Keeping God’s Commands (1 Corinthians 7:19)

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The apostle Paul said we are under grace, not law. To live under the law is to insult Christ who died to free us from the curse of the law. So why did Paul write this?

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. (1 Cor 7:19)

Someone who is confused about the finished work of the cross will read this and say, “It’s grace plus law. If you aren’t keeping the commands, you’re not walking in grace.” This is a most dangerous interpretation! It will cause you to fix your eyes on your command-keeping performance when Paul said, “I consider that stuff dung” (Php 3:8).

To those who insist you must keep God’s commands, perhaps to earn his favor if not his salvation, I have one simple question: what about the command to be circumcised?

Under the Law of Moses circumcision was not nothing. It was a command of God, something that you had to do to your sons (Lev 12:3). You could not partake of Passover if you hadn’t been circumcised (Ex 12:48-49). Both Jesus and Paul were circumcised, yet Paul said:

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. (1 Cor 7:19)

Under law, this is a nonsensical statement. It’s like saying it doesn’t matter if you drive drunk, as long as you don’t drive drunk. Do you see? If the first part is true (the command doesn’t matter), then second part cannot be (it does matter).

Keep in mind that this verse was written by an expert in the law. Paul knew the law inside and out. He knew that you cannot pick and choose the rules, that you must obey them all (Gal 3:10). So why does he confuse us with this contradictory statement?

If you believe you must keep the commands of God, this verse will sabotage your command-keeping efforts. It will defeat you. The only way this passage makes sense is if you filter it through the finished work of the cross, and understand that “Christ is the culmination of the law” (Rom 10:4).

Circumcision – a shadow
The law – a shadow
Christ – the reality

Circumcision is nothing

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ. (Col 2:11)

You have been crucified with Christ, and the person you used to be no longer lives. Any sinful nature you had has been removed by the Lord. This is why it’s a mistake to tell Christians they have two natures dueling inside them. One with the Lord you have his heart, his desires, his spiritual DNA.

The custom of snipping the tip is a shadow; the reality is found in Christ. It’s the same with the law:

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming–not the realities themselves. (Heb 10:1)

Laws, rules, traditions, customs–all these things are meant to point you to Christ:

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Col 2:17)

If command-keeping is a shadow, why does Paul say “keeping God’s commands is what counts”? Because command-keeping will lead you to Jesus who is the culmination of the law.

Jesus is everything

There are some who say we must keep the commands to be saved, sanctified, or blessed, but Paul would have resisted such people strenuously. Everything comes to us by grace alone. A life under grace is a blessed life, but a life under law is cursed (Gal 3:10).

A critic of this message said, “We must recover a love for the law if we are to be in harmony with him.”

No, a love for the law that manifests in a desire for command-keeping will alienate you from Christ. It will cause you to fall from grace and be lukewarm. Living by the rules won’t save you, sanctify you, or bless you. It will, however, empower sin against you (1 Cor 15:56).

It’s imperative you get this. Grace and law don’t mix. Either you believe Jesus is the culmination of the law or you don’t. Either you’ll trust in his finished work or you’ll bet on your never-finished-work.

In Christ we have kept and continue to keep the commands of God. This has nothing to do with a love for the law but the life of Christ flowing through us as we rest in him, free and unbothered by those who would enslave us again.

Comments

  1. Thank you dear Paul!

  2. Paul, I don’t see what’s wrong with keeping the law. There’s a whole difference between keeping the law and living under it. After all, how do we explain Paul’s (the apostle) exhortation in Eph 6:1-3 ?

  3. Thana57 says:

    “19 the circumcision is nothing, and the uncircumcision is nothing but a keeping of the commands of God.” YLT When you read this verse without the italicized addition of translators it reads to me like the verse is saying that circumcision is merely keeping the law which we no longer have to do.

    • Warren (South Carolina, USA) says:

      Good point Thana57. Oddly the KJV leaves out the three words “what matters is” added by the translators also.
      Blessings,
      Warren (South Carolina, USA)

  4. Great sharing, Paul.
    I used to cherry pick and say only certain parts of the Law were done away (for example, the “ceremonial” part). Now under Grace (Christ) I know that the Law is the law is the law. I choose not to be lukewarm and try to live under both Law and Grace.

  5. ty I been told in church we have the old man in us I get confused bunches not the pastor’s fault but I’m just like huh?! And the 90 day tithe challange and mean alot of stuff. I’m so confused it’s not funny maybe we can exchange through email paul.

  6. Don’t you think it has more to do with God and how He looks at the inner self than the outwards appearance. For the law is written in our hearts (controlled by the Holy Spirit).

  7. Thanks a lot

  8. back in the 80s I began to listen to andrew wommack,by accident and began to get a revelation of grace,which is what I believe it has to be because otherwise it makes no sense

    • I went through a period of reading and listening to Andrew Womack and soon realized that he subtly and sometimes overtly mixes law in with grace in his messages. He twists in works and holds steadfast to why certain sins like homesexuality are not forgiven for example. I started seeing more messages popping up on how we “keep” certain ways and laws to operate properly as Christians. Once you get a true revelation of God’s grace and true nature, it gets easier to recognize the law/grace twisters!

