salvation sandwich sharedfishBecoming a Christian is all about receiving the grace offered by God through Jesus Christ. This is a free gift and can’t be earnt in any way by doing the right thing.

It can be difficult to fully appreciate for those used to the idea of needing to be religious and behave a certain way, or maybe pray so many times a day or go to church every week to gain God’s favour.

People can also go too far the other way, and think that all you have to do is accept this truth, carry on how you live afterwards, and make the whole thing worthless.

Therefore, it’s important to see what the law and God’s commandments play in this Salvation by God’s grace.

The ‘Salvation Sandwich’

A cool way that I’ve come to understand this myself and bring into balance is through a picture of a sandwich. It sounds a bit strange, I know, but bear with me.

So, if you imagine your favourite sandwich, or if you’re more into them, a juicy burger.

There are basically three key layers to these - two layers of the bread of some description, and a middle-layer of filling in between.

Very simple, I know, but actually very important to make up a full sandwich or burger. Without any one of these, you don’t have a true one, just dry pieces of bread, or piece of filling, or a funny combo that turns into say a pizza without a top piece of bread.

The bread parts are the ‘law’, and the middle filling bit is the ‘grace’ of God.

Only when you get these nicely together in the right order do you get the full picture of salvation, hence the salvation sandwich analogy.

The Base Law

So, let’s start with the bottom of bread and the law.

You immediately assume the law is there to make us better as a goal of perfection to aim for. Well, in fact, it’s there to firstly prove how much we CAN’T fulfil it.

Scripture says that the definition of sin is to break God’s law.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” – 1 John 3:4

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” – Romans 3:20 & 23

Therefore, ‘sin’ is basically behaviour and being in a way that’s contrary to God’s character. And God’s character is expressed by His law. So, breaking his law is causing us to sin against Him.

The law is there to show us up deliberately. It’s something we can’t meet on our own after Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world.

Taking a stage further, we also need to realise that there are different types of law in the bible, some of which are still applicable today, and some which are not.

The part that is often referred to as the Moral law reflects the core character of God. This was specified in the Ten.

Commandments in the Old Testament when the law was formally introduced through Moses.

After these came Ceremonial and Civil laws, also introduced from God but only meant for the Jewish people until the point of Christ’s sacrifice. They were a temporary measure after sin entered the world for the Israelites to carry out a sacrifice system which points to Christ’s ultimate one later on.

This ceremonial law, as contained in ordinances, is what Paul talks about in places like Galatians:

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them….What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made: and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator" - Galatians 3:10 & 19

We’ll go into more detail on this later, but for this first later of the sandwich, the point is that we need to rattle down to the core moral law of not only what is right and wrong before God, but who His character is.

As sinful humans, we then look at this perfect law and realise that there’s no way of fulfilling it all on our own.

It’s there to show us up, and then realise that we’re lawbreaking sinners.

The Grace Filling

Now we come to the good part; being saved by God’s grace:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” – Ephesians 2:8

This is the heart of Christianity. After seeing what sinners we are before the prefect presence (and law) of God, the only way we can have these sins forgiven and being accepted in His sight is by believing the sacrifice that Jesus Christ paid on our behalf.

Where the bottom-layer law showed up our sins, God’s grace then forgives them:

"For Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" - Romans 6:14.

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” – Romans 3:28

We repent of our sins, believe upon Him, and accept His righteousness before a Holy God:

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” – Acts 3:19

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." - John 5:24

We then become a new born-again person as the Spirit of God then comes and changes us from the inside out:

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." - 2 Corinthians 5:17

The theological phrase that I think helps explain this a bit better is Penal Substitution. This explains that God’s reaction and anger against sin and lawlessness need to be expressed and justified somehow.

Therefore, Christ’s death on the cross provided a perfect, sinless sacrifice as an Atonement for this.

"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree')" - Colossians 3:13

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"- Romans 6:23

Throughout the Old Testament, there is a picture of blood sacrifices being made to atone for sin; all leading to Christ’s perfect one.

Therefore, he has now dealt with and paid the price for all our sins. We simply need to repent of these and accept Him and His sacrifice for us to take on His right-standing with God.

This is all through God’s goodness and grace and accepted by faith. However, technically it was Christ’s blood and death that saves us, not His grace.

This is where false teachings in say the Catholic church can confuse with talk about God’s ‘grace’ on the same level as say, Mary or other saints. It wasn’t Christ’s goodness that got him killed and appeased God; it was his choice of death that provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Once we appreciate this, then there’s only one way to become a Christian and be reconciled with God.

