sermon: God's Law in Our Mouths
Should the Church Teach Moralism?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 15-Apr-14; Sermon #1207A; 75 minutes
There are many flashpoints between the greater Church of God and nominal Christianity. Perhaps one of the most significant differences concerns the place and purpose of God's Law. The carnal mind hates and despises God's Law. The Protestant doctrine of grace has an antinomian core, thinking that justification is a synonym for sanctification and salvation, ruling out any need for works. The Law was not nailed to the cross; the handwriting of ordinances (the record of our sins) was nailed to the cross. The Law shows us the boundary markers, serving as a protective hedge. Sadly, morality and 'moralism' are looked upon in many sectors of Protestantism as pejorative terms, juxtaposed in a false dichotomy with the gospel. We do not keep the Law to save ourselves, but keeping the Law is a major part of the Gospel, our guide to show us how to live our lives, helping us to stay in unity with the King. Nominal Christianity has rejected God's Law, the Sabbath, and God's Holy Days, all of which provide guidelines for our spiritual journey toward the Kingdom of God, following Jesus Christ with the help of God's Holy Spirit. Eating unleavened bread symbolizes taking in what is good and pure, purging out the old leaven and becoming a new lump—the new man. We have a part to play in forging the new man. The Feast of Unleavened Bread reminds us that God did the vast majority of the work, that God intends that His Law be in our mouths (not done away), and that these days are to be kept annually and in perpetuity. God's Word is available to us, enabling us to ingest it daily, making it part of our hearts and minds, enabling us to edify others and modeling it in our lives. God supplies the Word and the Spirit to put us on the same wavelength as He is on, working from the same playbook. We are being groomed to be the Bride of Christ.
As you all know, the faithful churches of God have their theological differences with the doctrines of nominal Christianity, both Protestants and Catholics. We differ on many points and many details, chief among them being the Sabbath doctrine and the holy days. The trinity is one that we do not agree with them. We believe in the Holy Spirit but we do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a separate third person in the Godhead. We do not believe quite the same as they do about the after-life. We do believe that there will be one, but it is different from going to either heaven or hell. We believe in the resurrections. The place in the significance of God’s law is a big one that we disagree with those churches on.
It is this last doctrine, the place in the significance of God’s law, that I want to delve into today. I admit that it is a very broad topic but I will take a significant slice of it today and look at it in terms of this holy day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
I would like to go to Romans 8 to start with. This is the beginning point, you might say, for our understanding of God’s law. This is why the people of this world have such a hard time with it.
Romans 8:6-7 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
Paul says that people in this world, the normal human mind that God has not called, has a hatred of God‘s law. That is what enmity means—a hatred of God and His law. It actually starts with a hatred of God and it moves on to a hatred of His law because they do not want to obey Him. Human nature, without God’s Spirit, without the calling of God, and without God working in that relationship, will do just about anything to avoid subjecting itself to what God wants people to do. There is a resistance against God saying, you shall do this or thou shall not do that. They do not like that. They do not like to be told, even by God, what to do or not do. They do not want to submit to Him at all.
The Christian churches of this world have fulfilled verse seven by inventing or adopting what is called antinomianism. This is a theological term that means against law. It is Greek. Anti means against, nomos is law, so antinomianism means against law. We see this in their doctrine of grace. Their doctrine of grace includes no law at all. No law in Christianity at all it seems, because they have conflated justification and sanctification into one act that occurs right at the beginning of their conversion. They make it stretch all the way out to ultimate salvation. Law does not have a place in this process.
They get their understanding of this in Romans 7. They apply this scripture to the whole process of salvation, when it is mostly applicable to justification.
Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ; that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
He is essentially trying to tell us that we have died to any kind of trying to attain salvation by any kind of ‘works of the law.’ We have actually been called out of that sort of thing through Christ and justification by grace.
