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Undermining or Establishing the Law?

Undermining or Establishing the Law?
In Mark Woods’ online article, “How Jesus Undermined the Law for the Sake of the Gospel,” he discusses how Jesus healed a crippled woman in a synagogue on the Sabbath much to the irritation of the synagogue ruler, who remarked, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day” (Luke 13:14).

Woods then states, “It reminds us that the religious law is just a guideline, something to give us a bit of help in making sense of faith. Our faith is generally law-shaped, but it’s not defined by law. When law gets in the way of kindness or generosity—the instinct to help and share and make the world better—it’s not doing its job anymore.”

He is quick to add that we should not “sit lightly to the moral law of God” but be “wary of making things that are just custom and practice … into unbreakable rules that mean we actually neglect God’s command to love other people.”

It would be helpful if we paused here to recognize that Jesus did not undermine God’s law, rather, human traditions on the matter of Sabbath keeping. Rather than tossing out the Sabbath commandment or watering it down, we should recognize that God never intended Sabbath to be a day of self-focused living and legalistic behaviors. Healing is in harmony with God’s purpose for the Sabbath.

When we present Jesus as one who undermined God’s law in order to show kindness, we make a false distinction between God’s law and the gospel—as if the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, God’s law reveals the gospel and teaches us how to show love toward others. Jesus’ intention was not to suspend the Sabbath in order to bring healing to a woman, but to demonstrate the true purpose of the Sabbath. Healing is not a work that God intended for us to avoid on the seventh day.

Instead of Woods saying that Jesus “wouldn’t let petty concerns about religion get in his way,” it would be more accurate to state that Christ “wouldn’t let the petty rules of religious leaders get in His way of upholding the true nature of the Sabbath.” Jesus always lived to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).

Following the gospel does not undermine the law. As Paul clearly stated: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31, emphasis supplied).

Also in the news…

Is the Sabbath Day on Saturday or Sunday?” This online article quotes Colossians 2:16, 17 as an argument to set aside the seventh-day Sabbath. Is this a proper interpretation of these verses? Click here for more information.