Another look at the will of God, rebellion, lawlessness, and faith

I have written one article on the will of God already, but I wanted to take another look at it.

Matthew 7:21-23

   21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 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?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Those who do the will of God will enter heaven. What IS the will of God that we are supposed to do?

Some think that it means following the Mosaic Law (especially given that Christ will say those who do the will of God will enter heaven but He will tell many who practice lawlessness to go away). But before we can make that statement, we need to realize that lawlessness does not necessarily relate to the Mosaic Law (or even Torah). Peter told us in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that those in Sodom and Gomorrah lived lawless lives. These people were never given the Torah. In fact, the Law had not yet been given to Moses – indeed, it would not be written for centuries.

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.

We also have to realize that Christ has fulfilled the Law (John 19:28-30), and we are no longer under the law (Galatians 3:25), but have been released from the Law and are serve in the new way of the Spirit (Romans 7:6). Indeed, all who rely on the Law are cursed (Galatians 3;10). In fact, reading the passage in Galatians 3:10-14 tells us that we are to live by faith.

10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

We see in Galatians 3:19 that the Law was given until Christ came.

 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Indeed, we are no longer under the Law.

Galatians 3:23-25

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

So if that’s the case (and it is), then we need to look at what IS lawlessness. According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary, to be lawless is be in rebellion. We see in Romans 6:19, 2 Corinthians 6:14, and Hebrews 1:9 that lawlessness is a condition which is in contrast to righteousness. We see in 1 Peter 2:24 that “Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”  So sin and righteousness are contrasted, just as lawlessness and righteousness are contrasted. We see this more clearly when we realize that 1 John 3:4-6 tells us:

4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness ; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to takeaway sins ; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins ; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

Thus we see that sin is lawlessness.

The word translated as lawlessness or lawless deed is Anomia. This means

  1. the condition of without law
    1. because ignorant of it
    2. because of violating it
  2. contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness

We see it in a number of places in the New Testament:

Matthew 7:23

23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 13:41

41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,

Matthew 23:28

28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Matthew 24:12
12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.
Romans 4:7

7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.

Romans 6:19
19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

2 Corinthians 6:14

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers ; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness ?

2 Thessalonians 2:3

3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

2 Thessalonians 2:7

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work ; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

Titus 2:14

14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself apeople for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Hebrews 1:9

9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
Hebrews 10:17
17 “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
1 John 3:4
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness ; and sin is lawlessness.
Again, the term anomia is a condition of being without law – that is to say that it is the condition of making your own rules, of not being under God’s authority, of being rebellious. But this does not mean one who does not follow the Law. Even the scribes and Pharisees, although they taught the Law, did not practice what they preached – which is easily seen repeatedly in Matthew 23. Oh, they might have legalistically followed the Law, but inside they were not clean, which we see in Matthew 23:28,
28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Outwardly, they followed the Law, but inwardly, they rebelled. So being lawless is not merely the condition of of being without law, but it is the condition of being in rebellion to God, to not trusting and obeying God.

This being the case, who are those who are lawless? Obviously those who do not do God’s will. But who are they? In Romans 6:19, we see it was those who presented their bodies to lawlessness.

19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

We see in Romans 1:13 that at least part of the audience of the book of Romans were Gentiles. And in Romans 2:17-3:4 we see the other part of the audience were Jews. So we can conclude from this that the audience were a mixed group of Gentile and  Jewish believers. Thus we can see that Gentiles and Jews can be lawless (which is what we saw in Matthew 23:28, where we saw Jews who outwardly followed the Law but inwardly were rebellious and full of hypocrisy).

Indeed, the apostle Paul (a Jew) was clear that HE was not under the Law. But he acted as though he was under the Law to win them. And he acted as though he was not under the Law to win those who were not under the Law. Yet in both cases, he was under the Law of CHRIST (just not the Mosaic Law).

1 Corinthians 9:19-21

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

So then, Jews (before and after the Law was given) and Gentiles (who were never given the Mosaic Law) can be lawless, and lawlessness is to be without law, to be rebellious – and this is not talking about being without or rebelling against the Mosaic Law, but being without law and rebelling against God. We must now look at what we ARE to obey.

What IS the will of God that Jesus will reject people for not having done?

