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Was God’s Law blotted out and nailed to the cross? Misunderstandings regarding Col 2:11-17

Paul’s letter to the Colossians contain one, if not the most famous of verses used to prove that God’s Law is done away with Christ’s death. While many Christians quote this passage, not many of us pay proper attention to the words used by Paul – which ultimately leads us to read our own doctrines into the text. Peter was right to warn believers to be careful when reading Paul’s Letters, as many were distorting his words in their day(2 Pet 3:15,16). Nothing much has changed, as the letters and words of this Misunderstood Apostle are still unwittingly distorted by many. Let’s try to put our preconceived ideas and beliefs away so that we can approach the text afresh, and see the true meaning of Paul’s words to the Colossians.

This study is broken down to the following areas
1. Introduction (Col 1:1-2:9)
2. The meaning of Principalities and Powers (Col 1:16, 2:10,15)
3. Circumcision made without hands (Col 2:11)
4. Buried with Him in Baptism (Col 2:12)
5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances (Col 2:14)
6. Let no one judge you (Col 2:16)
7. A shadow of things to come (Col 2:17)
8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men (Col 2:18-23)
9. Conclusion

Abraxas. Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

Abraxas.
Egyptian-Roman amulet, 100-400

1. Introduction
The congregation at Colosse was most probably established and had not even seen Paul face to face(Col 2:1). Paul greets them and thanks God for their faith, telling the Colossians that his prayer is for them to increase in the knowledge and understanding of God. He then thanks God for making them part of His kingdom through Christ. Paul explains that everything in Heaven and on Earth were created through Him, whether it be thrones, dominions, principalities or powers. (This proclamation of authority whether it be in heaven or earth, being under Messiah will be an important thought to consider when we come to the verses in question, as the letter deals with who has authority over the Colossian believers) He goes onto explain that Christ is above all things, being made the head of the body of believers. His blood made peace, reconciling everything to God. Even though the Colossians were aliens before God, when they were doing things contrary to God, Messiah had reconciled them to God through His blood. Paul then explains his ministry to the gentiles of revealing Christ in each and everyone who believes, which was a mystery revealed in their day.

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

Gnostic Gem Showing the Lion-Faced Deity Laldabaoth (Sophia’s Son). From L’antiquité Expliquée et Représentée en Figures, by Bernard de Montfaucon (Paris: F. Delaulne, 1719)

In the second chapter Paul once again speaks of the mystery of God, and how wisdom and knowledge is hidden in Him. He asks them to beware of being deceived by persuasive language – in context of Knowledge and wisdom. It is apparent reading the letter thus far, that the Colossians were being persuaded by some party or parties in the realm of wisdom and knowledge. There is a strong probability that these were Gnostics who believed in “Hidden Knowledge” (Gnostikos in Greek meant “Having Knowledge”) – they were known to shun the physical/material world and wanted to embrace the spiritual world. Gnosticism could also be likened unto the “traditions of the elders” which practiced justification through certain works. Gnostics believed that gnosis (knowledge, enlightenment or ‘oneness with God’) may be reached by practicing philanthropy to the point of personal poverty, sexual abstinence and diligently searching for knowledge/wisdom by helping others. Outwardly, it looked like a good way of life, but inwardly it did nothing to help believers, being just man-made ideas. This will be apparent when we reach the end of Chapter 2.

Paul advises them to be rooted and built up in Christ, and be steadfast & established in the faith they had received. In Col 2:8, Paul once again tells them to beware of philosophy, empty delusions which are according to human traditions and principle of the world. And then proclaims once again that all “principality and power” is under him, as the fullness of divinity resides in Him. In other words, their is no higher authority than the savior and lord of our lives, Yeshua the Messiah.

2. Principalities and Powers
At this juncture, before proceeding to verse 11, we must identify the true meaning of “Principalities and Powers”. The usual explanation is that these are spiritual entities which had authority over humans, before Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Let’s test this against the writings. Paul uses this phrasing 3 times in the letter to the Colossians, denoting a certain importance of said phrase to the point he is trying to make.

