April 12, 2016

Jesus the Law Keeper

by Jordan Standridge

A little over a year ago Steven Furtick, a Pastor in North Carolina, preached a sermon called “It Works Both Ways.” Recently on his Facebook page he took a two minute clip from that sermon and posted it on his facebook page.

broken 10 commandmentsIn short he paints a picture of a parent who finds his child with a severe head injury after having fallen off of the monkey bars. The parent scoops the child up and heads for the car. As he begins driving, he doesn’t even notice the speed limits and even if he did he wouldn’t obey them, because of his love for his child. Similarly, Furtick says “God broke the law for love.” God after giving us the law, displayed his love by breaking it. In essence he loved us more than His own love.

There are many problems with this theologically and philosophically but it is not my purpose in this post to detail them. (If you’re interested in those Tim Challies wrote a very helpful post here)

The reason why the allegation that God broke the law particularly bothered me, and what I am hoping to demonstrate in this post, is that even a simple reading of a single chapter in the Gospel of Luke would show how meticulous Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in making sure Jesus kept the whole law precisely. As we have been teaching through Luke in our young adults group it is clear that in order for Jesus to be the mediator between God and man, He had to be the perfectly obedient God-Man. In fact, so great was the Trinity’s concern for keeping the law, that the One who was being sent to fulfill the law was placed in a family that would be meticulous in their obedience to all the law’s demands in bearing and raising Jesus.

Here are four brief examples from just one chapter of Luke’s Gospel which demonstrate Jesus and His family’s obedience to the law.

In his Circumcision (Luke 2:21)

“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.” Genesis 17:12

This is a command given to the Jewish people in perpetuity. Jesus as the promised seed of Abraham through whom God would bless all the nations, was circumcised in perfect obedience to the covenant.

In the temple presentation (Luke 2:23)

(A)Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first [a]offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.” Exodus 13:2

Mary after keeping the law and waiting until after her time of purification, brought Jesus to the temple in order to be offered to the Lord. Jesus was presented at the temple and was greeted by Simeon and Anna, Mary and Joseph made the appropriate sacrifice, and perfectly obeyed the law.

In Everything (Luke 2:39-40)

When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to (AL)their own city of Nazareth.

Just in case there would be any doubt as to whether there any minor infractions in which Jesus could have been said to break the law, Luke reassures us that Mary and Joseph performed everything according to the Law of the Lord. It would have been very easy to miss a law or make a mistake, but Luke assures us that Mary and Joseph were faithful and perfectly obeyed the law.

In celebrating the Passover (Luke 2:41-42)

14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Exodus 12:14

Luke 2:41 tells us that Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem every year. They never missed a beat. They were faithful, and perfectly obeyed the law.

Why does all this matter? Why is it important that we have an appropriate and biblical understanding of Jesus’ relationship to the law? Because without Jesus’ perfect obedience, He could never stand in our place as the propitiation for our sin. Without Jesus’ perfect obedience, His death could not atone for our law breaking. If Jesus had, like us, failed to “be perfect as [our] Heavenly Father was perfect,” He would, like us, have been under the penalty and punishment of God’s wrath.

But, as Luke and the other Gospel writer’s uniformly affirm, Jesus did perfectly fulfill the law. The death He suffered on the cross was not the result of His law breaking, but ours. His perfect obedience secures the righteousness we could never attain on our own.

In His baptism, Jesus fulfills all righteousness, as the perfect law keeper humbles himself and identified Himself with a ritual for sinners despite His perfection (Luke 3:21).

In His temptation, Jesus endures all enticement to sin, but never falls to its temptation (Luke 4:1-13).

And while Christ loved to disobey the Pharisees legalistic traditions he fulfilled God’s law perfectly throughout His life and ministry. Had He not done that, then we would all still be in our sin, and God could not be considered just and allow humans to enter Heaven.

I get Furtick’s temptation. He wants to be hip, cool, and innovative. That’s the temptation of many young pastors today. And saying something like, “God broke the law,” certainly sounds hip, cool, and innovative.

