Letter or Spirit of the Law?

2 Timothy 3:1-5 NASB

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.”

We are living in a time such as this. The teaching of the Word of God has been turned into a circus. Many pastors are actors, performers, and entertainers. So, they twist the truths of God’s word to make it more acceptable and appealing to the flesh of man.

So many church services have been turned into stage productions with the pastors turned into game show hosts. They pattern their gatherings after the ways of the world to attract the world to their gatherings and to a Christianized version of what the world is offering.

So much of the church has partnered with the world and thus they have compromised the gospel message, and godliness, holiness, morality, faithfulness, integrity, honor, dignity, and humility, to attract the world so that the world will not feel uncomfortable among them.

But this isn’t the only problem in the church. There are those on the other side of the pendulum who are true legalists, but who do teach holiness, honesty, morality, and obedience to God and to his word. But they are more like the Pharisees, who add to God’s word requirements not of God.

These Pharisee-like pastors, though, often deny the working of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives, for they deny the gifts of the Spirit and their workings, and they don’t believe God can speak to us in our minds and in our spirits in practical ways which apply to our lives today.

Thus, they deny the power of God’s Spirit in people’s hearts and lives. And, they deny the teachings of 1 Co 12 where it is taught that the Spirit gives us gifts and where God gives us assignments in his church, according to his will. And, thus they quench the Spirit of God.

And, so what they end up doing is playing the role of Holy Spirit, instead, determining what gifts and assignments people are to have or not have. And, they end up hurting the body of Christ by saying to some of its parts, “We have no need of you.”

All of this is hurting the body of Christ. So many pastors are either so lackadaisical about the truths of Scripture, and holiness, and godliness, or they are so rigid like the Pharisees to where they are quenching the Holy Spirit and they are abusing their people and are crushing their spirits.

2 Timothy 3:12-15 NASB

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Now, we need to know that the Scriptures said these times would come when we would be persecuted because we are living godly and holy lives, and because we love Jesus, and we love the truths of his word. The closer we get to the Lord, in our walks of faith, the greater the persecution.

Do you remember the battles Jesus had with the Pharisees? What were they mainly over? Weren’t they mainly because Jesus was healing people on the Sabbath? Did the Sabbath law teach they should not work on the Sabbath? I believe it did. So, was Jesus disobeying the Sabbath law?

What was Jesus’ attitude about the Sabbath? He said many different things I want to note here, because they are of grave importance that we understand them. And, I am not teaching on the Sabbath here. This is about religious leaders persecuting the sheep of God’s pasture. This is about mercy.

Mercy Triumphs!

When the Pharisees saw Jesus’ disciples picking grains of wheat on the Sabbath, they criticized them. Jesus said, “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Mtt 12:1-7).

So, what is Jesus saying here? There are exceptions to some rules, not to God’s moral laws, but to rules of form or religious practice. God makes exceptions to some rules if by adhering to the strictest letter of the law we end up not showing compassion and love and kindness to others.

Another time they were accusing Jesus of healing a man on the Sabbath and so Jesus rebuked them, for he caught them in their hypocrisy. He said, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Mtt 12:11-12)

Jesus also said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:27)

The Letter? Or, the Spirit?

So, what is the point here? What am I getting at? It is that some pastors, elders, or church people get hung up on the letter of the law and they fail to show love and compassion to others by adhering more to the spirit of the law.

Now, I am not saying it is okay to teach a diluted gospel to make people feel better so that we don’t offend people. And I am not saying that is okay to turn times of worship into game shows, entertainment, and stage productions to show compassion, either, for that is not real compassion. And, I am not saying it is okay to deny the Spirit to avoid abuses of the Spirit. And, there is never “wiggle room” allowed for God’s moral laws.

But if a law, which is more related to order of worship and not to worship itself, is so rigid that it quenches the Holy Spirit or it denies truly godly people from serving in their God-assigned roles, then that is a problem.

Jesus often taught the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, never compromising morality or holiness, mind you, but he made exceptions under some circumstances for not following a strict adherence to a particular law, if by doing so we end up not doing the good we ought to do for others.

Silencing of Our Women

Now, there is a law in the New Testament about the silence of women in the church. I believe it is largely misinterpreted, and that it is often used as an instrument of abuse against women in the church.

And, many times the abusers are men who have a form of godliness but who are denying its power in many people’s lives, including their own, because they are living hypocritical lives, chastising women for speaking out while they remain silent on issues they should be speaking on.

The Lord Jesus has messages he wants to get out to his church in these last days. He is looking for anyone who is willing to take his messages to the church. If the men refuse, because they are busy with following their flesh, or with following the ways of man, or with building their earthly kingdoms, then God will send women with his messages.

For, the Lord has honored these women who are willing to serve him by going wherever he sends them, and by saying whatever he commands them to say, knowing full well that they will be hated and persecuted by the Pharisees of our day who are not willing to go with God, because they are too consumed with self.

So, women, if this is your plight, be encouraged! Continue in the things you have been convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and keep on speaking, and do not be silent. For the days are extremely evil.

On Zion’s Glorious Summit

By John Kent

On Zion’s glorious summit stood
A numerous host redeemed by blood!
They hymned their king in strains divine;
I heard the song and strove to join,
I heard the song and strove to join.

Here all who suffered sword or flame
For truth, or Jesus’ lovely name,
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb,
And bow before the great I AM,
And bow before the great I AM.

While everlasting ages roll,
Eternal love shall feast their soul,
And scenes of bliss, forever new,
Rise in succession to their view,
Rise in succession to their view.

Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Who like me Thy praise should sing,
O Almighty King!
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of hosts, on high adored!
Holy, holy, holy.

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