Col 1:16  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Col 2:10  And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
Col 2:15  And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Principalities – Strong’s Dictionary – G746 – ar-khay’ – From G756; (properly abstract) a commencement, or (concrete) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank): – beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.

Powers – Strong’s Dictionary – G1849 – ex-oo-see’-ah – From G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, that is, (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence: – authority, jurisdiction, liberty, power, right, strength.

The use of the phrase “Principalities and Powers” in the New Testament 
Luk 12:11  And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates(G746), and powers(G1489), take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
Luk 20:20  And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power(G746) and authority(G1489) of the governor.
1Co 15:24  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule(G746) and all authority(G1489) and power.
Eph 1:21  Far above all principality(G746), and power(G1489), and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
Eph 3:10  To the intent that now unto the principalities(G746), and powers(G1489)in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities(G746), against powers(G1489), against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Tit 3:1  Put them in mind to be subject to principalities(G746), and powers(G1489), to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,

These two Greek words “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” are mostly used for rule/authority/governance in an earthly sense, as in magistrates, governors, rulers, etc. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul uses the same words to speak of spiritual rule and authority, but he clearly mentions “high places” or “heavenly places” to explain that he is not speaking of it in an earthly sense. Luk 12 and Titus 3 are clearly speaking of earthly rulers and authorities using the same Greek words. Looking at the above evidence, it is most likely that Paul was speaking of an earthly “Arkhay” & “Exooseeah” in the letter to the Colossians. Colossians 1:16 further explains the fact that he was speaking of earthly rulers and authorities as well as the heavenly.

3. Circumcision made without hands
Returning to the Letter to the Colossians, we see Paul suddenly addressing the topic of circumcision. One of the main concerns in the 1st century was whether gentile believers in the faith should be circumcised or not before they were accepted as believers – in other words, some were saying that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised to be saved. The 15th Chapter of Acts shows the conflict and the resolution created by the Jerusalem Council. Many of Paul’s letters directly tackle this idea of “justification by Works” – in other words “being saved because of becoming circumcised”. And it is the same argument that Paul brings to the Colossians. Just after explaining that Christ is above all so called rulers and authorities, he explains that the Colossians have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands – The circumcision of the heart – both spoken by Paul(Rom 2:29) and God Himslef(Deut 10:16, 30:6, Jer 4:4) in the Old Testament Scriptures. Circumcision of the heart was repentance and turning from your iniquities towards God.

4. Buried with Him in Baptism
After explaining that they have received “salvation” (putting off the body of sins of the flesh) without physical circumcision, Paul then turns to baptism. Explaining that they have died to the old life in baptism (burial in water) and being resurrected through the faith in God, Paul writes that they were dead in sin and uncircumcision – but have now been forgiven their sins.

It is important to note that the Jewish Rabbinic authorities believe a proselyte(convert to Judaism) must engage in Circumcision and Baptism before they are regarded part of the congregation ([A] Refer discussion by Maimonides on Yevamot 47a-b). This is still considered mandatory and is in practice even today. It is proven through archaeology that there were ritual baths (special places for baptism) even before the time of Christ, so it is safe to say Jewish Proselytes were circumcised and baptized before they were accepted into the community, even in the 1st Century. It should now be apparent to you why Paul discusses Circumcision and Baptism in his letter to the Colossians. These were new converts into the faith, and most definitely, the rulers/authorities wanted them to adhere to the customs/traditions of their day. In the eyes of these “principalities” and “powers” a proselyte was to be physically circumcised and then baptized before they were part of the faith. The Jerusalem Council had announced this was not necessary to become part of the congregation as one is saved only by faith and the grace of God. Circumcision was never a requirement to approach God. In fact it was a commandment for parents, as they are the one who circumcised a child on the 8th day.

Paul explained that the Colossians had been circumcised with a circumcision done without hands, and with baptism to Christ – so that they did not need any further acts to be done in accordance to the principalities and powers of their day.

