This is the first of several articles I will be writing, as I am simultaneously finishing my book entitled "The Kingdom and the Commandments", which will address the issue of the Commandments role, if any, in the life of the New Testament believer. I believe there is a need today for clarity and definition in the terminology being used in Christian circles concerning law, grace, repentance, the commandments, etc…
However, in this article I will be focusing on the question of: "Is it possible to have a law-less Kingdom?" By answering this question, we will also shed light on the other issues and provide a solid foundation for an enlightened discussion on them as well.
The discussion concerning the commandments and their application to the New Testament believer has been an ongoing one for centuries. Both sides of the aisle point to scriptures they believe supports the application or exclusion of God’s commandments to the church today. Many claim that the New Testament believer is free from the Commandments, while other go further to say that we are free from all law as a citizen of God’s Kingdom. Is this possible?
I will be approaching this issue from is different perspective than the majority of the writers and teachers that I have heard and read addressing this issue. From my perspective, the answer is not found in determining whether or not the commandments are confined to the Old or New Testament, Jew or Gentile, to Israel or the church. It is fundamentally a question of, whether an individual is a "citizen" of God’s Kingdom or not! Every other distinction is one found in the flesh. If the answer is “Yes”, than it would be fair to say that the commandments apply to them.
Government, Freedom and Law
To gain greater clarity of this truth, I will use an analogy that the majority of us are very familiar with. I will utilize the relationship between a citizen of the United States and its foundational law – the U.S. Constitution.
The United States, although governed by law, is considered a free nation. As a matter of fact, citizens of other nations flock to the U.S. for the opportunity to participate in its culture of freedom, which is protected by its laws. The U.S. is called the “land of the free”, not because it has no laws, but that its citizens are free from many of the bondages and limitations that can limit an individual's God given potential. In other words, the U.S. is not a free country because it has no laws, but because its laws are design remove artificial and external constraints from the individual’s ability to realize their potential and prosper.
Freedom or Liberty
It is important to note that drafters of the U.S. Constitution where careful in their wording, and refrained from using the word “freedom” in the document. This was not an oversight. The word "freedom" is not used at all in the Constitution - not once! The word “free” is mentioned only once in the entire document for the purpose of identifying those who are non-slaves. However, the word “law” is used throughout the document (over 35 times). Interestingly, in the New Testament scriptures the word “freedom” only occurs once within its 27 books, and the word “free” occurs 32 times, but specifically refers to being delivered from various forms of bondage, sin, the powers of darkness, or Satan’s authority. Why is this the case in both scenarios? The answer is, that in both cases, they were establishing a government!
To the surprise of many, the concept of freedom, in its truest sense, is repugnant to the concept of government, especially a kingdom. To see this more clearly, we will need to break the word “freedom” down into its components. Freedom is comprised of the words “free” and “dom”, which is a truncation of the word “dominion”. The word “free” is defined as: being absent from, loosed or not subject to. The word “dominion” is defined as: absolute or sovereign authority, or the exercising of authority over. By putting the words together it becomes obvious why the Founders and the New Testament writers refrained from using the word “freedom”. Freedom literally means: to be absent of, loosed from or not subject to authority or dominion. This is an impossibility for any citizen of a government, especially in a Kingdom. For a citizen of a nation to say that they are free from the authority of a nation's laws, they are essentially "declaring Independence" from that nation. This is what the colonist did in issuing the “Declaration of Independence” to Great Britain. They were for all legitimate purposes notifying Great Britain that they no longer considered themselves citizens of the kingdom of Great Britain!
Likewise, for a New Testament believer to say that they are not governed by the Commandments God gave for the operation of His Kingdom in the earth; they are essentially declaring that they are not citizens of God's Kingdom. This is what Adam did in the Garden. He decided that he had the authority and right to disregard the "commandment" given him by God (Genesis 2:16-17), and in doing so, "declared his independence" from God's rule, thereby causing the loss of his citizenship in God's Kingdom! All citizens of God’s Kingdom, are subject to the king's commandments.
Although the drafters of the Constitution and the New Testament avoided using the word freedom (the absence of law or authority) in referring to the citizen's relationship to their government, they freely used the word “liberty” in its stead. Liberty, unlike freedom, implicitly recognizes the presence, authority and right of the government, and its laws over the citizen, but sees them, not as limitations, but a means of protecting and preserving its citizen’s rights. As I mentioned above, the U.S. Constitution does not contain the word “freedom”, but does expressly declare the "blessing of liberty" over its citizens in its preamble. Specifically, it reads:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The founders established the U.S. Constitution, which is the foundational law of the land, as a necessary means of keeping its citizen’s free from bondage. The Constitution, being the foundational source of law for the United States, is not a limitation upon its citizens; but the fountain of rights for them. Likewise, the Commandments of God, are the foundational laws of His Kingdom in the earth, and by keeping them, we are empowered to manifest the blessing that is ours as of right, due to our citizenship in His Kingdom (see Deut 28:1-2, Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:2-3, James 1:25, Rev. 22:14). Notice that this truth is consistent and found in both Old and New Testament text! This is because the context in which these promises were made is the same – the Kingdom. As a matter of fact, James writes, that the N.T. believer is to walk in the "perfect law of Liberty" (James 1:25).
Liberty can be summarized as "lawful living". When Adam was given the Kingdom, he was not given freedom, but the perfect law of liberty, for he was subject to the Commandment of God! He had "liberty" to enjoy all that God had given him (Genesis 2:15), accept that which was expressly prohibited by God's commandment (Genesis 2:17). The New Testament believer, having been restored to the same position Adam had before his fall, is likewise given the Perfect Law of Liberty, wherein we are to walk. The New Testament believer and citizen of God's Kingdom has been granted liberty, by the grace of God, to enjoy all that God has made available to them, just as he did Adam before he fell.
The Apostle Paul tells the church at Philippi that our “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
There is only one designation recognized in the Kingdom – citizen. Every other natural designation is of no importance. Scripture testifies that:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
The concept of a Kingdom, devoid of its Constitution law or Commandment, might be possible from a religious perspective, but is impossible from a Kingdom perspective. We are either citizen’s of God’s Kingdom, and therefore subject to His commandments, or we are not citizens and therefore not subject to them. From God's perspective, and within His economy, there is no such thing as a "law-less Kingdom!