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
That is very clear. When you are called, believe, and accept Jesus Christ, you come before Him and seek forgiveness. He justifies us through His blood. That blood pays for our sins and we are therefore legally righteous before God because Christ has paid the penalty and left us clean. But, what happens if we sin again? We have to keep going back to Christ for forgiveness and to be made clean again. That will happen throughout our lives.
What keeps us from becoming sinful and dirty again? We have to be putting on a different kind of character that keeps us from sin. It is the law that is the hedge, the guide that tells us what sin is so that we can avoid it and do what is right. There is a place for the law. Let us go to Colossians 2. This is a scripture used often to say that the law has been done away.
Colossians 2:13-14 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Did you notice? The word ‘law’ is not in this scripture at all. They have taken this ‘handwriting of requirements’ to mean the law, saying that Christ nailed the law to the cross taking it out of the way. That is not what it is saying at all. Handwriting of requirements is actually the record of your sins! It is like when you speed down this road out here at 60-65 mph (many people do) when the limit is supposed to be 40 mph because this is a good, fast way to get home. The cop pulls you over and you roll down your window; he asks for your license and registration and he begins to write a ’handwriting of requirements.’ It is a record of your trespass against the laws of your state. It says you went 65 mph in a 40 mph zone. This is your penalty. It is usually an ’X’ amount of dollars or appear before the judge.
That is what Christ nailed to the cross. Our ticket! It had all of our transgressions on it and Christ covered them with His blood. He paid the ticket! This scripture does not say the law of God was nailed to the cross. It just tells us that what He nailed to the cross was our sins against that law. Our sins against God were nailed to the cross.
You can see where the differences are between our understanding of the place of the law and their understanding of the place of the law. They, in fact, have gone so far as to say that it has been totally taken out of the way. It has been done away. In saying it has been done away, you lose the bottom out of what is right! How in the world do you figure out what is right if you do not have God’s law to tell you what is right? That is why it is called antinomianism. Because they are against that law, they have found a way, theologically, in their own minds by their own rational processes, to get rid of it—because of Romans 8:7. The carnal mind is a rebellious spirit because it was originated by the rebellious spirit. It does not want to submit to that law at all.
Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
So, we have catch phrases and this is a recent one that many are using, even in the most conservative Protestant circles. “We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone.” You do not hear any law or any kind of standard in this quote at all. It is all faith, grace, and Christ. Technically, they are right, although, you do not find the term ‘faith alone’ in Scripture. That is a ‘Lutherism.’ He put it there and people have just followed him since he did it. But they see no place at all for works or any kind of keeping of God’s law at all. They say it has been done away. They have gotten it down to another catch phrase, “Christ has done it for them.” Christ has done it all for them. They get this from:
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
They take the word ‘end’ to mean, when Christ came He ended the law. He did it all for us. He kept the law perfectly. We do not need to keep it now because He ended it. That is not what that word means. That word actually means goal, the aim! That is our goal and our aim!
It is also telling us that the way Christ lived is the way that the law points us to live. For those who believe, that is our goal of righteousness—to live like Christ. To live like He lived. Paul is putting that up there as a goal to try to reach. We will never reach it. We cannot attain the perfection of Jesus Christ in the flesh. It is not possible. We have already failed. It is out there as a goal because we want to be as much like Christ as we can.
It is the law’s place that shows us the boundary markers. We do not want to slip beyond the boundary markers. That would be going against the goal. We would be retreating, going backwards! The law works as a hedge on each side, between which we have a clear view of Christ—the goal of our life and conduct.
I have to say that they do give lip-service to God’s law. The way they do this is by saying that the Holy Spirit will guide Christians in living God’s way because as the Christian draws closer to Christ, he will do what Christ wants him to do. If you just snuggle up to Jesus, you will do everything right!
There are bits and pieces in that thinking that is right. If you have a good relationship with Jesus Christ, you are going to want to do what He wants you to do. But, that does not mean that you are going to know what to do. Since they have undermined the standard of Christian living, which is God’s law, what they consider to be Christian behavior or Christian morality, is entirely subjective. It is what they feel is right and good.