5. The meaning of Handwriting of Ordinances
As we step into the main verses in question, the context leading to this verse becomes all the more important. Christians are quick to say that the phrase “Handwriting of Ordinances” refers to the “Law of God” or “Law of Moses” or “The Old Testament Scriptures”. Nothing can be further than the truth.

Handwriting – G5498 – khi-rog’-raf-on – Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): – handwriting. This word can only be found in Col 2:14

Ordinances – G1378 – dog’-mah – From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): – decree, ordinance.
Luk 2:1  And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree(G1378) from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
Act 16:4  And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees(G1378) for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.
Act 17:7  Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees(G1378) of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
Eph 2:15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances(G1378); for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

The phrase “handwriting of Ordinances” is only seen in the letter to the Colossians. The word “Ordinances” (Dogmah) is seen 5 times in the New Testament and 3 of those occasions clearly refer to “man-made Decrees”.

Eph 2:15 stands out amongst them, as Paul connected it to the “middle wall of partition” (also known as the soreg). While God had given Commandments and His Law, the word Dogmah stood for man-made Decrees/laws/ordinances. If Paul was indeed speaking of God’s Law & Commandments, he would not have needed to use the word “ordinance”/”decree”(dogmah) in his letter. These “ordinances” which were prescribed by the principalities and powers, were hostile to the worship of God, as they restrained anyone other than “Jews” (as per their definition) from worshiping God. These ordinances made a clear separation between Jew and Gentile, by elevating one above the other, to the extent where gentiles were looked down upon and disassociated, by Jews everywhere (Joh 4:9,27, 7:35, Act 10:28, 11:2,3, Gal 2:12).

Coming back to Col 2:14, we see that which is blotted out and nailed to the cross is “Dogmah” or man-made decrees, and not any parts of the Scriptures. Just as Paul explains in Eph 2:15, these were hostile towards us. He repeats those words to the Colossians by saying that those decrees were against and opposed to believers of God. In the same breadth Paul explains these rulers and people of authority(principalities and powers) who create and subject others to these man-made decrees had been made powerless by Christ, as He alone held authority over all.

6. Let no one judge you
One of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the New Testament, this verse is commonly used as a proof text to say that the Sabbath and feast days that God called “His Feasts” are now discarded after Christ. Let’s look at the verse a little closer.

Col 2:16  Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Paul writes that “therefore”, hinting at the so called rulers & authorities (principalities and powers) who are powerless because of the true person who has authority over all of God’s children; For this reason the Colossians should not let anyone judge/condemn them. They were under a higher authority. But what were these Principalities and powers condemning the Colossians for? This verse can be read in the following ways:

A) Let no man therefore judge you FOR NOT ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.
B) Let no man therefore judge you FOR ADHERING TO Food Laws, Holydays, New Moon days and Sabbath days.

The majority of Christians understand this verse to be read according to “reading A” in which Paul is asking the Colossians to let no one judge them for not keeping God’s Law. The inverse maybe true as well. As per “reading B”, Paul could also be asking them to not let anyone judge them for adhering to God’s Law.

According to the context, it is clear that these gentile believers were being influenced by the Jewish authorities of their day in the realm of adherence to their man-made laws and authority. Paul had already explained that these “dogmah” ordinances/man-made laws were done away in Christ. It is likely that these “principalities and powers” were judging these new Gentile believers for keeping Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons and Sabbath days without proper adherence to their laws which were made for proselytes. In their eyes, these proselytes were keeping the ways of God before being officially accepted into the fold. They were acting outside their authority, and that was not acceptable.

7. A shadow of things to come
Paul concludes the advice about not letting anyone judge them by saying that the Food Laws, Holy days, New Moons & Sabbaths “are” a shadow of things to come. Note that Paul did not say “were” but “are” indicating they are still a shadow of things to come. The next part of the verse is written “But the body is of Christ”, which can also be translated as “and the body is of Christ”. However it is translated, it is apparent that Paul is saying that the Shadow is cast by a body which is Christ. Meaning that these Laws “are” a shadow of the coming Christ and His Kingdom.