    • I wish I’d found Andrew Wommack back in the ’80s. Would have saved me a lot of heartache.🙂

  9. Another great one, you even coined a new term that describes my past – never-finished work. It is the mixture of grace and law that I think confuses people the most. I actually thought I was in a grace church for a while because my pastor would preach a great grace message, but we were back to the law in a week or two.

    • Oh do I know how you feel on this one! Been there and reality is that no church, pastor or teacher has it a 100% correct. We just have to know the truth in our heart as God is working Himself inside us as we live by His grace. We have to learn to let go of what doesn’t work or make sense for us anymore. Churches are full of believers and unbelievers therefore messages are geared to reach both, but often are not distinguished as why the law brings the unbelieving to the end of themselves and why as be livers we operate by resting in His Amazing grace! Shalom!

      • I also wanted to say that it’s not just teachers, pastors and churches that have it 100% correct…it’s everyone! Only God Himself is the all-knowing who reveals Himself to us. We are all growing in Christ and maturing at our own capacity as we are led by the Holy Spirit within as believers. I just thank God that we have the luxury of operating in The Lord’s finished work on the cross…because before He came people had to operate from types and shadows. They had to take direction from the people who God chose to display and prophesy the shadows of what was to come. I came to a realization that before Jesus, people became accustomed to the law because that was what they had to do to get an idea of who God was before He came through space and time to dwell with us. The law preachers and/or law and grace mixers are operating from the shadows of the past. This is why it’s so hard for many Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. They grew up holding steadfast to the laws that God demanded they keep through Moses for years (to start since the Israelites were a stiff neck people who couldn’t even accept His grace then as He was rescuing them from Pahroh through Moses), therefore its hard to believe that the final sacrifice of the spotless Lamb our Messiah Jesus really did radically change to course of history on earth. I get so excited when I read and watch videos of Jews getting a revelation of Jesus and coming to Christ.

      • Amen! Thank you!🙂

  10. Great comment! This passage has continued to elude me of Paul’s reasoning for including it. Your reasoning on this passage would be in my opinion the best available. However your explanation still does not satisfy my curiosity. It doesn’t make sense that Paul included this statement being such the opponent of law based religion. It simply confuses someone who is already confused by the mix Gospel.
    Thank you! I cannot get enough of your insight. Keep it coming!

    • Brian Midmore says:

      Christ is not just the end of the law but its fulfillment and its goal. In Christ we fulfill the law and become law-doers by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The law that used to divide by circumcision is now fulfilled in us in the Messiah.

  11. Good job helping us to understand such a sbject.

  12. “Jesus who is the culmination of the law.” Please point me what you have written on this “culmination” of the law. Thanks, Gary

    • tentmaker – The verse you quote is Rom 10:4 [variations of, in all modern translations]. What would you say, to this__”For the Christ is the goal of ‘Torah’ [the Law of God to Moses] for righteousness to anyone who would believe on Him [the Christ].” Rom 10:4 (Aramaic) as the old Hebrew was re-written at a time during the Assyrian/Babylonian exile.

      Does this say anything as to the culmination-end of the law?

      • In ‘tenmakers comment above’__The verse containing, “Jesus is the culmination of the law.” – he refers to in P. Ellis’s doc. above, under the ‘Jesus is everything’ header: is Rom 10:4 -most if not all modern translations are similar, no?

        Can we not share with one another – the understanding of God’s Word to us…? James 4:10-12 warns us, be careful with one another. Yet, there seems a implied platform within the web providing a kind of license for [word picture], ‘swimming in a pool of ‘I just wanna be heard’.

        This leaves no room for civil discourse – patience to converse vs “I am telling you…’

        Matt5: 17-19 pre-Greek/Latin is [Aramaic from the ‘old Hebrew’ during the time of exile Assyria/Babylon] At the end of vs 17, “I have not come to loosen (undo/do away with/destroy) but to fulfill them (Torah/Prophets) through proper meaning.”

        Matt5: 17-19 Amplified Bible – 17 “Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the [f]Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. 19 So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

        The above two translations are as close to original__the Aramaic translation of Rom 10:4 [first mentioned] – “For the spirit of Anointed One in God is the ‘goal’ of Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes on Him.”

        “How can Jesus say, “I have not come to destroy…” & in the same spirit breathing – inspire men [modern trans.] to write that He did? When setting the Aramaic Matt 5: 17-19, Rom 10:4 one beside the other, there is no confusion.

  13. Paulette says:

    Can you please expound on the second portion of that Scripture….”Keeping God’s commands is what counts”? What commands then is Paul referring to if not the commands in the law? Thank you for your answer.

    • Command-keeping has value when doing so leads us to Christ. This is the primary purpose of the law – to point out our sin and reveal our need for a Savior.

      “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Gal 3:24-25)

  14. So regarding keeping the law, I’ve been referred to Acts 15:29 ;
    You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

    If you read the verses before this it seems to imply that the law is too hard to keep so if just these few you’re alright. Any thoughts ?

