The Spirit and The Letter

Jesus was Sent to Re-establish the Letter and Spirit of The Law in our Hearts

God reports Jesus as saying,

I have come confirming that which has come before me of the Torah, and to make lawful part of which was forbidden to you, and I have come with a proof from your Lord. So fear God, and obey me!  [Quran, 3:50]

Furthermore, Jesus says, in the Gospel of St. Matthew

Do not think that I came to annul the Law or the Prophets? I did not come to annul, but to fulfill!

Truly I say to you, ‘Until the heaven and the earth pass away, in no way shall one iota or one point pass away from the Law until all comes to pass.’ Therefore, whoever relaxes one of these commandments in the least, and shall teach (other) men (to do) so, he shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever does and teaches them, that one shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

For I say to you, ‘If your righteousness shall not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of God,’ never!  [Matthew 5:17-20]

But not only this, but a short passage in the Gospel tells you what Jesus said is needed to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

And he, having gone out into the highway, behold! Running up, coming near, and kneeling down to him, onecertain ruleraskedhim, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what good things mayI do toinheriteternal life?’

But Jesussaid to him, ‘Why do you callme good? No one is good except One: God! But if you desire to enter into life, keepthe commandments.’

He said to him, ‘Which?’

And Jesus said, ‘Donot commit adultery, or commit murder, or steal, norbear false witness. Do not defraud,buthonour your father and mother, andlove your neighbor as yourself.’  [Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20 and  Matthew 19:16-19]

How do these compare with the Torah commandments?

Honour your father and your mother,as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that your days may be prolonged, and so that it may be well with youin the land which the Lord your God is giving to you. You shall notcommitmurder.Andyou shall not commit adultery.Andyou shall not steal. Andyou shall nottestify a witness of falsehood (bear false witness) against your neighbor. [Deuteronomy 5:16-20 and Exodus 20:12-16]

And

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  [Leviticus 19:18]

So Jesus is saying that the letter of the Law is required in order for you to enter eternal life. But is ‘the letter of the Law’ enough? No, indeed! When asked if anything is required beyond the letter, by this same man, Jesus replied:

Yet one thing is lacking to you. If you desire to be perfect, go, sellas much propertyas you have, and give to the poor. And you will have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow me.  [Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22 and Matthew 19:21]

The man’s reaction showed a serious lack of faith, for

Having heard these thingshe becamevery sad at the word, and the young manwent away grieving; for he had many possessions and was exceedingly rich. [Mark 10:22, Matthew 19:22 and Luke 18:23]

His heart was not in it, especially the part about neighbourliness and charity.

About such the Quran stipulates that piety, after belief and fulfilling what God ordains in terms of practice, must include

Expending ones wealth, in spite of one’s love for it, on kinsfolk, the orphans, the poor (who beg not), the wayfarer (the travelling stranger), the beggar (in need), and (justly) on slaves. [Quran, 2:177]

Wherein expending wealth justly on slaves refers to manumitting them, i.e. setting them free according to the majority of commentaries. Jesus obliquely refers to using wealth well when he said to his disciples,

Truly I say to you, ‘Those having riches shall only with great difficulty enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!’ And again I say to you, ‘For it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.’ [Mark 10:23, Luke 18:24-5 and Matthew 19:23-4]

The same oblique reference is made by God, in the Quran,

To those who reject Our verses and treat them with arrogance, no opening will there be of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle: Such is Our reward for those in sin.  [Quran, 7:40]

Arrogance is the characteristic of the opulently rich, like Kor’ah. God says of him,

Indeed, Kor’ah was of Moses’ people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. We gave him of Our treasures that of which the keys would have been a burden to a group of strong men. When his people said to him: ‘Do not exult! God dislikes those who exult. Seek, rather, with that which God bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter. And do good, as God has done good to you, seeking not mischief in the land. Verily, God dislikes the corrupters.’

He said, ‘This has been given to me only because of the knowledge I have.’