8. Being subject to Ordinances – the commandments and doctrines of men
Paul completes his advise on coming under authority/rule of men and obeying their man made laws/doctrines/commandments by speaking of the Gnostic influence on the Colossians once again. We saw that he had mentioned the pursuit of wisdom at the start of the second chapter possibly indicating influence by Gnostics. Now paul speaks of asceticism (a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals), worship/religion of angels, pride in wisdom and intrusion into the unknown. These were all Gnostic ideas/teachings, making it obvious that one of the main parties trying to influence the Colossian believers were indeed the Gnostics.

Paul reminds them to be firmly connected to Christ, the head of authority, who nourishes all believers in faith. And also to not be in subjection to principles of the world or doctrines/commands of men that say do not touch, taste, handle – which appear to be wise, but is self-made religion and asceticism which neglect the body, but do nothing to stop the indulgences of the flesh. In other words, they seem to be spiritual commands but are man-made ideas which does nothing to bring you closer to God. Some see these verses to be speaking of God’s Law, such as the food laws… but Paul is very clear in saying that these are “commandments and doctrines of men”.

9. Conclusion
The Colossians were a group of new believers who were being influenced and criticized by certain authorities. These “principalities and powers” as Paul put them, were in places of power but had no authority over the Children of God, as Christ was the head of the body. Through His sacrifice, He had put those man-made ordinances/doctrines to shame by triumphing over them. There was no more barrier for Gentiles to approach God in repentance. These proselytes need not be subject to the ways of man anymore. The second influencing factor were the Gnostic thoughts in their day. These ideas rejected the earthly life altogether for Spiritual knowledge and wisdom, in worshiping angels and in asceticism.

The Colossians who were most likely being pushed, bullied and rejected by both Jews who held onto the “Traditions of the elders” and the Gentiles who were peddling Gnostic thought, were being influenced in the middle – to which Paul writes to strengthen them in the Gospel they have heard and to advice them to separate God’s Word from the Word of man. Separate God’s eternal Law from the temporary man-made commands and doctrines. Separate Christ who has full authority over them to the powerless “principalities and powers” of their day.

It is important to dissect Paul’s words carefully, and to always remember that we do not fully know the backgrounds of the assemblies he wrote to, nor the troubles and conflicts they faced. We must understand that Paul adhered and walked according to God’s Law, and that his common rebuke was against justification/salvation through the doing of the Law. When taken in context there is no doubt that Paul was speaking of man-made doctrines being nailed to the cross and being blotted out, and not God’s eternal Law.

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[A]”By three things did Israel enter into the Covenant: by circumcision, and baptism and sacrifice. Circumcision was in Egypt, as it is written: ‘No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof’ (Exodus 12:48). Baptism was in the wilderness, just before giving of the Law, as it is written: ‘Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes’ (Exodus 19:10). And sacrifice, as it is said: ‘And he sent young men of the children of Israel which offered burnt offerings’ (Exodus 24:5)…When a gentile is willing to enter the covenant…He must be circumcised and be baptized and bring a sacrifice…And at this time when there is no sacrifice, they must be circumcised and be baptized; and when the Temple shall be built, they are to bring a sacrifice…The gentile that is made a proselyte and the slave that is made free, behold he is like a child new born.”
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The Gracious God of the Old Testament

All of us know that our Father in Heaven is a gracious God, who loves us and has abundant mercy towards us. But through years of conditioning, many Christians have come to view the God of the Old Testament as a completely different person – a harsh judge with a fiery character. Now, almost all Christians believe that God does not change. But how does one angry-godexplain this change in character? They turn to the idea of “Dispensationalism” – an idea which first reared it’s head in the 1800’s through the views of John Nelson Darby. So the idea is that God had not revealed his “Gracious character” in the Old Testament age – but that it was only revealed after Messiah Yeshua (Jesus’ true name). This idea is also closely connected to thoughts of a certain “Marcion of Sinope” who lived as far back as 145AD. He is the first person recorded to have made a distinction between the God of the Old Testament and the New. Labelled as a heretic at the time, sadly, his thoughts do live on in the Church today.