  15. Hi Paul, thank you for your post. I was raised a Baptist where most sermons were about how much of a sinner I am. I had to lean to my own understanding as a child because I was dropped off, not taken to church. Those things stuck with me. It is very hard to shake the restrictions of the law. They were used, for the most part, as a disciplinary measure to keep my siblings and me in line. Grace and mercy were seldom used in our household. My question is this: What if Christians still try to abide by the laws that we usually break anyway whether by ignorance or intention? If we don’t quite understand how it all works won’t our salvation still be about accepting Christ and His forgiveness? I still think I should be as good as I can be because “they will know me by my fruit” kind of example. I do realize that my salvation does not depend on how “good” I am but rather that I know that I am “not good” nor can ever be “good enough” except through the blood of Christ, my Savior. I truly love reading about God’s grace and enjoy your blog very much. God bless you.

    • If you try to be as good as you can be, you will reach a certain level of goodness I suppose. But if you don’t try and don’t think about yourself at all, but instead focus on Christ and trust him, you will far exceed whatever you could do on your own. And you’ll be walking in the spirit instead of the flesh and bearing his fruit instead of your own.

      Yes, the law is hard to shake, for it is the operating system of the natural mind. It’s our default setting. This is why we need to renew our minds. We need to remind ourselves that in Christ, we are as righteous as he is and we don’t have to prove a thing. Being law-conscious is an inferior way to live for the believer. It’s crawling in the mud of self-effort when you could be soaring with the Lord. Abide in his love and live out of your union with him and you will fulfill the law effortlessly, without even thinking about it.

      • Love your answer Paul! That is EXACTLY how I see it.

      • Thank you, Paul. This particular subject has inspired many comments which have answered my personal concerns and opened a dialog that will be helpful to others. I always look forward to your insight on the grace of God. Have a blessed day!

      • Thank you for this reply Paul! I don’t think you can know the volumes this has spoken to me. I have been discovering this Grace message over the last couple years but yet still struggle to fully rest in Christ’s finished work. It is clear now that my mind is still not fully convinced that I am perfectly righteous and complete in Christ and I need my mind continually renewed. It’s tough because I tend to sway towards cynicism. I started listening to certain Grace teachers who I believe for the most part were teaching the truth but then it seems like their whole message becomes entangled up in a health and wealth doctrine and I become frustrated, disillusioned and then discouraged. Oh that someone would just teach this pure Grace without propagating as a means for financial and bodily success. So far listening to Andrew Farley and he seems to be spot on. Praying. And not that I want to follow a man but I’ve been so mentally conditioned towards efforts and behavior and seeing scripture through that lense that I need some guidance mining through that.

      • You said; “…that in Christ, we are as righteous as he is…”. That makes me think of 1 John 3:7 Were John said similar, “….he that does righteousness is righteous even as he is…”. Why would John relate doing righteousness as being righteous. He also seems to be saying, there can be deception associated with righteousness, if there is no actual proof of doing of it. Wouldn’t this be the antithesis of what you said, “… we don’t have to prove a thing.”?
        Also, in the second to the last paragraph you used “on” instead of “or”; “Either you’ll trust in his finished work on you’ll bet on your never-finished-work.”Trifle, but made me read it twice to understand. Thanks.

      • John is not promoting works-based righteousness so much as describing the fruit of being born of God. We don’t make ourselves righteous by faking it. Rather, we act righteous because we are righteous, even as he is righteous. “Because as he is (righteous), so also are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Why say it? Because by their fruit you shall know them. Thanks for pointing out the typo.

      • Dont know if you will see this, but your blog did not give space or place to respond . So, as to avoid confusion by just adding it out of sequence, I will add it here. I say; But that is just it! We don’t make ourselves righteous byfaking it, but rather we prove to ourselves righteous (thus kept from deceptionof righteous fakery) by doing righteousness, as the scripture was personal (letno man deceive you)   It’s the person whoacts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Lord.I never suggested that he is promoting “worksbased”righteousness.   Obviously he wasnot promoting that. So, why would he say it the way he did. It was just the wayyou said; “we don’t have to prove a thing”, that made me think, why did he putthis righteousness in light of proof, and thus vanquish all hint ofdeception?  So, he should have written;{Little Children, You are not deceived, as you are righteousbecause you have the fruit of righteousness, even as He is righteous.} “Mywords”.But he wrote, instead: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness isrighteous, even as he is righteous.”The scripture’s directly, both, above and below, tell why heis telling his listeners to not be deceived as . (top) Whosoever abides in him sins not and (bottom) He that commitssin is of the devil. Note the positions, “above and below” Heaven or hell. This ‘manifest’ proof of whom they represent, is verse 10.And exactly, as you said Paul E. “by their fruit you shall know them” and I add,yourself also, where in Paul suggest, Examining ‘yourselves’, whether you be inthe faith; 2 Corinthians 13:5. Thanks

    • Mark Hritz says:

      Hello lensgirl53,
      Before you accepted God’s gift of grace you were a sinner who did good things that could never save you.
      Now you are a righteous,sanctified,and Holy person who sins. Just like your good works couldn’t save you when you were a sinner,the sins you commit now can never in any way change your standing as a righteous,sanctified,Holy,and beloved child of your heavenly Father.
      It’s vitally important to remember that your righteousness is a gift,not a reward.