That is why we have some Christians in the world who are just fine with homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia because they think it is good! There are places for it! Oh that poor suffering person—we just need to take their life! Oh that poor suffering young mother—she does not need to be burdened by a child; just take the life of the child! Tugs at your heartstrings, does it not? Because they are suffering so!
On the other side of things you have others who are just fine with serial adultery; we call it—divorce and remarriage and divorce and remarriage and divorce and remarriage for as long as one wants to, you know, until you find that one. There are other people who are very fine with going to war for any old reason. There are other Christians out there that believe cheating on their taxes is their God-given right—even though it is stealing! It really brings out Judges 21:25 where it says every man did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
It seems to be the American way. We are going to establish our own standard of righteousness because God’s standard of righteousness has been done away.
I have recently seen a disturbing trend in my readings throughout the Internet and such; it is coming from the most conservative religious pundits out there. They are attacking what they call, moralism. Webster’s defines moralism as, 1) the habit of moralizing. That is, there is a story to read that they find a moral in it. Something in the story that can be used to help us become better people. That is good. We should find moral teachings in the stories we come across or in people’s lives. That is a good thing.
A moralism is also defined as, 2) a moral maxim, like a proverb. Jesus said, ‘Love one another.’ That is a moral maxim or a moralism.
And, 3) emphasis, especially undue emphasis on morality. It is this third one that mostly Protestant teachers and writers have focused on. They use it in a pejorative sense. Moralism is a bad thing. Let us not overdo the teaching of morality, is what they are saying from the pulpit. Do not teach morality too much.
That seems strange for them to say that. Well, they have a reason. It is because, side by side with this, is a new emphasis on the gospel. Everything is about the gospel. Everything has to be brought back to the gospel. That is not bad either. But they are separating the two when there needs to be no separation.
So what they are saying is that Christianity is not a set of moral rules, but a relationship with Christ. Technically, that is not incorrect. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ and Christianity is not a set of moral rules. They are correct on a technical basis. But they are not correct in their application of it, because they are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Where they go with this is the problem.
To see what I mean, here are a few paragraphs from a recent essay, entitled: “Why Moralism is Not the Gospel—and Why so Many Christians Think It Is.” It was written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is the ‘flagship’ school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the world’s largest seminaries. He has a great deal of influence on those who will be preachers in the future.
One of the most seductive false gospel’s is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this—the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior. Sadly, this false gospel is particularly attractive to those who believe themselves to be evangelicals motivated by a biblical impulse. Far too many believers and their churches succumb to the logic of moralism and reduce the Gospel to a message of moral improvement. In other words, we communicate to lost persons, the message that what God desires for them and demands of them, is to get their lives straight.
He says a little bit later,
The essence of moralism is the belief that we can achieve righteousness by means of proper behavior. The theological temptation of moralism is one many Christians and churches find it difficult to resist. The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In doing so, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world.
A little bit later, as he is winding down his article, he says in very strong words,
We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the Gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement in accordance with the Law.
To us, that is pretty shocking. What it boils down to is the old argument against legalism, which is what they call it. Legalism, they say, is trying, though a futile effort, to save oneself through works. We do not believe that either. We do not believe that one can be saved through works. That is not what the law is for. That is not what works are for.
We very much say and teach that we are justified by grace. God does pretty much everything to call us out of the world, to change our minds to believe, and to get us to repent. Pretty much all we do is assent to all of that and begin to change. We believe. We start along the road to conversion. God does the greatest part of that! Most of it—almost all of it! It is the gift. That is what grace is. It is a gift. It is unmerited. We did nothing to earn it. God plucks us out of the world and gives us His truth. He turns the light on in our minds and we believe. He draws us to Christ. We believe this.
