a Saturday. Our Fellowship meets each Saturday afternoon at 3 pm. We share together and have a Bible Study. At teatime we break bread. In the evening the Young People have their own meeting, and the adults have their own fellowship. In this way we probably copy the pattern of the early church in their house groups. Sometimes an event crops up on a Saturday from which we have to withdraw. But all such “inconvenience” has been liberally made up by the Lord Himself in the way He has blessed our fellowship. What more can we say? In January 1988 I prepared a short article entitled “The Law”, in which I confessed our ignorance of the Laws of God until very recently. [PT 9]
The latest paper dealing with an aspect of the Law was dated July 1988, and entitled “The Daily Sacrifice”. [no longer available] In this we tried to show that the “Daily Sacrifice” of the Old Testament was replaced by the Last Supper of the New Testament, with the Lord’s words “Do this in remembrance of Me“ as the Divine Authority. We saw that in the early church they “broke bread daily from house to house”. Some have insisted that the words “break bread” refer to an ordinary meal, and not to the Remembrance. We agree with this, but hasten to add that to the Church this meal would have INCLUDED the Remembrance. It is now our custom to Break Bread every breakfast and supper time after thanking the Lord for our food. It is a simple act of worship, whereby we “show forth the Lord’s death until He comes.” We had no comment at all from this paper.
And so it is now almost a year since we last sent out a paper on this theme. But during the year we have found great spiritual satisfaction and cause for praise due to the continuing application of God’s laws. In particular we have attended to the Feasts of the Lord in Leviticus 23. They start with the Sabbath, and this has already been covered in various papers. But when we started to compare the Feasts with the present system of ecclesiastical festivals, there was literally NO COMMON GROUND!
From the days of Constantine there had been a relentless and ruthless purge of anything Jewish. Anti-Semitism was rife. Out went the Sabbath by decree, dated March 7th AD 321, when he said, “Let all the judges and townspeople, and the occupation of all trades, rest on the venerable Day of the Sun.” Then followed a re-establishment of the Passover under a new name. This occurred at the Council of Nicæa in AD 325. They called it Easter. This word is the phonetic pronunciation of the name Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess Semiramis, wife of Nimrod. As this seems to be common knowledge these days, why in the name of all reason does the Church still use the word? Is it not a direct blasphemy? Furthermore, the old Passover festival, linked to the Lunar Calendar, had been replaced by one which ALWAYS falls on “Good Friday” and “Easter Sunday”. This is why we now find that the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter seldom fall on the same days. But the early apostles continued to keep Passover at the correct time as a careful reading of Acts shows. No legislation exists by Divine Decree to change the dates.
Then again, Pentecost followed Passover by a clearly stated period of 50 days. But the Church now has “Whitsunday” which is always geared to Easter. Whitsun is short for “White Sunday”, when catechumens wore white vestments on being presented to the Bishop. Hence the Feast of Pentecost is likewise out of step with the Lunar Calendar of Hebrew origin.
Later in the year the Feast of Trumpets,(strictly speaking, the Feast of Shouting for Joy, to commemorate the founding of the world), the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles receive virtually no correspondence with modern church festivals. The nearest we get to Tabernacles is the “Harvest festival”. But this is always a localised affair, and not a set time. Some may argue and say that the Day of Atonement was fulfilled by our Lord, so why remember it? But we would remind our readers that our Lord also fulfilled the Passover and the church decided to remember that each year on Good Friday. Why the one and not the other?
But the Church has instituted numerous other feast days of its own choice, mostly derived from the Catholic Church, but many still operating in the Anglican Communion. One of these is “Christmas” (or the Christ-Mass), which was instituted about AD 350 to coincide with the winter solstice, and by AD 450 had been made a compulsory festival by the Roman church.
Modern research has turned up plenty of facts about the origin of Christmas. The “Virgin-and-Child” symbol had been known in ancient Egypt and Babylon long before the birth of Jesus. In the time of Constantine it was found to be “convenient” to celebrate Jesus’ birthday along with existing festivities connected with the Saturnalia and Winter Solstice ceremony. However, records still refer to the birth time of our Saviour as the Autumn Equinox of BC 2. I think the Church once knew this, and we still find it remembered in the “Feast of Michael and All Angels” on September 29th. It was meant to remind us of the angelic host that appeared to the shepherds on the night of His birth. I have recently shown all the evidences for this in my work “Seven Steps to Bethlehem.” It is not obligatory for anyone to observe the day of Christ’s birth. There is no divine legislation in existence. However, if we wish to do so, then it would be far more in keeping with the truth to do so atMichaelmas than at Christmas.
Last year, at the appropriate season, we held a “Celebration of the Lord’s Birthday,” to which our fellowship and other friends were invited. This was a joyful occasion and “clean” from all the gaudy razzmatazz of the Christmas season.
And this year we celebrated Passover instead of Easter. We had a roast lamb supper with the appropriate bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. This was a most happy gathering. At the supper table we stood and listened to questions posed by the children, and answered by the fathers, about the meaning of the Old Testament Passover. And after supper we broke bread together and remembered how Jesus had fulfilled the type. Afterwards the children commented on how much they had learned about the Bible from the way in which it had been performed.