First, we see in John 6:40 something of God’s will:
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life ; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 “But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
The Greek word translated as ‘will’ in verses 38, 39, and 40 is thelema.
  1. what one wishes or has determined shall be done
    1. of the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ
    2. of what God wishes to be done by us
      1. commands, precepts
  2. will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure
God’s will is that everyone who learns of Christ and believes in Him will have eternal life and Christ will raise him up on the last say. That is to say, God has determined this will occur.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 tells us God’s will (Themela) is that we be sanctified – set aside, made holy, become holy, abstaining from sexual immorality.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification ; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality ;
1 Thessalonians 5:14-21 tells us that God’s will is to seek what is good for everyone, always rejoice, always pray, always give thanks, abstain from what is bad.
14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted,help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always ; 17 pray without ceasing ; 18 in everything give thanks ; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit ; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances.21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good ; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
So we see from John 6:40, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-21, that God’s purpose is that people turn from sin, turn to Him through faith in Christ, and live a holy life.
So applying everything we’ve discussed to Matthew 7:21-23, we have to realize that not everyone who thinks they are a Christian will enter heaven. Indeed, many who claim to have prophesied and cast out demons and performed miracles in Christ’s name will not have the done the will of God – they will not have done the will of God – to believe to the point where they turned away from sin, turned to God, and did things which showed they had faith in Christ. THOSE are the people who will enter heaven.
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2 Responses

  1. I seem to sense that your definition of Matthew 7:23 lawlessness (anomia) cannot be readily grasped or quickly discerned by the average Christian. Your incorrect belief that the fatal sin of anomia no longer involves failure to diligently obey many Mosaic laws is glaringly contradicted by for example Isaiah 66:17,22, and 23, Zechariah 14:16-19, and 2 Corinthians 6:17. If you can persuade me that I am incorrect, please do so because I and others of course want to know the real truth. The Isaiah verses reveal that God will literally kill anyone living in a distant, future age that has not yet arrived, if such people continue eating the forbidden foods of pork and other “unclean” food. Verse 23 reveals that everyone, apparently whether they like it or not if they want to live, will worship God on Saturdays instead of Sundays. The Zechariah verses reveal that God will punish nations, apparently meaning the citizens of such nations, with plagues and famine causing droughts if they refuse to observe the Feast of Tabernacles. These all involve the Mosaic dietary, Sabbath, and festival laws. The Corinthians verse sternly warns us not to even touch, much less eat, what is defined by Levitical laws as “unclean” or forbidden, which logically would include the forbidden foods. Matthew 23:23 is not a casual suggestion, but an actual command from Jesus Himself to continue tithing, another Mosaic law. 1 Corinthians 5:8 is a specific reminder to continue observing the annual 7 day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Matthew 24:20 is a severe warning about the Saturday Sabbath, that we should even pray that we won’t have to break it doing stressful work or effort by fleeing, for those who will be living during the age that such a flight becomes necessary. You have some explaining to do. Worldwide Church of God remnant churches teach that many more Mosaic laws really are still in force than commonly believed. I am a member of one of those churches.

    • Wolfgang,

      Chapter 66 is essentially a restatement of chapter 65.
      In Isaiah 65:1-16, God condemns rebellious Israelites. He will repay them based upon what they did. God called, but they did not answer.
      But we see in Isaiah 65:17-25 that God will create a new heaven and new earth. where people will not sorrow. They will do no evil or harm.

      Then in Isaiah 66:2, we see that God will pay attention to those who are humble and who fear God.

      2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD. “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

      But Isaiah 66:3-4 tells about those who do what God wants but do not have the right spirit will be hypocrites, as if they broke what was the law in place at that time. They have chosen their own ways. God called, but they did not respond.

      3 “But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man ; He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck ; He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood ; He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, And their soul delights in their abominations, 4 So I will choose their punishments And will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered ; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight.”

      In the same way, those who sanctify and purify themselves then follow a strange god will be judged.
      Isaiah 66:17

      17″Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens, Following one in the center, Who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things and mice, Will come to an end altogether,” declares the LORD.

      We see in Isaiah 66:21 that God will take some to be Levites. Yet, we know the Levitical priesthood has been changed to the Melchizedek Order (Hebrews 5:6; Hebrews 7:11-19). God will have no need for Levitical priests, because the high priest is not human, but is Chris (Hebrews 3:1)t. Since this is the case, this is speaking in poetical language and not literally. So no, Isaiah 66:23 does not refer to a literal sabbath (Saturday) worship, but this indicates God’s people will worship Him in truth rather than hypocritically – as we see in Isaiah 66:3-4.
      Hebrews 7:11-19

      11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law ), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron ? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity theretakes place a change of law also. 13 For the one concerning whom these things arespoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. 14 For it isevident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Mosesspoke nothing concerning priests. 15 And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is attested of Him, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OFMELCHIZEDEK.” 18 For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the Law made nothing perfect ), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

      About Zechariah 14:16-19, this is not God saying to follow the festival laws.