This is not what we are fighting against here. They are trying to fight against Pharisaism. That is what they call it. The Pharisees are their whipping boys in this crusade against moralism. They say that when you keep the law, you are trying to save yourself, which is not true at all. Where we differ is that we believe that the teaching of morality based on God’s law, rather than distracting from the gospel, is indeed, part of the gospel! It is actually a major part of the gospel message. We are to look to God’s law for help in how we live our lives.
Their gospel (I probably could be accused of making this a little too simple.) seems to be, believe in Jesus and you will have eternal salvation. There is truth in that, but it is not the whole truth. There is a lot more to it.
Herbert Armstrong often said that the gospel that is being preached in the world is almost entirely about the person of Jesus Christ. It is not really about what Jesus taught. We, on the other hand, believe the gospel is the gospel of the Kingdom of God. It says that very plainly. Christ opened His ministry in Mark 1:14-15. He came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He said, Repent and believe the gospel.
What gospel? The gospel of the Kingdom. Was it a gospel about Himself? Partially, because He is the King of that Kingdom. He is the one that brings us into that Kingdom. He is the one that we look to as our standard. So, of course it is about Jesus! We also understand that a kingdom is more than just the king. A kingdom has land, so there must be a place. A kingdom has citizens, so there must be people to inhabit it. A kingdom has laws by which it is governed, and by which the citizens must behave! The reason why they have to live by those laws is because they want to conform to the king and be in unity with the king. The laws are the hedges on either side to keep us from going off the path to that kingdom.
What we see here is that they have gotten rid of a major part of the gospel message by having a hatred of God’s law. Now they are really stressing to the preachers about going too far in preaching moralism because you are going to get people confused about the gospel. You are going to make them want to ‘get their lives straight’! What?! God wants us to get our lives straight. He does not want us to make the same mistakes that we have made in the past, and we have made them again in the past, and made them the third time in the past, and keep on making them and ruining our lives.
God loves us and He does not want us to keep going down that path. He calls us out of the world. He gives us His Spirit and He gives us the standard by which we should live. If you do live by this standard, then your life is going to get better. Jesus said He came for us to have life and to have it more abundantly, not to be cursed by the same old sins.
This subject is integral to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nominal Christianity has rejected God’s law and particularly His Sabbath law. They have blinded themselves terribly to the meaning of the holy days. It is this Feast that emphasizes morality based on God’s law through teaching the purging of sinful ways and replacing them with righteousness, or right and godly living. That is what these days are all about.
Let us go to Exodus 13. God had given some instruction on the Feast of Unleavened Bread in chapter twelve. It is mixed in there with the instructions on the Passover. This is a reiteration by Moses on certain points of the instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. He not only reiterates these points, but he also adds a few things to them to help us understand the Feast of Unleavened Bread and what it means to us.
Exodus 13:3-10 And Moses said unto the people: Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. On this day you are going out, in the month Abib. And it shall be when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all our quarters. And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.’ It shall be for a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.
Moses links this particular day, the 15th day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, with the day God brought Israel out of Egypt. This day in particular is a memorial of what God did to give Israel freedom. They really did nothing but get up and follow Moses. They walked out of Egypt.
It is very similar to what happens when we are called. God tells us to get up and walk this other direction. Follow Christ. Just as the Israelites back in Egypt were called to follow Moses and go to a different place, so are we.
This particular day is a metaphoric allusion to the theological concept of grace. God called His sons out of Egypt, as it were, and He put them on the road to the Promised Land. That is what He does with us. He calls us out of sin, out of this world, and He puts us on the road to the Kingdom of God, just like the Israelites in Egypt did nothing to affect their release from bondage. They just watched. They were actually a part of the plagues that brought Egypt low and then they got the call and left. God saved them from the plague of the firstborn and God did everything for them along the way.
He does the same for us in our calling. We do nothing except follow. It is all analogous to our walk to the Kingdom of God. Israel is walking to this land occupied by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. We are doing the same thing. We are on our walk to the Kingdom of God, which we know will be on this earth. Right now, this earth is being inhabited by these tribes—the tribes of the Russian’s, the tribes of the Iranian’s, the tribes of the people of Israel, the people of America, the tribes in Africa, the tribes in Asia—all of these tribes are inhabiting the land that will one day be the Kingdom of God. One day Jesus Christ is going to come to this earth.