We simply admit defeat in trying; repent, and believe in Him. It’s free, it’s an amazing gift of everlasting life, and it’s like the filling in the Salvation Sandwich.

The Top Law

We then come to the final part, which may be a surprise and cause confusion for a lot of mainstream Christianity nowadays focused on God’s grace. We have the law of God being re-introduced as another piece of bread on top of the sandwich.

The first purpose of the law as the bottom piece of bread of the sandwich was to basically show us up, with no real explanation for us to be able to comply with it.

This sets the stage for God’s middle-filling grace to kick-in and is the only way to provide the righteousness and new life before God, through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

However, scripture says that the commandments of God are then written on our hearts as new Spirit-filled, new-creation, born-again Christians:

“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” – Psalm 40:8

“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” – Hebrews 8:10

The law and God’s commandments are still perfect; lasting forever, Holy and unchangeable. The problem is with us sinful humans to live up to them, whereas once we have received Christ’s righteousness, then we have the ability to then live in line with God’s ways like He originally made as to before sin entered the world:

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness” – Psalm 111:7-8

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” – Romans 6:15

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” – Romans 3:31

"Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" - Romans 7:12

When Jesus came to provide salvation for us, He didn’t just terminate the bottom-level of law, but fulfilled it so that it now has meaning for Spirit-filled Christians:

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" - Matthew 5:17

"For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass away from the Law till all is fulfilled [He has just mentioned the 10 commandments on the sermon on the mount]" - Matthew 5:18

Talk of the law ending in scriptures like in Romans can be interpreted as more the goal rather than termination of:

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” – Romans 4:10

Once we have accepted the rule of Jesus Christ in our heart and empowerment of His Spirit, we have the ability to follow God’s ways.

This is because these core laws and commandments reflect God’s character, not a ritual of do’s and don’ts; therefore, by His new power, we can reflect the character of Christ and fruits of the Spirit going forward.

In actual fact, we’ll be judged by this law – not by trying to reach it in our own efforts as the bottom layer, but how we have allowed Christ’s life to change us and live back in line with His ways:

“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” – Romans 2:12-13

“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” – Romans 13:10

This is called Sanctification, not Salvation – the process of being changed by God more in line with His ways, commandments, and, therefore, laws.

Another example is when two people get married, and they make commitments to each other at the altar, according to one of the Ten Commandments to not cause adultery.

Therefore, love for each other propels them to want to commit and follow such ways and commandment from now on, not feel compelled to.

What laws and commandments should we follow as Christians, after Salvation through faith, as part of this sanctification process and change?

That’s where modern Christianity gets confusing.

Historic Christianity is clearer, often part of Reformed and Calvin theology. It basically boils down to the Ten Commandments, called the Decalogue, as the core moral and ethical law and principles that reflect God’s holiness and character, and therefore never changes.

These were hand-written by God’s own finger, and only after He had first freed the Israelites from the Egyptians.
The other ceremonial and civil laws and ordinances fell away and were terminated by Christ at His resurrection, as they were only a temporary means leading to his sacrifice.

But the core moral ones, which God summarises as a top-ten, are then located in the Ark of the Covenant and there forever as a reflection of who He is (the other temporary laws were on scrolls not tablets, outside and not inside the Ark).

In terms of trying to see the difference between these ongoing moral and temporary ceremonial ones in scripture, here are some main pointers:

• The Moral law is the ‘royal law’ (James 2:8), compared to Ceremonial law contained in ordinances (Ephesians 2:15)

“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:” – James 2:8

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” – Ephesians 2:15

• The Moral law wasn’t destroyed by Christ (Matthew 5:17), but the Ceremonial was abolished by Christ (Ephesians 2:15)

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” – Ephesians 2:15

• The Moral law stands forever (Psalm 111:7-8), whereas the Ceremonial law was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14)

“The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.” – Psalm 111:7-8

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” – Colossians 2:14

• The Moral law is perfect (Psalm 19:7), whereas the Ceremonial law didn’t make anything perfect (Hebrews 7:19)

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” – Psalm 19:7

“For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” – Hebrews 7:19

• The Moral law was spoken by God (Deuteronomy 4:12-13), but the Ceremonial law spoken by Moses (Leviticus 1:1-3)

“And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.” – Deuteronomy 4:12-13

“And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.” – Leviticus 1:1-3

• The Moral law was written on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18), but the Ceremonial law written in a book (Deuteronomy 4:45)

“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” – Exodus 31:18

“These are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, after they came forth out of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 4:45)

• The Moral law was placed within the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 40:20), but the Ceremonial law was located outside and at the side of the Ark (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