Introducing you to the Gracious God of the Old Testament!
God does not change. In fact His name “YHVH” (pronounced Yehovah) means “I was” that “I was”, “I am” that “I am”, “I will be” that “I will be”. It is in His character not to change. He is our everlasting Heavenly Father who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So why is it that Christians view God in a different light when it comes to the Old Testament? Is there evidence that He, in fact was, Gracious at the time of the Old Testament similar to how He is seen today? I welcome you to read the abundant evidence in the Scriptures – Meet Our Gracious, loving, merciful God who was the same in the time of the Old Testament!

God has always been Gracious
Gen 6:8  
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
2Ki 13:23  
And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.
Exo 33:19
 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Exo 33:17  And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.
Gen 39:21  But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
2Sa 7:15  But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
2Sa 22:50,51 Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. He is the tower of salvation for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.
1Ki 8:23  And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:

God has always revealed Himself as a Gracious God
Exo 22:27  For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.
Exo 34:6,7 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
Hos 2:19  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
Jer 9:24  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
Isa 54:8  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Exo 20:6  And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Jer 31:3  The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. 

His people have always known that He is a Gracious God
2Ch 30:9  For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.
Neh 9:17  And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.
Neh 9:31  Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
Psa 86:15  But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Psa 103:8  The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
Psa 111:4  He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
Psa 116:5  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
Psa 145:8,9  The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Joe 2:13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
Jon 4:2  And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Mic 7:18  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Psa 86:5  For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Psa 36:7  How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Psa 69:16  Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.
Psa 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Dan 9:18  O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.
Dan 9:9  To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
Dan 9:4  And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
Lam 3:22,23 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
Isa 63:7  I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
1Ch 21:13  And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
Mic 7:18  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.
Isa 30:19  For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
Psa 103:4  Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Psa 119:132  Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
Psa 119:156  Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
Psa 51:1  Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Psa 84:11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Num 14:18,19  The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.
Deu 5:10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
1Ch 16:34  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 
2Ch 5:13  It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
2Ch 7:3  And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psa 138:2  I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
Psa 130:7  Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
Psa 119:64  The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.
Psa 108:4  For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds.
Psa 107:31  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Psa 103:11  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
Psa 94:18  When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.
Psa 86:5  For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

His Graciousness endures forever
Psa 52:1  Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
Psa 103:17  But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;
Psa 107:1  O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psa 25:6  Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.
Jer 33:11  The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.
Jer 9:24  But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
Isa 54:8  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
Isa 54:10  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
Deu 7:9  Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 
2Ch 20:21  And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. 
Ezr 3:11  And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Neh 13:22  And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy. 
Psa 118:1  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Conclusion
Why list down so many verses? Why emphasize the fact that God has always been a loving, merciful, gracious Father? Because there is a gap in the mind of today’s Christian, between the Old Testament and the New. There is no such thing as a change of Character in God, that has happened or revealed itself throughout the past. He has always been a Judge. He has always been a jealous God. He has always been a loving God. He has always been a merciful God. He has always been a gracious God. And His character will not change. He is YHVH – The Everlasting, Unchanging – Praise be to Him!

Sinning in ignorance : How long can we hide behind “God sees my heart”

heart-shaped-pages-wallpapers_28398_1920x1200A deep rooted belief in Christianity today, is that “God sees one’s heart”. “If I’m doing something with a clear conscience to please God – wouldn’t He accept it?” This is a good question. And there is no doubt that God sees the Hearts of us all.

But the real question that needs pondering on, is whether a person can do something,  which is wrong in God’s eyes, thinking it is the right thing to do in his/her own heart, and still be deemed obedient to God, in His sight. The essence of the question is whether we look at things through our eyes, or try our best to look through the viewpoint of God Almighty.

