Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Whole Duty of Man

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN”—Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV

“Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin”—1 Peter 4:1 NIV

The Old Testament made in the blood of animals had many rules and much work attached to them; the New Testament made in the blood of Jesus Christ makes the born again spirit the rule—albeit immature and ignorant in the early days of its existence—with a light burden laid upon it.  This is not to say that it “feels” light to our flesh or body; in fact, it is often VERY difficult to bear the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ in our bodies.  But we are people of faith, which suggests that we cannot understand all the strain laid upon our bodies while in pursuit of the prize at the end of this narrow and difficult way and process.

In the New Testament era the ruling disposition has been divinely deposited into us, but still the Law looms over our heads in obligatory weight.  As the Lord Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook [identifying certain Hebrew letters] will pass from the Law until all things [it foreshadows] are accomplished.  Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least [important] of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven, but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20 Amp.).

And when the Lord died and rose again and established the church He completed and fulfilled all righteousness; His final words on the cross, “It is finished”—tells it all.  But also, there is this pesky intervening thing called TIME which has yet to run out and thereby make what the Lord already determined manifest.  And so we wait!  We wait until death has lost its sting; we wait for sin to be entirely removed.  And no matter what our eyes see or our minds understand we must “fear God, and keep his commandments,” because “this is THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN.”

Too many today bend the word of God to their behavior rather than themselves to the word of God, and even more simply give into their flesh and do the works of the flesh without conscience.  Though our genuine experience might perpetually be that of failure to adhere to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, it does not mean that we should lower that standard to the level of our experience.  Yes, we cannot live above what we accomplish, but also, we cannot deviate a whit from whatever level we achieve.  Furthermore, we are required to always grasp beyond our reach; in one sense failure is inevitable because the perfection of Christ is the standard.  But in another sense, being made into His image is not our doing or responsibility.  As the apostle Paul said so eloquently and precisely—defining limitations and also the grand potential in Christ,

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] that if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].  Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own.  I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.  So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also.  Only let us hold true to what we have already attained and walk and order our lives by that” (Philippians 3:10-16 Amp.).