We can see the analogy working on many different levels throughout the whole process. Israel’s walk in the wilderness is analogous to our walk in the world. We are under the guidance and the judgment of God before we enter the Promised Land, or God’s Kingdom. This is really neat symbolism found in this day.
There are five mentions of eating unleavened bread or not eating leavened bread. This is an obvious symbol. ‘Eating’ stands for taking in and accepting ideas and behaviors in our lives. God does not want us taking in bad ideas or sinful thoughts, but He wants us to take in what is good, pure, and right.
Clearly, we are to reject what is leavened. We are to reject what is corrupt and sinful. We are to accept and apply what is pure and good. Paul picks this principle up in I Corinthians 5:6-8. He understood this, not just because he was a Jew, but because he understood that the law had not been done away. The Sabbaths had not been done away. The holy days had not been done away. There was real good New Testament Christian understanding in these symbols. So Paul put it right here in this first letter to the Corinthian’s so we can understand, even now, how this applies to us.
I Corinthians 5:6-8 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us [members of the church of God] keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Paul was speaking to mostly Gentiles there in Corinth, not just the Jews, when he said to purge out the old leaven. This is church members. Christ has already done His part for us and made us unleavened. We are to purge the old leaven. We were supposed to have purged out the old leaven of malice and wickedness. We just did a fairly intensive evaluation of ourselves, and hopefully we have purged out that leaven. We have asked God for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ and we have put that stuff behind us. At least that is our intention.
Then Paul says to keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Not only do we take away what is bad, corrupt, and sinful, but we have to replace it with the sincere and the true. All of that good stuff that God teaches us is right in His Word.
Obviously, what we saw in Exodus 13 is very clear. The New Testament context is about identifying and overcoming sin and bad habits and replacing it with right and holy behavior based on the undefiled truth of God’s Word. In many ways, when it says the ‘unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,’ the word ‘sincerity’ can mean ‘undefiledness.’ It is pure. That is what it is talking about. We are to replace the sin with pure and truthful things.
Our past sins have been covered by Christ because we have sought forgiveness and we believed in Him. He has covered them with His blood. Now, after that point, that initial justification, we can come to God for forgiveness through Christ’s blood when we slip up—and we do. We are covered for our past sins and we are covered for our present sins.
But He wants us to come before Him when we become aware of our sin and seek that forgiveness. He wants us to confess that we are aware of this problem and that we are working on it. We ask Him to cover the sin for us where we cannot; we cannot make it up. God does that freely by His grace.
Notice here in I Corinthians 5:7. Paul says, ‘Purge out therefore the old leaven.’ This is a positive command. We are supposed to actively get rid of sin from our lives. Paul says in the end, we are to become a ‘new lump.’ He means we are to be a whole new loaf of bread, as it were. The leaven has been taken out of it. It is an unleavened lump. This is a different metaphor or symbol. Obviously, we are talking about bread around these holy days, so he used the ‘bread’ symbol.
It might be easier to see in Paul’s other epistles where several times he used the metaphor, we are to become the ‘new man.’ In the ‘new man,’ the man is made new by getting rid of the old and putting on the new image of Jesus Christ.
Paul is contradicting what the world is preaching, that Christ has done it all for you. He is saying that we have a part to play in forging the new man. He says, you purge out the old leaven, keep the feast with the new stuff—the good stuff of sincerity and truth.
It is positive on both sides. We have to do our part in getting rid of sin and we also have to do our part in putting on righteousness in our conduct by actively practicing and doing what is right. That is the only way it is going to be ingrained on our character. If we just give assent to it, it is very easy to forget about it and go away.