      The Bible tells me that you are a branch and Jesus is the vine. This is a very telling statement about who you are. How much fruit can the branch produce if it is separated from the vine. The branch has no power to produce fruit. Everything that is needed to produce fruit comes from the vine. There is no work for the branch to do because the work is done by the vine. No one ever asks a person,they suspect as being a Christian,if they are a doer or a worker. They ask the person if they are a believer. Believe that all fruit produced on your branch is produced by the vine and speak that belief. Your Father is so good that he produces fruit on your branch and then rewards you for producing the fruit. Your role under grace is to believe that every good thing in your life is supplied by Jesus. Jesus role is to supply. Jesus was finally able to rest only after he paid a very high price for your sins. Believe,Speak,Rest,and Receive.

      When you stand up and work,Jesus sits down and rests.
      When you sit down and rest,Jesus stands up and supplies.

      • Thank you so much Mark. I love your explanation. I have heard the message about the Vine all of my life but not nearly as well or as simply as you have communicated to me here. I especially like the last few lines. It has been so true since the loss of our son seven years ago on March 6th. Jesus has truly supplied our strength and our peace.

        Have a good a good day. Thanks again for taking the time to help a stranger.

      • donbeeson says:

        Thanks , Mark. Great explanation about the vine and the branch. Each of us believers is a branch on the One vine. I also like your last paragraph : )

        Jesus told the crowd that unless their righteousness exceeds that
        of the Pharisees they would not see the kingdom of God. The Pharisees were master law keepers. The people were amazed at what Jesus said and asked how that could be? He said with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible. Our righteousness as believers is not just positional as many pastors and authors tell us. We actually have the Righteousness of Christ. And we are new creations. Sin is still active in our flesh but it is separate from us as Paul said in the last part of Romans 7. We don’t rehabilitate sin. We actively trust as Paul E says in what Christ has done and what God is doing in us. It’s not about us but about Him. We can take no credit for anything. Trust in God has been the stone man has tripped over since Adam and Eve. Those out of the Grace camp continue to do the same. We talk about ridding ourselves of sin or overcoming it. You can’t rehabilitate sin. But you can recognize it and choose to not follow its leading . None of us does that all the time. To me, that should serve to keep us humble and not think higher of ourselves than we ought .

  16. Do you think Paul means “Don’t live by rules, be in relationship”? In other words obey God’s commands as Jesus did. Which we do through Him.

  17. scottsboyd says:

    Do we not have a dual nature that ends when our bodies die? And as we are seduced into thinking we can be better, does that not inflame the nature or our flesh that is already dead, and as we walk in freedom we discover the righteous heart that is one with Christ and given to us when we were born again? I am asking because I think there is a dual nature, so I am looking for clarification. Romans 7 talks about nothing good in me, that is in my flesh, and that I delight in the lead of God in my inner being.
    Help?

    • We only have 1 nature as believers, the new creature He made us upon being born again. We still have a body which we can use to sin with but have been set free from having to obey it’s lusts as though it were dead. We are free to choose to do good.

      Romans 7 is all about Paul as a pharisee, trying to be good by following the law. He couldn’t do good as the law had no power to enable him to. He needed deliverance and it came through Jesus crucifying Paul with Himself on the cross then raising him to be a new creature. He gives praise for this freedom.

      • So we have a body which we can use, but have been set free from having to obey it’s lusts. It’s speaks of something besides our 1 nature, so maybe this is a conversation of definitions of words. You clearly spoke of two things. Also, Paul is speaking as a believer in Romans 7 and not as an unredeemed Pharisee. This is clear when he speaks of our redeemed inner being, which would not be redeemed as a Pharisee who was not a Christian.

  18. With respect to writers & hearers__We can be ardent Followers of Jesus & still believe falsely the Word of God.

    (i.e.) Isaiah 53: 5-6 – so many today understand those words to mean, we are healed physically. The writer is saying we are healed. What is being healed here?

    Suggestion: 1 Cor 7:19 – Paul is separating ‘part B’ of verse 19 from ‘part A’. Syntax is not used here. In ‘part A’, he speaks directly to God’s covenant with Abraham. In part B, to a wholly different issue.

    Here [‘part B’] he points directly at one of two ways ‘the law’, was being used by Pharisees/Sadducees of his day. They had created hundreds of ‘oral rules’ [traditions of men] over centuries. This Pharisaic/rabbinic Torah learning [halacha] structure is still in effect in synagogues.

    The Law of God to Moses, Paul was not referring to when saying, “I am no longer under the law” – he was pointing at his years under Gamaliel & the Sanhedrin – learning & acting the strict use of ‘oral rules’ (‘the law’ of men) for too long. In Phil 3:8 he was celebratory in his exhaustion by all the years of the rubbish coming from men.

    • momzilla76 says:

      The first(old) covenant is described here- Deuteronomy 4:13 & 9:9
      We are under is new and different covenant. Hebrews 8:8-13
      Acts 15 has the Holy Spirit only laying abstaining from blood and fornication upon Gentile believers.

  19. 1 corinthians 7:19 could also mean that superficial lawkeeping will not get you anywhere with God but only following the commands of God will , and what is the major command of God in the New Covenant , but to believe in the One whom He sent .