      Of COURSE God tells us people will celebrate the feast of Booths (or Tabernacles). This feast celebrates when God delivered His people live from slavery, as we see Leviticus 23:39-43.

      9 ‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. 40 ‘Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 ‘You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations ; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 ‘You shall live in booths for seven days ; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, 43 so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ “

      This is what God did for us, when He saved us through Christ.
      Galatians 5:1

      It was for freedom that Christ set us free ; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

      But at a higher level, the feast of Tabernacles reminds us of when God came down to be dwell with man in a tent, as we see in Exodus 25:8

      8 “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.

      This is what happened when the Logos came to dwell among men, as we see in John 1:14

      14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the onlybegotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

      It is also what will happen at the end times, when the Tabernacle of God (the Tabernacle is Jesus) dwell among men, as we see in Revelation 21:3-4.

      3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them

      So yes, we will celebrate that God has freed us from slavery and that God dwells among us.

      As for the idea that 2 Corinthians 6:17 teaches to not touch unclean food as defined by the Mosaic dietary laws, its not saying to follow Mosaic dietary law. In context, the text is telling us to stay away from the unbeliever, from idols. We are to be sanctified. God is living among us and we are to act like it. The text stating “DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN” is not referring to food or anything other than what was mentioned in verse 16 – idols. The unbeliever mentioned in verse 15 relates to the idols mentioned in verse 16. We must be separate and not touch idols, not be unbelievers, but to be believers and indwelt by God.

      14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers ; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness ? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever ? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols ? For we are the temple of the living God ; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17″Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN ; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.

      Matthew 23:23 does not teach we re supposed to follow the Law.

      23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law : justice and mercy and faithfulness ; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

      Remember, this text is before Christ fulfilled the Law, and the Jews were still under the Law. But we have been freed from the Law. Yes, the Scribes and Pharisees should have paid attention to the heart of the Law: love manifested through justice, mercy, and faith. These are the same spiritual ideas Christians are taught to follow. Many of the Jews got hung up the letter of the Law, rather than having the attitude of love. The scribes and Pharisees had the problem that they outwardly followed the Law, but inwardly were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness
      Matthew 23:28

      28 In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

      And 1 Corinthians 5:8 does not teach to celebrate Passover or the Feast of Unleavened Bread (while I do not see Scripture saying Christians must celebrate them, I certainly see nothing wrong with celebrating them). We have to look at the passage in context. This passage is a word picture about removing the sinner from the midst of the congregation. In verse 5, we see Paul has decided to hand over the man who had relations with his father’s wife to Satan. Verse 7 tells us to clean out the leaven from within our church (which is seen more clearly in verses 9-13). Verse 8 tells us the leaven is malice and wickedness, and unleavened bread is sincerity and truth. We are to be unleavened bread and clean out the leaven from among us. CHRIST is the Passover. We celebrate HIM and what He has done for us. every day. In essence, we are to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread daily – living a life without leaven, or without malice and wickedness.
      ,

      5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

      6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
      ,

      And finally, coming to Matthew 24:20, we again have to look at the passage in context.

      15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand ), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to getthe things out that are in his house. 18 “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days ! 20″But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.

      First, we have to realize that no command to celebrate the Sabbath was given in this text. It was merely suggested they should pray they dont have to run in the winter or on a Sabbath. Second, we have to realize this is for those in Judea, not other parts of the world (see verse 16). Third, this is only written in the book of Matthew, which was most likely written to a Jewish audience. The warning was given not to Christians, but to Jewish people who would find it hard to flee on a Sabbath – perhaps because they were not allowed to walk long distances on the Sabbath ( Exodus 16:29.) and because the city gates would be shut (Nehemiah 13:19-22) . We do not know that Christians would be observing the Sabbath when the abomination of desolation was standing in the holy place, only that someone would be. We know that Jewish people would have had difficulty fleeing if they had to do it on the Sabbath, and we know that some Jewish people were in the audience. We also know anyone within the city would have difficulty getting out. If this occurred during the revolt of the Jews against the Romans in AD 66-70, as many believe, then yes, this was definitely not saying Christians would be observing the Sabbath, but Jews.

      We can look at passage after passage, but you are wasting your time – given that all you have to do is accept that Jesus has fulfilled the Law, that we have been released from the Law (Romans 7:4-6). We have been set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2-3). The Law has been set aside (Hebrews 7:18). We are not under the Law (Gal 3:19-25; 5:18).

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