Our job is to constantly be watching and guarding ourselves against evil and corruption that might sneak in because of us being unaware or being too busy, or whatever the case. We must actively replace that with good, proper, Christian behavior.
Now let us go back to Exodus 13. Let us pay particular attention to these verses.
Exodus 13:8-10 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from of Egypt.’ It shall be for a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.
These are the instructions that the people are told to pass onto the next generations. The reasons are given as to why we keep this feast. This is instruction for us to teach our children about this holy day. Notice there are three major points. There is essentially one in each of these verses.
1) Re-emphasizes that God did it for us. God freed us from sin on His own. He brought us out by His own power. The Lord did this for me when I came up from Egypt. This is the element of grace that I mentioned earlier. God is responsible for calling us out of the world and bringing us out of it by His own strength.
2) This day is a sign and a memorial that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth. This is an interesting concept that we will get back to.
3) This feast is to be kept every year in its season. If we would go back into Exodus 12:17, it is put a little differently. It says we are to ‘observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.’ He is saying that this is a perpetual observance. It is to go on every year because it has very important instructions for us that we need to be reminded about continually.
We are going to concentrate for a good part of the rest of the sermon on number 2. That is one of the reasons that we keep this day—so that the Lord’s law may be in our mouth. That is an interesting thing to consider. That this day points us to His law as part of its main thrust. Let us go to Deuteronomy 30 and chase out what this idea of God’s law being in our mouth means.
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 For this commandment which I command you this day, is not to mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.
Very interesting. Another example of that phrase is in verse 14, the word is ‘in your mouth.’ The other place it was, ‘the Lord’s law may be in your mouth.’
The mouth has two primary activities in our lives. The most important is that the mouth is how we eat. We like to stuff it full of good things. The second thing that the mouth is important for is speaking and talking. The mouth eats and the mouth speaks. Both of these ideas may be present in this phrase that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth.
We can see here that God’s Word is available to us. It is not in heaven, that someone would have to die to go get it, because God has given it to us. It is not far away. We do not have to go on a long journey or a spiritual quest across the sea to find it. No! God has brought it right to us and put it in our laps. You have it in your lap right now. It is very near to us. In fact, He wants it so near to us that it is in our mouths and in our hearts.
God wants us to take it in. Not just have it here, in front of us, but He wants us to take it into ourselves, and in bringing it into ourselves, it goes into our hearts and into our minds. We can then regurgitate it, as it were. We can then speak it or teach it to others. It goes in, does all of the work it needs to do inside us. We get that understanding. We figure out how it applies and then it comes back out, not only in our speech, but as it says at the end of verse 14, that you may do it! He wants His law in our activities. He wants it not only in our speaking with one another, but showing it and witnessing it for one another in our lives, our behavior, and our conduct.
God wants us to know His law, to know His Word (if you want to put it more broadly) so well that at any point of time, we can know it and speak it and do it correctly. God says here that ‘I have given it to you.’ Many thousands of words are in this Book and He put them all right there for us to take in and to use.
Now we understand Matthew 12:34, when Jesus said, ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’. If we put this into our hearts, out of the abundance and riches that we have inside of us because of the teaching that we have learned, we can then speak it. This also can work in reverse. If you bring in bad things, out of the abundance of a corrupt heart, that will speak as well. God wants it positive that we will speak the truth and pure things.
The figure of God’s law being in our mouths, because of keeping this feast, instructs us that God has us repeat this memorial every year so that we can be reminded specifically of His law. His law shows us what sin is. This holy day is all about purging the old leaven and keeping the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Let us quickly go through a few more places where this phrase is used. In I Kings 17 is where Elijah went to the widow’s house where her son had had an episode. He was dead.
I Kings 17:21-24 And he [Elijah] stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” The Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives!” The woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.”
Here we have a prophet of God. His normal job was to speak things and here he does this miraculous healing of the boy. The woman sees that as a sign that indeed he speaks the truth. The word in his mouth that God had given him was the truth. This one is pretty easy to see.