  20. The law of circumcision was given to Abraham, not Moses. It was to include the the ones who got circumcised into that covenant, not the Mosaic law.
    Paul also said “Circumcision or uncircumcision means nothing, what counts is the new creation.”
    We can see clearly in Gal. 5:16-26 and Rom. 8:12-14 that to walk in the Spirit, is to put the flesh to death, and if we’re living in the flesh, we must die.
    This is the new covenant and the new creation, we are told to walk in it.
    Every epistle that is in the New Testament, are telling believers to stop sinning, this is not the law, it is the way of life in the Spirit.
    So what do you say is “the law” anyway, you never answer this with scripture.

    • momzilla76 says:

      It is a extra biblical tradition that says that the law of circumcision was given to Abraham. Yes God asked Abraham to circumcise himself but no where does it formulate it as a law for all or even some to follow until Moses, only then was it given as a law. Romans 8:9 says how we walk in the Spirit.
      We do not kill ourselves into the new covenant, nor do we self denial ourselves into it either. How we die and enter into the new life, new covenant is through Jesus death, burial and resurrection as described in Romans 6. We get there by faith In Jesus not by acts of righteousness, works of the Law or good works.
      As for defining the Law, for those not veiled by Moses(2 Corinthians 3:16), a plain contextual reading of the scriptures shows that in almost every usage of the word Law in the NT it means those rules which were handed down to Moses.

    • donbeeson says:

      I have found the flesh to be capable of doing much good. It can appear we are living by the Spirit when actually we are living by the flesh. We still sin as believers, but we are NOT our sin. It’s not in our new DNA. I have walked on eggshells most of my 30+ years as a believer. Let me tell you it was no fun trying to be perfect. My flesh type is basically good but it is no less repugnant than bad flesh. God has used Paul E to cause me to feel born again again. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders. When you believe you are your sin , you cannot experience God’s grace nor the freedom He has given you. Sin is not us but it is deeply woven in our flesh. Jesus didn’t remove sin, but God the Father already condemned sin in the flesh through Christ’s death on the cross as Romans 8 says.

  21. The Ten Commandments are clearly included in the law that produces death (2 Cor 3:7). So if sin produces death and the law produces death they must be closely related (1 Cor 15:56). Now if the law doesn’t stop sin, but actually strengthens sin, the question becomes “how” is good fruit actually produced in a person’s life? Walking in the Spirit of life surely must produce life. What does walking in the Spirit really mean? We are usually looking for some pretty complicated stuff to answer questions like these, but the answer is right here in this post… abide in His love.

    • LPJ – The problem with your quandary: The law you are so bewildered by is not the Law of God to Moses, we are still affected by that part of the older covenants. It’s the ‘oral rules’ laws, traditions of the Pharisaic/rabbinic controlling Sanhedrin then & now – being made to look like the Law of God, mixing people up. This was Pauls’ declaration all through his letter to the Galatians.

      2 Cor 3:7 refers to Rom 7:12-16. The commandment is holy [just as the Law is Holy], it was right God introduces it when He did. For near 2000 yrs. before that, people had no benchmark to tell them of their sins. They died without knowing what sin was. The commandment only now showed the reality of death through sin. But it doesn’t mean we are not under God’s law – may it never be so.

      The Law of God was not given to stop sin – the Law was to point us to obey & learn to trust God. The only answer to ‘how’ good fruit is produced – is evidenced by the fruit of a persons [personal responsibility] life words/actions. Abiding in His love & walking in the Spirit are aspects of commands, not evidence of inward change with outward expression.

      • No quandary, I was responding to a request for a scripture reference. The verse that was given refers to Moses and the ministry of death written and engraved on stones – clearly the Ten Commandments. I guess referring to the Old Covenant as the Older Covenant doesn’t make it sound so obsolete, but it takes a lot of theological, gymnastic twisting and a refusal to let go of religious traditions to change the meaning such clear and specific verses. (Heb 8:13)

    • Great comment!

      • Thank you! So many great comments on here. You, angelae333, momzilla76, and Mark Hritz to name a few. You guys rock!🙂

  22. Thanks for directing me to the archive Paul, it was very helpful, next I promise to check there first:).

  23. J. A. Simon says:

    In verse 1 Corinthians 7:19, I think the phrase “God’s commandment” is misinterpreted to mean “Old Testament law.” I think the term actually refers back to the term “called” that is used three times in verses 17 and 18. The Greek word “entole” is translated in verse 19 as “commandment.” Other possible translations are “a direction or commission.” These translations fits better in the context of Paul’s writings. Taking this verse out of context allows it to be misused as a hammer to bludgeon “law” on believers. Instead, it should be a proclamation of grace. God calls us? Circumcision and uncircumcision do not matter. He calls us regardless. Thanks for the post. Grace to you.

    • J.A. Simon – ‘Part B’ of the verse is Paul pointing directly at God’s Law to Moses, to bring light to the Jews of his day, who were being inundated with rabbinic Torah learning [‘oral rules’ law – traditions of men] as had Paul under Gamaliel. He called that law rubbish in Phil 3:8-9. It was that ‘law’ Jesus & Paul were pointing to.

