One criticism of the Church of God (COG) movement in general is that it’s emphasis is upon “the physical” instead of “the spiritual”. I hinted at this in the article “The Good That HWA and WCG Did” under point 2, “The necessity of keeping the entire moral Law.”
“Spiritual”, of course as in many things, means the exact opposite of the way it is often used. Instead of “spirit” meaning “power” and “might” or even just “energetic”, it often is translated to mean “nothing”. This is one of the main ways that mainstream Christianity goes off track. They “spiritualize away” the concrete truth right in front of them. To the modern Protestant mind, to keep the Law “spiritually” basically means to think about it, have nice warm fuzzy thoughts and then go about your life as selfishly as an unconverted person.
It should be obvious that there’s something very wrong with that picture.
Can You Keep the Law “Spiritually” Only?
As stated in the previous article, though, the inconsistency is pretty evident when given even a superficial analysis. About the Ten Commandments in particular, I wrote:
The core of the Law, of course, is the Ten Commandments. Most mainstream Christians will agree that one should not murder, commit adultery or steal from their neighbor. In fact, many civil laws are based upon these categories. Many Christians will also tell you that either God or Jesus should be first in a Christian’s life. However, many will criticize you and call you names when you point out that the seventh-day Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. They will call you “Judaizer” or “legalist”. Then, they will cry out that it is a spiritual law.
Tell me, though, how do you not murder spiritually? I mean, it would be an interesting defense if I physically shoot my neighbor but claim, “Well, you see, Your Honor, the law is spiritual. I did not hate my neighbor. In fact, I love my neighbor everyday of the week. Therefore, I should not be tried for murder.”
In other words, they try to have it both ways. They want to spiritualize away the Fourth Commandment but keep most of the rest (if not all) of the Ten Commandments physically.
Let’s just state it like it is, why don’t we? You cannot keep the Ten Commandments “spiritually” if you do not keep them “physically”. There is no such thing as keeping the Law “spiritually” unless the physical is involved!
14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:14-17, King James Version)
“Spiritual” is Harder! It’s a Matter of Attitude!
Jesus made it quite obvious that physically keeping the Law (“the letter of the Law”) is not good enough.
In doing so, Jesus made the Law more stringent, not less so. He said hating your brother is murder. He said lusting after a woman is adultery. He said you are to not only love your brother, but you must be reconciled with him before giving offerings to God. The Law said not to be a false witness, but Jesus said to not swear at all but let everything you say be the pure truth. The Law said to love your neighbor, but Jesus said to even pray for your enemies.
And, that’s just one chapter out of the discourse in Matthew!
So, let us utilize some of that common sense that God gave every single one of us. Would Jesus make all of the Law more spiritual by making it harder to follow except one of the “top ten”?
Not only did He not take away anything in the Law, but how did He begin the entire discourse? He began by describing what being spiritual really means!
First and foremost, He began with the Beatitudes. They are often called the “Beautiful Attitudes”, which really does reflect their character quite well. It truly does start with attitude and the character developed as a result of an obedient attitude! Then, what does He say?
16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16, King James Version)
Yes, it’s that “fruit thing” again. It is evident, though, that some of you just don’t want to believe that fruit is all about attitude (cf Gal 5:22-24).
Then, Jesus says something very significant:
17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19, King James Version)
Jesus points to “the law” and “the prophets”, a euphemism for the Scriptures at that time. Granted, the COG sometimes focuses upon “the law” part of that verse. That’s not totally unwarranted, though, as that is exactly what mainstream Christianity often tries to do. “That Law has been nailed to the cross!” they will cry. Of course, that’s utter nonsense. Again, I won’t go over the arguments again, but it was the penalty against us that was nailed to the tree, not the Law itself.
Keep All But the Red and Black Letters
I have heard of “red letter Christians”. In my experience, most Protestants really are “anti-red letter Christians”. The reason that certain portions of the Bible are printed in red is so you know which ones to ignore. Such as:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets…
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish [destroy, abolish, kill, put to death], but have everlasting life.
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue… [Hmmm, why then do people say the Sabbath command is not repeated in the NT? Seems here that Jesus is exerting His authority to say what is lawful and what is not on the Sabbath day.]
…Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. [Case in point.]
… if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Of course, they don’t pay much attention to the black letters either:
And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. [Written by a Gentile follower, no less.]
Did the Law Really Change?
Yet, people would rather believe that Jesus and/or Paul and/or the early Church changed all of the laws and customs. These are false accusations! Ones that people have died and been imprisoned over!
For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
But, of course, there’s so much more to the story than simply this. The physical points to the spiritual. This is one of the keys that HWA found that unlock so much of the Bible. We’ll examine this later in the upcoming article “Are Shadows Real?”