The Letter of the law and the Spirit of the law

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The question has been asked, “What is the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law?” To me, it all comes down to motivation.

When I stop at a red light to avoid getting a ticket, I am only obeying the letter of the law. Would I go ahead and run the red light and risk hurting someone if there was no risk of paying a fine? If so, then that doesn’t really make me an obedient person. It only makes me  afraid of getting fined.

If I keep from running a red light because I don’t want to hit and hurt someone, then I am now obeying the spirit of the law, which is “others first” or “consideration for others.”

Here is one example of how the pharisees were looking at the letter of the law, while Jesus was looking at the spirit of the law.

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.  But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”  Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.  And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple!  But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:1-8 NLT

First of all, I think the Pharisees were greatly exaggerating by calling taking a few heads of grain “harvesting”! Today some Sabbath keepers will not flip a light switch to avoid “starting a fire” on the Sabbath. But I do not think God was referring to light switches when He said, “don’t start a fire on the Sabbath.”  See Exodus 35:3. back then a lot more work was involved in starting a fire than today. There is also a lot more involved in harvesting, than taking a few heads of grain. Now if you disagree with me, obviously that is fine. We all have our own convictions when it comes to these matters. For example, I do not eat out on the Sabbath because I do not want anyone to work for me on Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), and I do not want to buy and sell on Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-18).  Some of my Sabbath-keeping friends do not see it that way, and do not consider the cooks or waitresses as their servants, and they consider Nehemiah was referring to a lot more work in loading and unloading food, than just serving it. Fine. Each to his or her own. We must all be convicted ourselves, but the motivation should always remain the same, which is love and consideration for God and others.

Second, Jesus refers to David eating the bread that was only for priests when he and his men were hungry. When you consider the fact that the law of God is love, then you can see how mercy here would be a higher priority than the letter of the law. Another example is in the story of the Good Samaritan. Many wonder if the priest and Levi thought the hurt man might be dead. If so they were not to touch him by law (See Leviticus 21:1-3 and Numbers 19:11-122). But even so, mercy always takes priority over the letter of the law. The law is love. If we put the letter of the law above love then we have just defeated the whole purpose of the law which is love.

Paul explains what it means to keep the Spirit of the law, which is love.

If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10 NLT

Love does not do away with the commandments. It is because we love God and others that we keep the commandments. I can’t say I love my neighbor if I lie about her and steal from her. Love fulfills the Spirit of the law, which is love and consideration for God and others, while a sense of self preservation and selfishness fulfills only the letter of the law.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Esequiel’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

Esequiel Myriam William

Several months ago, Myriam introduced me to her fiance, Esequiel. Esequiel was interested in Bible studies and being baptized. Esequiel is in the service and soon had to got to where he was stationed. He still continued his studies, and reported back that he had stopped eating pork when the lesson showed him in the Bible that it was not the best way. Since Jesus gave His life for Esequiel, Esequiel has chosen to give his life to Jesus. He has also chosen to give his life to his new bride Myraim, as well as his country.

Esequiel

Tonight Esequiel was baptized in Myriam’s home church, the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Esequiel has the hope of eternal life!

Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved…Mark 16:16 NLT 

Esequiel Certificate

After the baptism, we had a reception, where we presented Esequiel with his baptism certificate. We also gave his and his fiance Myriam, the Jesus Centered NLT Bible. All of the members signed the Bible for them as a baptism/wedding gift. We hope they enjoy reading it together for years to come. We pray that Esequiel and Myriam both have a Jesus filled marriage and very happy life!

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Do not let the sun set before you make your decision to give your life to the One who gave His life for you-Jesus! I would love to help you with this decision. You can contact me at PlantCitySDAChurch@Gmail.com

Really Jesus? A Humble Child is the Greatest in Your Kingdom?

Kids Studying Bible

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 NLT

Do we live our lives like this is a practical teaching, or just something cute Jesus said?  I mean seriously, how could a little child really represent  the greatest person in heaven?

I am afraid that even in the church, we have a man-made hierarchical system that defies the teachings of Jesus. We just can’t seem to swallow the fact that someone like a humble primary Sabbath School student could be greater than the General Conference President. Surely Jesus didn’t actually mean what He said in Matthew 18:1-4! Surely He was just trying to say something cute, right? Or did Jesus really mean it?

In the medical field I have heard of doctors looking down on Registered Nurses, and RN’s looking down on Licensed Practical Nurses. This may come as a surprise for some of you in the medical field, but many of us outside of the medical field have great respect and appreciation for everyone taking care of our health. We appreciate caring and compassionate LPNs just as much as doctors. We respect LPNs and RNs just as much and sometimes even more so than we do doctors. Fran, a friend of mine in Texas, was a nurse who was studying to become a nurse practitioner. She was driven to use all of her time studying hard to become a nurse practitioner, because her third grade teacher in a parochial school, told her she would never be smart enough to be a nurse. She was determined to prove the teacher wrong. The thing is though, is that the teacher had already died and would never know. Meanwhile, the patients that came to see Fran knew nothing about her struggle to prove her self worth. All they knew was that they needed her help. So long as Fran could help them, they didn’t really care about an rivalry with a teacher who was not even in the picture anymore. Fran was already loved, respected and appreciated by those who needed her. Any condescension from a former teacher was totally irrelevant to Fran’s medical ministry.

Likewise, as I do Gospel Work in the community, I find that many people in the community do not see a distinction between pastors, lay pastors or Bible workers. To them a Gospel worker is a Gospel Worker, period.

Consider this,

Then Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze.  He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft. Exodus 35:30-33 NLT

God not only knows kings, prophets and priests. He also knows construction workers, and He fills them with His Spirit and wisdom just like prophets and kings! This has me thinking Jesus was not just being cute when He said that being like a humble child was to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He really meant it, for real!

About 35 years ago, my friend was flying on the company jet. She had an entry=level position, but was invited on the trip since there was an empty seat, and the the plane was going to where she had family. Having never flown on the jet before, she got on and just took the first available seat. As the flight was nearing its destination, it was pointed out to my friend that she had taken the company vice president’s seat. Horrified that she had done so, she asked where the vice president was sitting. She was informed that he was sitting in the back of the plane. She looked back and found him sitting alone in the back just as happy as could be. Either the vice president did not think too highly of himself, or he realized whatever seat he was sitting in was the vice president’s seat. Maybe both, but he never said anything to my friend. Maybe he did not look down on my friend, because he realized he was no greater than his employees.

Even though Eli had his problems, I have to hand it to him. When He realized God was talking to little Samuel, he told him next time he heard the voice to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Eli could have thought to himself, That couldn’t be God talking, because if it was God, He would be talking to me and not a little boy.  Praise God, Eli was humble enough to realize that God may just want to talk to a little boy instead of the high priest. See 1 Samuel 3:1-21.

Six verses after telling us a humble child-like person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven Jesus said,

“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. Matthew 18:10 NLT

That confirmed to me that  Jesus really meant when  He said that anyone as humble as a little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.