      Keeping God’s commands is the key to separating that which is of God & that which is of the traditions of men, Jesus came to crush – He was murdered, not over the Law of God, but because of His dissenting anger at Pharisees/Sadducees; the controllers [Judaizers] who had wealth & reach of power to protect.

      Please check again, Josephus [37-100CE] Greek was not the language used to first translate the original [pre-Assyrian/Babylonian captivity] old Hebrew scriptures. Jews hated the Greeks for their hate-filled violent desecrations etc.

      Too many believers are made to think ‘the Law of God’ condemns [used to bludgeon], when it is the exact opposite. The ‘oral rules’ – traditions which keep men from the freedom Jesus died to give them. Perhaps it’s time to ‘unlearn traditional doctrines’ of men; agendas to protect the wealth & reach of newer organized power structures?

      • momzilla76 says:

        It is the traditions of man that make what the New Testament teaches about the Law to mean only the additions of the Pharisees. Basic contextual readings show that when it says law it almost always means those rules given at Mt Sinai.

      • J. A. Simon says:

        I will respectfully disagree. I think you are finding “God’s Law to Moses” in verses where Paul never intended. There is no indication in this entire chapter that Paul is referring to Moses, Torah, or oral tradition. This verse is in the context of God’s calling. It is written to a predominately Gentile church. A better translation would be “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the ‘calling’ of God.” To use this verse as a reason to keep “the Law of God” is to take it out of context and a misuse of scripture.

  24. Mark Hritz says:

    We are told in 1 John 3:22 that the reason we receive whatever we ask of God is because we keep his commandments and do things that are pleasing in his sight.

    We are told in Hebrews 11:6 that their is only one thing that pleases God. That one thing is faith/believing the things he says.

    1 John 3:23 tells us exactly what the commandments are that are mentioned in 1 John3:22
    1. That we should BELIEVE on the name of his son Jesus Christ.
    2. That we should love one another as he loved us.

    Now that we know exactly what new commandments are being spoken of in 1 John 3:23,we can understand clearly what is being said in 1 Corinthians 7:19

    Circumcision can’t save you and uncircumcision can’t save you.
    BELIEVING is what saves you.
    Every good thing that we receive in our Christian lives comes from BELIEVING.
    It is the only role we play in the New Covenant.

  25. Christ died to free us from the curse of the law?? Really?? I thought He died to save us from our sin…. The Law is what defines what Sin is, without Law there is no Sin.

    I’m trying to understand the implications of your position. Are you saying that we can all go to kill and rape because we are under grace??? Your point about the circumcision is mute imo because Christ is the circumcision of the heart, therefore no circumcision in the flesh is necessary.

    Jesus clearly kept the law and never advocated that it was made void. Quite the opposite in fact, as seen in Matthew 5:17-19:
    “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18″For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19″Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”

    Also see 7:21-23: “depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”. How does lawlessness make any sense without Law???

    • Paul refers to the curse of the law in Gal 3:10-13. No one is saying the law is void. What is obsolete is the law-keeping covenant (Heb 8:13). It has been rendered obsolete by the new.

    • Peter & Paul – Could it be the misappropriation of proper interpretation as intended in old Hebrew first put into anther language [Aramaic, not Greek or Latin, these both came after the RCC gained power]? That has people unable to know & understand God’s intentions?

      When Paul the AP says in Phil 3:8, ‘I count it all rubbish…’ the ‘it’ is the centuries old Jewish ‘oral rules’ traditions of men, not the Law of God’s word to us.

      The curse of the law quoted by Paul in Gal 3:10 has no relation to the Law of God’s Word – he is referencing his years of pain under Gamaliel & celebrating saying, glory, I am no longer under bondage of rules of men any longer.

      This was Jesus’ – dissenting anger at the [Jewish] leadership, they were keeping the people from coming to him.

      Paul continues in other verses, ‘may it never be so, the Law of God’s word ever be made to have no power. Jewish leadership (then & now) cannot know the real Jesus nor Paul, as their understanding only comes from 3rd & 4th century, doctrines of men – without revelation from HS.

  26. It’s easy to understand why Paul said that if you remember that Jesus also told his disciples more than once, that Gods comandment was to ” believe in the one whom he has sent. “

  27. Thank you Paul for another great post!

  28. Christians were never under the Law that Paul speaks of. This was the Law of Moses that the Jews had to follow, not the Gentiles.
    As for the Commandments, it says in 1John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
    Keeping the Ten Commandments, is to love God and love your neighbor, to teach that we don’t do this is an error.
    Even the Saints in Heaven are recognised as those that keep the Commandments.
    Rev.12:17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.
    Rev. 14:Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus

    So it would be my advice to keep the Commandments.

    • Or what?

    • I can’t think of any passionate relationships that are based on a list of commandments.

      • A curiousity: As true Followers Of Jesus are we not still part of God’s covenant with Abraham? If we are, then we are on the basis of the ‘descended Anointed Jesus’. It is this Paul speaks to (Gal 3:28); in the spirit of Christ in God, it’s that faith [not in the person of Jesus alone] that makes us all one – no Jew, Gentile etc.

