One of the things you simply won’t hear in a church today is any discussion of status, which results in complete incoherence of doctrine when it comes to explaining how The Law impacts a Christian. What is most often said is “We are no longer under the Law, we are under Grace” and it’s left at that. Which leaves even the extraordinary Christian completely confused and ignorant. And, of course, open to every opinion that comes along.
The Status of a Woman Matters
The status of a virgin woman is not the same as that of a married woman, which is not the same as the status of a woman no longer bound in marriage. The virgin is under the authority of her father, the wife is under the authority of her husband and the woman no longer bound is on her own and will be held responsible for her own decisions. To be even more clear:
A virgin has no agency. She is married to any eligible man who takes her virginity, whether she consents to marriage or not (Genesis 2:24). She may be forced into a marriage she does not desire and does not consent to by her father, as a free woman, or she may be denied marriage by her father (1st Corinthians 7:36-38). She may be sold into permanent slavery by her father to be the concubine of a free man (a slave-wife) or the wife of another slave (Exodus 21:7-11). She may be raped into marriage, against her will and over her objections (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). She may voluntarily enter into a marriage without her father’s knowledge and in the day he hears of it, he may allow it, or he may annul the marriage if he so desires (Exodus 22:16-17).
A wife has no agency. She is under the complete authority of her husband, who shall rule over her (Genesis 3:16). Any agreement or vow, even a vow to the Lord, is subject to review by her husband who can either say nothing and allow it to stand, or he can forbid it in the day he hears of it. Everything, including the rash words from her lips that have binding obligations are subject to his review. And if her husband forbids it, God will forgive her for her husband has forbidden it (Numbers 30). She is to submit to the authority of her husband in everything, in the same way she is required to submit to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22-24). In the same way that a servant is to obey their master, she is required to submit to her husband, without a word, even if he is not obedient to God’s word (1st Peter 3:1-6).
A non-virgin not bound in marriage has agency. She is responsible for her own agreements and vows and will be bound by them (Numbers 30:9). She is free to marry whomever she desires, but only another Christian (1st Corinthians 7:39), which means she cannot be raped into marriage: she must consent to marriage before sexual intercourse makes her married. There is nothing in Scripture that forbids such a woman from having sexual relations with any man she is eligible to marry and if she does not consent to marry, she will not be married. There is nothing in Scripture that forbids such a woman from working as a prostitute if she chooses.
All of this is the result of status and the same issue applies to men as well as women when it comes to God’s Law.
Status And God’s Law
It is written that one is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness and speaking to Christians the Apostle Paul said that we have been purchased with a price. Thus, the status of Christians is that of slaves to their Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t that the Law no longer applies, it’s that the Law very much applies to your Master and He has to deal with you.
Look at the example of the first Adam. We know from Scripture that Eve was the first to eat the fruit of which God commanded them not to eat. Yet, sin did not enter the world until Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate of the fruit. Why is that? Because Eve was completely under the umbrella of Adam’s authority and thus Adam’s righteousness.
Christ paid the price for sin, once for all. He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay, and thus we have the choice of remaining in our trespasses and sin or becoming one of His slaves according to the Law of the Bondservant. For those who choose to become one of His slaves, the purchase price of His blood is applied to us. As one of His slaves, we are imputed with His righteousness and our names are written in the Book of Life. Because He paid the price for sin by being executed as an innocent man, God can forgive us of our sins, but only if we are one of His slaves.
According to the testimony of Christ, the Law of God will not in any way be changed, nor will it pass away until all things are complete (Matthew 5:17-19). According to the Law, the Law cannot be added to or subtracted from, which means it cannot be changed (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32). Because by His own testimony, God does not change and God does not expect us to understand that. His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts.
Thus, there is the Great White Thrown judgment by the Lord God, in which all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be judged. There is also the judgment of the Bema Seat, in which the Master will judge His own slaves, rewarding them for their good work and punishing them for their disobedience. Ignorance is no excuse:
And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.
Consider parable of the talents and the parable of the ten virgins. All of the servants were slaves of the Master and while two were rewarded for their good service, one had what was given to him taken away and was bound, beaten and thrown into the outer darkness. Does that mean he was thrown into hell? No, it doesn’t. His name was written in the Book of Life and he received eternal life, but he was punished by his Master.