“And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:” – Exodus 40:20

“And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” - Deuteronomy 31:24-26

• The Moral law was written by God’s finger (Exodus 31:18), whereas the Ceremonial law was the handwriting of ordinances (Colossians 2:14)

“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” – Exodus 31:18

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” – Colossians 2:14

• The Moral law was manifested by Christ (Isaiah 42:21), whereas the Ceremonial law was taken out of the way by Christ (Colossians 2:14)

“The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” – Isaiah 42:21

“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” – Colossians 2:14

• The Moral law provides knowledge of sin (Romans 2:20 & 7:7), whereas the Ceremonial law was instituted as a consequence of sin (Ephesians 2:15)

“An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law… What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” – Romans 2:20 & 7:7

“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;” – Ephesians 2:15

How God related these laws to believers in the Old Testament was through the Old Covenant; for Christians in the New Testament, it is through the New Covenant.

It can be the same laws and commandments being applied differently.

For example, if you let a flat or house from a landlord, there are common land laws and basic moral decency to note – to pay a fair rent, not trash the place, or not cause a nuisance to the neighbours.

However, as a form of contract and ‘covenant’ with your landlord, the actual lease you sign may change. One lease may have a specific obligation to not have pets here as a detailed obligation of the general obligation not to cause damage; however, another may not do.

The lease and arrangement between two people can change, but the overall law being referred to remains.

Therefore, the New Covenant is how God's same moral law is applied to believers after Christ’s Resurrection. The Old Covenant was a different arrangement of applying this same unchangeable laws and commandments of God.

There are some similarities between these two covenants - both Old and New were ratified with blood, made concerning God's law, made with the people of God, and established upon a promise.

However, here are a few differences between the Old and New Covenant’s way of relating to God’s law:

• The Old was the first and temporary covenant; the New is the second and everlasting covenant
• The Old was dedicated with the blood of animals; the New ratified with the blood of Christ
• The Old was faulty; the New a better covenant
• The Old was established upon promises of peoples; the New established upon promises of God
• The Old had no mediator; the New has a mediator
• The Old had no provision for the forgiveness of sins and needed a Day of Atonement; the New provides forgiveness of sins
• The Old Covenants law was written on tablets of stone; the New Covenant’s law is written in the heart
• The Old was based upon works; the New is based upon grace
• The Old was conditional upon obedience and live, or disobey and die; the New is conditional upon repentance and forgiveness, believing and being saved

This has been the belief of denominations like the Church of England and Methodists for centuries – here’s a few snapshots of what they say:

“no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral. By the moral law, we understand all the Ten Commandments taken in their full extent” - Articles of the Church of England, Revised and altered by the Assembly of Divines, at Westminster (1643)

“[the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments] does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience therefof” - The Westminster Confession (by Presbyterian Churches)

“John Wesley believed the moral law in the Ten Commandments was instituted from the beginning of the world and written in the hearts of all people – “every part of this law must remain in force upon all mankind in allages, as not depending either on time or place, nor on any other circumstances liable to change; but on the nature of God and the nature of man, and their unchangeable relation to each other. Wesleyan covenant theology states – “while the ceremonial law was abolished in Christ and the whole mosaic dispensation itself was concluded upon the appearance of Christ, the moral law remains a vital component of the covenant of grace, having Christ as its perfect ending…and important aspect of the pursuit of sanctification is the careful following of the Ten Commandments!”” – Wikipedia

“[T]o make the whole matter clearer, let us survey briefly the function and use of what is called the ‘moral law’. Now, so far as I understand it, it consist of three parts: [1.] while it shows God’s righteousness…it warn, informs, convicts, and lastly condemns, every man of his own righteousness…[2, it functions] by fear of punishment to restrain certain men who are untouched by any care for what is just and right unless compelled by hearing the dire threats in the law…[3] it admonishes believers and urges them on in well-doing” - Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536, John Calvin)

“The Heidelberg Catechism when explaining this third point teaches that the moral law as contained in the Ten Commandments is binding for Christians and that it instructs Christians how to live in service to God in gratitude for His grace shown in redeeming mankind” (Wikipedia: Law & Gospel)

Christ provided a New Covenant and way of relating to the law, which didn’t and doesn’t change God's core moral law.

Any of His commandments simply reinforce or go even further, not instead of these – in fact, he says the spirit behind them is needed with an even bigger obligation to follow as Christians, then the letter of:

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:6

WhenChrist mentions the two greatest commandments; these are actually based upon original Old Testament ones anyway, not in any way replacing them (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 10:18). They also confirm the Ten Commandments – loving the Lord covers the first four, loving others the next six:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40

There is a consistent reference to believers being expected to follow God’s commandments in the New Testament, with an indication that this may affect one’s salvation if there are no evident fruitful signs of a genuine submission to Christ (there is a whole different discussion here on the ‘once saved, always saved’ doctrine).