God sees my heart
Many of us know the following verses of Scripture which prove God sees and understands the intentions of our hearts and our deepest thoughts.

  • 1Sa 16:7  But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
  • 1Ki 8:39  Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
  • 1Ch 28:9  And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
  • Eze 11:5  And the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.

We cannot put our trust on our own thoughts and feelings or our hearts!
Just because God sees our Hearts, does not mean that everything we do, will be in accordance with His thoughts and ways. Everyone who believes in God, do what they do, thinking they do the right thing. This does not mean everyone who believes God, will be deemed perfect by God.

  • Pro 16:2  All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
  • Pro 21:2  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
  • Jer 17:9,10  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

So how can we know what is right in His eyes?
There needs to be a measuring stick which we can use to discern between right and wrong in God’s eyes. And the complete “Word of God” is that instrument that weighs all things, showing us right from wrong.

  • Heb 4:12  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

What will we be Judged on?
It is important to note that, when we stand before the judgement seat of God (as everyone will), we will be not judged on what is in our hearts, but on all the works we have done – on whether we have obeyed Him, or disobeyed.

  • Rev 2:23  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
  • Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
  • Rev 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city
  • Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 

Ignorance is not bliss
Some are under the impression, that if you “sin” not knowing that God regards that act a sin, you are exempt from judgement. The word of God has a different view on this. Sinning through ignorance is still regarded sin. While you would have to answer for “sinning knowingly”, “sinning through ignorance” would also have its consequences.

  • Num 15:29  Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.
  • Lev 4:27  And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty;
  • Act 17:30  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
  • Hos 4:6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 

There are so many people around the world doing things their own way, to please God. One of the reasons this is prevalent is because of the belief that God’s Law is no more. If that was the case, we could not know what “Sin” is anymore, as “Sin” is the “breaking of God’s Law” (1Joh 3:4). God’s Law sets the parameters for knowing what “Sin” is (Rom 7:7). And when we know what “sin” is, in the sight of our Heavenly Father, we know how to please Him.

So what does the Law got to do with what is in someone’s heart?
God has expressly said that His Laws/Commandments should be in one’s heart. And this was part of the new covenant where, God would write His laws in our hearts. If what we do is all of his commandments/laws/will, then we have nothing to be worried about.

  • Deu 6:6  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
  • Pro 3:1  My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments
  • Heb 8:10  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 
  • Deu 8:2  And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

Examples from the Scriptures
Following are a few examples in which people did things for God, which was right in their hearts, but were considered “sin” in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

