While reading through the Torah, the following verses caught my eye.

Deuteronomy 30:11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Just like the title, I am honestly wondering how the verses above (keeping their context in mind) fit in with the commonly held belief in the Christian church that human beings were and are incapable of following the law of God without the help of the Holy Spirit, etc?

I am aware of Romans 10:6-8, which says:

6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”(that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’”(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:"

However, what I am looking for is an honest explanation from the Old Testament, if possible, about the verses from Deuteronomy above.

If using Paul's words above is necessary for the explanation then I'd take that too. I am just honestly curious, looking for honest answers.

PS: No offense intended here.

PSS: Translation used is NIV.

  • 1
    I think you'd be interested in this sermon (also available as a transcript), which covers both of these verses. – Eric Mar 28 '12 at 17:52
  • Thanks for the sermon but it is not exactly what I am looking for. Explanation FROM the Old Testament. IF it is imperative that Paul's writings be used, then sure, go ahead. That is why I mentioned Romans. Just wanted to save people the time to have to write that out as an answer and say "aha! that's the answer". – nico_c Mar 28 '12 at 18:31
  • While I appreciate Affable Geek's answer and Eric's comment (hence the upvotes), I am still looking for an answer, so please keep 'em coming. :-) – nico_c Mar 28 '12 at 18:33
  • Regarding this: ”that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:" This would be explained in the OT at Gen. 15:6 -- "And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." Trusting in God, Abraham followed through. That's the link between faith and commandment: obedience. The word of faith in this case is, "Yes, Lord." – Steve Jan 14 '14 at 14:02

The key difference is that the Torah is speaking to the letter of the law, Paul is speaking to what Jesus says of it.

As Jesus says in Matthew 5:

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

He goes on to give an example:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,a and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brotherb will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,c’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In the case of the Torah, the requirement is simply to do the sacrifices and not go after idols. It is completely a works based thing.

Paul could, for example, in Acts 23 say:

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”

but also say, as he does in Romans 7:

14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.c For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

That tension works itself out in the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit.

For Jesus, it is a whole life shift - one that involves regeneration of the mind. To actually put to death the sinful nature is impossible on one's own. To live out the perfection of the law is, as Jesus sets the bar, beyond man's ability.

Just checking off the boxes, as Moses commanded, is a much lower bar indeed.

That said, I'm not sure that in my own power, I would have even met that one.

  • So the argument that "man is incapable of following the law" does not hold water? Or did I miss your point completely? Because essentially what I am asking is whether the Jews are and were capable of following the law or not. Whether it was taken as "checking off the boxes", as you put it and as I have heard before, I do not see that mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. Faith in God is as much a part of the Law as it is of our belief that Christ died for our sins. Not to say of course that there haven't been people that have understood it the wrong way. – nico_c Mar 28 '12 at 16:38
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    Yes :) Man is capable of following the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. Most people have enough willpower to avoid killing somebody, for instance, but not to avoid hate, which is the spirit of the law. – Affable Geek Mar 28 '12 at 16:40
  • @Affable Greek - you mean, I'm sure, "but NOT the spirit of the law." – Steve Jan 14 '14 at 1:47
  • @NicolásCarlo How does this statement, "Faith in God is as much a part of the Law as it is of our belief that Christ died for our sins." square with Galatians 3, which tells us about the tension between law and faith? For instance, no one is justified (made righteous) by the law, but by faith (Gal. 3:11-12). – Steve Jan 14 '14 at 1:51
  • I'd say that humans are capable of following the law in regards to visible sins. Considering the law also has much to say about sins of the heart, no, no one can truly and completely follow the law. – curiousdannii Jan 14 '14 at 3:05

It is always a good idea to read the verses surrounding the verse of discussion. Deuteronomy 30:10 states, " The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul." NLT. Now when verse 11 says "...what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach..." you can see that God is telling us that we can keep His commandments ( He doesn't say all) and we can turn to God with our whole heart. We do good works( Keep the law) because of our love for God, not because we are not fallen. Also, keep John 1:1 in mind "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Now read Deuteronomy 30:14 "No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." I hope this helps:-)

  • Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? – David Stratton Jan 14 '14 at 2:23
  • Thanks for the answer. I did consider the whole context that is why I put the following in my question: "I am honestly wondering how the verses above (keeping their context in mind)..." – nico_c Jan 14 '14 at 3:27

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