And only last Friday evening/Saturday afternoon we celebrated Pentecost together by reading the Scriptures relating to Resurrection (as typified by the firstfruit offering), and also the Law, which was given at Sinai at about the same time of the year. And during a time of prayer and intercession there was a brief message in tongues followed by an interpretation in which the Lord asked us to be always ready and waiting for His return.
On all of these occasions we decided what to do. There were no regulations laid down. Next year, if the Lord tarry, we may well choose to do it some other way. What I am trying to say is that .there was no “legalism” involved. We wanted to remember God’s own Feasts, and had much joy in doing so. Later this year we shall consider what to do for Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles. We have now abandoned ALL the existing Church Festivals as meaningless replacements of God’s own special days. If one should ask, saying, what does it matter if the time is wrong if the heart is right?, our answer would now be, if the heart really is right, shall we not want to do it at the Lord’s time and not our own?
In reformation history there was a man by the name of John Agricola who said, “that it mattered not how wicked a man was if he had but faith.” He based his understanding on Romans 3:28 – “A man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In 1538 Martin Luther coined a name for this man. He called him an “antinomian” (against law). In fact Agricola retracted this doctrine in 1540, but the “leaven” still continued to work amongst Christians for long afterwards, and we even find the British Parliament condemning antinomianism over a century later in 1648. But it is our conviction that this pernicious heresy continues to contaminate the people of God right down to the present day.
Surely it is not without significance that the Antichrist is called “the Man of Lawlessness”. Is it not a fact that ALL OF UShave been influenced by his doctrine, and without realising it have been actively fostering his ways for centuries? We are now seeing that the Holy Spirit has been clearing away some of this evil by enlightening believers. This is certainly true in our own case, and is bound to be true elsewhere, even if we do not know of others who have been similarly exercised. Maybe the reason is that we might “trim our lamps” in readiness for our Lord’s return.
Finally, may we share with you a few extracts and comments based on Romans chapter 7.
Paul said that he would not have recognised the true nature of his own SIN if the Law had not thundered out its “thou shaltnots“! (v.7) And so, “without Law, sin is dead.” (v.8) Logically then,
if we remove God’s laws from the Pulpit, there can no longer be any conviction of sin.
And if there is no conviction of sin, there can be no true repentance,
and if no repentance, no new birth.
To what then are people being “converted”? And to what “Christ” are they pledging allegiance? I read that John Wesley once used to ride up Langham Road, where we now live, and preach in the open air at the farm not 500 yards from here. In fact until recently, his old wooden pulpit stood there in the farmyard. He used to send a man ahead of him to teach the laws of God, and when he arrived, he found already a spirit of conviction, and with little preaching, there was repentance and new life in Christ. O that we might return to such Biblical methods.
Paul continues, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” (v.12) If this is true, then why did I find only a short while ago a certain Christian writer affirming that the Law of God was nailed to the cross and done away? And another Christian, in a personal letter to me, telling me that so far as he is concerned, “the law is an ass”? Surely these comments are born of a prevailing understanding (or should I say MISunderstanding?) of Law which produces resentment whenever it is spoken of today.
Furthermore Paul affirms that “the law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, sold under sin.” (v.14) He laments that although he“delights in the law of God according to the inner man,” (v.22) he finds sin ever present with him, constantly re-affirming the death penalty, as to all Adam-kind. But in victorious fashion he concludes his argument in 8:1 by saying “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
What does it mean to “walk after the spirit”? Does it mean that law has been dispensed with? God forbid! Hear Paul again – “that the RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENT OF THE LAW MIGHT BE FULFILLED IN US, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.” (8:4) That is the crux of the matter.
We are living in New Testament days, in other words the days of the NEW COVENANT. What then is this NEW COVENANT? It is found in Jeremiah 31: 31-34. Essentially it is this. Instead of the laws being written on two stone tablets, God promises, “I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.” (v.33)
Dear friends, are we not awaiting our Lord’s return? And what then? Does He not have a task set before His people for the Millennium? And is it not to teach all nations the way of righteousness? Are we not told in Isaiah 2:3 that “out of Zion shall go forth THE LAW”? Shall we, who have for so long spurned His laws, expect in resurrection to teach them to others ?What logic is there in that? Is it that the Holy Spirit is graciously calling us back to what we have ignored, spurned, or rejected, so that we may be MADE READY for His appearing?
In closing, let me emphasise that when we have spoken of THE LAW, we are referring to the whole of the Mosaic legislation. Not just the ten commandments. This Law was set forth in various ways and in various sections. Our Lord fulfilled everything that had to do with sin and uncleanness, and so there cannot ever again be a blood sacrifice. But in every other respect, the laws of God stand. It is now our duty to know how to interpret their relevance into the lives we live today, so that the ways and the character of God may become imprinted in our lives to His glory. In our fellowship we feel that we have only scratched the surface, and have very far to go, but it’s an exciting adventure.
Jesus said, “Think not that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled. 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.” Matthew 5:17-19