  1. The Molten Calf
    Many presume that the Children of Israel were worshiping the molten calf, when they created it at the base of Mount Sinai. But in reality, they were worshiping “YHVH” through the manmade idol.
    Exo 32:4,5 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
    Neh 9:18  Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;
    The simple truth is, that they were trying to have a feast to God. In God’s eyes, what was in their hearts were irrelevant, as they had broken His commandment of bowing down to idols, even if it was in His name.
  2. Nadab & Abihu’s offering
    When Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, who had accompanied Moses up the mountain and seen God in His majesty(Exo 24:9-11), offered a sacrifice which was not prescribed by God, they were consumed in an instant.
    Lev 10:1,2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
    As per Exo 30:9, nothing other than the prescribed offerings could be made to God. Even-though Nadab and Abihu were rightful priests who were making and offering to God, it was rejected with sore punishment because it went against His Law/Commandment/will.
  3. Saul’s victory over the Amalekites
    In 1Sam chapter 15, we read how Saul was ordered to kill every living thing in the land of the Amalekites. Saul who is victorious over the Amalekites bring home animals as an offering to God, which is rejected by God because he disobeyed God’s instructions
    1Sa 15:15  And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.
    1Sa 15:20  And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 
    Even-though Saul was obedient to God in his own heart, and was bringing these sacrifices to please God, the situation was not the same in God’s eyes. And for what Saul saw as a sacrifice, God saw as disobedience – rejecting him as king altogether(1Sam 15:26)
  4. Uzza touches the Ark of the covenant
    In 1Chr chapter 13 we read that the Ark was to be transported from Kirjathjearim, under David’s orders. Two men named Uzza and Ahio transported the Ark on a cart, when the oxen stumbled, Uzza touched the Ark, to keep it from toppling. For this, God struck Uzza dead. Now most people would see this as an unjust death, and for certain – we read that even David was displeased for what had happened. But later He understood, as we read below
    1Ch 15:2  Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever. 
    1Ch 15:13  For because ye did it not at the first, the LORD our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.
    Even though Uzza was doing a good thing by trying to save the Ark from toppling, the Ark was never supposed to be carried by anyone else other than Levites, specifically the family of Kohath. Even then they could not touch the Ark, on the punishment of death (Num 4:15). This is why David asked the Levites to carry the Ark, after Uzza’s death, as he recognised, any other way was wrong in the eyes of God.
  5. Paul’s transformation
    On several occasions, Paul made speeches to mobs who attacked him, proclaiming that he persecuted believers in Christ, because of the zeal he had towards God. This does not mean, all that he did was accounted as good before God. Paul understood that he had been wrong, even-though he was doing all of it for God.
    Act 22:3,4  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (Also read Act 26:9-11, Php 3:6, 1Tim 1:13, 1Cor 15:9)
    When Paul understood his fault, he asked for repentance for all that he had done in God’s name, as he knew it was not right in God’s eyes, even-though he had thought it was right in his own heart.
  6. Christ’s words
    The apostles were forewarned by Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) that people would attack them, thinking they were doing God a service.
    Joh 16:2  They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
    This shows us that a certain person could do something thinking he/she is serving God, when that person is disobeying God in reality.

God’s grace towards sinners who turn towards Him
It must be specially mentioned, that God shows mercy to people who have been disobedient, but have turned towards Him, and are trying to learn His ways. This was the case at the time of King Hezekiah. When King Hezekiah learned about God’s law regarding Passover, he gathered everyone to celebrate this appointment of God. As we see in 2Chr chapter 30, many people heeded this call, and Hezekiah prayed for the people who had not sanctified themselves properly to celebrate this occasion, as they were still learning the ways of God and how to be obedient towards Him.

2Ch 30:18-20 For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one
That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.

A similar occasion arose in the book of Acts, when James made the proclamation that the new believers should keep away from four critical sins, as they would learn the rest, as they go. (Please read “Gentiles have to obey only 4 Commandments? Misunderstandings regarding Acts 15″ for more information on this topic)

Act 15:19-21 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

God is patient with us, showing Grace towards us, when we start our walk in obedience. We may slip, we may fall. But we need to stand up and keep walking, not repeating those mistakes over and over again. This can only be done through learning His Word, and what He sees as Sin & Righteousness.

Conclusion
The point I would like to make is, that it does not matter what is in our hearts. What matters is whether our hearts are acceptable to God. Even if we do things to please God, if those things are not right in His eyes – they will not be accepted. We cannot disobey His Words, and hope that he accepts the disobedience done in all sincerity. God will, and does, have much Grace towards us and the ones who sin in ignorance. But it is not an eternal Grace. It is not a Grace that will keep us completely unaccounted for. We will all have to give account for what we have done, whether it be done knowingly or unknowingly – as all of it is written down in the Book of Works(Rev 20:12). The ones who disobey in ignorance will have fewer stripes, but they will receive stripes nonetheless (Luk 12:48).

God sees all of our hearts, including persons who live life contrary to what God has proclaimed in His Word. He will show grace towards everyone, so that everyone comes in repentance to Him. After we repent and turn towards Him, through the matchless blood of Messiah, we need to lead a sinless life. We cannot afford to keep sinning in ignorance. We need to learn what “sin” is, and what “righteousness” is in God’s eyes – not our own. He will not change His word till heaven and earth pass. We, on the other hand must change our hearts to be an acceptable offering before God. And when He does look at our hearts, He should see His Laws written on them as per the New Covenant(Heb 8:10).