I want you to pay attention to who he is talking to here in this next verse.
Isaiah 51:4 Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation: For law shall proceed from Me, and I will make my justice rest as a light of the peoples.
Remember God said in the instructions in Deuteronomy 30 that He had given them the law. It was near to them.
Isaiah 51:7 Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, you people in whose heart is My law; do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults.
Isaiah 51:16 And I have put My words in your mouth; and I have covered you in the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’
In the example of Elijah, we see the inspiration of God. We can understand a little more about the phrase, the law of the Lord will be in our mouth. If the law of the Lord is in your mouth, it is a sign that you are one of God’s people. If God is working with you, He is working all of the way to the end. That is the understanding here in the last of verse 16, where He talks about planting the heavens, laying the foundations of the earth, and they are My people.
God is talking about this whole process of bringing them into His Kingdom and into His Family. The word of the Lord in our mouth, in our hearts, and in our actions, are all an integral part of the process that God is taking us through to make us His people. He is creating and crafting a people. One of the main ingredients in that is the law or the word of the Lord in their mouths and in their hearts.
Isaiah 59:21 “As for Me,” says the Lord, "this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, from this time and forevermore.
He is creating an eternal people. One of the main factors in all of this is the ‘word of the Lord in our mouth.’ It is right there to chew on and to ingest. Therefore, it is right there to act upon and to speak upon. Notice, this has a New Testament and New Covenant application. God says, “This is My covenant with them.” He supplies the word and then it works in us. It is going to work out an eternal benefit of our being in His family forever. Our descendants will be in His Family forever.
His Word put into [our] these people’s mouths, as well as His Spirit being upon them, because that is part of it too. He supplies the word. He supplies the spirit. This is all part of the eternal covenant that God has made with us to make us His people. This is a vital concept in the relationship between God and His people. His law and His Word in their mouths, guided by His Spirit, puts them—the people—on the same wavelength with Him!
In modern parlance, we are all reading from the same Book. We are all acting and working from the same playbook. The leadership, God the Father and Jesus Christ, go by God‘s Word. We, those who are under Them, also go by that, which makes us united. We believe the same things! We act the same way. We think the same way. We say the same things. That is what God wants. He wants us all in lockstep, so that we all get to the same goal. The goal He is leading us toward.
He gives us His Word, or His law. It tells us where we fall short and what we need to overcome, areas that we need to grow in. The law of God reflects God’s own holy and righteous character. We need to know that because that is where we are trying to get to. Remember? Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. That is what we are being groomed for. We are going to be the bride of Christ! One with Christ. We had better think, talk, and act like Christ! It is God’s law that gives us the guidelines for how we do this.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread has the important role of reminding us of this every year. It is not done with the Passover! That is a huge step in the plan. But, there is a week—in the symbolism this means there is a long stretch of time where after this initial act has been done for us, we need to do our own part in purging out the sin and putting in what is pure and true. That is what this holy day is all about.
This role that the Feast of Unleavened Bread has was not abolished with the death of Christ. Remember, we just saw there in Isaiah 59 that it is an integral part of the New Covenant. “This is My covenant with them.” He is going to put His Word in our mouth and He is going to give us His Spirit so that it can be there for many generations.
God is not just trying to save people from their sins. He is working on creating people in the image of His Son who will be eager to live and do as His Son does. Let us go to Titus, where this is said in one incredible passage.
Titus 2:11-15 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts [purging out sin], we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
It may be easier understood, “For the grace of God that brings salvation to all men has appeared.” When he says to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, he is talking about the other half of this. He did not say that just because salvation has appeared, we do not have to do these things anymore. No, he says we have to get rid of what is wrong and put in what is right!
