Who has kept the law?

No one (except Jesus) has ever or will ever live a sinless life.  Every human being since and including Adam and Even have needed forgiveness for sins from God in order to stand before Him.  Thus, I have written before:

The Hebrew Scriptures explicitly declare that there is no man who does not sin. King Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple,

When they sin against you (for there is no man who does not sin) and you are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to you in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, “We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly”; if they return to Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to Thee toward their land which you have given to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, and the house which I have built for your name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven your dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive your people who have sinned against you and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against you, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are your people and your inheritance which you have brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace), that your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to you. For you have separated them from all the peoples of the earth as your inheritance, as you spoke through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord GOD (First Kings 8.46-53).

Solomon was not revealing some well-kept secret when he stated that there is no man who does not sin. One of the songs, sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for worship, confessed

If you, LORD, marked iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
That you may be feared (Psalm 130.3, 4).

And David’s prayer was also sung in worship:

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in your faithfulness, in your righteousness!
And do not enter into judgment with your servant,
For in your sight no man living is righteous (Psalm 143.1, 2).

Solomon in his wisdom asked the rhetorical question, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Proverbs 20.9). He also wrote, “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7.20).If this was a longer essay and a more detailed one, it might be worth pursuing how David and possibly another Psalmist, and Solomon arrived at this conclusion about possibility of a man or woman living without sinning. Apart from their observations on life, what did they read in the earlier Scriptures that enabled them to make such confidently negative assertions? While a great deal of evidence was undoubtedly available, my hunch is that Solomon’s prayer refers to a specific strand from Moses’ farewell sermon. He mentions that all men sin while speaking of those taken out of the Promised Land reflects Deuteronomy 28-30, which begins by promising blessings for obedience and threatening curses that include exile. By the beginning of chapter 30, however, the threat is transformed into a prophecy in which Moses simply predicts that the people will go into exile and then be restored after God circumcises their hearts. Except for the hope after the exile, the last seven chapters of Deuteronomy paint a bleak picture of the future of God’s chosen people. Perhaps this portrayal of God’s own chosen people unable to remain in such a gracious covenant with God was one strand of evidence that led the writers of the Kingdom period to deduce that no one could live without sin.

So there is no one who can or does live without sinning.  We all break God’s commandments.

One might infer from this that no one can keep the law.

If one understands “the Law” as God’s perfect moral rule of life, then this is true.  But if one means the Mosaic Covenant as “the Law,” then it is not true.  According to the Bible, people are able to keep the law.

Abraham kept the law, albeit a pre-mosaic version:

“Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” –Genesis 26.5

The Psalmist has kept the law:

“I remember your name in the night, O Lord,
and keep your law.
This blessing has fallen to me,
that I have kept your precepts.”
–Psalm 119.55, 56

Zacharias and Elizabeth kept the law blamelessly:

“And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” — Luke 1.6

Hezekiah kept the law… by faith!

“And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.  He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).  He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.” –2 Kings 18.3-6

To repeat, “keeping the law” is not identical, in the Bible, to living a sinless life.  This part of the law of God should prove it:

“If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed. And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering. And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar. And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven” –Leviticus 4.28-31.

This is the law of God.  It presupposes that the person keeping the law is a sinner.  For Christian believers in the present age, God’s law demands that we do the following:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” — 1 John 1.8-10.

God commands us to not pretend we are sinless but rather to confess our sins and be forgiven of them.  That is God’s Law.  We should keep it by trusting in Jesus alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life.

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