Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

Free The Church

The Old Testament and Civil Government

The 10 Commandments in front of a courthouse

Published on: Aug 16, 2008

Last night I was invited to meet someone in a home near my home. This person was referred to me by a friend who has his thumb on people in the house church and free range networks. She and her family live 30 minutes from my wife and I, so we had difficulty meeting. She sent me an email saying that she wanted to visit a speaker that she knew of near our home. So we agreed to go. When she shared in her email that there would be fellowship, followed by worship and then the teaching, my heart choked.

I have been out of the “church” scene for a year. I have no desire to listen to someone speak for half an hour to an hour anymore, unless it is someone who I believe speaks from the heart of God. The gathering was in a small mansion in a very wealthy neighborhood. The people who came were mostly 30 -40 year old jet setters of the charismatic/pentecostal background. When I realized it was a pentecostal speaker, I became more reluctant to be there. Just for the record, I am a pentecostal. I speak in tongues and know that God performs miracles still. My reluctance is not with the gifts of the Spirit, but the common pentecostal thinking that speaking by the Spirit includes rambling. A few years ago I posted my outline for a 3 point sermon: know your point, remember your point, and make your point. This guy did not. He rambled for 2 hours.

Most of what he said, however, I did agree with. For his topic was the New Covenant and what we have in Christ. The flash point for me was that he said that there is no need for the law, for it was abolished with Christ. Then he criticized Christians who get upset that the 10 Commandments were removed from courthouses. When he finally finished and people began to leave, I just wanted to get out of there and go home. But the family that we wanted to meet were big supporters of this guy. After I shared my thought on this point the wife encouraged me to go talk with him. Boy was that a mistake. I told him that I agreed with almost everything he said except this one point. He would not acknowledge that the Old Testament has a place in civil government and took offense that I disrupted the “sweet anointing” of the place. My wife was mad that I had offended him, even though she agreed with me on this point.

Here is the deal. Galatians tells us that the law is our schoolmaster that brings us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). While his point that the Spirit brings transformation (amen to that), he was saying that there is no need therefore for the law at all. Paul told Timothy that the law was for the lawless (1 Tim. 1:9), which the world is full of. Once a person realizes that they need a Savior, the Spirit can bring the repentance and transformation to that person. Paul told the Romans,

Rom 7:7
7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” (NIV)

The brother was addressing the mixing of works of the law with the Spirit which is by faith in the church. He is certainly right about this mixture. Many Christians are trying to please God by their works. The Old Testament, without viewing it from the finished works of the cross, does not apply to the believers.

It is also important to remember that the Old Testament never applied to any gentiles. It was a covenant that God made specifically with Israel through Moses. When the first century followers of Christ, who were Messianic Jews, shared Christ in the gentile world, they went to the Jews of the Diaspora in their synagogues who knew the Old Testament. When Paul shared to the Greeks on Mars Hill he had to touch base with them by sharing about the “unknown god” (Acts 17:22-23), because they knew nothing of the Old Testament. With the exception of “God fearers” who were gentile converts to Judaism, no gentile had any knowledge of the Old Testament But they did have religion.

All the pagan world was religious in idolatry. Religion is the works of the flesh by superstitious practices to appease and earn the favor of the “gods”. Religion is what plagues the Church. No one follows the law of the Old Testament in the Church. If we did we would be stoning to death those who commit adultery. But the law has become synonymous with religion, which is what this guy was really addressing. And it was this religious superstition of the Greeks to cover all their bases by honoring an “unknown god” that was the springboard for Paul’s sharing of the Spirit with the gentiles.

I do not disagree that it is the Spirit that brings repentance and transformation to the lost. And the Old Testament is not a covenant that applies to the Church, although it is a valuable book to understand the full purpose of God for His creation. When Father insituted the Old Testament through Moses, it was at a time when all the world worshiped the pantheon of gods that began with Nimrod. It was like God was saying to the world through the Old Covenant, “So you think you can earn my favor by your works? Let me show you what you really have to do.” Of course, no one could do it.

But with the advent of the Church, the Old Testament found a use for civil society that was unknown to the gentiles before the resurrection. Every civil government has the authority to determine what agreements the people of that society want to live by. Civil law begins with rights that come from God first. When the Church discovered the detailed codification of the laws of God, they used that as the basis for their civil laws. That did not mean that the civil government followed everything in the Old Testament. It meant that through the eyes of Christ they understood the Spirit of the Law and adapted those laws for their own people. The famous preacher, Charles Finney, began his ministry in the 19th century of America as a lawyer. In order to study for the law he was required to study the Old Testament. That study brought him to the realization for the need of repentance, so he gave his life to Christ, abandoned his law career, and preached the gospel instead.

It is true that many believers are confused about the significance of the 10 Commandments in their lives and in society. The Spirit of God is love, and love fulfills the law (Rom. 13:10). Christians do not live by the 10 Commandments, although they are reminder of some of the characteristics of love when we become selfish. But the lost who do not have the Spirit are under the law, for they are the lawless. When Judge Roy Moore fought to keep the monument of the 10 Commandments in his courthouse, he was not fighting for the church, but for civil laws to remember their roots in biblical law. When the society forgets the real basis of any law we become ensnared by legalities. Real law conforms with God, hence all felonies are violations of some kind of the 10 Commandments, whereas the misdemeanors are violations of the agreed upon statutes of men. Abortion breaks the law of God, but is legal by the statutes of men. That which is legal is not necessarily lawful. And that which is lawful is not necessarily legal, as in the case of the government prohibiting families from home schooling their own children. We need to remember the place of the Old Testament in civil government, even though it does not apply to the Church since the Spirit in our hearts is the fulfillment of the law between us and God.

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