        There are whole groupings of God’s Law to us, couched on either side of the Law of Moses is only one parcel in large bag of groceries – there’s all the laws God gave before, after…then there’s the Prophets & the Chronicles.

        How do I understand Gal 5:2-4; does it supersede Gen 17:9-14? Has physical circumcision of male Jews & converts to Jesus, now been made a spiritual circumcision only, based on Rom 2:28-29? If so, how do I get around Deut 10:12-17 [paraphrase: the outward obeying of God’s commands as a sign of an ‘inward’ (spiritual) circumcision of my heart?

        Do true Followers of Jesus have core values, un-movables…can we simply believe without listening & doing through trusting? What is your understanding of Matt 5:17-19?

        __(i.e.) core values (mine): believe [not in the person only but the spirit of Christ in God], confess [outward as to the personal inward changes], follow [emulate], obey [not only hear, but listen & do] – all whilst learning to trust Him.

        This original post has been most invigorating__I am for one, passionate about obeying & learning to trust the commands of Jesus?

      • Stephen, Jesus is saying I’m not going to just toss the law, but I’m actually going to fulfill it as you are incapable of doing yourself. Now that it is fulfilled and nailed to the cross (Col 2:14), it is obsolete and vanishing away (Heb 8:13). I believe this also means law based ministries are vanishing away along with it. Since Jesus has fulfilled the law so completely and perfectly, why are these ministries still telling people they have to keep the law as if it is not fulfilled? As someone who was very involved in this type of ministry, I believe it is because of a fear that people will sin like crazy if we tell them they don’t have to keep the law. This fear is because of a lack of understanding and a lack of belief in the full power of the gospel. God is well able to produce good works in our lives if we will only trust Him to do it.

      • Esta’ bien!!!!😎

      • momzilla76 says:

        In a nutshell there are 3 things that seemed to be stressed as rules for the redeemed in the New Testament. 1) Love God, 2) believe in Jesus, 3) Love others. Jesus said if you were doing those things you would be fulfilling all the laws and prophets.

    • momzilla76 says:

      1 John defines which commandments he was speaking of in chapter 3. Compare Deuteronomy 4:13, 9:9 with Hebrews 8:8-13. Based on these two things your argument falls flat.

  29. Christ said if you love me you will keep my commandments. We have a commitment to be obedient that we agreed to when we took Christ as Savior and Lord! Christ says if You are going to be my Disciple you must lay down your whole life and follow me. Anyone can be a Christian these days but very few are Christ’s disciple. Grace gives us the ability to do what Christ requires. But if we are truly to be His we will be obedient to His commands.

    • Jesus was not making impossible-to-keep demands of us, as you imply. The new covenant is not like the old law-keeping covenant. He was describing what happens when the love of God takes roots and grows in our hearts. It’s a promise, not a pricetag.

    • John V – to your point of, ‘few are Christ’s disciples…’ Could it be many modern believers are not prepared to study to show themselves approved? The fruit on a tree cannot bear another fruit – obey whilst learning to trust His commands.

      Religiousity keeps too many away from the freedom God died to give – being freed from inherited sin & living to reflect the Newer Covenant God back into the world.

  30. Paul, I was hoping you could comment further on one nature. I see our flesh, which is dead as something that wars against our new nature. So maybe it’s definitions, but the flesh is still seemingly in play, especially when we seek to add to the gospel in our confusion of making a mish-mash of Grace and law as so often happens in Christianity. I think if we ever try to live in conformity, we end up enflaming the flesh, and only as we live in freedom and trust, do we discover more and more about our true born again nature.

    • I have written extensively on the difference between walking after the flesh and the spirit. You can find numerous articles in the Archives > Subject Index. You will also find a couple of articles there on our new nature.

    • scottsboyd – Perhaps it’s time we’d best be careful of stoking a ‘Hyper-Grace’ of our gifted faith in the world. We [1 Peter 2:8-12] are sojourners, no longer citizens of a sin-sick world, but asked to live in it with the ‘tares’ – until the Great Day.

      You seem to say, sin is still within the flesh of every man. [in my opinion] You are simply concurring with [Rom 7] the AP Paul. This being the case, is Grace the answer or could it be as Jesus says, I look for those who will worship me in spirit & in truth…obeying Him, whilst learning to trust Him – is there any other way?

  31. I totally agree with you. But where are there churches in Orange County that teach the true gospel of Grace? Most messages are all about self and what you need to do instead of learning who you already are! Help. The church is in despair because she does not know the righteousness of Jesus lives in her.
    Signing out: Daughter of the King

  32. I am very thankful to have found this website and I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Ellis. I have been a Christian for over 30 years and very few preach the apostolic gospel that was devoid of Jewish law-keeping. Personally, I went thru a very dark period in my early years as a Christian where I was seduced into believing that law-keeping was necessary for Salvation. It was only by a miracle of Divine grace that I wasn’t swept away. I was wondering if Dr. Ellis has a testimony link because only converted legalists can appreciate the love of God which passes knowledge.

  33. Warren (South Carolina, USA) says:

    Another great teaching Saint Paul on law vs. grace. I like toward the end of your post: “In Christ we have kept and continue to keep the commands of God.” This reminds me of John 6:29 ‘Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”’ Not sure if it applies but it does remind me of it.