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” – James 2:20

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” – John 14:15

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” – 1 John 2:4 & 5

This theme goes right into Revelation, which describes who true believers will be that Satan is against, with particular reference to God’s commandments:

“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” – Revelation 14:12

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” – Revelation 12:17

However, alternative versions of this application of the New Covenant law have developed over the last few hundred years that I personally don’t believe are correct.

They confuse with talk of the “New Covenant” and “Law of Christ” in the New Testament, as they interpret a new basis of ‘law’ (if any) going forwards.

References are made to not every one of the Ten Commandments being repeated in the New Testament, particularly key places like the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, the Council of Jerusalem, Peter and Paul’s dispute in Antioch, and Paul’s teachings.

The Torah is the first five written books or the bible or wider Jewish teaching and culture from biblical or rabbinic writings. It’s the Mosaic Covenant and Law, or basically, Moses's law under the Old Testament that is specifically refuted basically the old testament laws coming to Israel through Moses.

Reformed churches and Calvinism Covenant Theology believes that such Mosaic Law does continue under the New Covenant for Christians in the form of the moral law; it’s just the ceremonial and civil ones that fall away as mentioned earlier covering temporary issues like festivals, diet and eating, cleanliness, and the priesthood.

This moral law basically hinges on the Ten Commandments and commandments by Christ repeated in the New Testament.
However, Antinomianism – which stretches back to Gnosticism - rejects any laws, and believes “obedience to law is motivated by an internal principle flowing from belief rather than any external compulsion” (Wikipedia).

Basically, you only have to do something if you feel like it, there are no outside laws, commandments or principles to follow explicitly.

Former Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley declare this a false heresy, reiterating that God clearly has His ways for us to follow which are both possible and enjoyable with a born-again heart.

In more modern times, Duel-Covenant theology believes Moses's old Law under the Old Covenant is not for Christians now; only the Jews who still believe in the coming Messiah. This is also accepted within Supersessionism or Replacement Theology, although without believing that Christians are the new spiritual Israel.

You then have Dispensationalism from John Darby and the Brethren Movement that divides history into different sections or dispensations. Therefore, they see the Old Testament as just being for that former period and dispensation of time, with a new ‘Law of Christ’ being in our time.

Although they believe this new Law of Christ has similarities with the old moral and wider Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, it is a new one that does end up reflecting aspects of the old one. The Old Covenant is not actually terminated but more ‘quiescent’, waiting to be fulfilled again in the future Millennium period through the restoration of the Jews.

And then you have New Covenant Theology (NCT), which includes aspects of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology rolled into one. They believe the Old Covenant laws were fulfilled and cancelled by Christ, for the Law of Christ and New Covenant law to take effect.

They also raise the point that Old Testament priests had to be from the tribe of Levi through Arran; however, Jesus wasn’t, and therefore couldn’t be a priest under the Old Testament, and so had to change the law to now be a High Priest.

However, they don’t go as far as Antinomianism and rejecting all law – many old divine laws were apparently renewed under this newer Law of Christ and now valued in a different way, it was just the formal Old Covenant ones that formally ended.

The Right ‘Salvation Sandwich’

Realising how you can become a Christian by simply giving up on our efforts and accepting all that Christ has done for us by His grace, is a very humble and simple thing.

It’s also free, although costly in that it will mean giving up your own life and selfish-desires to allow Christ’s life to abide in us.

Therefore, understating the duel-role of God’s perfect law around this grace is essential.

Like the bottom piece of beard in a sandwich, the law is meant first to show us up and what sinners we really are that keep breaking God’s perfect law and ways.

However, after the sandwich-filling of His grace and Atoning sacrifice comes, the law and commandments become applicable – but on a different ‘New Covenant’ basis.

The core moral law, reflecting God’s actual character and reflected in His top-ten commandments of all time, is actually now achievable after we have received a new born-again spirit and these are written in a spiritual sense within us.

It’s like getting married, where each person covenants to be faithful to each other and comply with the sixth of the Ten Commandments. The love for each other gladly makes them want to commit to this law and each other in an unselfish way.

Therefore, as re-iterated by Christ and taught by New Testament apostles, the perfect moral law of God is what we Christians can now achieve through the power of Christ living in us as the final top-layer of the Salvation Sandwich.

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