Those who were desirous of worldly life said, ‘Ahhh, that we might have the like of what Kor’ah has been given. He is, indeed, the owner of great fortune!’

But those with true knowledge said, ‘Woe to you (all)! The reward with God is better for the believers and doer of good deeds, and none will attain (it) except the patiently meek (Al Sabirún).’ [Quran, 28:76-80]

Al Sabirún refers to those who patiently endure, with both forbearance and perseverance, and keep their duty to God. Both Ayoub (Job) and Yusuf (Joseph) are prime prophetic examples of this, and these are the ones closest to gaining access to heaven.

Therefore, if heaven is your objective, the Torah serves as a guideline for the manifestation of piety and belief. If you don’t apply the letter of the Law hypocritically to your lives, it should, at least, be reflected in your actions, including the dietary laws stipulated by God, if you are true believers. Hypocrisy would see you giving lip-service for the sake of others to see, but belief would be reflected in your whole character, and therefore your deeds.

When the Sadducees, who believe that life terminates in the here and now, and any reward/punishment is reflected in our worldly life rather than in the Hereafter, questioned him about a theoretical case where a woman went through several husbands before dying herself (unwed), Jesus replies,

Concerning the dead, that they are raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, as God spoke to him at the Bush, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but God of the living. Therefore, you greatly err.  [Mark 12:26-7]

Reminding them of this verse,

And He said, ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he feared to look upon God.  [Exodus 3:6]

That is, even generations after Abraham, his sons and their sons, God acted to re-establish the Children of Israel in Canaan. So, even after the generations since Moses and the further generations since David and Solomon God was still acting for the living, and the living were accountable to Him. The Hereafter was, and is, a reality we must all work for – not the mere recognition and admiration of our peers.

This reminder was given shortly before the Pharisee scribes, appreciating his confounding reply to the Sadducees, put a testing question to him themselves.

‘O Master! Whichis the first, great commandment?’

And Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, Israel. The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first, and great, commandment.

And the second is like this,“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is not another commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’

And the scribe said to him, ‘You say well, Teacher. You have spoken according to truth, that God is one, and there is no other besides Him; and to love Him from all the heart, and from all the understanding, and from all the soul, and from all the strength; and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is more than all the burnt offerings and the sacrifices.’

And seeing that he answered intelligently, Jesus said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ [Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:36-40]

Though the question was framed so that the first of the Ten Commandments could have been the reply elicited, Jesus chose to go to the heart of the matter. It is not enough just to refrain from worshipping false gods and graven images – one must love and worship, with true sincerity, the One God. This is truly the greater concept. Is he abrogating the Ten Commandments? No, indeed! For the Law is not just the Ten Commandments, but the statutes in the whole of the Torah, which include:

Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (i.e. Knowledge, Spirit and Actions). And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.  [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

To you it was revealed, so that you might know that the Lord is God, and no one else besides Him.  [Deuteronomy 4:35]

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.  [Leviticus 19:18]

And also: the prohibition of pork, among other dietary prohibitions.

Those who believe that Paul abrogated this directive from revelation after Jesus’ ascension should think again. In a letter to his erstwhile pupil, Timothy, he wrote;

The end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith not pretended, from which, having missed the mark, some turned aside to empty talking, wishing to be teachers of Law, neither understanding what they say, nor about that which they confidently affirm. And we know that the Law is good, if anyone uses it lawfully. Knowing this, that Law is not laid down for a righteous one, but for lawless and undisciplined ones, for ungodly and sinful ones, for unholy and profane ones, for slayers of fathers and slayers of mothers, for murderers, for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and any other thing that opposes sound doctrine, according to the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I was entrusted. [1Timothy 1:9-10]

If you look at Christianity today, what is the attitude towards publicity, dating and sex before marriage, homosexuality, exploitation, drinking, extra-marital sex, and the like, in the name of Democracy, Capitalism and Secularism? What is the state of belief in God, and in the Hereafter? Does it not point to a dire need to go back to a Law laid down; a Law that calls upon the believer to act sincerely?

