This is a continuation of my attempt to respond to objections to my ongoing series on Jesus the King being greater than the Law. In this article we will look at Ezekiel 36:26-27, and what it means for the modern believer.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. -Eze 36:26-27 NIV
It was these verses that someone brought to my attention when they told me that it was very clear that if a person does not wholeheartedly seek to observe the Law of Moses, that person can be shown that they are not followers of King Jesus. The message conveyed is that if you are a Christian who is not following the Law, you do not have salvation. Now it should be said that the same person who told me this, a few days later said that anyone who says something like this is committing outright blasphemy, so I’m not really sure how serious to take his argument. But still, I’m trying to answer rebuttals so we’ll continue on here.
The first thing I want to do when looking at this verse is look a couple verses before this verse. Verse 24 says, “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” The context of these verses clearly seems to be speaking of a time when a physical Israel will be brought from all over the earth and be made clean and will have the Holy Spirit placed into them. It should not be lost on us that the very next chapter after these verses just so happens to be the valley of dry bones chapter. This is the chapter where a dead multitude of people have breath breathed into them and they come alive again. I would argue that Eze 36 is talking about the same event which is taking place in Eze 37-38. More than that, the very next verse (v.28) speaks to this same thought when it says, “You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”
The traditional hermeneutic for interpreting prophecy would say that this prophecy is speaking of a still to be fulfilled event. Now, is it possible that there is some degree of spiritualization going on and that it means something different than what it’s saying? Sure, but that’s a whole different conversation we’ll need to have. If we’re going to contextualize this in a way which we don’t need to interpret these verses in a concrete way, we have to realize that this would also have a potential impact on the message of the verse, and not just the people it’s being directed toward.
If we are able to read, “You will live in the land that I gave your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (v28, CSB), and think that it’s referring to Christians living outside of the land, you have to be willing to use the same interpretive lens when looking at verses 26 & 27. Are we willing to accept that God’s putting his Spirit in our hearts in order to make us follow his commands and decrees might look different than what a concrete reading of Scripture might look like? If we’re willing to redefine what ‘living in the land’ is, we have to be willing to redefine what ‘keep My laws’ means. Personally, I’m not able to spiritualize ‘living in the land’.
But let’s put aside what we’re willing to do with our interpretive hermeneutic, the truth is that none of that even matters to the specific conversation because, even if everything is to be taken completely straightforward and literally, it doesn’t fit Biblically to say that you’re not saved if you don’t visibly follow all pieces of the Law. The Jerusalem council, in Acts 15:1-35, describe allow for progressive application of the Law. They laid out that there were specific things which needed to be done – abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20, NKJV) – but then the assumption was that, through weekly immersion in the teachings of Moses the new convert would be convicted by the Spirit to start showing obedience in other aspects of their faithlife. There was never the expectation that as soon as you received the Holy Spirit you would have an automatic download that would force you to start observing every infinitesimal detail of the Law.
Should the expectation be that a believer continuously seeks to walk in deeper obedience to the Father? Absolutely!
Should we be able to assume that a person who is not keeping all 613 commandments has not been given the gift of the Holy Spirit? Absolutely not!
One of the first names used for what we now refer to as Christianity was simply, “the way.” It’s a path to walk down. It’s not going to be the same at the beginning of the path as it is at the end. Or even a mile down the road. We learn and we grow, and that’s a beautiful thing. But sometimes we need direction, and the best way to get direction is to be informed before you move. Oftentimes we can move with only part of the information. I feel this is what’s being done when we are tempted to set the law up as equal to or greater than King Jesus.
As this seems to be a topic which keeps coming up (at least in my circles) I’m going to continue to do my best to answer concerns relating to it. I’m currently working an putting together an article answering the charge that the law is more important than the King because Jesus, himself, said that following the law was the way to salvation in Matthew 19. There’s a little teaser for what’s coming next.
My prayer is that this article has been helpful in lifting King Jesus up higher in your life.
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