    Blessings,
    Warren
    (South Carolina, USA)

    • Great point Warren, it definitely applies. Our “work” in the New Covenant is to believe, which is actually rest because we’re trusting Him. He gets to be God and take care of the heavy lifting. Haha, Thanks

  34. It would be wonderful to see you debate, challenge, argue your point with this guy… Let me know if that’s possible. (I’m on your side, but this guy is sharp.)

  35. Wayne Nickel says:

    Hi Paul. What is your definition of LAW. When people say say Law vs Grace would not Legalism vs Grace be a more appropriate comparison. I have friends that listen regularly to JP and now every time time they seem to hear an exhortation in a church service they deem the church is preaching mixture.

    • The law vs grace distinction is preferable because it’s Biblical (eg: Rom 6:15). The word legalism is not found in the Bible and is often used a diluted substitute for the law. In scripture it is the law empowers sin, silences the proud and condemns the sinner.

      What is the difference between a law and exhortation? Here is the difference: thou shalt not commit adultery vs love your wife as Christ loved you. Do you see the difference? The law offers you no choice; an exhortation gives you a choice. The law drives you with threats; an exhortation inspires you with Christ. The law says you will die if you don’t do it; an exhortation says you will live, really live if you do.

    • momzilla76 says:

      Exhortation lifts you higher in encouraging you to want to do the right thing or it lifts your eyes to look to Jesus the solution for everything. Mixture gives lip service to lifting you up or pointing to Jesus but then is heavy handed at pulling you down with condemnation or brow beating you into conforming to whatever image the speaker thinks you should have.

  36. Wayne Nickel says:

    Hi Paul. You dont have to post this. A lot of people posting on this site speak of so many churches that preach mixture. In our city, I have been to several evangelical churches and its all about grace and exhalting Jesus. I went down to Phoenix for holidays and we attended two different churches for Good Friday and Easter Sunday and they are very much preach Grace. I must live in bubble because I keep hearing on this site how people cant find a church that preaches Grace w/o mixture. Don’t you think that many, given a bad experience in a legalistic church seem to very sensitive to some preaching and like my friends, seem to now find fault in almost every church? Just a thought.

    • In my experience – and I have contact in one form or another with hundreds of churches – there are relatively few legalistic churches; the vast majority preach mixture. Understand that a mixture-preaching church will preach pure grace (and they are especially likely to do so on Easter weekend!). That’s not the problem. The problem is they preach pure grace plus other stuff. That’s mixture. In my own experience as a pastor, I would preach a sermon exalting Christ that was pure grace, then finish up with a challenge that typically involved a call to fleshly action (eg: do more for Jesus). The punchline was all about you and what you must do. The moment you start charging people for what Christ has provided, you have left grace and entered the enslaving realm of debt and obligation. It may be only a small amount of leaven, but it ruins the whole batch.

      I suspect that the majority of E2R readers have not come from strict legalistic churches; they have come from churches just like mine – churches that exalted Jesus and his grace yet gently insist that you do something in return.

      • GREAT response Paul! This is exactly our experience. We live near the coast of Alabama and we have not found a church that does NOT preach mixture, so we go for the one that focuses the most on Grace and the least on “do good, get good; do bad, get bad”. We also usually listen to a JP sermon to brace ourselves before we go. When I realize that I’m anxious, grouchy or otherwise out of sorts, I find a JP sermon or read an E2R article to remind me who I am and get my head straight.

  37. This people that go about defending the law, do they certainly keep the law to the later? If God judges them based on the law will they be proven righteous? Hmmmm

  38. Keeping the commands of God is believing in His Son Jesus Christ. This is nothing to do with Law keeping.

    Naz

  39. All this sounds good in trying to pick apart on verse… But your stepping in thin ice when you try to read this interpretation into scripture. I mean I could go on for days about how keeping the commandments are done in the spirit of obedience and not to be justified. Christ only fulfilled (Luke 24:44) the ceremonial law…ALL ELSE STANDS. You can see this clearly as Paul tells the Corinthians to refrain from idols (commandment), bethrothed wives not to remain with husbands (commandment),don’t allow or participate in fornication (commandment).. It befuddles me when people say the commandments are done away with when Christ HIMSELF SAID NO SUCH THING!! Nor did Paul (Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
    Romans 3:31 KJV).. Paul said he NEVER offended/transgressed the Law (But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, BELIEVEING ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAW and in the prophets:
    Acts 24:14 KJV)

    • I think anyone here is saying the law is done away with, but I am saying the law-keeping covenant has been rendered obsolete (Heb 8:13), that Christ is the culmination or fulfillment of the law (Rom 10:4), and that the one who tries to please God through law-keeping is committing spiritual adultery (Rom 7) and insulting the Spirit of Grace.

    • Colleen G says:

      Deuteronomy 4:13 and 9:9 says that the old covenant is the 10 commandments. Jesus fulfilled far more than the temple sacrifice system. Galatians calla the law given at Mt Sinai bondage and that we should never ever get tangled up in bondage again(ch. 4& 5).

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