But flashy sermons, which are unfounded in Scripture, are not simply inaccurate, they are dangerous, deceptive, and mislead precious young Christians unaware of the lie. It is a huge temptation for young pastors to say something that has never been said before. The beauty of preaching through the Bible verse by verse is not only that it will inform your theology so that you are protected from making theologically incorrect statements, but it also limits personal opinion and allows you to stand on the shoulders of great expositors of the past that have taught the truth faithfully.

I’m so thankful that Christ didn’t break the law, that God’s justice is still intact, and that He can justly look upon me as perfect, having had Christ’s perfect obedience to the law imputed on me.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion.
  • Jane Hildebrand

    Yikes. I hope someone confronted and corrected him on accusing God of being a lawbreaker. God didn’t break the law, He fulfilled it. The law demanded justice and was satisfied by Christ. Hopefully this guy got some feedback and was able to recant this to his congregation.

    • Jane – I contacted the organization Steven Furtick Ministries and asked them to clarify and this was the response:

      “Thank you for contacting Steven Furtick Ministries. Pastor Steven was saying that God took the traditional Levitical law and broke the hold it had over humanity as the only way to remain pure and to cover over sin. He “broke the law” not in the sense that He did the wrong thing, but that He changed the old way to getting into His presence. There was no longer a need for a human high priest and a temple as Jesus became the Great High Priest and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. I hope this clears things up for you. That wording has been a little confusing for people. ”

      I have not seen any public clarification of his statements. This was sent to me via email in response to my questioning what he meant.

      • Jane Hildebrand

        Thank you, Michael, for doing that! It appears they recognize the wording was confusing and I liked their explanation. You went the right route by asking directly. Thanks again!

  • Rachel

    Yes, not sure how God could have broken the law (according to Furtick), and this passage also be in my Bible…

    Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

    26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  • Ira Pistos

    When I hear of this regarding those who take upon themselves, the terrible responsibility for preaching the word of God. It’s very like being physically struck.

    Nehemiah 8:5-6 represents for me, the profound reverence with which we should represent and hear His word.

    I get what the likely intent of this Pastor was. Good intentions are worthless if they lead to false worship.

    As Jane said earlier, I sincerely hope that he was offered correction and receptive to it.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    I have to say that since reading the Cripplegate, I myself have become so intently aware of how I present the gospel or any biblical truth for that matter! It is amazing the benefit that sitting under sound theology has made, even for me, in the urgency I feel to rightly divide the truth (and I’m not anybody). And so I wonder how it is that a young pastor like this, with so many good teachers at his disposal, can make such a serious blunder?

    • Jason

      1 Timothy 3:6 comes into play often, I think. In my personal life, I know the Lord called me out of the world sometime in the middle of high school and I had been doing a pretty good job of fooling everyone before that as well (having grown up in the church), but I was so sheltered (from hard theology questions as well as the responsibilities of adult life) that I was very immature for years after that.

      My aptitude tests told me I should go into philosophy/theology (I remember, because I didn’t really know what it meant and had to ask), but I went to school for software engineering instead.

      I’m glad I wasn’t interested at the time, because remembering who I was back then, I’m fairly certain I would have charted my way through the courses fine, but I would have come out the other side having been tossed by every wind of doctrine on the way through.

      The lion’s share of my spiritual growth has come about since I realized I CAN’T trust everything people say scripture says, because I finally understand the value of letting God explain what he means. It’s something I personally don’t think I’d ever have learned with someone over my shoulder instructing me to read the Word a specific way. I’d just have ended up puffy (1 Corinthians 8:1).

  • Monsoon Harvard

    Reformation 21 also has a great response to this message by Furtick. I believe the writer is Robert Brady. How this guy (furtick) gets away with his faux-theology is beyond me. His congregation must be illiterate or have never read the scriptures.

    This is a great article as well, thanks for that.

  • Nirman Pradhan

    Jesus is the only perfect man who never broke the ten commandments. It is only through Jesus, we can reach to heaven.