Consider also that all of the virgins were Christians, their lamps were lit with the oil (Holy Spirit) but only five of them had that extra flask of oil. In fact, at the end, the foolish virgins had the same burning lamps and the same extra oil they had purchased. So what was the difference? The wise virgins had been walking with Christ day by day, doing what they could and they filled themselves with the Spirit. The foolish virgins got their “fire insurance” but they were not walking with Christ day by day and did not fill themselves with the Holy Spirit as they were commanded. And when the Bridegroom said “I don’t know you” that was subjective. Objectively He knew who they were because they were His, but subjectively they had not walked with Him and developed a close personal relationship. The wise virgins were rewarded with a seat at the wedding feast, the foolish virgins were not. They were not punished, but neither were they rewarded the way the wise virgins were.
And nowhere does Scripture say that the virgins were the brides of Christ or that the Church is the Bride of Christ, because Scripture clearly says that the Bride of Christ is the New City of Jerusalem.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
It Is Not God Who Changed, It Is The Status Of Christians
This is the paradox of why Paul could say “All things are lawful for me, but not all are beneficial.” As the slave of Christ, anything he did that was in accordance with the will of his Master was lawful for him, but that is an extremely nuanced statement which is seemingly contradicted by other statements Paul made. Keep in mind that Paul was a lawyer, a Pharisee of Pharisees who studied under one of the finest and he had an incredible mind. As the Apostle Peter said, some of Paul’s statements are hard to understand.
Consider that it is forbidden to add to the Law or to subtract from the Law, but a Master has the authority to set the regulations in His own house and command His slaves. A husband has the authority to set the regulations in his own house and command his wife and children. In both cases they shall answer to God for their behavior and actions, but it is not given to either the slave or the family to judge in such matters.
The question might be asked, are Christians ever commanded not to do something they had the right to do under the Law? Yes, that is a fact. Christian men are forbidden to have sex with prostitutes, something they had the right to do under the Law because it was not forbidden. Christian men are forbidden to divorce their Christian wives for any reason, while under the Law they had the right to divorce her for adultery. And Christians are forbidden to marry anyone other than another Christian. None of these things are forbidden under the Law, but they are forbidden to Christians.
Some go the other way and claim that unless something was forbidden in the New Testament, the Law no longer applies. Which is ridiculous, because bestiality is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. Are we to believe this is now permitted? As the Apostle Paul put it, “May it never be!”
In forbidding some things to Christians that were not forbidden by the Law, was Christ adding to the Law? No, they are regulations that apply only to Christians, not to everyone, therefore they are not adding to the Law. Consider Ephesians 5:18, which is a command to Christians and only to Christians. Why is there a command to be “filled” with the Spirit when we know that upon becoming one of Christ’s slaves, we receive the Holy Spirit? That can only mean that receiving the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit. And why do we hear much about not becoming drunk but we seldom if ever hear about the command to be filled with the Spirit?
What about the things the Law requires that are no longer required of Christians? Is that subtracting from the Law? No, same answer, but here we get into the more complicated areas. The Law is often divided into the civil law, the ceremonial law and the moral law. The Civil Law is no longer applicable because the Nation of Israel no longer exists as God founded it and the Ceremonial Law no longer exists because there is no more temple and even if there was, the veil was torn in two.
What we see from the New Testament is that the moral law is still very much in effect for Christians and obedience to that portion of the Law is required. Paul provided some interesting guidance on this with his list of violations in Galatians 5:19-21 and a list of violators in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11. And in both cases Paul is adamant that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And yet, the lists are not inclusive because if adultery and child sacrifice and male homosexuality are still forbidden, then bestiality and having sex with a woman who is menstruating is also still forbidden even though there is no mention of them in the New Testament.
If one looks carefully at those lists and matches the list of violations with the list of violators, things get very interesting and we should consider the words of Jesus:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
“And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.”
Evidently, the so-called “fire insurance” is not what many think it is, because as it is written, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God“ (1st John 3:9). Notice that word “practice” in that. We know that Christians can and do sin, but what this passage is referring to is the continued practice of sinning. Someone might commit adultery, but the adulterer is one who practices the sin of adultery, refusing to stop.