Writing to the Romans, Paul says,

Owe no man anything, except to love one another. For the one loving the other has fulfilled the Law. For, “do not commit adultery, nor murder, nor steal, nor bear false witness, nor lust,” and if there is any other commandment, in this Word it is summed up, in the words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love does not work evil to the neighbor. Then Love is the fulfilment of Law. [Romans 13:8-10]

So, if loving is the fulfilment of the Law, the visible manifestation of Love is seen in sincere obedience to the Law.

Jesus is supposed to have said, in the early part of his ministry, according to St. John,

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one accusing you, Moses, in whom you have hoped. For if you believed Moses, you would then believe me; for that one wrote concerning me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my Words? [John 5:45-47]

And, according to St. Luke, he later affirmed just before his ascension,

These are the Words which I spoke to you yet being with you, that all the things must be fulfilled having been written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms. [Luke 24:44]

About the (formerly) Christian, and Jewish, believer, God says,

You will find the nearest in Love to the believers those who say, ‘we are Christians.’ That is because, among them, there are priests and monks who are not proud; and they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger. You see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the Truth they have recognized. They say, ‘Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses! And why should we not believe in God and in what has come to us of the Truth? And we wish for our Lord to admit us (into Paradise) along with the upright people.’

Because of what they have said, God has rewarded them Gardens (Jannah in Arabic, or Gennah in Greek) under which rivers flow, and they will abide therein forever. Such is the reward of the God Conscious.  [Quran, 5:82-85]

The “God Conscious”, or Muhsiníyn, are those whose every deed is governed by their awareness that, even if they cannot see Him, God can see them and their every thought, word and action.

God also says,

Those to whom we gave the Book before it (the Quran) believe in it. And when it is recited to them, they say, ‘We believe in it! Verily, all of it is the Truth from our Lord. Indeed, even before it we have been Muslims.’

Muslims or Muslimíyn are people utterly submissive to the One God (God).

These have been given their reward twice over, because they are meek (patient), and repel evil with good, and expend what we have provided them (in charity). And when they hear rigmarole, they withdraw from it, and say, ‘To us our deeds, and to you, your deeds. Peace be unto you; we seek not the ignorant.’

Verily, you guide not whom you like, but God guides whom he wills. And He knows best whom are (to be) guided. [Quran, 28:52-56]

This last admonition, addressed to Muhammad at the time of revelation, is now addressed to us, the proselytizers of Islam, and the ordinary Muslims, telling us that it is not we who guide you. From inside you, somewhere, must come the spark; the initial urge to know God, the One True God, and be guided; not only the desire, but the active impulse to seek.

I earlier gave you a Hadiyth Qudsi, which told you that If you take one step towards God, He takes ten steps towards you. And if you come walking to Him, He goes running towards you.’ Butyou have to take that initial step.

It is better for you, then, to look at the Prophetic traditions and Quran for guidance in this matter because God will reward you twice over for your observance of the Law of the previous Book and then your submission to the Law in the Final Book. There is a narration narrated Abu Hurrayrah, addressed directly to the People of the Book, which says:

Messenger of God said, ‘By Him Whose hand Muhammad’s soul rests, there is none from amongst the Christians and the Jews who hears about me, and then dies without believing in the Message with which I have been sent, but he will be from among the dwellers of the Fire.’ [Muslim]

The question, then, is why do Christians allow for themselves that which God (God) has forbidden? Is their heart really with God so that they comply through the Spirit of the Law to its Letter? Ask yourselves, ‘Where is the Letter and Spirit of God’s Law perfectly combined?’ I think you will recognize that only one religion provides the perfect balance of social justice, sincere belief in One Ilah (God), and true awe and love of God (Allah): Islam.

God said, within the main verses that prescribe the lawful and unlawful:

Today I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour on you, and chosen for you Islam as your religion. [Quran, 5:3]

Is it not time you take for your religion that which God has chosen for you? You will never make a wiser decision.

May God guide me and make my efforts bear fruit. Any mistakes or errors herein are from myself and any benefit and guidance is from God.

 

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