Friday, July 14, 2017

Receive Christ to Keep the Law

18 Then said the Pharisees unto him, Why will ye not receive us with our baptism, seeing we keep the whole law?
19 But Jesus said unto them, Ye keep not the law. If ye had kept the law, ye would have received me, for I am he who gave the law.
20 I receive not you with your baptism, because it profiteth you nothing
21 For when that which is new is come, the old is ready to be put away. (JST Matt. 9:18-21)

The first fascinating thing that I notice here is that the Phariess thought they kept the whole law, but Jesus said they didn’t. You have to admire his straightforward truthfulness on the matter. Also it is kind of scary to think someone could be as deluded as the Pharisees were and be so off the mark. We wouldn’t want to be so off ourselves.

Jesus tells them they didn’t keep the law because they hadn’t received Him. This doesn’t make sense if we only think of the law as a series of performances or commandments. But if we remember that the Law of Moses was meant to point to the Messiah who would save from sin all who believed on Him, then it becomes obvious that to keep the commandments while not believing in Christ would profit nothing because one would still remain in one’s sins.

So the Jews had made the mistake of assuming they could do just as well keeping the performances and ordinances of the law even if they didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah—the one who gave the law and would fulfill it to make repentance possible.  But they were wrong. To reject the one who made the ordinances would mean their ordinances would be worthless.

I think it is possible to fall into the same error today even in the church, to assume we’re alright if we’re keeping the commandments even if we don’t believe in Christ. We might relegate the doctrine of Christ’s atonement to a lesser place and put the commandments and ordinances in a primary place of importance. We might assume we’re doing alright if we’ve been baptized, had our endowments, gotten sealed in the temple, and so on. But none of those profit us if we don’t have faith in Christ.

To look at it in terms of mathematical formulas, it isn’t:

Commandments + Ordinances = Salvation

Where’s Christ? 

A better formula might be:

Faith in Christ * (Commandments + Ordinances) = Salvation

since it represents that if Faith is 0, then nothing else matters.

But then here’s where I can’t leave well enough alone. I’m not sure I’m happy with that one either, since it doesn’t capture how necessary Commandments and Ordinances are.  What if Commandments and Ordinances are both 0? You get zero again.  Or what about if we have only one of those but not the other?

Maybe we have to have a formula like this:

Faith in Christ * Commandments * Ordinances = Salvation

Showing that if any of the factors are missing, you get 0.

What do you think?