Jesus came to start the process of salvation. We are waiting for this wonderful hope that He is coming again. So in the meantime, we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age. That is our part. Jesus did that. We do this. He is going to return. It is all part of being a Christian. Speak these things. I wonder if Dr. Mohler read this. Speak these things! Exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
This letter was written to a minister by Paul, giving him instructions on how to be a minister on Crete. This is what Paul told him. Preach these things. Preach that Christ has appeared and brought salvation. That He gave Himself for us. That because He did all of these things—He redeemed us from every lawless deed and He is purifying Himself a people and in the meantime—we need to do these things. Teaching that we deny ungodliness and worldly lust and that we live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age.
It sounds just like the Feast of Unleavened Bread with Passover and the Feast of Trumpets off in the future. That is what we do. That is the Christian life. Jesus Christ Himself taught this.
Luke 4:4 But Jesus answered him [Satan when he was tempting Jesus.], saying, “It is written,” ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”
We are to live by the words of God. We are to do them!
Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Luke 8:15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Luke 8:21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and my brothers are these who hear the word of God [He did not stop there, did he?] and do it.”
Luke 11:28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it!”
He is very clear. You are not just to hear God’s Word and hope that something good is going to rub off on you so that you will do what is right. He says, No, hear it and do it!
Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the the kingdom of heaven.”
The law has certainly not been done away with! When they are whipping on those Pharisees, they are really missing something. Yes, the Pharisees had a problem. But Jesus Christ said their intention to keep God’s law was good. It was why they were trying to keep God’s law and the attitudes that came after that—their pride and their hypocrisy—that He did not like. He said we must do better! The law must be in our mouths. It must be in our hearts and it has got to be in our actions and behaviors. Romans 2:13 continues right into the teachings of the apostle Paul.
Romans 2:13 for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.
How is that, Mr. Luther? He did not like the book of James because James said that there are things that must be done to be justified! Here Paul agrees with him. You cannot earn justification. But if you are not hearing and doing these things, God will not justify you. You need to be doing them to show God your growth. Remember the Parable of the Talents. The one who hid his talent had no growth. God did not justify him.
In Colossians 2, we found the handwriting of ordinances. In Colossians 3:1-11 Paul gives a very moralistic teaching. You have to mortify this from your body. You need to put on this. He gets down to the point where he is talking about putting on the new man.
Colossians 3:1-11 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
I Thessalonians 4is very similar. Jesus gave the apostles commandments about how we are to walk. They were to pass these things on to the people. God wants us to become holy.
I Thessalonians 4:1-3 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that you would abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.
I Thessalonians 4:7 For God did not called us to uncleanness, but in holiness.
I Peter 1:13-20 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ [Peter in no way discounts that we were given grace.]; as obedient children [What were they obeying? God? His instructions? His commandments? His law?], not conforming yourselves to the former lusts [purging out the old] as in your ignorance; but as He who hath called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be you holy; for I am holy.” And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work [This is an interesting phrase. God will judge us according to our works, our conduct, and our behavior.], conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
The reason why we are to purge out old leaven and eat the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth is because God has given us grace—because we were redeemed through the precious blood of Christ. We do not deserve what has been done for us, so we bear down, we gird up our loins, and we change our conduct in gratitude to God. He did it for us. This is our only logical and grateful response. Anything else would be a moral outrage because He owns us! He bought us. We must obey and do what He has said we should do.
It is irrefutable from Scripture that the church must teach morality as part of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We will not be in God’s Kingdom if we are not moral people. How are we to be moral people if we are not taught? We are to grow into the image of Jesus Christ. That is our goal. He was a moral man. The most moral man that ever lived.
One of the critics of this campaign against moralism wrote, ‘After all, Jesus was as much of a moralist as His Pharisee critics. The difference is that He had a God-centered view of morality that was rooted in grace, while they had a man-centered view of moral behavior that was founded in legalism.’
Specifically, he was criticizing the charge that moralism is Pharisaical. In other words, there is a Christian moralism that is good and right and proper. This feast makes us concentrate on the moral aspects of life, how we can clean up our lives by removing sin and practicing the kind of living that pleases God.
Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
We are to keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. They are to be done together. We do not need to separate them.