Throughout history, we humans have been trying to “become more Godly” through rigid discipline, controlled behavior, strict legalism, and an abundance of commandments. In fact, there approximately 1663 commandments found in the Bible, (613 in the OT and 1,050 in the NT).
Although most contemporary preachers/pastors would agree that most of the 613 commandments found in the Torah are now obsolete, we still struggle with how to deal with the 1,050 found in the NT: “How many of them are relevant to us today?” “Were some of them written only to specific churches and, therefore, not for us?”
We seem to be divided into 3 camps on this issue, or a blending of them:
1. All the NT commandments still apply and are to be stringently adhered to.
2. Some were written to specific churches and therefore, are not for all generations.
3. None of the ancient biblical rules apply to us in this time.
So, what is the reality of keeping the rules? Which ones do we need to keep? How do we encourage people to live by the biblical rules without getting into legalism? The simple answer is “None of the above.” Living by the rules/law has never brought salvation or spirituality to anyone. In fact, no matter how much we try to keep the rules it never becomes anything except behavior modification which can never change our spiritual condition.
Look at what Paul says about it in Colossians 2:20-23:
“If you died with Christ to the elements of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.” (CSB)
This statement of Paul is a further explanation of what he said to the Galatians in 5:16: “I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (CSB) We have been trying to make people more spiritual by getting them to live a disciplined lifestyle. However, one does not become more spiritual because they live a disciplined life. On the contrary, one lives a more disciplined life because they are already spiritual. As the verse above implies, it is when we are walking in the Spirit that we stop letting the natural determine our course.
Once we make walking in the Spirit about how we conduct ourselves in the natural it becomes a self-defeating, religious practice. This is because nowhere in the Scripture does it ever indicate that our natural self ever gets saved. In fact, the Bible states just the opposite, (Gal 5:17, Rom 8:7). We need to be reminded that we are saved in the spirit-realm and it will reflect in our natural world, not the other-way-around. Remember: “Don’t let the tail wag the dog.”