Consider the litmus test of Christianity:
The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
Jesus is the Word made flesh. There is also something else God said that we need to understand:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
While the astute reader might observe that this is the passage in which the Lord God said He had two wives at the same time, that is not the focus of this passage. He said “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Remember that as Paul stated, Gentiles are the branch that was grafted into the root stock of Israel and the only way God can forgive iniquity and remember sin no more is through the propitiating work of Christ. Thus, it is Christians who have the New Covenant and God writes His Law on their hearts.
Does The New Covenant Mean God Has Changed?
No, God cannot change. The New Covenant is due to the sacrifice of Christ, which changed our status with regard to God and His Law. In the same way that a virgin’s status changes when she is married and a married woman’s status changes when she is no longer bound in marriage, our status as Christians changed when we chose to become the slaves of Christ.
The Bible is specific that violations of the Law are sin. Roman’s 4:15 and 5:13 spell it out. Where there is no Law there is no violation and without a violation there is no sin imputed. That is for everyone in the entire world. However, for Christians there is another aspect of sin. Romans 14:23 says that which is not of faith is sin and James 4:17 says that if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that is sin. These are issues of conscience which are due to the fact that Christians have received the helper, the indwelling Holy Spirit and because God has written His Law on their hearts.
Thus, while violations of the Law are sin to everyone, an individual’s conscience can be violated by actions or the failure to take action and be in sin, even though that action or lack of action would not be a sin to anyone else.
Are We To Judge Others?
Yes and no. This is another issue that is frequently the cause of division and consternation within the church. Individually we are told over and over again not to judge one another and judging those who are not Christians is forbidden. We are told that one day we will even judge angels, but for now, we are commanded not to individually judge others.
Corporately as the body of believers (the local congregation) we are commanded to judge the “so called brother” who is in sin and if they do not repent we are to cast them out of our fellowship. The basic instruction was from Christ:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Notice that Jesus used the word “sin” which means a violation of the Law, because only a violation of the Law is a sin for everyone. The Apostle Paul said
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
So, corporately we are to judge those who claim to be Christians. Yet, we are also told not to judge in certain areas that would otherwise be violations of the Law:
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
The only way this apparent dichotomy can be resolved is to look two issues. First is individual judgment versus corporate judgment, the second is to look at violations of the Law that are sin to everyone versus violations of conscience which are only a sin to the individual. And even though the vast majority might have their conscience violated by something or another, they are not to judge the one who does not have a conscience issue with whatever it is.
It is also true that some things are arguable and wisdom is called for, but let’s take a look at the history of the church and keep in mind, the Nicolaitans won. Consider the “Seven Deadly Sins”
Notice how each of these “deadly sins” is rather normative and subject to interpretation? They are ALL sins of conscience and tailor-made for the control of a population by their leaders, or for the control of others by popular opinion. No matter what the situation, it’s covered by one of these and in much the same way racism, homophobia and abuse are subjectively defined today by the SJW’s, this list was subjectively defined at times as a tool of power and control.
At the same time, it’s an excellent list for personal contemplation within the process of sanctification and corresponds to the church’s list of the seven Christian virtues:
In the same way as the “deadly sins” it is also possible to utilize a subjective judgment of a supposed lack of these virtues as a way of controlling groups and individuals. Notice that nowhere in that list of virtues is obeying the Will of the Father, which is the definition of what it means to be Christlike. Notice also that each of the virtues listed is also an issue of conscience and completely subjective to the individual and the situation.
These are things which are to be judged by individuals for their own behavior, not something that the body of believers is to judge with respect to an individual.
These points of judgment also depend on the status of the individual because what might be sin for one might not be sin for another. The virgin is married to the eligible man who takes her virginity. The married woman commits the sin of adultery if she has intercourse with any man other than her husband. The woman no longer bound in marriage is free to have sex with any man she is eligible to marry because sexual intercourse is the way a marriage begins. However, the woman no longer bound is not bound again in marriage unless and until she consents to marriage.
Those who are not slaves of Christ are under the Law and will be convicted and condemned by the Law. Those who are slaves of Christ are under their Master and while some portions of the Law still apply to them, it does so because it is His will as their Master. Which means that the right of a husband to divorce his wife according the the Law, for adultery (as Jesus taught) is not a right that the slaves of Christ have. In becoming His slave, they entered into His house and became subject to His regulations.
God did not change, our status did.
And as far as God is concerned, Status Is Important.